Stealth Wealth

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In a strange twist of fate, I live in the most expensive neighborhood of a major metropolitan city.

It’s a really, really expensive neighborhood.  What am I doing here?

This isn’t me.

(After all, I’m a Green Acres type of guy!)

A bit of background for my newer readers is in order (thanks to the hundreds who have joined in the past weeks.  January was a crazy month for The Retirement Manifesto, and a lot of new folks have “discovered” this site.  Thank you!  Also thanks to J$ for letting me guest post on How I Became A 401(k) Millionaire, and for Physician On Fire for the awesome deep dive profile!).

In April 2016, we sold our house in the city and moved to our cabin in the mountains.  It was part of our downsizing strategy for early retirement, and it’s working.  Unfortunately, I still have to work, and it’s unrealistic to commute the 100 miles from our cabin on a daily basis.  So, for now I’m renting a small apartment near my office, and I stay there ~3 nights per week.

So, I’m now surrounded by wealth.  And it’s…

All.

Around.

Me.

Big Money.  

It’s been interesting to experience it, and to think about wealth.  So today, I’m going to outline what I’ve been thinking about, as I witness the insane display of conspicuous consumption on a daily basis.

An $11 Million House, a few miles from where I live during the week (Photo: Zillow)

Obscene Wealth

I went for a 5 mile run last night, and really started paying attention to the wealth on display.  For mile after mile, I noticed:

  • Multi-Million dollar homes, everywhere.
  • Uber-wealthy shopping venues at every turn.
  • High end restaurants on block after block.
  • Porches, Jaguars, Teslas & Land Rovers fighting for position at the stoplights.
  • Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s routinely sighted, hardly turning heads in this town.
I really, really like Lamborghini’s! The epitome of Conspicuous Consumption!

We’re talking real, real wealth.  These folks are paying $30,000 / year or more in property taxes (yep, that’s $2,500/month, forever!).

> 1%’er Wealth

My neighbors are the 1%’ers.  Heck, they’re probably the .5%’s.  These folks are rich. (or, really deeply in debt)

Want some proof?

Below is a Zillow Map from a random part of my running loop.  It’s absolutely typical of the “middle class” part of this town.  Also relevant, it’s the location in my run tonight where the seed for this post was planted, so it has a place here.

It’s interesting to look at the home values.  Here’s what you’ll see:

  • Homes on the map:  36 homes (yes, I counted!)
  • Most Expensive Home:  $4.9 Million (there on the right, top 1/3 of map)
  • # of homes > $3 Million:  7   (19%)
  • # of homes > $2 Million 16 (44%)
  • # of homes > $1 Million:  33 (92%)

Yes, you read that right.

92% of the homes in my neighborhood are > $1 Million!! Click To Tweet

 

Here’s a close up view of a few of the typical houses along my running route:

Millionaire Row? Nope, just another typical street in my neighborhood. Photo: Google Maps

Stealth Wealth

While my neighbors all live in “Million Dollar Mansions”, I chose the simplest, cheapest 1 bedroom apartment I could find.  664 Square Feet. It’s still costing me $1500/month, but it’s nice to have a two block, walking (!!) commute. For now, it beats my “next best option” of commuting 200 miles a day in a city notorious for it’s gridlock traffic.  Besides, I won’t be here long.  FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is on the horizon, and I’ll be leaving this city for good.

I live a life of Stealth, in a land of Wealth Click To Tweet

While I’m here, I’m happy that the apartment complex has an awesome pool.  I consider it my “free entertainment” 9 months out of the year (I know I’m really paying for it, but it makes me giddy to think of it as a free perk).  9 Months of swimming?  Yes, I swam as late as November in this pool, with the water down to 48 degrees!.  I’m hoping to get back in at the tail end of February, if I can muster the courage for the cold water.  My neighbors think I’m nuts.  Maybe I am.

While my neighbors in the complex (Millennials, all) appear to dine out or hit the bars almost every night, I jump in the pool after work (or, the on-site fitness center), then cook up a quick Budget Gourmet dinner in my microwave. As the skies get dark, I kick back and work on my blog.  I’m writing these words at 9:00 pm on a Tuesday night, from my humble little apartment. Stealth wealth in action, no need to “Be Seen” in one of the hundreds of crazy expensive restaurants nearby (besides, I’ve got a FREE POOL to use!)

“My” Pool, where I spend hours each week.

Living A Life Of Stealth Wealth

I also drive a 2010 Nissan.

My wife drives a 2011 Hyundai.

We save over 25% of our pay.

We quietly support our church and causes which are important to us.

We are 401(k) Millionaires (Thanks, J$, for letting me write the Guest Post, that was a fun one!).

We enjoy great vacations, every year (Norway, most recently, and The Caribbean this July).

Our house is a modest, but comfortable, cabin, which we bought for $180,000.

Home Sweet Home!

Our House Is Paid For.  In Full.

As of April 2016, we’re entirely debt free!!  Stealth Wealth.

The check that paid off our cabin. Man, that was a fun check to write!!

Stealth Wealth Vs. Visible Wealth

There are, of course, obviously differences between “Stealth Wealth” and “Visible Wealth”.  I’m not judging between the two, I’m just comparing.  It’s OK if folks decide they want to live a visibly wealthy life.  I firmly believe everyone has the right to determine how they want to live, and I applaud those who choose to spend their money in ways that they’ve deemed important.  It’s just a comparison, is all.

