Just Pretending

If you grew up in the 90s, “poser” was the ultimate insult. Posing meant faking, pretending to be something you weren’t. I don’t want to be a poser.

So all pretending aside, let me be clear: I live in a 1400 sq ft home and own two cars, a dishwasher, a Kitchenaid mixer, and more computers and televisions than I care to admit. Actually, it’s hard to tally the latter when married to an engineer with lots of Projects. Though he just did some major decluttering–yay!

But back to my point: I am rich. Filthy rich, by any standard outside the time & space in which I live.

Lucky, fortunate, blessed, spoiled…you name it, I’ll claim it. I am the global 1%.

When I say pretend to be poor, I don’t mean it literally. Not even a little literally. I think the fact that it’s the title of a web page should give that away. (Think computer, Internet, leisure time when I’m not scavenging for my next meal or side hustling to pay the electric.)

I’d never want to insult the truly poor, or equate my truly lavish lifestyle with an impoverished one. So I’m just putting it out there, loud and clear, that I know I’m rich. And I believe wealth is a huge responsibility that should be used to help others.

In my mind, pretending to be poor represents the only attractive alternative to pretending to be rich. I suppose there’s a third option of breaking even, but that’s hard to pull off with precision and undesirable since it means you have nothing to share or save for the future.

So that leaves only two feasible options: live on more than you make, or live on less. And if you choose to live on less, why not live on a lot less, if possible? That could free up so many resources–both time and money–for doing what really matters.

The 1.74 trillion dollars in American consumer debt (credit & auto) indicates a startling pattern of living on more than you make, i.e. pretending to be rich.

By “pretend” I also hope to evoke not taking yourself too seriously. Sure, we’re trying to live on less, but we’re not claiming to be the most hardcore frugal freaks out there. I buy crazy indulgences like chocolate, alcohol, makeup, and pants without holes in them regularly. I break stuff, lose stuff, and buy stuff that doesn’t work out not infrequently. And each year we burn syrup, lose a chicken, and leave some garden tomatoes on the vine too long, all without causing our family financial duress.

We are not the most wealthy, successful, organized, creative, or generous people out there. We are not the best at life. We’re okay with faking it will we make it, and that’s very much what I mean by pretending.

The truth is, we’re all posers on some level. Now it’s been termed Impostor Syndrome; we’re all  a bit insecure as we strive to become something we’re not yet. The important question isn’t whether you’re pretending, but what will you pretend to be? 

I’ll strive to live on less, so I can be more useful.

I’ll strive to give more, to help those who have less.

I’ll “pretend to be poor” because I don’t want to pretend to be rich.

I’ll “pretend to be poor” so I can build wealth. Wealth that can help others become “rich in every way.”

Do you ever feel like a “poser”? What are you striving for this year? 

60 Responses to “Just Pretending”

  1. Josh says :

    Your website is “Pretend to be Poor” and somebody else wrote a book “The Millionaire Next Door.” Many people try to impress, but, others that have life figured out in particular areas realize that they do not need to act rich even if they are.

    It’s okay to wear Armani or Nike if you desire, instead of George, but, what are the intentions. One of my goals for this year is to be true to myself. Doing so, means my actions will be more honest to others instead of being a poser (a term I totally forgot about).

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, I agree that the motivation behind our actions and choices is often more important in the long run that the behavior itself.

  2. Emily says :

    I love this. My family is sometimes confronted with the same situation. Yes, we realize that we are middle-class Americans, but that doesn’t mean we must align our spending with that of the typical middle-class American family. We strive to live on less in order to come alongside those who are truly poor in tangible ways. I think you put it so well. If that alternative is pretending to be rich, we aren’t interested.

  3. Brian says :

    I remember the term “poser” well. It’s a great way to capture how many people live today. I do feel like a poser sometimes. Not staying as focused as I can be with our money. It’s something you need to work at each and everyday. Thanks for the reminder. Have a great 2017!

