One Reason Why Someone May Need To Keep Up with the Joneses

We all know that one of the golden rules in personal finance is to never try to keep up with those darned Joneses.

We all know at least one or two people who are our coworkers, neighbours, friends and even family that are constantly trying to emulate the Joneses. They show off with their big houses and fancy cars and you can think one of two things, either they are making a ton of money and thus can afford to pay for these things (but the million dollar question we need to ask is: Are they SAVING a LOT of money as well? If they are, then all the more reason to hate them, right? Ha ha), or they are in deep debt and want to keep it a secret.

keeping up with jonses why


Who Should Try to Keep Up With the Joneses?

So you might be thinking who would need to keep up with the Joneses? (Or maybe for all the Gen Ys and millennials, it’s keeping up with the Kardashians)?

People in sales, real estate, investment bankers, that’s who. If you’re selling something, you need to look like you can sell. Image is everything in this case.

I’ve had very minimal experience in sales and haven’t had much to show for it. All I can say is that I’m horrible at it and kudos to the people who are amazing at it. They have the right look, attitude, and confidence to gain a person’s trust. They always know exactly what to say.

Presenting Yourself Well

Regarding looks, as superficial as it seems, if I saw that my realtor was driving some sort of economy car or their car was in a bit of rough shape, I would think to myself, Is he/she really good at selling houses? Or can he/she find the right house, for the right price?

I think we’d all rather have someone who was a successful realtor and aside from word of mouth recommendations and perhaps their company’s reputation, what else could help determine if this realtor was good enough?  The type of car they drive seems to be a common type of assumption. If they have a higher end car (maybe they did buy it used, but we don’t have to know that), then it seems like a symbol of success. It’s a symbol that indicates they have made a lot of profit on the houses they’ve sold and this is what they have to show for it.

The same can go for any type of sales position. My partner’s friend gets a company car for work and it has to be relatively new. The model can’t be any older than 2009 or something like that. Looks seem to be everything when it comes to sales and that look is bright, shiny and somewhat new. Whether or not you have to pay for it, you have to show your buyers that you are successful by having a high-end image.  You need to show them you can make money for yourself and/or money for your company and that they should do business with you.

They also have to wear the nice suits, which is also can cost a lot of money if you’re looking for good quality and the right fit. Again, you can always buy secondhand, but it may not have that same new look to it.

There may be such a thing as the “Wealthy Barber”, but I have yet to hear the term the “Frugal Salesman”. There are  also “Next Door Millionaires”, but I doubt many of them are making the big sales pitch.


Can you think of other occupations in which people need to look like they are keeping up with the Joneses? Have you judged a realtor by what type of car they drove? Maybe I’m the only superficial one here. 😉

27 thoughts on “One Reason Why Someone May Need To Keep Up with the Joneses

  1. I don’t completely agree, but I am only going to be talking about my experience working at a high net worth financial advisor. We dealt with clients that had a minimum of $2 million to invest. Most of our clients had a lot more. After I got the job, I noticed that that owner of the firm drove a Subaru Outback wagon and the other partner drove a Honda Accord. Nothing flashy there. I loved it. It told me that they were smart with their money. They weren’t trying to impress anyone. Granted, a lot of our clients were the same way – you’d never be able to tell that they were millionaires.

    • I agree with this comment– it always seems to be the broke stressed out aspirational junior people that are leasing the brand new luxury cars, not the people who have already made it.

      And there are ways to get around it, even if it’s “true” you have to drive status symbols (something I’m highly skeptical of). If nobody ever sees your car, nobody has to know what it is. If you’re an environmentalist you can get a Leaf instead of leasing a Lexus. You can develop a taste for classic sports cars and drive the same classic sports car for years– it will just increase in value. (I know people who have done both the environmental thing, only with a early model Prius, and the classic car thing.)

      • I guess with realtors since they’re driving around a lot of different neighbourhoods for open houses, and meeting clients, many people are bound to see what type of car they drive and possibly judge them?

    • I think the fact that the owner and the partner of the firm are not flashy says a LOT about your company. And also the clients you work for.

      A lot of people tend to get the wrong impression about money when they see people driving flashy cars or wearing expensive clothes. There’s nothing wrong with working hard and earning a lot of money. I just think it’s wrong when people rub it in other peoples’ faces.

  2. I’ve always felt kind of bad for some people in those professions that you mentioned- it would be horrible to feel the need to have expensive items just to impress people for your job. I know many people choose to purchase expensive items to impress people socially and that of course is their choice, but I just think it would be terrible to feel that kind of pressure at work.

    • I agree with you on your comment 100%. People do have the ability to make smart choices about whether or not you need to buy expensive stuff and show it off. However, I don’t think it’s fair to put that kind of pressure at work, especially if you are just at the start of your career and don’t have a lot of money.

  3. I look at it from the other side. When I see a fancy car wrapped in advertising for a local business, I think “They must really overcharge for their services to be able to afford a [insert model of car] driving around with their logo.” It’s a total turn-off for me.