Visible Wealth is, um, visible. Stealth Wealth is stealthy. Click To Tweet

Stealth Wealth, like the Stealth Bomber at the top of this post, is designed to be invisible.  Visible wealth, while it looks good on the surface, may not be a true indication of real wealth.  Wealth is not defined by possessions. Even if you’re talking exclusively about material wealth, a better definition than “posessions” is Net Worth.

While you may have a $2M house, what if you bought it for $2.5M and have a $2.1M mortgage?  Your Net Worth, with the decline in your home’s value, would actually be a negative $100,000.

Is that wealth?

Conversely, that $2M house may have been purchased with cash, and the owner may have a Net Worth of > $10 Million. It’s impossible to know by simply looking at the house.

Who's Wealthier? The Stealthy, Or The One With The $2M Mansion? Click To Tweet

It is, of course, impossible to determine who has greater material wealth.

Who’s wealthier:  My “neighbor”, in that $2M Mansion and driving that awesome Lambo?  Or me, who humbly drives his 2010 Nissan in and out of his nondescript apartment?

I don’t really care.  I’m fine with folks living in $2M mansions and driving nice cars.  Knock yourself out.  Personally, I could never accept paying a $2500 monthly property tax bill forever, but that’s me.

For now, we’re still living in a free country, and you can live your life however you choose to live it.

I’ve made my choice.  And you’ve made yours.

The Purpose Of Material Wealth

Each of us must decide, for ourselves, the purpose for our material wealth.

For some, they may get pleasure from conspicuous consumption, and use their wealth as a means to buy stuff.  If that’s what makes you happy, I’m happy for you.  Just realize that you’re likely handcuffing yourself to that desk for at least 10 years longer than necessary. Is the stuff really worth those 10 years of your life? (I hate to tell you this, but The Jones’ really aren’t that impressed by your stuff.  They’re too busy worrying about their own stuff).

Your life, your call.

For others, Wealth Is A Tool To Gain Freedom.

As Rob Berger says on his DoughRoller podcast, “The Most Important Thing Money Can Buy, Is Financial Freedom”.  He’s clearly in the “Wealth For Freedom” camp.  (He retired early last year, by the way.)

So is my friend, Steve @ThinkSaveRetire.  He’s crushing it, and just retired last month at the age of 35 (!!).  In his latest article “The Best Advice I Can Give About Retiring Early”, he makes the following statement.  It’s a perfect example of someone who is using their wealth for freedom, instead of material goods:


“I learned the expensive way that buying stupid crap doesn’t bring me happiness.”  Steve (Retired at Age 35)


How I’m Using My Stealth Wealth

I may live here (temporarily), but I don’t fit in among this extreme display of conspicuous consumption.    I’ve made different choices than those around me, and my choices are not the choices that society deems “normal”.

I’m an alien, in a foreign land.

And Yet, I’m Not.

In many ways, I’m the same as that guy with the Lambo.  It’s just that my wealth has a different purpose, and is displayed in a different way.  Rather than buying stuff, my wife and I are using wealth as a tool to achieve freedom.

Stealth Wealth has given me the freedom to:

  • Start a blog at 52 years old, in spite of some potential career risk (If you don’t know, it’s strangely Politically Incorrect to talk about retirement in Corporate America).
  • Be Generous, and contribute to causes my wife and I feel are important. We tithe to our church, and support various other charities and Missionairies.
  • Sell our house and make a downsizing move to the mountains, while still working. Even now, I’m spending 4 nights a week in the mountains, while still working full time.  Not a bad transition plan!
  • Walk to work, and live in paradise on the weekends. (I also work from home on Fridays)
  • Soon, I’ll never have to work again, and will be traveling the country for 6 months each year with my wife in our 5th Wheel.

(Sorry boss, not saying “When”, even though I think I know the date.  Please don’t fire me before I’m ready!  I’m glad I crushed that presentation to our CEO in The Boardroom last week, I think hope I’m safe for a while longer…When At Work, I Work!)

The 5th Wheel We’re Planning to Buy (Courtesy: Grand Design)

Conclusion:  Stealth Wealth

PERSONAL Finance is just that.  It’s personal.  Each of us can decide if we want to spend less, or if we want to spend more.

Just because you choose to spend more doesn’t make you “wealthy”.

Just because I spend less doesn’t make me “poor”.

Whether you pursue Stealth Wealth or Conspicuous Consumption, I don’t care.  I do encourage you to recognize the trade-offs of your choices, and think about what you’re doing.

Life’s about decisions, and money’s no different.  Choose how to manage your money, choose how to display your wealth (or not).  Just realize that every thing you do with money is a decision.  Decisions have consequences. Spend like there’s no tomorrow if you like, but realize you’re chaining yourself to that desk in the process. I hope you like the feel of those handcuffs.

For my wife and I, Stealth Wealth Is A Path To Financial Freedom.

Our handcuffs are about to come off.

We can hardly wait.

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95 comments

  1. Amen, good sir! I have family who lives in the Scottsdale, AZ area and know exactly what you’re describing. After a couple days of cruising the Scottsdale streets, the Porsches literally blend into the scenery like trees. I hardly notice them after a while. And yup, Teslas too because they are the new big thing if you have money and wish to display it.