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks Brian! I agree that we all have room to improve and it’s easy to lose focus. The new year is a great time to renew that.

  4. Renee says :

    I am new to your blog (I think I found you on Pinterest) and was immediately drawn in because of your clever blog name. I totally get it. My husband and I have 14 kids, three of which are adopted from West Africa. Poor to those kids is starving. To death. At the same time (for better or worse) we have to maintain a certain standard of living here or the government will decide to take our kids away. Living in a shelter in the woods and scavaging for our daily food simply is not an option here.
    I love your blog and love your title. Own it, you are no poser 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      Renee, thank you so much for adopting children out of poverty. What a wonderful way to completely change someone’s life for the better.

  5. Emily J says :

    I thought a lot about privilege last year…mine and my middle-class white world that’s been very forgiving of mistakes. And I worry that I don’t do enough with all that privilege. We pretend lots of stuff, including living as we do to keep building wealth. But maybe I should act more with those resources to help others too? That’s one of my big questions to explore as this year progresses.

    • Kalie says :

      I’m so glad to hear you’re exploring what to do with some of your resources this year and how you could help others. I think you’ll find it’s one of the best things you can do with your time and money!

  6. TJ says :

    Kalie, your logic makes perfect sense. I’ll happily join the poor pretending train. so long as it doesn’t make the poor feel contempt.

  7. Adam says :

    Well said! My biggest takeaway is pretending to be rich is about recognizing how blessed we are and being able to share with the truly less-fortunate. Being bombarded by relentless advertising, it’s something I need to be constantly reminded of.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes! One minute I can’t believe how much we have, and the next I’m confronted with a sleek ad and feeling deprived! It’s crazy how anyone can fall prey, at least momentarily, to the lure of modern marketing.

  8. DC YAM says :

    Americans are so haunted by keeping up appearances – and I will admit I fall in this group from time-to-time. Everyone wants to show that they are successful and have it together, but I’ve found that most do not. And you are so spot on with the fact that we are incredibly well-off today. Even looking back 300 years life was so drastically different – and difficult.

    • Kalie says :

      I absolutely fall into “keeping up appearance,” if only in the most basic of ways. At some point it seems stingy or unwise to let your house get rundown, or wear super outdated or worn out clothes. But beyond that, there is plenty of temptation to impress or project success in less reasonable ways.

  9. Ms. Montana says :

    I went to buy a new pair of jean this weekend, because mine had developed a hole in a rather inconvenient spot. I think the pants with holes are actually much more expensive. All the bargains are found in the pants with no holes. I felt a little old. =)

    • kim domingue says :

      I remember my father being absolutely aghast that people were paying good money for jeans that came pre-ripped and with holes ready made. I remember, in the 70s, my Grandmama putting patches over the patches in my favorite pair of jeans……until the embarrassment of her granddaughter looking like a hobo got to be too much for her and she threw them away while I was at school one day, lol! Some days I feel a little less than young myself!

    • Kalie says :

      Great story! I don’t get the jeans with holes fad, either.

    • Kalie says :

      I cannot get on the pants-with-holes-on-purpose bandwagon, either. Glad to know the no-holes pants are where the bargains are to be found! I was referring to how, since having children, I wear holes in the knees of my pants more quickly than I used to. I don’t mind until it gets really cold and/or the hole starts ripping too much. Then I’m ready for a new pair!

    • Laurie Frugal Farmer says :

      LOL, a couple of years ago I bought our oldest the cutest pair of denim shorts, with holes in them, of course. When Rick asked why she was wearing shorts with holes in them, we said “We bought them that way.”. He laughed hysterically. To this day, he thinks we were kidding! 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      I am so out of touch with fashion that I didn’t think about how jeans with holes in them are now desirable! I hate when I get too big of a hole in the knee of my jeans. I’m going to start reinforcing them!

  10. Amanda says :

    Love this, Kalie. Though I try not to be a “poser”, I know I am sometimes. But, as I get older, I care less and less what people think. I’m moving into 2017 with some lofty goals, but mostly I want to continue an attitude of gratitude and abundance throughout the upcoming year.

