Stealth Wealth: I’m Just an Ordinary Average Guy

I’ve been publishing a Sunday Best since April of 2016. While I’m certainly not the first to compile and present a weekly collection of posts I’ve enjoyed, the concept has proven to be quite popular. The post is usually well read, and many featured posts get at least a hundred clicks the first day. It’s not Rockstar Finance popular, but it does direct some traffic.

One fringe benefit that I receive is a look at what sort of articles are popular with my readers. In recent weeks, I featured several articles on something called Stealth Wealth from bloggers Financial Samurai, Joshua Kennon, and Justin from Root of Good.

The Stealth Wealth posts were consistently fan favorites. As of this writing, they have been viewed a remarkably similar 272, 274, and 267 times respectively, and have been the most popular featured articles from the last month’s Sunday Best posts. I hear you, readers. You like to read about Stealth Wealth!

Here’s my take.


Stealth Wealth: I’m Just an Ordinary Average Guy


What is Stealth Wealth?


You’ve heard of the Stealth Bomber — the sleek jet that flies through the skies undetected by radar. Stealth Wealth is like that, but rhymes so much better. It’s wealth that exists but goes unnoticed by standard means of detection.

Stealth wealth is blending in with your surroundings. It’s jeans and a tee shirt. It’s watching football with a cold one. It’s mowing your lawn with a cold one. It’s tent camping. Yes, with a cold one, but around a warm fire. It’s basically a country & western song.

That’s the Stealth part. In order to be stealthy, you’ve got to Stop Acting Rich. In another book by Drs. Stanley and Danko, The Millionaire Next Door, you learn quickly that many of America’s rich don’t do what we think rich people do. They drive Ford vehicles more than any other make. They eschew the caviar and champagne for crackers and, of course, a cold one.

Wealth is the other necessary component. What qualifies as wealthy? That’s for an individual to decide, but being a millionaire is a good start. If you’ve got your first million, and nobody but your closest friends and family would guess it, you’re probably practicing Stealth Wealth.


What is Not Stealth Wealth?


Frequent displays of material wealth disqualify you. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Driving a luxury automobile
  • Wearing a ridiculously expensive watch or similar jewelry
  • The Kardashians
  • McMansion with weekly visits from the gardener and “pool boy”
  • Facebook check-ins at The French Laundry
  • Decadent Maui accomodations (unless reimbursed by employer)


Maui Hyatt

view from our balcony. not bad.


Not only are these things not indicative of Stealth Wealth, but they are also often the enemy to actual wealth. Drs. Stanley and Danko referred to the practice of trying to look wealthy as “all hat, no cattle,” a phrase borrowed from a Texan who no doubt listens to country & western music.


reward credit cards
Business Cards


How Do I Stealth Wealth?


I’ve got the Wealth part down. I’m a millionaire twice over thanks to a great career,  a high savings rate, and some dumb luck with the stock market that I’ve invested in heavily over the last ten years.

The Stealth* part?

Joe Walsh, a member of The Eagles said it better than I can in Ordinary Average Guy.

I’m just an ordinary average guy
My friends all are boring
And so am I
We’re just ordinary average guys

We all lead ordinary average lives
With average kids
And average wives
We all go bowling at the bowling lanes
Drink a few beers
Bowl a few frames
We’re just ordinary average guys
Ordinary average guys

And every Saturday we work in the yard
Pick up the dog doo
Hope that it’s hard (woof woof)
Take out the garbage and clean out the garage
My friend’s got a Chrysler
I’ve got a Dodge
We’re just ordinary average guys
Ordinary average guys…


I’ve got an awesome wife, and two amazing kids, but otherwise it’s pretty much spot on. We’ve got the Chrysler and a Chevy (no Dodge). Replace bowling a few frames with curling a few ends and there’s not much else to say.


My preferred business card (pun intended). Learn why I like the Chase Business Preferred card here.

But I will, anyway. Although I do like to bring attention to this blog (thank you for the latest feature, J. Money), I don’t like to bring attention to myself in everyday life. I live in a safe middle class neighborhood. It’s a nice home, but nothing extraordinary.

I don’t own designer brands. I don’t wear a watch or even a Fitbit. My boys are enrolled in a public school. I don’t pay much for flights; I’ve become skilled at getting free flights.

I downplay the doctor card. I don’t lie about what I do for a living, but I only offer it up when asked, and quickly move on if at all possible. My job doesn’t define who I am, and I’ve got more interesting things to talk about. Well, interesting for a boring, ordinary, average guy, anyway.


*[It’s tough to be completely stealthy when you’re building a blog, and writing about financial independence, investing, and wealth creation. For what it’s worth, I’m anonymous to almost all of you, but I can’t very well establish myself as a writer worth reading in the personal finance arena without establishing some credibility as a physician who has achieved financial independence and some level of wealth.]


