This is a post by our regular columnist Clark.

Money, as is widely known, is only a tool (“a” and not “the” because bartering is an effective one too for many goods and services) that helps a person fulfill their needs and also satisfy wants. Ed Rempel had written about six values involving money that motivates people. I’m going to continue that post in the another direction and offer a few characteristics that some people develop when they start making more money.

I’m not referring to windfalls in the form of inheritances, lottery wins, or cashing in on stock options but only to increased earnings through a higher-paying job or to going from being a student to becoming an employee. Please note that this post is not an all-encompassing character classification, speaking for every person that gets a raise or starts to earn an income. It is only meant to highlight that some people with below-mentioned qualities do exist.

Inflated Lifestyle

The obvious one on a personal finance blog! Increased incomes lead to the typical consumer activity of buying and doing things to “enjoy life”, boost their image, keep up with the neighbors, and lead a life worthy for whatever level they have reached as dictated by society (not necessarily in that order for some people).


As Ed mentioned in his post, money does provide self-confidence and subsequently, the ability to overpower the many curve balls that life may throw at us. Nonetheless, some people take it one step further and become overconfident – the “I have a job that pays well and others that don’t are to be looked down upon” camp. This arrogance may manifest in the form of belittling statements of others that haven’t been fortunate to see their better days yet.


Certain people gain an incredible amount of knowledge overnight (it could be that their new colleague offered a suggestion and they merely repeat it to friends) once they start making some or more money. They show their new-found knowledge by meddling with friends’ affairs (though no help was sought) and chide them to push harder. Now, I’m not denying that some people may have genuine concern for their friends and want them to do well in life too. But, spare a thought for the unemployed or low-income friend who wants to improve but circumstances (maybe past mistakes) do not let them or maybe, they are destined to never match their other friends in terms of social status (not every person we went to school with may land a high-paying job and maybe, they don’t want one either!).

Closed mindset (“My way is the only way or the best way” mentality)

If one becomes successful by going to university, then there could be an outpour of suggestions to others that doing so will be the cure-all for their life’s problems including relationships. That is, going to university will entail a high-paying career, better dating prospects and a subsequent successful marriage.

However, the “go to university to make more money” idea doesn’t always bode well. The field of study plays a big part in the ultimate earning potential of the candidate, not to mention their capability, street smartness and professional networking skills (not necessarily in that order). As for dating prospects, I agree that the initial inclination may be toward a good career and reasonably attractive but lasting relationships don’t always match that filtering criteria. For curiosity sake, how many professionals (including yourself) that you know are married to another (doctor to scientist, architect to lawyer, engineer to economist, etc.)? I suspect that this percentage will be a small minority.

It would work well for people to accept that change is permanent and most good and bad things will pass away. Having sufficient money helps to live life without worrying about food, shelter, and clothing. Beyond that, the greater the income above the minimum, the more the freedom to engage and enjoy other luxuries. Appreciation of the existing status quo by those that possess one or more of the above traits, striving to improve themselves, while empathizing with the unfortunate ones (at least in their eyes), and offering a helping hand when needed would go a long way in making every relationship more cherished.

Have you come across people with any of the above traits? Have you seen someone change (not spending-wise but character-wise) after they witnessed an increase in earnings? How did it manifest?

About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism.  You can read his other articles here.


  1. Sustainable PF on April 6, 2011 at 9:17 am

    A quick glance at RFD – the university section or otherwise will show a lot of these traits. While a great tool for the financial and frugal savvy, RFD is also a one stop shop for gluttony and ego-inflation-at-your-finger-tips. And if you disagree you are labelled “troll”.

    I do love the site for the instances you can see beyond the bluster and the 4 categories you bring here today provided by many of “contributors” but I find myself using that forum less and less until such time I need to discover information on a specific topic. It is no long a leisure site for us.

    An aside, I do believe that many university students have a very “closed mindset” and “inflated lifestyle” – call it, mmm, a “right” to a better life. Don’t get me wrong, i’m a university grad too. Being in my mid 30s it didn’t take long to realize that the piece of paper my degree was written on was simply that: a piece of paper. I had to earn a spot in this world where I am comfortable and I certainly don’t take that spot for granted (it could disappear any time – the money/career). It is not a “right” to have a high paying job right out of school or otherwise. I read a stat where a large % of grads believe they have “earned” an income of $70k within 5 years of graduating, simply because they went to university. This kind of mindset drives me batty.