  11. Tonya says :

    I’m not ever sure I feel or have felt like a poser. I sometimes get more of the imposter syndrome instead. I am very grateful for my financial status as compared to the rest of the world, even though I strive for more so I can reach financial independence. And like Amanda says, as I get older I don’t care as much what people think.

    • Kalie says :

      I would just never want someone to take the site title to mean I’m comparing myself to people in real poverty. That would be some unfortunate posing! But I’ve always marched to the beat of a different drummer and don’t mind too much being the weird one. That’s great you’re caring less what others think and owning who you are!

  12. Linda Sand says :

    We recently moved into an upscale apartment complex with lots of amenities. Neighbors are appalled. See, we sold nearly everything several years ago and moved into a motorhome to travel this great country. When we sold that motorhome, the only furniture we owned was a TV tray and a folding bar stool. So, we went to IKEA one day and bought an apartment’s worth of furniture for about $2000 and had it delivered. Now, here we are are, nearly 70 years old, and living with what our neighbors think is furniture for those who just graduated from college so can’t afford better. It meets our needs, though. Poang chairs are actually quite comfortable.

    • Emily J says :

      Can I just say “You’re awesome, Lindsay! I want to be you when I grow up!”

      People who put too much importance on expensive furniture probably need to visit an estate sale or two and realize how much their expensive items sell for on the aftermarket. I know I’m still trying to shoehorn some of my mom’s old furniture into our house, and sometimes wish I could start again with a clean slate of just what we needed.

    • Emily J says :

      Sorry, I should have said “You’re awesome, Linda!”

    • Kalie says :

      Great story, Linda! We have found it quite possible to furnish our home for less than what many people spend on one piece.

    • Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

      Way to shock the neighbours, Linda! How wonderful that you recognized what you truly valued and gave yourselves that opportunity to travel! Enjoy your IKEA furniture : )

  13. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    I value authenticity too, Kalie, and I never doubt yours. For years, we tried, without awareness of it, to “break even” – but always too optimistically. So we were in fact “pretending to be rich” – again, without awareness. Since mid-2012, we have intentionally focused upon our finances, and we’ve come in line with where they’re really at. If we continue as we are now, we’ll be in a position to “pretend to be poor” in another couple of years. We’ll be where people like you have chosen to be from the get-go. It’s a good direction to be headed in : )

    • Kalie says :

      That’s great that you’ve come to terms with where you’re at and now you’re making great debt payoff progress! Thanks for sharing how “breaking even” didn’t really work out.

  14. kim domingue says :

    We always called it “keeping up with the Jones’s” but I remember when the term “poser” started being used and I remember thinking it was so applicable for so many types of behaviours. I am also fond of the phrase “first world problem”. When I find myself bemoaning the fact that I don’t have or “only” have a fill-in-the-blank, I remind myself that it’s a first world problem. We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food on the table and a bed to sleep on. We flip a lever and have running water, flip a switch and we have light. We have indoor toilets. We have a unit that keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We have a car and a truck….both over twelve years old but we have TWO vehicles…..and a motorcycle……and a tractor. We have a computer, three TV sets, three tablets and two cell phones. A washer and dryer…… although the dryer doesn’t see a lot of use as I hang most stuff to dry. No dishwasher as I prefer washing dishes by hand. A Kitchenaid stand mixer, an electric pressure cooker and a bread machine. We have so much!

    I know that there are people who look down on us because our home is a double wide mobile home and our vehicles are old and our cell phones aren’t iPhones. But you know what? I don’t care. We own what we have, free and clear of debt. I figure if you’re snooty enough to look down on my home, you’re not someone I care to be acquainted with anyway, lol! I’ll just continue to pretend to be poor as I remind myself how incredibly rich I actually am.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, the term “first world problems” is so applicable and represents a good reality check. Thanks for sharing your take on “pretending” to be poor, living debt-free, and acknowledging just how rich you really are. That’s what we’re all about! It is easy to slip into longing for more when there are ads and lifestyle inflation but I find the same thinking helps me come back to reality!