Have I Always Been Stealthily Wealthy?


I wish I could answer in the affirmative, but the truth is I wasn’t always this way. I bought a convertible when I was in residency. It was a used Mustang, but it set me back $12,000, which probably exceeded my net worth at the time. When I took my first permanent job, I hired a contractor to build us a stunning 4,000 square foot home on a six-figure lot I purchased with the help of a 0% interest credit card check.

I had worked hard, and I bought into the concept of delayed gratification. It was my time. My time to shine. Time to show the world that I had arrived. On my 31st birthday, I arrived at my birthday dinner in a limousine that my wife had arranged for a couple of friends and us. The year before, I rented the limo to drive my friends and I around town to celebrate my Big Three – Oh.

I would never rent a limo to celebrate myself these days.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed these things while they lasted, which was, unfortunately, not all that long. The Mustang convertible was impractical as a sole vehicle for a traveling locum tenens physician, so I sold it. The house was impractical to own after the only hospital in a 40-mile radius went bankrupt. So I sold it — years later at a huge loss.


fun while she lasted

fun while she lasted


I learned something from my non-stealthy, wealth-deterrent ways. One is that the finer things didn’t make me all that happy, and became a burden when I no longer had a use for them. They didn’t matter much to other people, and didn’t matter much to me, either. People, the good people anyway, care more about who you are and how you behave than what you have.


Are There Benefits to Stealth Wealth?


Ya, sure. You betcha. Lots of ’em.

You’re less likely to be quoted the doctor price / lawyer price / rich man’s price if you don’t look or act like a rich man.

You’ll have an easier time fitting in most social settings that don’t include terms such as yacht, polo, or Illuminati. An ordinary, average appearing guy (or gal) is simply more approachable.

As a result, you’ll find yourself associating with peers whose living and spending habits are rather ordinary. It’s easier to keep up with the Joneses who have potluck gatherings in the backyard than the Joneses who hold catered events at the golf club.


“People, the good people anyway, care more about who you are and how you behave than what you have.”


When your Wealth is Stealthy, the expectations of you will be tempered. People won’t automatically turn to you when the check arrives, or be offended if you’re not feeling generous enough to pick up the tab for everyone’s bad decisions at the bar. No one’s going to ask you what fancy car you’ll be getting next if you’ve never leased one in the first place.

Possibly the best benefit? The look of shock and awe when you share the news of your pending early retirement. I haven’t experienced that yet, but when you don’t appear to be “doing all that well,” the last thing your co-workers will expect is that you can somehow afford to retire when you can’t seem to afford jeans without holes in them or drive anything better than that rust-bucket. Soon, the time will come when I prove them wrong.


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For more on Stealth Weatlh, see my two-part series on this amazing physician:

Do you practice Stealth Wealth? Care to share your methods? Have your habits changed over time as mine have?


  • One more benefit I see of stealth wealth is people think your still the underdog. Our culture is such that everyone prefers to vote for the underdog. This can be helpful in a number of ways. If they think your the underdog your less likely to get sued for no good reason as they don’t know you have anything. When you go to ask for a pay raise there may be some bit of psychology where your manager will target those who “need it”, and of course there’s a multitude of more day to day interaction impacts.

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  • Nice Stang! I bought a Cadillac CTS on loan when I was 21… because I deserved it! But now that I make almost 3x the amount I did when I first graduated college, I don’t even own a car. I mooch off my girlfriend’s paid off 7 year old car. My ride currently other than her car is a $400 hybrid bike I bought this year. I agree with you on one of the benefits being less expectations.

    • Top down… chrome spinnin’

      Those were the days. Although the ragtop leaked like a sieve and the regular afternoon deluge would fill the storage compartment with several gallons of water. They don’t tell you about that in the commercials with the models’ hair blowing in the wind.


  • Practicing stealth wealth just happens to come along with maximizing your happiness per dollar. And we are plenty happy living a retired life in a blue collar neighborhood with our $5000 cars.

    I also enjoy the added security. Not having fancy cars or any expensive possessions means there is nothing to even consider stealing from us. Also our chances of pissing someone off on the road are probably a lot smaller if we are in an econo box rather than a boxster.

    I too had a fancy car and watch when I got out of school, but they only brought me added stress after the initial buzz of buying them wore off.

  • I’m such a big fan of the Stealth Wealth movement! I hope more folks adopt. It feels absolutely amazing to go through life, not being bothered by anybody. Look poor but live richly I say!

    Or, get super tinted windows 🙂


    • It seems ironic that many who act as though they must be rich are not, while the stealthy types like us who don’t “look the part” have money.

      It’s not ironic when you think about it. It makes a lot of sense that the more you spend, the less you have, all other factors being equal.