    And like you said, ain’t nuthing wrong with that – if you can afford it. I respect our freedom and ability to make our own choices in life. I certainly DON’T respect going into debt for the sole purpose of “presenting your presumed wealth”. But again, their choice. Their money.

    I learned a LOT in The Millionaire Nextdoor, and there are a lot of similarities between what’s written in that book and your story. The majority of wealthy people do normal things, shop at stores like Target and Walmart, drive regular cars like Jeeps and Toyotas. Stealth Wealth. It’s a wonderful thing.

    Granted – if I brought in $50 million a year, would I drive around in a beat-up Honda? No, probably not. But, the car I bought would still be a fraction of my net worth. Fortunately, though, I don’t bring in $50m a year. If I did, my life would be MUCH different than it is today, and we probably wouldn’t be retiring early and traveling the country for a living.

    Sometimes, less wealth is so much more satisfying.

    Nice post, my friend.

    1. Steve, thanks for adding the reference to The Millionaire Next Door. Very applicable book to this post, and one I’ve written about in previous articles. There’s a lot of truth in that book, and it’s very much aligned with my approach. Definitely a classic, and one everyone should read!

      Ironically, I was just in Scottsdale 2 weeks ago, and agree there are many similarities between the Conspicuous Consumption there, and in my small corner of the world.

  2. I first learned about Stealth Wealth from my dad. We were not uber rich by any means, but he had a successful small business and did quite well. He has driven a camry ever since I can remember. My parent’s house is nice but not over the top. Now that they’re retired, they travel all over the country and the world. Choosing to spend their money on experiences rather than stuff.

    We still live in our 900 square foot starter home with one bathroom that we bought almost 10 years ago. We just have two dogs so we don’t need the extra space. Meanwhile, many of my friends are buying the biggest house possible. Most of them are moving into houses with 3 car garages and more square feet than they could possibly need. I think a lot of people just have the mindset of more is better. It’s become the American way.

    We’re happy living our life of modesty, and more than likely have a lot more wealth where it really matters.

    1. “We’re happy living our life of modesty..”, and that’s what matters. Interesting that you learned it from your Dad. I was fortunate to have the same experience as a child, and it’s shaped me as an adult. Hopefully, I’ve been somewhat successful in transferring the learning to my 22 year old daughter!!

  3. With stealth wealth you have the ultimate trump card, escaping work early! While others focus on conspicuous consumption, you will have a conspicuously early exit from work…not bad, eh?

      1. Hi Fritz!

        Great article. My life story is similar as an adult, but I did not learn frugality from my father. He tried to impress others by buying friends drinks and never worrying about his future. Really bad money manager. My wife and I were both savers and find it difficult now to spend our accumulation down. We also enjoy giving to various charities. I am 58 and my wife is 55. I retired at 57 and she at age 52. Both having pensions is of major importance in walking away from employment. Bought an annuity that will kick in when I turn 62, replacing the social security check I won’t draw until age 67 or later. At her age of 67, we will have a fixed income of $81,000 from SS, pensions and one annuity. I really don’t care if we draw down 4 of the 600K we have in our retirement accounts in the next ten years. We live on less than 60,000 per year now! Living modestly is a choice we made 35 years ago when we married. God speed to all of you.

  4. We definitely live the stealth wealth life. As I’m reading the start of your article I’m wondering if your my neighbor. We live down a one lane road in a moderately priced 1960s single family home. But the developments that back my property are like your pictures. 10 acre lots and 5000 sq foot homes. There is even a house within 5 minutes walking from my house owned by a Dupont that would make your pictures blush.

    There are a lot of advantages to being the lowest end house in the wealthiest neighborhood. We’re largely ignored but still we have a strong lobbying group when it comes to keeping taxes in check or changing zoning.. With the exception of my Corvette which I’ve owned for over a decade from the outside my household looks about as average as they come.

  5. Nothing to add… You do make intentional choices to maximize the quality of life now and plan for the future. Super sports car are no part of that… so what?!?

    We also aim to be stealth wealth. We drive 2 modest cars, altough I could get a beemer or Audi from work, we choose not to… And we prefer to be seen in the public playground, park or the bike with the kids, rather than in the coolest bar in town. That being said, we do splurge occasionally on food and drinks, with good friends.

    Recently, I ran through the people I know to see if they might be stealt rich… I do think some of them are… How to ask the question? Are you rich, just not showing might not be the besta approach! 🙂

  6. Great, thought provoking post, Fritz!!! 🙂 Looking forward to following along on your journey – that 5th wheel looks great!

    I’m a firm believer that true happiness cannot be bought. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty happy to be on vacation and enjoy a great meal out. And I’m grateful I’m able to do those things from time to time. But, true happiness can be found in everyday living. I’m not saying those living in the multi-million dollar houses aren’t happy. I honestly hope they are. I just hope they aren’t so distracted by the shiny things that they are letting the greatest things in life pass them by.

    I agree with what Steve wrote: “Sometimes, less wealth is so much more satisfying.”

    1. “Looking forward to following along on your journey”….and you know you can, every week, same channel!!