    • kim domingue says :

      Marketing, advertising……bah! Humbug! Sigh. It is hard sometimes when something you don’t need catches your eye and ignites a forest fire of longing in your heart. I always wanted a Thunderbird. A few years back the company started making them again and they were take your breath away gorgeous…..
      vehicular perfection Oh! I wanted one so, so badly…..until I saw the list price. Gulp. About five years later, the hubs and I saw a used one for sale. The hubs, darling man that he is, told me to buy it because I had NEVER in our married life EVER expressed that much interest in ANY motorized thing. He wanted me to have the car of my dreams. So I went, I looked, I stroked her pretty, sleek flanks, I sat in her and imagined myself cruising down the open highway in her, wind in my hair as “Born to be Wild” came pounding out of her speakers. I asked the nice man how much for my dream car. The nice man uttered a number. I thanked the nice man, patted my dream car on her pretty, sleek, red flanks……and went home in my already paid off, perfectly good Sonata. I still let loose with a little sigh when I see one…..lord it’s a beautiful car…..but it’s just not that important to have a dream car to go to and from the grocery store in, lol!

    • Kalie says :

      I think it’s important to acknowledge those things that we may find beautiful & appealing, but ultimately not worth it. That’s how good decisions are weighed and made!

  15. Harmony says :

    Great post. If anyone has issues with the name of this site it’s because they’re taking things too literally and/or just looking to cause drama. You are not a poser. Your writing always seems to contain some references to being thankful for the many blessings in your life.

    Thinking about what it would be like to be poor can just help you make good choices, in comparison to chasing unrealistic expectations about wealth.

    • Kalie says :

      I’ve had very few negative comments about the title. I just want to acknowledge that we’d never demean those in poverty, and realize we have it so good! I think it’s good for personal finance writers in general to express gratitude & keep things in perspective, even financial goals. It’s true that perspective also helps us make better choices. Thanks for the affirmation, Harmony!

  16. Lisa says :

    It is truly amazing how fortunate we are in this world. It’s nice to take a good hard look at everything we have and remember that we really are rich, even if we aren’t early retired yet.

    Great reflective post. I look forward to cheering you on in the new year!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, early retirement is attractive & it’s cool that more people are figuring out how to pull it off, but life is good even without it. Thanks!

  17. Laurie Frugal Farmer says :

    We spent years pretending to be rich and all it got us was debt, debt and more debt. Now I’m certain that at least some people think we’re poor, but I couldn’t care less, because we’re living how we feel is best for our family in terms of honoring God. And you guys are too. That’s what really matters. 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      Absolutely! For the most part I don’t worry about if people think we’re not living as “rich” as we “could.” I’m more concerned about pretending to be poor sounding like we’re somehow deprived, because we certainly aren’t. I’m sure that’s pretty obvious though 🙂

  18. FullTimeFinance says :

    There came a point in my life where I just quit caring about others perception. I don’t so much pretend anymore, I just have more important things to do. Outwardly though I’ve apparently thrown off all sorts of perceptions. My second car and my job scream wealthy. My choice in house, clothes, etc scream just making by. Different people come up with different conclusions as a result. I don’t have imposter syndrome because I don’t think I’m trying to be anyone other then myself.

    • Kalie says :

      I love that combination of how people might perceive you. It’s nice to know what’s worth spending on, and what’s not. We like to travel and certainly do so more than could be considered frugal. But we are pretty thrifty in other areas so it works for us. I am only concerned about “pretending to be poor” making it sound like we are deprived when we’re certainly not!

  19. Colin | rebelwithaplan says :

    People often “pretend to be rich” because of societal pressure and the feeling that they will be mocked if they don’t.

