The Unhealthy Desire For Prestige And Money Is Ruining Your Life

The Unhealthy Desire For Prestige And Money Is Ruining Your Life

There is an unhealthy desire for prestige and money that is ruining people's lives. At the end of all the striving, you might end up feeling empty inside.

The desire for prestige and money is why we: 1) spend an outrageous sum of money on education, 2) kill ourselves at jobs we don't like, 3) put up with colleagues and bosses we despise, 4) never pursue our dreams, 5) neglect our children, and 6) eventually fill our hearts with regret.

If we can figure out how to rid ourselves of the desire for prestige and money, we will become much happier in the process!

After all, consistently feeling happy and having a sense of purpose may be what life is all about.

One Man's Desire For Prestige And Money

Years ago, I was attending Finovate, a financial innovation conference, I met a fintech entrepreneur named John. He told me his revolutionary idea was to simplify the documentation gathering process for people looking to refinance or get a new mortgage. As anybody who's ever taken out a mortgage can attest, it's a real pain in the ass.

I was intrigued since I've done about 10 refinances on four properties since 2003. I planned to refinance one last time when I met him. But when John showed me his product, it still required the user to upload all of the docs the bank wanted onto his website. Further, there are always additional document requests from the bank to upload on his platform after that. What's the point?

Creating an unnecessary barrier between consumer and lender didn't seem like a good business idea. At least John was trying to solve a problem. I thanked him for his time and wished him well.

Then just the other month I ran into John at another fintech conference. I tend to go once a quarter with a free media pass. Otherwise, I'd go less often because these tickets cost anywhere from $300 – $2,000 each!

Running conferences during the internet boom is akin to being a landlord. It's one of the best ways to profit.

I asked John how his product was doing, and he said that he's looking to hire a CEO with more product experience. One guy slipped away thanks to an offer from Google, but another guy was close to joining.

Still Not Going Anywhere

Fantastic! I told him. In order to get someone with CEO-level experience to quit his/her job to join his startup must mean his product is doing pretty well. But when I talked to him further, he said he was still looking to launch his MVP, or minimum viable product.

Huh? If an entrepreneur hasn't launched his MVP, there are no customers or revenue. All an entrepreneur has is an idea. So after 1.5 years, John basically spent $10,000+ attending financial conferences, collected no revenue, and hasn't even launched a working website. Totally illogical, right?


John mentioned that he was bored back home in Seattle with his wife and daughter. Same old stuff, every single day. Ever since he left the mortgage industry after it imploded in 2010, he's felt lost. He decided to attend business school part-time, and from there he discovered his passion for fintech.

When I asked him whether he felt that flying down to San Francisco to attend conferences for 2-3 days at a time was costly, he mentioned, “not at all!”

“I feel so alive coming to all these conferences. I get to pass out my business card that says ‘Founder & CEO'! Before, I was just one of many mortgage officers trying to make a buck. Now, I get to meet so many aspiring entrepreneurs looking to do something new with their lives. They treat me as an equal. It's wonderful!”

The guy was playing the status game hard, and failing.

Escaping His Family

He went on, “Also, I've been able to meet plenty of interesting women. I always tell them I'm looking to hire a VP of Marketing or whatever role they are currently doing to keep their interest. As soon as I tell them this, their eyes light up as I'm suddenly the man of their dreams!

I've been seeing this one woman for over a year now in the Bay Area. Even though she lives 45 minutes south of San Francisco, she always makes time to drive up and have dinner and drinks with me.

I don't know how long I can keep stringing her along about the VP of Marketing role, but she likes the attention and the idea of potentially working for me, so why not enjoy it while it lasts?”

It's always about a girl isn't it? Revenue, product, helping others with their financial problems be damned. On the one hand, it's bad of John to string this woman along for so long as a married man. On the other hand, she's an adult who makes her own decisions. 

Sadly, I have a feeling John is heading towards some difficult times both financially and personally as this fintech startup is his only gig.

The Unhealthy Desire For Prestige

Do you remember the kid in high school who was pretty goofy looking and tried a little too hard to fit in? I think that's John. Now that John has the prestige of being the CEO of his own startup, he's loving every minute of it. It doesn't matter whether his startup ever becomes a success or not. Having attractive women give him attention is the best sort of validation a man could ever have.

I venture to guess we've all desired prestige at some point in our lives. As a kid, I enjoyed the prestige of owning a pair of Air Jordans and Armani jeans.

As a college graduate in my 20s, I enjoyed the prestige of working in finance before the 2008 financial crisis hit. After that, working in finance felt like an embarrassment, even if you had nothing to do with people not paying their mortgages.

As a 45-year-old man, I don't give a rat's ass about prestige anymore! In fact, I don't think I've cared about prestige since 2010, right about the time when I was seriously contemplating doing something else with my life.

I'd much rather be a nobody most of the time. It's only if I've written a new book or created something new will I strive only be a somebody for several months to market it. Then it's back to being a nobody again.