      I appreciate your thoughts on “happiness”. It’s interesting that some folks in very impoverished countries are among the happiest folks in the world. Contentment is a choice, and doesn’t need $$ to be achieved. Your comment is a good reminder for us all. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Nice article based on the dichotomy between your work week and weekend. I also hope that the people in those expensive houses and cars are happy since everyone should be free to pursue their happiness. But most likely they are working pretty hard to pull in the kind of money needed. It seems counterproductive to spend a lot of money on a big house but then be gone much of the time working long hours and traveling for work. I see that a lot and it doesn’t make much sense. I can see the appeal of nice things, but then you still need time to actually use or experience them. Being really cognizant of time lessens the appeal of big expenses to me and instead makes me want to buy more freedom, earlier.

    1. IBFree!! Nice to see you on my blog! Great point about how realizing the value of TIME lessons the appeal of an expensive lifestyle. It’s all about time, and what you value to do with your limited time on this big marble we all call home. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. This says it all – I don’t really care.
    I think it’s great that other people choose visible wealth. They are the 1% and they should do their part do stimulate the economy.
    We are doing okay financially, but we just aren’t rich enough to display that kind of wealth. I prefer to live a comfortable life and have a financially secure future.

  9. Thoroughly enjoyed this article, Fritz.
    My husband also drives a 2010 Altima!
    Love,
    Your Stealthy Wealthy friends in Texas

    1. Birdie, great to see you here (welcome, first timer!!). Glad the article brought a smile, and how ironic about our similarities. I wonder how many of us there our “out here”….. We’re all so stealthy….how many of us exist? Interesting to think about, right?

  10. Fantastic Post, Fritz!

    I’ve always been a stealth waelth guy, so it’s kind of odd to have started a blog. I still haven’t gone completely financially naked, but I’ve shared way more numbers than I ever expect I would.

    It must be tough doing that 200 mile commute every week. You must be counting down the days!

    1. Hey TJ! The 200 miles isn’t bad, since I only have to do it once! 100 miles in at 5:00 am on Monday, and 100 miles back to the cabin on Thursday. Works pretty well. There are actually folks who commute it every day. No way this guy’s gonna do that! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. You can add me to the Stealth Wealth camp! It just feels so natural to live simply while still injecting some fun experiences and small indulgences. There is no substitute for feeling free. Most uber wealthy people, including the posers are perpetually stressed because they have to keep up appearances. Their ego controls them. I bet there’s a strong correlation between ego and the propensity for stealth wealth. You guys have it figured out!

  12. I’ve chosen to be stealthily wealthy, too. Except for the part about talking about said wealth online.

    “The first rule of stealth wealth. Do not talk about stealth wealth.”

    I’ve run the numbers and figured I could double to quadruple my net worth by working another decade, but I know what Enough is, and I’m ready to try on some freedom for a change. After One More Year, anyway.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  13. Great point, Fritz, nicely presented. Just to add a thought: a good friend, now gone on to the next life, was living in Dallas about 40 years ago in an area (Highland Park) that even then had its share of million dollar homes. One night he was walking his dog and came to a house recently purchased by a young couple. Outside were parked two Mercedes, one with a door open. He circled through the driveway to tell the owners, and saw through curtainless windows that there was not a stick of furniture in the entire house. Just two lawn chairs and a TV. He decided later that night to quit his job and move back to some old family farm property in rural South Carolina–being unwilling to raise his young children in what he came to see as a soulless environment. Maybe, in at least some cases, stealth wealth implies sound soul.
    Best, JPW

    1. John, GREAT story, and a perfect illustration of empty materialism! I hope he had a good life in rural SC, and I suspect his children grew into better adults as a result of his move. Thanks for stopping by! (BTW, Jackie and I are driving to Hillsdale tomorrow to move my Dad, thanks for all of your support!).

  14. Like you, I am the typical millionaire next door, early retired but still working at many things that are lucrative and fun and that improve the lives of people in need. Even though we could easily afford a Porche or Mercedes I drive a six year old Toyota I bought used. My wife drives a Nissan Exterra she has had for 11 years. My house is probably worth $200,000. Those things are not our treasures. What we value is our marriage, our grown successful kids and the relationships and experiences we have.

  15. Fritz;
    What a great post, so much to take away from this one. Am reminded of a comment an office administrative assistant shared with me several years ago, after learning the Jaguar which I had ogling in the parking lot for a week was hers, her comment “you can do anything you want, you just have to make choices”. She was correct on so many levels!! We just completed our first year of retirement, and spent the last 4 days, 3 nights in 10,000 islands (Florida Everglades) and enjoyed 2 of those nights on our own private island. We agree with those other comments in this post where life for us isn’t how much you have in “things” but how rich you are in experiences, friends, loved ones etc. Thanks for all the advice this blogs brings and I really LOVE the comments to hear what others are thinking and gain an glimpse into those kindred souls.

    All The Very Best!!

    1. MONA!!! (Love the “Mrs. OB” nickname!). You’re amazing, sleeping in a tent on an island in the Everglades, does Mr. OB realize what a special woman you are??!! Enjoy your anniversary in Blue Ridge (another example of “experiences” over “things”!), and thanks again for all you do for us! Great comments, appreciate you stopping by!