    Relatives of mine and other various people have said I’m too frugal and should “live more” because I haven’t financed a new car, rented a lavish apartment and take my lunch to work.

    Once I realized my deep down desires of life, everything became a lot easier. Cheers to you for not “keeping up with the Joneses”.

    • Kalie says :

      It’s interesting that you couldn’t live in line with everyone else’s expectations, even if you wanted to. I agree that deciding what you really want and what truly matters to you frees you to live authentically. And determining those things is often harder than the everyday spending choices.

  20. Bobbi says :

    I love your thoughts and appreciate them. I share them with others. Using less when you can and saving money is an awesome way to save the environment and your checkbook. God bless.

  21. Millennial Boss says :

    This post resonated with me because I think we’re all so afraid of being “posers” or imposters. I went to the Chautauqua which is a meetup of sorts in Ecuador for people interested in FI and I was so worried people would find out I had a newer SUV. I then realized that everyone has something to hide and no one is perfect! The SUV is gone now but I’m not embarrassed anymore to not be FI-perfect. Thoughtful post.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks for sharing your example, and that everyone has something they might feel insecure about. I think “FI-perfect” is probably just a status that exists in our imaginations. There is more than one way to pursue FI!

  22. - N - says :

    I really like the title of your blog because for me it is a mindset, not a pose. I always hated having money because it meant responsibility, and I found the best way to spend it was to pretend not to have it. That meant I got rid of it by spending it.

    In reality, that need to get rid of it was because I felt guilty. Money was always something that was not discussed, was a secret, and yet screwed you over if you did something with your money that the parents did not approve.

    So, move ahead several decades, and in our quest to get our financial house in order, we are moving into that mindset that I prefer. If you don’t have it, you don’t spend it. Instead, we spend it on our bills and mortgage, for education, for daily expenses, and on our hobbies – carefully in all areas. Leftover cash is swept into savings or into bills. Allowances are built into the system.

    Pretending to be poor is a mindset if you have the cash, and it is a healthy one. It saves you from yourself!

    • Kalie says :

      Very well said! It absolutely is a mindset, a way of thinking about and handling money. And an effective one for us! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  23. Kraken says :

    This year I am pretending to be a writer. I’ve never gotten paid for any work I’ve done and I have not been published anywhere outside of my own blog. Both of these things give me doubt about calling myself a writer. I have this idea in my head about what that title means. We all have these imaginary ideas of what being rich means, what being poor means, and what pursuing FI means.
    I feel like the problems come up when we try too hard to close the gap and loose sight of what we really are. If I have an idea of what rich is in my mind and I try to close that gap by buying new cars and things I can’t afford I will run into huge problems.
    Thanks for putting this together, I really love the concept of pretending to be poor because that’s a simple explanation of what pursuing financial independence is, and it’s a much better way of life than pretending to be rich.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks for sharing about your writing pursuit this year. That’s awesome; own it! It definitely relates to the false or made-up ideas of how we perceive wealth, too. I agree that closing the gap when you just can’t afford to is where big problems come. But even when you can afford it, it’s often not worth it if you’d rather gain financial independence.

  24. Xyz from OurFinancialPath says :

    Just as you, We are Rich. But again, we prefer to pretend to be poor to keep our wealth and let our money work for us. We don’t want to be slave to debt, we want our money to sustain our low-key lifestyle and we want to enjoy life all along the way 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      I love it! That’s exactly how we feel. Why waste money on needless spending when it could be working for you? But we’d never want to miss out on what’s important for the sake of money, either.

  25. Jill Wiley says :

    Great article and great title for your blog. I have always had tricks I play on myself to convince myself I’m poorer than I am, such as paying my rental expenses out of my personal account and depositing my income in a separate account. No, I don’t do that anymore, because that’s just bad accounting, but that’s the type of thing I mean. Love your articles.

    • Kalie says :

      I agree “tricking yourself” by “hiding money” or just saving or investing as quickly as possible is a great way to pretend, so to speak. Thanks!

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