Prestige Is Overrated

If I cared about prestige, I wouldn't have driven an old car named Moose for 10 years. Money became a secondary goal in 2012, which is why I left my job. And in case you don't know, professional writers don't make much.

If I cared about prestige, I wouldn't have rented out my house in the expensive north side of San Francisco to live in a much cheaper part of town that nobody has ever heard of.

There is zero prestige in being a personal finance blogger, but I love being one 95% of the time. It's only about 5% of the time I get annoyed due to some callous remarks from strangers with no intellectual backing.

I'm sure most people have no idea how lucrative being your own independent publisher can be either, which is just fine by me. Every day is a joy to come up with new topics to write about or solidify new business ventures based on the brand I've built online.

Sadly, there is one case where have some status and prestige matters. Getting your children into private grade school. But do we really want to get caught up in that prestige cycle? I'm not feeling it and would rather homeschool.

Highest paying companies in America
Source: Glassdoor. I guess some of these companies are prestigious. But who cares after a while?

How To Let Go Of The Desire For Prestige And Money

At some point, you've got to learn how to be satisfied with what you have. Letting go of making maximum money will be difficult. However, as someone who did just that in 2012 and again in 2021, you'll get over it and feel happier.

1) Find your purpose. 

Is working at Facebook really that prestigious if your role is to try and bring in more advertisers for fake news feeds?

How about working at McKinsey? Is it really that prestigious if your role is to provide reasons for why your client should fire more people?

What about working at Uber? Is it prestigious if your mission is to figure out how to manipulate drivers with ridiculous requirements in order to keep them driving before your fleet of driverless cars take over?

How about working at Goldman Sachs? Analyzing how to make more money for a billionaire who continues to hoard his wealth when there are hungry people in his hometown is not very prestigious.

Come on guys. There's NOTHING really prestigious about any of these companies. It's only the fact that you get to make a lot more money than most people. If you can get in, great.

Know the concept of Ikigai

Make and save as much money as possible so you can get out and do something more meaningful as soon as possible. Understand the Japanese concept of ikigai, your “reason for being.” Once you find your ikigai, your life will become full of meaning.

If you love your job then fantastic. But if you don't, it's not worth staying. Down the road you will regret staying at a job mainly for the money.

Our purpose often gets lost because we're tied up doing what society tells us we should do. The best places to work are those that have a mission driven purpose to help solve real problems.

Problems such as hunger, child abuse, homelessness, disease, mental illness, financial calamities, domestic violence, poverty, etc. Having our “best and brightest” join firms to design new picture filters for selfies is ridiculous!


Note: I recognize these companies have some great positives as well e.g. connecting the world, lowering the cost of transportation for folks who can't afford to live close to work, providing capital for small businesses, etc.

Related: What If You Go To Harvard And End Up A Nobody

2) Create something of your own.

If the hardest part about life is getting into a prestigious university or company, then the path of least resistance is to coast thereafter. When you coast, you rely on the prestige of the institution to justify your self worth. Over time, you'll be filled with self-doubt whether your accomplishments are your own or because of your company.

Why do you think some people never leave? They're afraid that without their company, they aren't anything! To counteract this self-doubt, you must produce something original. Do it while you're working so you can iterate without incredible pressure.

Before I press publish, I wonder how each article I've written will be received. Sometimes I'm scared to publish, but I publish anyway because I know that if I don't, I'll never grow. Embrace fear!

You will find extreme satisfaction putting new things out to the world. The satisfaction of building something from the ground up is more satisfying than anything you could ever accomplish under the umbrella of another.

I felt this way when I spent two years during the pandemic writing my Wall Street Journal bestseller, Buy This, Not That. Publishing a traditional book with Penguin Random House was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I feel proud to know it can help millions of people make more optimal decisions.

Buy This Not That Book Reviews

Take some risks and create something on your own, no matter how small. You'll feel embarrassed or hurt in the beginning. But it just gets better over time. Nobody can ever take away something you've created.

Once you start thinking beyond yourself, you will ironically feel much better about yourself. Do something while alive to help a generation of people after you.

Related: Two Retirement Philosophies Will Determine Your Safe Withdrawal Rate

3) Practice gratitude. 

It's easy to think our success is 100% due to our own merits. The reality is that anything good was created with the help of many people. There's a weird amount of self-delusional narcissism that's happening in Silicon Valley thanks to so many overnight successes.

As a result, the majority of people who have not succeeded at the same level or time period feel an intense level of dissatisfaction. This is even though they are comparatively doing great compared to millions.

Wake up every day and recognize the people who helped you get to where you are. Realize your wealth and success is mostly due to luck! Keep a gratitude journal.

For me, I'm grateful for my father who has been my editor. He encouraged me to start Financial Samurai way back when. I'm grateful to my mother who is always supportive in whatever I've wanted to pursue.

Thank you to my wife who's been my CFO and COO since the beginning. She is also an incredible mother of two young children.