  16. This is exactly my mindset as I save on many things to buy or invest how I want. I invest way more monthly than I spend on things, entertainment, or wants. It is my plan to retire as well, not as soon as you but faster than many. Good luck and yes Boss don’t fire him.

  17. Having financial freedom, having margin in our budget, and having the choice to be incredibly choosy about our work feels like true wealth to me. Also feeling rich enough to be able to give money away. Buying expensive things doesn’t. Every month we see multi million dollar houses around here go into foreclosure. Having margin in our finances and margin with our time feels like the new rich.

    1. Appreciate your comment, Ms. Montana! I’m sure you see a lot of the “consumption” around Kalispell (beautiful area, drawing in those rich Californian retirees!). I know we’re like minded, and I love your comment about “margin in finances, and margin in time”. Rich, indeed!

      1. At what point is the transition from nonwealthy to wealthy….when do you know you have arrived? I would like to think there are quite a few millionaires next door….it would be interesting to know the financial picture of the owners of all the multimillion dollar homes……are they struggling week after week to pay the bills….freedom came for me many years ago when we as a family lived with the philosophy of staying within our financial resources and not living from paycheck to paycheck…we no longer had to worry about unexpected expenses which could cause us to panic…..and now in retirement mode, financial freedom is possible because of carefully saving and investing over a multitude of years.

  18. Such an interesting comparison, isn’t it? I’m a big fan of stealth wealth and am always pleasantly surprised when unassuming people drop nuggets of info revealing their good financial fortune. I consider them part of my tribe. 🙂 In a similar vein, I was watching one of the Tiny House shows the other day and Deion Sanders and his girlfriend were having a tiny home (600 sq ft) built for themselves. He is a big fan of the show and they decided to build a lake and this tiny house for them to escape to. When the host asked why he said because he had already done living large. He knew what it was and now knows what is more important. Mind you, he still has his other home (they are currently renting a 7000 sq ft place in Texas) but this better reflects where he feels peace in his life now. I thought it was a great perspective from someone who has done it both ways…though, let’s face it, Deion Sanders will never be stealth! I don’t even watch sports and I know he is the only athlete to ever be in a Super Bowl AND World Series. ?

    Enjoy your pool – Look nice!! And 48 degrees is nothing compared to your polar bear swim!!!

    1. Hey Cuz! Deion Sanders and tiny houses!? Wow, that’s a challenge to wrap my mind around! Interesting that he’s learned “living large” isn’t the clear path to joy that many believe it will be. Thanks for stopping by (doing any swimming up there in Chicago!? Lol).

  19. I think you summed up my feelings with “wealth is a tool to gain freedom”. Very thought-provoking post, Fritz. Can’t add much more except to say that I can’t wait to hear how you feel on day one of your retirement.

    1. Thank goodness somebody else noticed that unarmed, not so stealthy, but very fast aircraft was not a stealth bomber!

  20. Like most other comments on this article, I learned vast amounts from “The Millionaire Next Door.” Akin to Neo being awakened and seeing The Matrix in binary for the first time.

    Until the last few years, I had no idea, the concept of stealth wealth. Thanks to bloggers like yourself and many others in the community, I have witnessed what true wealth is.

    I currently share a pad with two roommates and it costs me a grand total of $256 monthly and utilities have yet to break $100. In theory, I should be miserable, but in fact, I love it. Here in Indiana, the idea is (if) you graduate college and when (if) you get a job, you get a massive mortgage and car loan. Fortunately, articles like “Stealth Wealth” reinforce the idea that living drastically below your means, like our apartments, is not crazy or “cheap.” It is great to have people that share these ideas in my corner.

    My favorite line in this article (out of many): “Each of us must decide, for ourselves, purpose of meaningful wealth.” Everything we do is a life choice and we may all do with said choices as we wish. However, to me “stuff” is not worth another 10 years of being handcuffed to a desk.

  21. I respectfully disagree with your way of life. Yes, you are living debt free, yes you are saving big bucks, yes you are going to retire early, yes you drive unsafe little cars in a land of giant SUVs.
    Unfortunately, it must bother you greatly that you live a ” cheaper” lifestyle because that is all you talk about.
    One, never knows how long one may live, catch some unknown disease, or get run over one morning on a run by a ” ticked off Lamborghini driver” who had a bad night.
    I say quit now, get a better ( read safer) car. Enjoy better meals with your wife/ kids together before it is too late. Also, who knows with Trump. I voted unhappily for Bernie and I am not a liberal. I love being retired 20 years. I am 75. My wife of 44 years is 65. We travel, eat well. Have 2 newish cars. We have what few people ever have- we have enough! We paid for 4 college educations for our kids, paid for our $200k retirement home in a beautiful southern state. We now have less than $50K in our retirement account, are living on 2 SocSec checks and 2 small pensions. And we are saving regularly from this. We head to FL tomorrow for 2 weeks to stay with friends in 3 different places.
    Head out now and enjoy life.

    1. Jack ate his Wheaties this morning! Of course I welcome respectful disagreement, and love your passionate comment.

      That’s what’s so great about “personal” finance, its personal! Each of us decide for ourselves what’s important, and that’s a beautiful thing. Thanks for stopping by!

      PS – for the record, my “cheaper lifestyle” doesn’t bother me in the least, I just write from the experiences I’m living day to day as we prepare to retire early. Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else! (Dave Ramsey).