  2. FrugalTrader on April 6, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Clark, thanks for the post. Your question about two professionals getting together. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m an Engineer, and I do find that professionals tend to date and marry professionals. Maybe it’s just Engineers!

  3. George Carlin on April 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I also find RFD at times to be a place for EGO etc, even in some deal threads for products on sale. The threads then get way off topic, 100’s of pages long and people just fight each other.

    When I post on there now, I give my opinions about products I own when asked but do not, in any way, bloat or try to say one way is right and one way is wrong. Everyone has different needs in life and different culture/lifestyles.

    In my life, I have worked my way up in IT from helpdesk right to a more senior position and I make more money now than in the past but I also was a contractor and have lost jobs. This makes me appreciate it all even more.

    Even though I am well paid for what I do now, I do not take it for granted. Yes, I treat myself to the odd reward item (not a cottage or new car), more like a meal out with my wife (I find these “nights out” are more important than stuff).

    I get more satisfaction saving for a rainy day and putting money towards the mortgage or saving for a vacation than anything else.

    However, I have seen people spend, spend, spend as their income increases and if anything, it turns me off when they brag about their stuff. It’s just, as the late, great George Carlin said “stuff” and you need a bigger house to house your “stuff” and then you buy more “stuff” to fill the bigger house and repeat.

    Don’t get me wrong, we all buy “stuff” but to let “stuff” be what you talk about and brag about, well that’s a pretty shallow life.

    Talk to me about how much fun you had with your kids on the weekend when you took them to the park and played with them… not how many toys they have that you bought them.

  4. Jeff on April 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I definitely think that inflated lifestyles are an effected of being over confident. It happens way to often, when people make a quick buck and then spend it all within a year.

  5. Elbyron on April 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I have to agree with FT. In almost every married couple I know among my friends and relatives, if one of them is a professional then the other is too. Those that are teachers tend to marry other teachers, engineers often get together too but for some reason I see a lot of engineers marrying doctors and nurses (maybe it’s just my family). A recent survey of graduates from two medical schools in Ohio showed that 22% of male and 44% of female physicians were married to other physicians.
    My wife and I met while getting our BSc, and I think a lot of relationships are formed between university classmates, or later on between co-workers. This tendency to meet others in the same field of study is mainly what leads to two professionals getting together. It’s probably a minority, but perhaps not as small a percentage as you might think!

  6. ITS on April 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I make more money than Clark, therefore all his observations are irrelevant…

    /I keed

  7. Clark on April 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    @FrugalTrader, @Elbyron: If couples had met at university or at work, then it is likely that they would be in the same field of work or professionals at the least. The reason I raised that question: I know of three couples (all 45 – 55) where one spouse is in a senior management/engineering role and the other is a retail clerk/construction sub-contractor. I don’t know if this is a generational subject matter and younger couples are more likely to be professionals. The sample size for most of us would be too small to derive a reasonable conclusion. Also, I was curious about people that did not find a match while in university and there was no one in their age group at work.

  8. SavingMentor on April 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I think often about the inflated lifestyle and having too much stuff. It’s particularly relevant right now as I’m considering buying a boat for this summer because I think it would something the whole family would enjoy.

    However, I’m extremely wary about the initial cost, the ongoing costs associated with it, and the maintenance costs. Not just for money reasons, but also because it is “more stuff” to take care of.

    I’m not sure if I can figure out if it is worth it until I try it though.

  9. J on April 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Saving Mentor….

    There are only two days when you enjoy owning a boat, the day you buy it and the day you sell it.

    Buy a sailboat…. the wind is free!

  10. Support Spy on April 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    @SavingMentor: Boats are a lot of fun and can provide amazing experiences. As a wise man on television said however, ‘There are two days you love your boat…the day you buy it and the day you sell it.’ As the price of fuel increases, so will fuel costs for your boat (and not just running the boat, but also towing it).

    More importantly, if you don’t have a place to store it, you can add storing/docking costs for your “stuff”. You’ll have to decide if you can afford much more than you expect, and how much you and your family enjoy being on the water. Depending on where you live there is also the time and cost for licencing.