  • Stealth wealth is something I’ve learned from my parents. There’s no need to show off. I’m totally OK to drive an average car, having an average house, and everything average and having high net worth. 😀

  • ann

    Came here the long rabbit trail way, but I totally agree with you! I loved that Warren Buffet (Think I spelled it right) lives in the same house he always did. No one would ever guess my parents have as much money as they do, because they live like they always have, used cars, salvaged stuff and doing their own work. My husband and I live the same. I learned a long time ago that I have expensive tastes and that I don’t mind buying those things used after they have gone out of style. So we let the pretend-to-be-rich pay the crazy inital expense then we pick it for cheap. As a result we have nice things, but we don’t look like it. I doubt our house will ever be broken into, nothing is the latest and greatest. One of the funny things is that as a military officer, there is a crazy expectation that he will have 1 fancy car, but we pefer 1 that will pull our used RV that I am sitting in right now making money, thanks to the military assuming no officer would RV on a temporary duty assignment and is paying for a hotel each night (Yes, it is all legal). On a regular basis we talk to our children about spending money wisely. Last weekend, we all needed new shoes, so to the thrift store we went. We found a bunch of Tevas that were barely used, we spent 18 dollars on 6 pair of barely used shoes, which would have cost us around $260 on sale, then went out to dinner at a regular restaurant, split a meal with our children since we weren’t terribly hungry (still had left overs). We talked to our children about what we did and why. Many people just go spend the $260, but we spent about 1/5 of that including eating at their favorite restaurant! Yes, the shoes are not perfect, but if you look at kids shoes, 5 seconds after they put them on, they will look like what we bought! That is more like financial freedom to me, being able to buy what you want and do what you want without worrying about what the neighbors might or might not think, without the need to keep up with the Joneses. Yes, we take our kids to Disneyland, because it is a family tradition (and my husband and children love, love rides), since my husband’s mother was given ticket books by their neighbor who work there as a janitor, but we don’t announce it and don’t buy the gear. We have 1 (thrift store) classic ears that we trade around (so no ones ears or chin get sore from the strap) that we had our family name sewn on. We often ask each other and ourselves, would we really be happier buying more and the answer is NO. More stuff, is just clutter once the initail thrill wears off.
    Wow, never write this much, but I think it is important. I especially want my children to know that we have money to do everything they really want, but we do not spend money on temporary, silly things like keeping up with the neighbors.

    • I like the way you guys operate, Ann. Spend on things that are meaningful (Disneyland), and skimp on the things that are not (footwear).

      I have a similar philosophy. We’ll be taking the kids to Euro Disney outside of Paris this spring (Shhhh… they don’t know yet) but they might be wearing second-hand jeans.


  • The great thing about your blog, PoF, is that you’ve been preaching Stealth Wealth from the beginning, even if you weren’t aware of that catchy term. In my line of work, I’ve seen the benefits of Stealth Wealth first hand. The doctor who buys a new $50,000 car every 2-3 years and chases a bunch of private equity get rich (poor) quick schemes has to work much longer to retire than his partner who still has the second home on the beach and sent his kids to private school, but otherwise lives and acts as if he were blue collar.

    • True story, SOD. As a physician, there are areas we can afford to splurge. It’s important not to be a spendthrift in all aspects (and not to make unwise investment choices) if you want the best chance to obtain real wealth.


  • Great post! I find myself practicing stealth wealth more than ever. Not that I was ever a show-off but there was a time in my life that I felt that having a nice big house and a new car defined that I’ve made it. I wanted to show to the people around me that I was successful because I came from a struggling financial background.
    Now I’m almost FI and got to this point because I realized that those things weren’t it. Success to me is waking up next to my loved one. Success is owning my time and living as simple as possible. I think if I continue to pursue happiness in simple ways, practicing stealth wealth becomes more of a natural process.

    • It’s hard not to live it up a little when you’re young. I know I wanted to impress people, or have the things that I thought would impress people. These days, not so much.

      Cheers to you, Mr. Enchumbao!

  • I’ve always been stealthily wealthy (even when I really wasn’t that wealthy at all), but I can’t really take any credit for it. My family (immediate and extended) are the kind that believe that showing off your wealth, or being flashy, is tasteless and classless and I would have been (and still would be) teased mercilessly if I was ever tempted to flaunt. Nothing like good ‘ol family to keep you firmly in your place.

    • Yes, there’s stealth wealth, and just plain ol’ lack of wealth. But I know your goals, and I believe you guys are well on your way to true stealth wealth.


    • My friends and I have a similar culture where we call each other out if we are acting like douches. Bullying is always bad, but teasing has a productive purpose in some situations—keeping our egos in check!