  22. I have never commented on my husbands posts, because I get to comment in person, but this time I felt like I wanted to share the other half of the “Stealth Wealth” couple. I am so grateful to have a husband who understands what is really important. I am so glad that we own our “things” instead of them owning us. The talk of high end cars made me think of my Sonata and the abuse it has taken being my car. It has hauled our daughter to horse barns with muddy boots on her feet and her friends to and from outings. It has hauled dogs and more dogs to adventures or to the vet and has even hauled it’s share of rescue dogs. It has also had a few unfortunate bumps from my inability to back or to see those pesky posts in parking lots. It has even had it’s run in with a deer and a bear! If my poor Sonata had been a Jag…imagine the stress. So I love my Stealthy living and I don’t feel as though I have missed out on the “finer” things. I guess because the “finer” things to me are the ones I love, not the stuff we own.

  23. I’m like many others above who first learned about this concept from The Millionaire Next Door. I read it in my early 20’s and it changed my whole perspective on wealth. When I was younger I thought it was about the outside-the house, cars, clothes, vacations, and so on. “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” so to speak. But that book showed me it’s about financial freedom, and your accounts. You can drive a fancy car, live in a mansion, and have nothing. Or you can drive a regular car, live in a normal house, and grow the gap between your income and your lifestyle – saving the rest. Then you can fund the things that matter more to you than the external trappings of wealth. College for your kids. Donations to causes you care about. Taking time off to volunteer. Retirement. I’d rather have those things than a new car myself.

  24. Nice stuff, Fritz!

    It’s funny that we have to distinguish “stealth wealth” from just being, you know, a normal and prudent human being.

    Your jogging route reminds me of some passages from A Man In Full – required reading for anybody in Buckhead if you haven’t had the pleasure. Oh, say howdy to Arthur Blank next time you’re out to congratulate him on the good season this year… But even if you don’t see him, with all that running, you’re due a steak – Hal’s is my favorite if you decide to go un-stealth for a little bit! 🙂

    1. Ah, FL knows of where I run! I’ll have to check out “A Man In Full”, and will keep my eyes out for Arthur Blank (tho I imagine he’s in hiding after the 4th quarter last night!). Also, I, too love Hal’s, and have the occasional biz dinner there (as you might guess, it’s a bit out of my personal “stealth wealth” budget!).

  25. Interesting post Fritz. I agree with the other commenters that keeping stealthy makes for healthy relationships, both with friends and at work. Co-workers often ask each other how many commas (,) they have in their retirement savings. I have plenty, and keeping it to myself it makes for a better working environment. Living in a town with a high population of Mercedes GL 550s it sometimes isolating when you are the last family that doesn’t have a 60” LED TV because the ‘Tube’ hasn’t burned out yet on the Magnavox yet, but I have found that more important aspect of a happier life is to be ‘happy and thankful for what you do have’. I have a co-worker that rants and raves about how much CEOs, Football, and Movie Stars are making. Such a waste of energy and emotion. In the end all his ranting does is make himself more unhappy.

  26. Excellent article. Money buys choices and choices equals freedom to pursue what makes you happy. If that happens to be material possessions, so be it but the more precious things in life are often things that can’t be bought.

  27. Fritz, you killed it with this post! As a fellow corporate manager who (coincidentally) also makes periodic presentations to the Board, I could relate to everything in this post. I also see such glaring examples of wealth where I live, though not to the level what you see. Stealth wealth is very important because nobody appreciates the challenges and sacrifices we made to get to FI status. Even if you drop hints, your own family and colleagues sometimes are consumed by jealousy or feel that we are being ‘cheap’ whenever we take a sensibly frugal decision. I cannot see any upside to publicly declaring the positive result of years of sacrifice to the vast majority who don’t appreciate it, or bother to ask genuinely curious (not sarcastic) questions to help them get there. We are living in a world not only of conspicuous consumption, but also of instant gratification, deep cynicism of achievers and demand immediate answers to challenging life problems. Sometimes I feel like people like us in the FIRE community belong together in a different planet.

  28. Absolutely love that concept of Stealth Wealth
    Net Worth is the king of all measuring sticks, I would rather be free of the burden and stress from debt. A life lived simply annoying my time like you are focused on winding things down to appreciate what we are passionate about.

  29. Appreciate you sharing about tithing to your church and giving. It’s an oft neglected topic in the PF world. Enjoyed your post. Is there a term for when only people who read your blog online know you are wealthy? Maybe “interwebs wealth.”

    1. CoC, greetings first timer! Great to see you on my site! Thanks for the compliment on tithing, I agree it’s “oft neglected”, but an important part of our personal finance! Also, good point about being “stealthy”, yet “public” about it. Hmmm….the paradox. Perhaps we can call it “Virtually Visible” wealth?

  30. I absolutely love this post. It’s definitely a keeper. I’m a few years from retirement and I’m all in regarding Stealth Wealth. Also, loved the post on 401K Millionaires. I’m not there YET but I’m working on it. Thanks Fritz.

    1. “I absolutely love this post”. Your first sentence put a big smile on my face! It’s for exactly that purpose that I write, and it really makes me feel good about blogging when I get feedback like that from my readers! Thanks for your kind comments!

