The Perception of Wealth — The fear that keeps me from buying that damn convertible.

I have always wanted a convertible Audi TT. It’s true. It’s not practical seeing as I have three children and live in Colorado…or that I live three blocks away from my downtown business and could just walk to 95% of what I need in life.

Yesterday, my husband said “Let’s go buy it today!” - We even went as far as driving through a car lot before the uncomfortable ideas spread like wildfire to the point that I said “It really makes more sense for us to buy a mini van”. A few eye rolls from him later as we make our way out of the dealership lot.

Truth is I could buy both a minivan and a convertible today if needed. Yes, it is nice and no, I’m not “lucky” — I’ve worked my ass off to get myself to a place where I can do so. So why is it that I won’t just buy it??????

Because I’m scared of the perception of wealth. I’m scared that buying that car will make me look bad. I’m scared that my employees will build resentment because of it. I’m scared that people will think I have more money than I do and then start coming after me with lawsuits and requests. I’m scared that people will think I have stepped on others (or slept with others) to get ahead. I’m worried that my hard-working image will be replaced with one of me driving carefree with the top down while everyone else is slaving away at the office. I’m concerned about image and perception of the reality of the life I have worked so hard to create.

I’ve actually thought about buying it and keeping it hidden my garage — Truly! I’ve played out how I could actually keep that pretty car a secret that only my husband and I know about (and our crazy neighbor that has a camera pointed at our house…stay tuned for that future blog post).

I think it is my social worker understanding of social justice and income disparity that keeps me from doing it. I know that not everyone working for me is wealthy. I know that of the several hundred people currently on payroll across the five businesses, some are still worried about providing for their family with their hourly wages. I don’t even think about my mortgage payment. That discrepancy does actually bother me.

But wait, does it mean I have to give everyone a 50% increase just because I am making money? This is actually reason #158 why I did NOT start a non-profit: I am motivated by making money — for others AND for myself. I bought into the idea of Capitalism and I fully support it. I am a bleeding heart liberal that wants social health care AND also believes in Big Business. I believe that business owners absorb a lot of risk and stress that ultimately benefits the economy and provides people with jobs, stability and resources. I believe that risk should be rewarded…. but how much is too much? Or is there a “too much” at all?

It’s not that I pay low wages — quite the opposite. Across all the businesses we pay an average of 10–20% above the industry standards for wages. I research it and worry about and think about it all the time in my effort to retain high talent. They are more than the wages I made when I was in that time of my life, even assuming cost of living increases. See? Look at me already trying to justify this purchase. Argh.

I think this fear of perception is also a fear of success…. I think I am scared of “owning” my success because I’m afraid it minimizes someone else’s success. Is that a woman thing I am doing? A social worker guilt thing I am doing? I don’t know.

I’m just going to fake it until I make it…and own the success…or at least pretend to…and I’m going to purchase and OWN the damn car….and I may give a few raises while I am at it so my social worker mind can sleep at night.

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