  • Great read and I very enjoyed the earlier stealth wealth links, too. I have to admit that I have a bit of the non-stealth-wealth, conspicuous consumption bug in me, too. I’m first-generation affluent. My parents and grandparents are/were all very, very blue-collar and there is a certain urge to show that you advanced from the lower-middle-class to middle-class or even upper-middle-class. Especially the first few years after finishing graduate school. But conspicuous consumption gets old really quickly and I changed my consumption pattern considerably.
    For example, over time I have retired my older, fancier dress shirts and I’m now 100% Costco-brand. And they feel and look great! Likewise, shopping at the Dollar Store (for certain items) is actually fun if you go there because you want to not because you have to!

    • Thank you, ERN.

      I wonder how much first-generation wealth impacts the spending of the “average” person. On one hand, you are used to humble roots, which could make it easy to maintain the status quo. On the other hand, the nouveau riche may feel urge to make sure everyone is aware of their newfound success.

      My parents did pretty well for themselves, and share many of my stealth wealth tactics. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.


      • S.G.

        They’re also less likely to have the skills. Many simply spend what they have because they lived paycheck to paycheck as a kid, it’s just a bigger paycheck. And many are ignorant or even afraid of financial tools and how to invest.

  • I’m a big practicer of Stealth Wealth. We’ve been sued one too many times, and I’m just glad those people had no idea what we were truly worth. They would have come after us for more.

    Stealth Wealth is a good way to protect yourself.

    I also believe we get fairer deals from contractors when we use them….the price doesn’t get marked up nearly as high!

    • Just today, I brought my ’06 Chevy in for brake work. The estimate came back at over $1,000 which is probably 1/3rd of the car’s value. I asked if any of the work was optional, and he thought he might be able to save me some money on parts or a quicker labor than projected.

      I wore jeans and a tee shirt. And own a crappy car. #StealthWealth


  • It is that time of the year when snow starts to fall in northern reaches of NE and we get to experience stealth wealth at its finest. Even in NE we see the fur collar crew, fancy ski pants and long lunches with multiple beers, shots and cocktails to celebrate a half day on the mountain. We dine with our flasks of soup or hot cocoa brought from home and as many drinks/snacks as we can pack.

    Perhaps our mind will drift to the snowball of compound interest in our various accounts. Or chat about what to do next with those 400,000 airmiles and hotel points that we hacked in the last year.

    We look around us and wonder what’s on the minds of other folks. Always interesting to actually see a number of folks like us – sharing common values at least on how they dine on the mountain. Perhaps practicing stealth wealth also….? You just never know…

    • Nice travel hacking, Dr. & Mrs. PIE!

      The mountain is a great place to see conspicuous consumption, along with the Après Ski after-party lifestyle. Enjoy the slopes. They’ll be white before you know it.


  • S.G.

    It’s not so much a question of stealth wealth with us. We both work at an engineering firm and many engineers just think differently about money. Many don’t make a conscious choice to drive an old car to save money, they just don’t see the point in replacing a car that works perfectly well. Sure, we get our share of Audis, but performance is usually preferred over aesthetics, so if you see an expensive car it’s a big truck as often as not, and corvettes are relatively popular.

    But we know some of the guys with the rattiest jeans are millionaires and the nice suits have been divorced twice and don’t have much. It’s a characteristic of our community already baked into the cake. No one is fooled, and our firm is largetting enough in the area that community members aren’t usually surprised. “Oh, you work THERE.” As though it explains everything, lol.

    • I hear you, S.G.

      Engineers are almost certainly over-represented among the FIRE community, and I believe were identified in The Millionaire Next Door as prodigious accumulators of wealth. Doctors on the other hand…


  • I love looking like a bum and driving a 2004 Camry but being financially free. Mrs. Groovy and I celebrated our retirement by driving to six southern cities we haven’t seen yet: Mobile, Biloxi, New Orleans, Little Rock, Memphis, and Chattanooga. No dinner on that trip cost more than $60 (tip included). You don’t need to spend a lot to have great gumbo and BBQ! In fact, one of the best dinning experiences we had–eating meat pies at the Chevron station in Lafayette, Louisiana–set us back less than $12. My working friends laugh at our trips. But we would rather drive around America and meet average Americans than fly to some island in the Caribbean (and then have to go back to work). You nailed it with this post, PoF. Stay stealthy, my friend.

    • Sounds like a great road trip, Mr. Groovy. With that moniker, I find it hard to believe you’d never visited New Orleans or Memphis. I’m glad you rectified the situation.

      Meat Pie. Two of my favorite things combined into one delicious treat.


  • Admittedly, I wasn’t great at stealth wealth early on in my life. I feel like I watched a bit too many music videos in my college days, and I wanted to look cool while I was in school. Plus, my parents weren’t terrific at stealth wealth either, so I didn’t learn the best things growing up.