  31. What’s funny is the neighborhood I live in…if you were to pick the whole city up and move it to the midwest, the 1-2 million dollar homes would be worth…maybe 250-300k on average (we have a huge mix of really small homes and huge double/triple plot homes in this small city in LA). It’s weird. My rent in my 500is sq foot apt is 1450. Again move it to the midwest and I might be paying 500 for this very average one bedroom. No point in that…just kind of interesting. 🙂 I love this post. Honesty, I have to wonder what the hell one does with SOOO much space, especially if you’re a couple, or even a family of four?!? I feel bad for people because in my mind they have all this pressure to keep up with their neighbors, plus all the expenses that go with it. Rich or not, that sounds like a total drag! I’d rather live in a f’n awesome location on a lake or mountain town in a smaller, reasonable place to clean and keep up any day over that!

  32. Wow, Fritz, that’s crazy to see how some people live. I was going to say “are able to live” but I can only imagine that there are some people there who are living above there means. All I can think about is “The Millionaire Next Door.”

    That’s fantastic on how you’ve been able to live below your means and comfortably at that! A lot of people feel they need to have fancy stuff to be happy, but I think it’s the “stuff” that’s making people unhappy. I love that you’re saving tons of money and still doing what you want (vacations, blogging, etc.). That’s truly the key to happiness!!

    — Jim

    1. Jim, I agree with “The Millionaire Next Door”, and this post is a classic example of living that lifestyle. Live below your means, invest the difference, and do it for a long time!

      It may not be “easy”, but the concept is certainly “simple”!

  33. My husband and I were talking about what we would do if we won the current powerball lottery. ($90million cash option after taxes) and we couldn’t think of what we would do other than ratchet up our support of charities. We already live in the newest upscale subdivision in our area. Our house is not the most expensive but perhaps in the top 10 so far. BUT, we have no mortgage. Our vehicles are a 12 year old truck purchased new and a 9 year old Lexus, purchased used for cash from a family member. I doubt that any of our neighbors have a clue that the house is paid for and what we have in the bank, which is fine with us. We are totally content with our lifestyle. Plus we’ve been retired for over 11 years!

  34. “I’m an alien, in a foreign land. And yet, I’m not.”…what a great line! Like yourself (at least temporarily for you), we live in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country. We can walk a half mile in any direction and it will look like the map you represented above. However, it’s still home for us, and we love our neighborhood, even though we are stealthy with our slow climb to wealth. Your description of stealth vs visible wealth is exactly how I’ve been feeling about the area I live in, but have been unable to put into words. Thank you for writing this post, and hoping a smooth transition into retirement for you and your family.

    1. “Thank you for writing this post.” Danny, you don’t know how much those words mean to me! I do this for you, the readers, and words like this are the reason I do it! Thanks for your kind words, and I’m pleased to hear that my article helped you “put into words” the way you’ve been feeling!

  35. Great post! Although your “stealth bomber” at the top of the page is actually a SR-71 spy plane. Still a really cool aircraft though!

    This topic is something my wife and I have talked about a lot recently. We had some of her work friends over to our condo for the first time and everyone was commenting on how home-y and cozy our place is. I could have gone on and on about how she furnished our place with items she got while volunteering in Africa, or an antique store on the side of the road close to where we got married that we stopped at while planning our big day, or the second hand furniture store down the road that we fix up together. Even things can have a special meaning, when I look around our place I see memories, not just stuff.

    1. Hey Rookie, yeah, I’ve been “schooled” more than a few times about my lack of aircraft knowledge…ah well, still a great pic! Awesome that your wife volunteered in Africa, and I agree how items with “attachment” can mean so much more than simply “materialistic stuff”! Thanks for stopping by.

  36. Awesome post Fritz! This is a great concept and a really important reminder.

    I was talking with a neighbor last summer and apparently his son had been getting bullied by some of the kids that moved into the expensive houses in our city. They were talking down to him because of the house he lived in (a perfectly awesome 2000 square foot home in my opinion).

    As I heard this sad story, I kept thinking about how these “rich kids” might have parents with negative net worths. Living in a $600,000 house doesn’t mean you’re rich!

    And most importantly, real wealth isn’t about financials – it’s in character and virtue.

    From what I could tell, these kids were certainly lacking in these and for all we know, their families might have been lacking in the financial sense as well!

  37. Great article! I love how you go over the differences between the people who outwardly show their wealth and the people that keep it on the inside! I remember reading about this in the Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley. I’m happy for you guys that you’re able to make this leap and love every minute of it!

  38. Great post! I had a similar experience when I lived in a million dollar home of one of these neighborhoods for a month. Like you said, I felt like an alien in a foreign land, and I found it all to be entirely overrated.

    I love this quote of yours. Words to live by, in my opinion: “The Jones’ really aren’t that impressed by your stuff. They’re too busy worrying about their own stuff.”

  39. I remember before I quit my job to change careers I stayed as tight-lipped as possible so I could leave on my own terms…instead of my boss’s terms. It’s awesome & inspiring to read about others that follow the stealth wealth model. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it.