  11. nobleea on April 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    As an engineer myself, I am married to a teacher. About 95% of the engineers I know are married to another professional (teacher & nurse are the big ones, also other engineers, physios, accountants, etc)

    For the powerboat discussion: do it. My wife’s family had one growing up and she has very fond memories of playing on it. It’s just a small runabout and that’s all you really need. In fact, they still have the boat (30 years old now) and we use it every year. Just a tuneup and oil change once in a while. Plus some reupholstery once.

    The bigger the boat gets, it’s diminishing returns.

  12. My University Money on April 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    As a recent graduate I can definitely attest to the notion that university students in general have an air of superiority and entitlement. The ironic thing is that when you crunch the numbers, calculating earnings and savings interest, versus student loan interest, people who go into the trades these days are on equal footing with many professions. Being a young teacher I am fully aware of this reality and definitely make it apparent to my students. “University at all costs” is not a good mentality and the free market is showing this reality more and more everyday. Ask the person that served you coffee this morning how their philosophy degree looks next time you see them.

    I am an example of a teacher-teacher marriage, and I know many others like it. I would tend to believe that stats would slant that way.

  13. My Own Advisor on April 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Totally agree about insolence.

    I agree with George: “we all buy stuff” but it’s just that.

    Good post.

  14. SavingMentor on April 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for all the advice on the boat guys. I’m very fortunate in that my father has everything I need other than the boat itself. Waterfront property where the boat can be launched and/or moored, lots of land to store it on, and a truck to help me tow it and launch it. I checked with him and he was ok with helping with all of that because he was big into boating (mostly sailboat in his younger days when I was growing up). He even has a bunch of boating equipment he said I can use so I won’t have to buy much. One of his best friends is also a boat broker so I have an inside track on that too.

    I think I’m going to go for it at least for this summer and if it doesn’t work out then I can sell it for next summer and have the experience under my belt. Sure, it would be a loss, but probably worth it.

    Hopefully I will enjoy it at least a third day in there somewhere :)

  15. Mike Holman on April 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    @SavingsMentor – Definitely buy the boat. Sure, there will come a time when you will be happy to sell it, but so what? Then you sell it.

    You’ll get lots of enjoyment out of for at least a little while.

  16. joesnapple on April 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    @SavingsMentor – Buy the boat. I did 10 years ago and have never looked back. My 2 girls have grown up with it…..some of their best memories are the boat ones. Most of today’s boat and motors are so advanced that they last a lot longer than ever.

    However….they are not as “efficient” as cars so there is a price to pay for the gas.

  17. Dr. Philosophy on April 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    University Money, your comments about philosophy graduates serving coffee demonstrates your point about university graduates’ superiority complexes quite well. Maybe you should’ve added the adjective “obnoxious” to your own case.

  18. bob on April 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Oh, man, give me a break.

    Of course I have come across people with those traits — but I don’t see how they have any relation whatsoever with getting a raise. People become jerks when they get more money, when they lose money, when they stay where they are. Unless you are really trying to make some sort of argument that these 4 personality traits are actually linked with making more money, I fail to see why you even bring them up. Are you actually making the case that there is some sort of correlation here? You seem to be by your title “money-induced” . . . where is the evidence that money induces this?

    There is a theme that runs through many of Clark’s posts, and it isn’t particularly attractive. Essentially, the undertone is that if you spend money you are pretty much an idiot.

    Let’s look at Clark’s purported attributes of “some people” who make more money:

    1) Inflated Lifestyle.
    In this section, an “inflated lifestyle” is discussed as an inherently bad thing. Clark attributes increased spending (after receiving a raise) to “enjoy life”, boost their image, keep up with the neighbors, and lead a life worthy for whatever level they have reached as dictated by society. Nowhere is there the possibility mentioned that, hey, perhaps “inflating your lifestyle” is a good thing if you’ve been living on the margins or in poverty, or in a crummy location, or you’ve just plain been living an unhappy, unhealthy life because you haven’t had the financial means.

    2) Insolence
    Sure, some people who make more money become jerks. So do some people who lose their job and have to live a “poorer” lifestyle than they had before. So do some people who never get a raise. Are you proposing some sort of general correlation between increased income and jerkiness? If so, I need some evidence. If not — what’s the point of relating personality attributes to income?

    3) Omniscience
    Same discussion as Insolence. Are you claiming that getting a raise leads to being a know-it-all jerk? Frankly, your description of this trait could be applied to many of your own posts, which tend to have an air of evangelical “sharing of their new-found knowledge” relating to personal finance.