    My husband (a lawyer) often visits clients in their homes and drives up in his ’97 Camry. As long as it is clean, my husband isn’t embarrassed by his car. He is practical and down-to-earth, not flashy or concerned about impressing people with things that don’t matter.

    • That’s awesome your husband is so practical and not concerned about impressing people. 🙂 My partner is the same. He purchased both of his cars used ( One from kijiji and one from a former co-worker), I don’t remember the year of the first one, but I think the second one is 2005. He purchased the 2nd one recently, because his first one is close to retirement. My car is 2009 and both of his cars are older than that. 😛

  4. My mom was a jeweler for most of her working life. She was required to wear a certain amount of jewelery at all times (a pair of earrings, necklace, two rings, and a watch or bracelet). She constantly felt pressure to buy more pieces because of it.

    • I felt the same when I worked in a high end clothing store. I was tempted and also felt a bit pressure to buy the new clothes when they arrived to help sell them to the customers. Having that massive employee discount didn’t help either.

  5. It’s an interesting thought for sure. It’s something I’m far removed from, so it’s hard for me to say. I think I can say this though: I would probably never want a job where I had to keep up some kind of appearance. That’s so not my style and I’d feel kind of fake or a fraud. I’d much rather represent exactly who I am, and that’s not flashy or trying to impress anyone! Interesting post!

    • Same here. I would definitely feel fake trying to be flashy. I should note that our realtor was pretty down to earth and dressed quite casual. He had a nice car, but I wouldn’t say it was really flashy or expensive. More like a higher end family SUV type car.

      Glad you thought the post was interesting. 🙂

  6. When my husband was in sales, there was definitely pressure on looking good. Quality shirts, pants, watches. Everyone got their clothing tailored to fit them properly.

    • If I was to have a job in sales, I feel like I would need a wardrobe makeover. Lol. Most of my clothing is for working out or really casual. Then again, I haven’t had a formal office job in 4 years so I don’t have much of a need for them.

  7. I think wearing the right clothes during your meetup is more important than the car you’re driving. Well, that’s just my idea though. I also think that if you’re really are great at speaking, you can still sell or negotiate well despite driving a simple car.

    • Excellent point. I think more emphasis should be put on the way you present yourself in your personality and your communication skills. Confidence in yourself and the product is key.

  8. The entertainment business is absolutely like this. I know people who are making less than $30K driving fancy cars, partying every night, wearing hip (and expensive) clothes. Appearances are very important. We’re told early on to “fake it until we make it” and part of that means looking like you fit the part.

    • Perhaps people interpret the saying as more “fake it, as in look like you’re living on less and keep on faking it once you feel you’ve made it”. In doing so, you’d definitely “make it” a lot faster.

      If I was making less than 30K, driving a fancy car and wearing expensive clothes would be the last thing on my mind!

  9. Can you imagine if a door to door salesman rolled into your driveway in a crappy car that backfired, and walked up to your door wearing a ripped t-shirt? Yeah, no sale there. LOL. BUT, I think that’s not necessarily a full blown keeping up with the Joneses. Maybe in one segment of their life they need to spend a bit extra, but not their entire lifestyle.

    • Ahahahaha. That would be WAY on the other side of the spectrum. If one had to spend more money, it would be cheaper to spend it on clothing, rather than an expensive car. In the end, it’s YOU who’s doing the selling and not your car. Although it may sometimes be the case, your car should not be what makes or breaks the deal.

  10. Sometimes I cannot imagine why other people love to buy expensive car but cannot afford even to invest for their own house.

    I knew one company owner is always bringing his own food for lunch while most of his employees are eating in the restaurant. I really appreciate the down to earth lifestyle of this businessman.

  11. It’s sad but true that with a career in sales there are “appearances” that have to be maintained. Having the right car depends on what type of sales you’re in, I can see it affecting a real estate agent or financial adviser that comes to your home more than anyone else. Most of my customers never see my car. I do believe that you have to be polished and professional in your dress and I do make the investment in quality clothes as I am in field sales. That being said, I’m not overly flashy. I’m not the type to wear a lot of jewelry, its just not me. I’m the standard pearls type of person, not tons of gold and diamonds.

    • Although I have never worked in professional sales before, I think all you need is a few quality classic pieces in which you can mix and match together to create several different outfits. I think too much jewelry takes away from the outfit.

      I love pearls. I have a set of pearl earrings and pearl necklace that I wear quite often to formal events. I think they provided the perfect touch of elegance.

  12. Employees look up to senior management and owners. If the owners and senior management are practical and down to earth, I think the employees would follow suit and it would set the tone of the company culture.

  13. I’m glad I’m not a realtor for this reason. I agree that people in certain professions, like sales, have a pressure to look a certain way. That’s tough since they often have to try to look more successful than they are and that costs money.

  14. It’s another reason why I’m not in sales. Not only is there the pressure to sell/make money, there’s also the pressure to look a certain way. That’s too much pressure for me! 😛

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