    I do have two thoughts about stealth wealth. One, I feel like stealth wealth can be easier to do these days. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels like millennials care less about physical things. We’re more okay with not owning cars – we’re a more urban population after all, so cars aren’t really a status symbol like they once were. And clothes have gotten cheaper and cooler. Think H&M, Target, etc. People aren’t chasing the Ralph Lauren’s and other fancy clothes – at least not people I see. If you wanted to practice stealth wealth as a millennial, you totally could. You won’t even be judged for not having fancy clothes or a fancy car.

    At the same time, here’s why stealth wealth is harder to do these days. Millennials are obsessed with living in luxury apartments and eating at fancy restaurants (lots of foodies these days). So instead of showing off the fancy clothes and fancy car, instead, the status symbol is a fancy luxury apartment and eating at the coolest restaurants in town. Anytime I see someone who lives in a luxury apartment, I just don’t see how they could practice stealth wealth. Or really, they might not be wealthy at all, instead just spending it all on their rent.

    One thing is for sure though. Stealth wealth is way easier to do in the Midwest. It’s a much more humble place when compared to the coasts, so it’s much easier to amass wealth and not feel like you spend your money on certain things.

    • JSA

      I do agree with you regarding millennials’s focus less on material goods, and instead focusing more on “experiences” (including food which some view as an experience as well), however that itself has begun to carry the same stigma that material goods do in some regards. Especially with things like facebook and instagram, there are some who are compelled to show off what they’re “experiencing” whether it’s a fancy vacation, a unique activity, etc., and now it seems these experiences are the new form of keeping up with the Joneses.

      I think the luxury apartment is all relative, I live in a LCOL area where a luxury apartment is well within my budget and it provides me with many amenities I enjoy (security, gym, central ac, etc.). I previously lived in a HCOL where the same apartment would be double the price, well outside my budget. So I ended up living in a 100 year old building with units that hadn’t been updated since the 1950’s and it still cost more than my current place.

  • Did you don a face bandaid, Nelly style? A sick diamond-studded grill for the smile?

    I think you’re dead on with your assessments regarding the millenial mindset. The “experience trumps things” message seems to have gotten out. And for better or worse, we do have it easy in the midwest. I remember talking to a new resident from Dallas when I was a medical student. He couldn’t believe how we went to the mall and church in plain clothes. And he was from Texas!


  • Great post, PoF! One of the best takeaways from The Millionaire Next Door was stealth wealth. I don’t know if we would be considered wealthy, but we definitely are stealthy, which helps in building the wealth.

    We live in a middle class neighborhood in the Midwest and noticed a few weeks ago one of our neighbors is driving a Bentley. It’s pretty noticeable, because, well…it’s a Bentley. For me, it would be so stressful to drive it anywhere, worrying about rock chips, door dings, and scratches.

    • If it weren’t for MTV Cribs, I wouldn’t even know what a Bentley was, let alone what one looked like!

      It’s almost a relief to have a car with a few dings and scratches. Once the first couple are out of the way, additional blemishes don’t matter much.


  • notadoc

    Not to be a jerk but it is Danko not Darko, (both times)

  • Great post, PoF! While I’m not wealthy yet (still in the accumulation phase), but living the stealth wealth lifestyle is definitely helping the cause. Although I must admit, the wife and I did buy a new car recently. We needed a bigger car as we our expecting Little Random Guy in about a month. We upgraded from a 2000 two-door Honda Accord to a shiny, new four-door… Honda Accord. We paid in cash after having saved up for it over the course of several months. And we did so without impacting our other financial goals.

  • Confirmation bias be damned! I love reading stories about other people with high-incomes and/or high NW that have no desire to flaunt it. While I thoroughly enjoy being “weird” in this respect—and let’s face it, we’re just not in the majority here—it is comforting to know that we’re not totally alone in viewing the world this way. Now that I’m quasi-retired and have no entrapment chamber to report to every day, my “uniform” consists of jeans and one of a drawer full of $3 T-shirts. Totally comfortable, totally anti-ostentatious, and totally offensive to some in our upper-middle-class area. Every now and again I even perceive just a bit of sympathy from our cohorts. Awesome. Nice cites to Dr. Stanley’s books here; I think his research made it easier for a lot of people to embrace their inclinations toward stealth wealth.

  • Yep, I’m on the stealth wealth bandwagon. Although our house is currently in a non-stealth wealth neighborhood, when we relocate it’s stealthy all the way. Even now, I realized I didn’t need my Hyundai Genesis, I needed a good commuting car, so it got traded in for a Jetta. Yep, plain Jane Jetta.