    4) Closed mindset
    Same thing as the previous two — why link a personality trait with income, unless you are trying to propose some sort of linkage. Are you? On top of this, why in the world would you pick on Advanced Education as your case-study? First, going to University is, in fact, correlated with higher lifetime earnings than not-going. Second, going to University is not all about getting a job — there is the wish to satisfy intellectual curiosity, etc. Frankly, most people I know who go to University do not do it in order to “get a job” or “make money”, but because they enjoy learning.

  19. bob on April 7, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    One example of how saving money can induce insolence, omniscience, closed mindsets and, especially, smugness.

  20. Clark on April 7, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    @bob: To address your concerns…..

    Inflated Lifestyle: I apologize for assuming that MDJ readers would recognize that I was referring to “going beyond one’s means” types and for not explicitly stating that an inflated lifestyle (within their means) is essential and welcomed for those that had been “living on the margins” or “in poverty”.

    Insolence & Omniscience: I don’t think the post says that people with no income or stagnant ones do not become “jerks”. As for evidence, if you are referring to scientific research, I do not have any. Personal experience? Yes. Since you have already made up your mind about my omniscience, I’ll let you decide if I was the benefactor or beneficiary.

    Closed Mindset: Thanks for that link. I went through the page hoping to find a mention about the student loans such higher-degree holders may incur and how that impacts the earnings numbers but could not find any. I’m glad that most people you know have a thirst for knowledge but if you chance upon someone that states that they want to “make money” or “get a job” without going through a college degree program, please point them to links such as the ones below.

  21. Clark on April 8, 2011 at 12:42 am

    @bob: Not entirely related to the higher education debate but interesting nonetheless….

  22. CKaye on April 8, 2011 at 1:56 am

    I may have missed it but in case I didn’t hasn’t it occurred to anyone that people get married at a particular age in their life to the people who are near them during that time? Professionals marry professionals who meet in college or just after. Teachers meeting teachers in the classroom or in teachers college. It just makes sense.

  23. youngandthrifty on April 8, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I think we all have a tendency to have those traits (or perhaps it is just me?). But then I snap out of it and tell myself I’m being stupid.

    I agree with Saving Mentor- I’m not sure if it’s a Generation Y thing, but those who graduate from university these days are in for a big surprise. No jobs, big debt, but high expectations!

  24. Bob on April 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

    The tendency to use “personal experience” type data to support your arguments shows perhaps, that you didn’t attend University or at least that you didn’t pay attention. At the very least, it demonstrates that at 20-something, your personal experience has been somewhat limited.

    Just because you can point to a link listing 20 high paying jobs that don’t require a degree, does not negate the fact that University Graduates — on average — make more money than non-University graduates.

    Are there exceptions either way? Of course. That’s what averages mean.

    And of course we recognize that you meant “live above your means” by “inflated lifestyle”. But, again, do you have any evidence that people who make MORE money have a tendency to do this any more than people who make LESS money? After all, this is really what you are implicitly suggesting by discussing it in a post called “money-induced traits”.

  25. Credit Release on April 11, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I’m kinda with youngandthrifty here. I believe most of us are born with this traits. In this new society most of the time money will buy you power. Power to do the things that you couldn’t before thus it is very much a power trip when suddenly there is a change in your life where money becomes abundant. Those who do not resist these changes are the ones that you are talking about in this post.

    There are however some individuals who will resist this “emotional burp” and try to maintain themselves as the way they were before. I believe it takes quite a bit of will power to do it and only the stronger people are able to resist acting up when they have this much money.

  26. JC on April 11, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I agree with ‘bob’ that university is not only about getting a job or status. My partner and I both went both to school. He however had an easier ride and turned down an offer to do his masters and teach at MIT years back when he finished and sees university as a place you learn to learn, to transition to adulthood and take opportunities to travel abroad for courses. But we both agree it doesnt matter what your definition of success is…a doctor, singer or baker. Do you what you love and do it well. We always committ to paying any financial success forward. Some of university friends are a bit, well, elitist but still good people. There is a saying (dont know the author or I would cite it…a lost practice these days of blogging) but it says, “Do you want to be rich or have a rich a life?” One doesnt have to negate the other but you dont need one for the other either. This is also VERY old belief kicked for years now but Im sure it will re-packaged and re-sold somewhere.

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