  40. Your neighborhood sounds a lot like mine. I recently got invited to a dinner party at one of these fancy mansions that I have driven past on my way to work for seven years. What did I learn? The family of 3 (two adults and a 1 year old) rented the $2.5m 3/br 2,200sqft mansion for $4,500 a month, leased their luxury vehicles, wore bright shiny Rolex watches and lived off of a single income. Needless to say the entire night they talked about how living in Los Angeles is so expensive and that it is almost impossible to live off of a $200k a year income. I smiled and nodded my head the entire night not saying much.

  41. Soooo it looks like I’m the last person on the planet to have read this post, but hot dang! it was a good one, Fritz!

    I really hope that others outside of the PF community read this (because you’re just preaching to the choir with that audience). “Normal” people would benefit a great deal from this.

    Also, probably my biggest takeaway from this post, is that you still use paper checks?!? I’m shocked that you didn’t run that thing through a typewriter. No doubt the ink is from a feather quill 😉

    1. Ty, gees, its ’bout time you read this! Lol on the check. We don’t write many (any) checks, but I really wanted to write on when we paid off the mortgage! Wish I’d have thought to use a quill, would have been the perfect touch to eliminating our debt!

  42. I secretly loved driving to work in my beat up 2000 Ford Focus knowing I had more money socked away then everybody else in the parking lot with their new cars. People openly made fun of me being a lawyer with a crappy car, it always made me smile.

  43. Pretty interesting stuff. Found you through J$ and have had fun looking through your archives. I appreciate how you said they’ve made their choices and you’ve made yours and you aren’t here to judge. I love reading early retirement blogs because I think of money in the same way a lot, but often find them so aggressive against people who don’t want to retire that I can’t stomach them! I love what I do and don’t plan on leaving. I like saving and investing and living like I might, though! 🙂

    PS — Promise I’m not being a jerk, just want to help with clairty. To make Ferrari or Lamborghini plural you don’t need an apostrophe. Words that end in a vowel do not require an apostrophe to make it plural. That makes it possessive, which changes the meaning. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/apostrophes-and-plurals

  44. Let’s be direct and perhaps not so politically correct – buying expensive toys and a huge home are fine as long as you are doing all the other things correctly ortherwise you could end up being a burden to the rest of us.

    Specifically before you buy that Ferrari:
    1. You shouldn’t be building a pile of debt
    2. You should be saving and building that safety & retirement pile
    3. You should be thinking about what lessons you are teaching your kids.
    4. You should think about your income over the long hall and your ability to meet those obligations you have obtained.

    Did you ever ponder how many multimillionaire sports players and entertainers end up in a very public Bankruptcy? Too many.

    During the last financial crisis my teenage daughter talked and I about on a couple of families that lost their homes. While I didnt see their checkbooks it was clear they were spenders. I asked my daughter what would you rather do- Have a vacation in Hawaii or the Caribbean or be debt free or have the money to ride out the tuff times? I do believe I saw i spark in her eyes – she learned our families secret – we save for just those times.

    1. RP, I agree there are some folks who are just fine driving Ferrari’s (no PC here!), it’s just that there are many, many more who are driving them, and shouldn’t be!! I agree with your guidelines of potential priorities for folks who are able to buy one, and things they should consider before taking that plunge! Thanks for stopping by!

  45. Hopefully you are driving around the neighborhood in a 25 year old clunker with the mirror hanging off. Rich people love that !! You have your own built in perspective right in front of you. Look around and smile that you are not keeping up with the joneses.

    As a side note, I caught you on Radical Personal Finance podcast. Good job !

    -Brian

  46. Great article, Fritz.

    I’m retired and have enough stealth wealth to live the life I desire. And I too live in the Georgia mountains.

    I enjoyed reading the responses to the article. One thing not mentioned was some social issues. I think ostentation and pretension demonstrate bad taste. It’s like rubbing your positive financial situation in the faces of others whose situation is poorer. That’s just not nice. Also, such ostentation invites jealousy, class warfare, and encourages malefactors to seek to take your wealth from you. I think one’s personal finance situation should be kept personal. As well, driving expensive flashy cars and living in mansions represents, to me, an insecurity , and a need to be loved for what you have, not who you are.

    I’m a millionaire next door and it’s the right life style for me.

    Love your blog.

    EasyEd

    1. ED!!!! My favorite option trading lunch buddy!! Great to see you on my site, and thanks for the comment. Great point about the “social issue”, love the “just not nice” comment, and tend to agree with you! As you know, you and I are very similar in our preference for living the “millionaire next door” lifestyle!

    2. Hilarious comment. You clearly disdain what you deem conspicuous and ostentatious consumption – but it’s all relative. If you’ve got >1% income, you can afford more expensive toys. If you’re living on fixed income and forced to live in a cabin somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a pickup and a 5th wheel may be extravagant to someone living in the 3rd World. So quit with the moralizing and tut-tutting.

      And being a millionaire isn’t what it used to be. Dime a dozen.

      1. Entertained, first time here, I think? Welcome! Dissenting views are always welcome, but let’s keep it civil, shall we? I take it you’re offended by my friend, Ed’s comment that “I think ostentation and pretension demonstrate bad taste”.

        Personal opinion, in my view, is an invaluable right, and shouldn’t be criticized as “moralizing and tut-tutting” without recognizing the more important value of open discussion.

        Free Speech. Protect it.

        Opinions are always welcome here. I love this stuff!

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