    As a first generation new wealth person, it definitely felt like, “I’ve made it, people need to know!” coupled with the fact someone said before, I only knew paycheck to paycheck life, so with a bigger paycheck, thnk of the things I can buy every week! Hahaha, sigh… Fortunately, Mrs. SSC helped reign that in with allowances and fiscal prudence. I think financial background also plays a big part of whether or not people try to have stealth wealth or not.

  • Hey Doc! Yep, a stealthy one here. I drive a 2010 Nissan, my wife a 2011 Hyundai. Need I say more? Great post, per usual.

  • dlondon

    We are a physician family living in the Midwest. Our annual income is around 500k, we bought a house that is 250k, drive Hondas, kids go to the local public school, follow the boglehead principles, etc. We have some nice neighbors, but quite a few on the block made assumptions about us before they even met us and just are not friendly to us at all. I don’t know if it is jealousy, reverse snobbery, or what. I guess you don’t have to be friends with all your neighbors, but it is kind of sad. It has us looking for a new house.

    • I think you’ve identified an under-appreciated benefit of Stealth Wealth. It also sounds like your way of life shouldn’t make you stand out in the neighborhood, but some preconceived notions cannot be overcome, unfortunately. Are you looking to move to a more expensive neighborhood?


  • I am a big fan of Stealth Wealth. I drive a Nissan Versa :). It meets my commute needs. Those who don’t know me think I am a poor guy when they see me getting off the car. That is perfectly fine with me.

    • As a driver of a rather crappy car myself, I don’t necessarily assume the drivers of similar cars are poor, just that they don’t place a lot of value on nice cars. But maybe they are struggling. It can be hard to tell, and that’s okay.


  • Anonymous

    Great article as well as the comments. I did the stealth wealth thing without knowing I was doing it. Same job for 27 years (just retired last Dec), same house for 23yrs and wife for 18. Newest car is a 2004 Honda Odyssey, oldest is 1999. I don’t Facebook, wear a watch or now shave. My only splurge is a weekly trip to SBucks for a plain coffee.

  • Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot

    Great Post. I can’t say we’re all that stealthy, my wife is in an industry that rewards the appearance of success. Only marriage for both of us. I do still drive my beat up ’97 Camry (300k miles!). I buy new, but make them last. We just bought our first TV ($450); we’d always gotten by with cast-offs before. We cut the cord 20 years ago. We just recently passed $1M NW… but I’d say we’re 10 years from FI. We have a business loan and one more mortgage to pay off (we helped out family), and then there is college for 2 kids (shortfalls in savings and returns).

  • C-AA

    Stealth wealth is very hard for me to practice. I’m an anesthetist, and as I’m you’re you’ve experienced, people hear anesthesia and think $$$$$$. Most of our friendships haven’t changed dynamics, but family dynamics have changed dramatically. There always seems to be an awkward pause when the bill comes to see if we’ll pick it up. There’s resistance to doing secret Santa with the extended family because they think we can easily afford 50$ gifts for 12 people. We get flak for buying secondhand for our child. Any advice for stealth wealth when anyone can and will google your base pay would be appreciated.

    • Family expectations can be tough to navigate. I say shame on the relative for shaming you because you buy something secondhand. By shopping thrift stores, the message that you are not going to be spendthrifts should be readily apparent. Picking up the check? It’s best to get that out of the way when ordering. If we don’t intend to pick up the check, or don’t want to get into the “let us pay” / “no, we insist” nonsense, we just request separate checks when our order is taken.


    • Jess

      Make sure to offhandedly mention what percent of your salary goes to malpractice insurance and student loans. Some people just see the money coming in, not the money going out.

    • Dunny

      If you pay once, it will always be awkward after that. Nobody is sure what the plan is next time and who gets to choose the place based on who is paying. So, I do not pay for other people unless I wish to continue this forever and put myself in the power position. Hard, but being a show off or generous puts you in this situation. I tried to pay for my parents but they had pride, and insisted on paying for me. Behave as if you all have the same amount of money for the sake of everyone’s pride and dignity. It means that you sometimes have to go to places you don’t like because others can afford them.

      If I pay for younger members of the family who have low income or are students, I do it realizing that I will be doing this forever. Ditto for the retired folks, some of whom have money and some not, but some play the “fixed income” “running out of money” card. For the elderly who still have pride, we go Dutch.

      As for gifts, I have a no gifts policy. No secret Santa gifts either. Everyone has plenty of stuff and the kids have 10 times more than they want or need. Exception: host gifts.

      No charity donations to friends’ or family’s causes. You have to also practise stealth generosity and charity — give secretly. If necessary I tell people I do my charity giving annually when I see how the year has been and consider requests then. Or simply say no without a reason. The last few months of the year, so many invitations come with a price to pay for a cause. I rarely attend these.

