In the midst of building wealth, we often (correctly) pay much attention to how to build that wealth, but we do not often think about the implications of becoming wealthy, especially as it relates to society or other people. What follows, then, is an explanation of stealth wealth and some ways that one can practice it, particularly if you are an expat.
To word it simply, stealth wealth is when you don’t reveal to other people your net worth or how much money you make. Stealth wealth involves keeping your wealth and assets a secret.
But why should one practice stealth wealth, particularly if they are an expat? After all, for many people, wealth or money is a symbol of freedom. That money allows you to spend time with your family, travel around the world, and enrich yourself with loads of new experiences. Additionally, becoming wealthy is something that many people yearn for, so why shouldn’t we enjoy the fruits of our labor?
Despite the fact that many of us consider becoming wealthy to be a good thing, there are certain people out there who do not agree with this viewpoint, and in some extreme cases, will go to great efforts to stop others from obtaining wealth, either through lobbying, legislation, public pressure, protesting, or, even physical violence.
Further, in some cultures, ostentatious displays of wealth are considered inappropriate and/or immodest, and in some countries, showing off your wealth might put you in harm’s way, literally. As expats, given that we are not living in the country where we originally came from, we owe it to ourselves as well as the inhabitants of the country we live in, to respect the local cultures and customs, and if that includes toning it down a little bit, then it is a good idea to do so. We must also remember that many people erroneously believe that all expats are living and working in another country on a glorious expat package with incredible perks. While that may be true for some, it is most definitely not true for all. Therefore, practicing stealth wealth will go a long way toward eliminating stereotypes people might have about expats.
Also, in practicing stealth wealth, perhaps you will become the kind of person that people will secretly root for, and they may even wish for you to achieve greater success. To use a sports analogy, many people appreciate an underdog and hope that they will win. Underdogs subsequently feel that they have less to lose, so they are freer and more relaxed. Using a more relevant example, if you show up at work with a $100,000 car and constantly talk about that amazing vacation you had when you went to Monaco, your colleagues may secretly begin to envy you, or even despise you. Who knows, your boss may even be less likely to give you a pay raise.
When you don’t reveal your wealth and people assume that you are barely making ends meet, you will be almost immune from scrutiny from other people competing against you. Why is it that a super wealthy CEO of a major corporation or a prominent celebrity is more likely to receive more attention from the public at large compared to a struggling low-level employee? This is because the wealthier CEO or celebrity has power and influence, so they will naturally attract much more attention. People will expect less from you if you stay silent about having made lots of money or having accumulated great wealth.
So, what are some ways we can practice stealth wealth? There are many ways, of course, but some of the below might be helpful:
- Do not brag about any material things that you own. Further, in some countries, it is not recommended to wear expensive jewelry or walk around with items that appear expensive, due to safety concerns. Always be aware of your surroundings, where you are living, and what the local customs and cultures dictate or recommend. The old adage of doing as Romans do when in Rome, is always helpful.
- Do not reveal the true extent of your income or wealth. This point goes without saying. Talking about your wealth is a sure way to instill suspicion, or, at best, have people think you are arrogant. This will likely have a negative impact on building good relationships with others.
- Behave and speak in a modest manner. Even if you are very intelligent and/or skilled in a certain field, or even if you have achieved a great deal of success in a given endeavor, being modest and not broadcasting your accomplishments will win you respect and friends. Further, in countries such as Japan and China, being humble and modest is considered a huge virtue.
- If you own a car, instead of driving to work, it may be better to take advantage of public transportation such as trains or buses, or even ride a bicycle. It is nearly always cheaper to take public transportation, and in many cases you will arrive at your destination faster. Additionally, you won’t need to pay for things such as car maintenance, gasoline, car insurance, tolls, and so forth, and so it will be more beneficial to the bottom line, also. If you absolutely must own a car, you might not want to buy an expensive model. Driving a very nice car to your place of work is a good way to draw attention to your income or wealth (even if you are not wealthy) and it may even cause others to be envious of you.
- Related to a previous point, give praise to others for their success instead of feeling like you need to constantly let the world know how great you are. Be happy when others succeed and do not belittle their achievements. If you want to be a successful expat, then praise others for their success and be happy that they are successful. You get out of the world what you put out there, so if you put out the vibration of praise for others’ success, you might even attract that same goodwill back to you.
- Another wise thing to do if you want to stay in the category of the “invisible” rich, is to not live beyond your financial means. For instance, do not spend more money than you earn, or attempt to compete with others and senselessly accumulate things. Make sure that your expenses do not exceed your income. It sounds incredibly simple, but you would be surprised the number of people who earn a high income and do not have much to show for it. Just because you have been fortunate enough to be making a good living, does not mean you need to be profligate with your spending.
- Get involved in volunteer work or charitable activities. One of the biggest misconceptions about wealthy people (especially in developing countries) is that they do not volunteer their time or money to help worthy causes. Therefore, by volunteering your time at a children’s orphanage, or donating money to a cause or organization you believe in, you will not only generate goodwill in your community, but people will also be less likely to think you are wealthy, and hence, you will be taking attention and focus away from yourself.
While the above items are only some of the ways one can practice stealth wealth, and there are surely many other things one can do, I hope this article will spur some more discussion on this topic as well as get people thinking about how they portray themselves while overseas. If you are an expat reading this article, are you practicing stealth wealth? If not, why not? It may be difficult to put into practice, but engaging in stealth wealth will not only be good for your pocketbook, but also in terms of building relationships with other people, and this is crucial if you wish to be successful as an expat, living in a land that is different from yours and with customs that may seem very foreign to you.