      If I buy lunch or dinner for a friend, I make it because it’s a birthday, so it is not expected, and then I choose the restaurant. I do buy a friend’s coffee or glass of wine sometimes, but that can be awkward too, as they then have to think about what they order or maybe they want to add a snack and feel they can’t without looking bad and then you will feel like you have to offer to pay for the more expensive drink or the snack. Best to keep it Dutch for everyone’s sake.

      If you want to entertain family or friends , do it in your home, so that when you are out, it is not expected. In your home, you can spend what you want. I do not like the pot luck type of entertaining and even when I had very little, I always finance my own dinner parties just make it really simple. If I can’t afford the wine, I don’t entertain.

  • What’s always tough for me isn’t the extravagance of any single thing, but the extravagance of multiple reasonable things.

    For instance: taking a weekend trip while staying at a reasonable hotel, eating affordably, and enjoying the outdoors for free. That’s reasonable on occasion, but repeat twice a month and it’s an extravagance.

  • Jason

    I’m probably not considered very stealthy. My wife and I have developed a reputation of being the ones that travel a lot, although lately that’s slowed down significantly. I also drive an all electric BMW. Although it’s only costing me 30k after tax credits and selling my old car which isn’t very in your face wealthy. We live in a big house in the city but it’s in an old neighborhood that’s still very rough around the edges and we’re fixing the house up ourselves. So, I don’t know, maybe I’m not being as obvious as I think.

  • Ginzu

    The short titles and descriptions often hold the most meaning, stealth wealth is a great title to define a way of life. The lesson I was able to compound from your post PoF is: Be the monetary “Grey man”.
    Your blog has become a weekly Saturday am must read, right after I download all my finances into Quicken, then over to your PoF calculators to run my scenarios on the month/year to FI. Last calculated snapshot, FI date was 6 months ago with the ability to maintain living costs at $60K / year for 25 years – Yes, that is one of your calculators spreading cheer and contentment from years of living the principles preached in the PoF Blog.
    My other habits include knowing income and expense per hour to help ascertain the next job or purchase to a 24/7 rubric and measurement standard.
    Thank you for your blog. I start reading here, and end up all over the blogosphere from citations and hyperlinks elsewhere. Nice work.

  • A-non

    Love the juxtaposition, StealthWealth!

    I, and then we as a couple, have practiced this as long as I remember.

    An example: when we built our home in a new sub-division, we selected the home plan that best suited our needs, which turned out to be the one with smallest square footage among the available options (which I think is still too big!). Most of our immediate neighbors on the other hand have homes which are one and half to two times the size of our home. Some of these people work a second job at $15/hr to make ends meet. Some ask us, apparently covertly, how we live in such a small house. It’s 2,000 sq. ft. dammit! A friend of mine is on their 3rd home, progressively getting bigger. I think the current one stands at 5,000 sq. ft!

    Another example: as soon as a baby is born, households “upgrade” to bigger, expensive, gas guzzling SUVs. Acura, BMW. The reason is always: safety! Oh, I can’t let my precious new born be driven around in a 8-year old Corolla – otherwise working perfectly well. I need to get a MDX.

    I smile and nod, with a cold one in hand.

  • We try and be reasonably stealthy, but the biggest barrier is simply being retired/FIRED. When you tell people you are retired and still in your mid 40’s people are going to make certain assumptions about your wealth. Because of this i’ve taken to just saying we are “taking some time off work to readjust our families priorities”.

    Just not saying that the time off may be 30-40 years.

  • Gasem

    My evidence of “stealth wealth” is my kids (18 and 21) don’t have the first clue, though I think the 18 year old might be figuring it out a bit. It cracks me up to hear them talk about “rich people” with full disdain for the aires of wealth.

  • JayCzzz

    Had that same car minus the convertible option! Great article PoF!

  • Paul

    Yes, I see your point but I understand Steve Jobs rarely washed and was small minded in other ways. All money flowing from the peacocks is a great service to society; I see no virtue in personal hording by some other name.

    • I’m not sure what to say except that Steve Jobs’ wealth was anything but stealth and nobody around here is hoarding.

      I’ll give you the most original and irrelevant comment of the day, though.


  • Jason M

    I have everything in liquid assets, which I don’t spend since I live in my old VW van I park somewhere different every few weeks. When my last business interest sold in SV for 175M, I just didn’t want to buy anything. I feel comfortable in clothes I buy at the local thrift shop, and prefer to spend my time at the public library.
    Of course, the above is not true, but illustrates when ‘stealth wealth’ is worn a bit too much on the sleeve as a means to impress.
    I don’t really compare myself to my neighbors and could care less if they think I have money or not, just like it’s none of my business if they choose to buy that Bentley.
    Money is a tool, like others. Using it, or not using it, is not really something to brag about…

  • Lenny Nurdbol

    Stealth wealth, as you call it, has always been a way of life for me, having been raised by cheap parents. It simply goes hand in hand with being an environmentalist who abhors waste in all forms and admires efficiency and simplicity. Consuming is wasteful and having to always buy new things (which don’t last!) is ultimately pointless if you have no need of them beyond the obvious bragging rights. I simply exist below my means and always am saving my money from my meager earnings; reusing, recycling, repurposing. Now I’m over 50, retired, with an admirable net worth. My new neighbors haven’t got a clue though and mistreat me because of my meager image and ancient house, 20 year old car, and no doubt fear me. My town is in the process of being gentrified and all these huge, pop-up mansions around me are increasingly more ridiculously gaudy as are the light shows and luxury car padding surrounding them. They probably think I’m a crackhead or some near-homeless loser because I don’t follow their pretentious examples which they no doubt consider the American Dream Standard of the rich in this very obvious narcissist nation we now live in. But I’m set for life.

  • Flying stealth is a call to us all (in my opinion). Whether wealthy or not. Yes, enjoy life a little. But, more importantly, also remain humble. Stealth has its many advantages that one would never know unless they are flying the same way!

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  • Another positive aspect of Stealth Wealth is that people will not ask you for money. Want to borrow? Please go to a bank.

    A more peaceful life, without anyone annoying you every single day. 🙂

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  • Ha just yesterday I saw someone on Facebook check in to French Laundry. I thought wow they must be really bored if they’re announcing that they’re at a laundromat. Stealth Wealth is really the only way to live. You’re absolutely right I think the biggest benefit is avoiding the whole Keeping up with the Joneses mentality. That’s what gets most docs into trouble.

  • RWW

    I have been enjoying stealth wealth all my career. Could have retired at 55 but worked to 75 because I loved it. Most of our friends were my patients, also average people. All still friends and all still average. The best part of being average you never have to want anything and you have all you need. Great wife,great kids,and great friends.

  • BJ James

    Stealth wealth is the only way I could possibly live after a lesson learned about 30 years ago when I dated a “rich” person who loved to flaunt wealth. My own friends, assuming I had access to wealth via that person, treated me far differently. They didn’t comfort me during life’s troubles anymore (like death of pets, etc.). After all, if people have money, I guess they don’t have problems. They never treated me to anything anymore, like lunch on my birthday even though I continued to treat them. It isn’t that I can’t afford my own lunch, it’s just that it’s nurturing to have others offer. Our conversations shifted from sharing our dreams and souls to them sharing their needs for money which they hoped would be alleviated by me.

    Years later as an older person with wealth of my own that no one knows about and not from that person I’m no longer with, I do have difficulties when it comes to hiding the wealth in some cases. I’d love ideas from others regarding these cases. Sometimes I need to spend the money that I have and don’t know how to hide it. With arthritis and PTSD that’s triggered with large crowds, commercial flying has become impossible for me especially in navigating the airports, even with expensive perks like first class and concierge services (which I don’t want to use because they bring attention to my wealth.) I am in physical pain, get panic attacks, and I always get sick, making the trip worthless. I only see distant relatives (outside the country) when they come to visit me. I can afford private flight jetcard easily (not fractional ownership). Good aviation companies that pay their employees well and working towards renewable green fuels. It’s the only way I can travel, and I have to hide it and come up with cover stories in case I get caught.

    With private flight I can drive right up to the plane and avoid all the hours at the airport, no lines, no crowds, customs comes right to the private plane, I can cancel last minute for illness reasons easily and reschedule for the next day if I need to. The flight time itself is shorter, and I can stop over at smaller airports to rest up overnight if I have to, without any restrictions that come with commercial flights and schedules. I can take liquids and foods I need to stay healthy while traveling.

    It’s pretty easy to find obvious ways to hide wealth such as middle class homes, wearing t-shirts, and older cars. But what happens when we need to use our wealth for expensive things we don’t want to allow to pass us up (like time with distant family and safer, healthier travel for some of us.) I’d love to know how the stealthy wealthy people who appear middle class but do indeed sometimes use their money in ways like vacations and private flight cover these with others who might discover it. Private flight especially has a terrible stigma from non-stealthy wealthy people flaunting it at the expense of others.

    I’m not looking for shame tactics regarding private flight nor methods that make commercial flight easier. I’ve explored all these and tried many times and have thought on all this already for years. And, no, I can’t take the chance on telling these family members of my money situation. Their teenagers would have it all over public social media within minutes, and even though they’d have their hands slapped for doing that, the damage is irreversible.

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  • David Elkins

    A wise person once said: “if you want to be rich, live like a poor person. If you want to be poor, then live like a rich person.”

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