And of course, I'm grateful to every reader who shares some insightful comment and shares my work around the web. Thank you!

Reading a note of thanks is more valuable than any prestige I could ever want.

Who Are You Trying To Impress?

The unhealthy desire for prestige and money is making people depressed
The unhealthy desire for prestige and money is making people depressed

For John, he might be trying to impress his wife, his daughter and other random women to prove he can reinvent himself after the mortgage industry collapsed.

For me, I just want to make my wife and kids proud. Each day I get up, I ask myself whether I want to grind or relax. Inevitably, I decide to grind for at least a couple hours before the family wakes up. It's what gives me a sense of balance and purpose.

At the end of your life, nobody is going to care about your prestige, status, or money. All they'll care about is whether you were a kind enough person who touched their lives. Did you help people or did you not?

We must find a way to let go of the desire for prestige and excess money. If you do, you'll stop caring so much about what other people think. You'll also start focusing on what matters most to you.

Breaking The Chains Of Desire

If you're trying to break free from the rat race, I recommend you negotiate a severance instead of quit. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare. Deferred compensation and worker training are also benefits of a severance package.

When you get laid off, you're also eligible for up to roughly 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out the book How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye. It's the only book that teaches you how to negotiate a severance.

Getting a severance was my #1 catalyst to break free from the corporate grind and stop caring so much about prestige and status.

Add to Cart

Build Your Own Website

If you truly believe in yourself, then you should start your own website and build your brand online. Don't let Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter get rich off you. Get rich off yourself! There's nothing more rewarding that making your own money from nothing.

I started Financial Samurai in 2009, and three years later, I was able to leave my banking job because this site was making enough money. Now, this site earns way more than I ever made as an Executive Director with much less work and much more fun.

Here's my step-by-step guide for starting your own website today. Don't let the desire for prestige ruin your life. Seek freedom instead!


Sam, Chairman, Founder & CEO of Financial Samurai Author

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112 thoughts on “The Unhealthy Desire For Prestige And Money Is Ruining Your Life”

  1. Thank you for this article. We are hard wired to pursue prestige and money mostly to attract the opposite sex and procreate. Naturally, your mate will have been looking for someone that can provide resources for them and their offspring. Most economic activity starts at this innate, basic, human desire. Sex motivates us to strive for prestige, money, and status. Good luck attracting the opposite sex if you have no resources to provide.

    Thanks again for your articles Sam.

  2. I have never cared about prestige; only about the money that comes along with being in a prestigious position/place. If you can create a blog or start a business or do anything that makes “prestigious” money, then who cares what you are doing as long at is a legitimate and honest way to make money? Kind of like the saying “I have always wanted to be rich but never wanted to be famous.”

  3. Love that your newsletters reference old posts. Some (many?) of us haven’t been readers for many years and missed these “classics” the first time around.

  4. Rachel Wang

    I really appreciated your article! I am currently a university student who is upset about my desire for prestige. It’s detrimental in that it makes me feel that at any time I’m not the best of the best, that I’m not good enough. I’m really happy my Google Search led me to your article. Reading it has helped me redirect some of my automatic thoughts.

    1. Glad to hear. It’s natural to want to make a lot of money and get a prestigious job after college. It’s the desire to prove that your time and money spent was well worth it.

      Just do the best that you can with what you got. I never stop searching for a job that provides meaning.

  5. There is sometimes a valid reason for people to chase prestige, because practically speaking, having prestige sometimes opens more doors.

    For examples, I went to a top 3 engineering school, a very prestigious place. What that allowed me to do is get a first job that others couldn’t get as easily. That’s because during interviews, the interviewer gave me a lot more “benefit of the doubt” and was more forgiving of mistakes. Also, my wife is great person who is amazing and not at all a gold digger, but after we’ve been married for some years she told me that knowing where I went to school added just a little extra motivation to get to know me when we first met. Sometimes, just that little bit of extra motivation or extra benefit of the doubt from others makes all the difference.

    When a person doesn’t necessarily have visible, socially appropriate real successes yet behind them (for example, when they’re young), chasing prestigious allows them to experience just a little more opportunities, which then gives them better choices, including the choice to not chase prestige anymore. It’s like compound interest, a little easier each time compounded over time is a big deal. Now that I’m older and married for many choices, I’m much more family focused, focused on earning an adequate but not necessarily outrageous income, and achieving more purpose over prestige.

    The overall point is, it may well be worth it to chase prestige when you’re young, and then transition later after you’ve achieved it. In fact, this is what Sam did. After all, Sam went to work in a prestigious role first (finance) and got rewarded very well for that, and then only later after he got married and started thinking about raising children that he switched.

  6. Great post overall! I work at a consulting firm considered less prestigious than the McKinseys and Bains of the world. So I needed this very much. :)

    One comment on the second exhibit (of anti-depressant use per 1K people): While I understand the point you are trying to make here, I think there are many factors that contribute to anti-depressant use – like the social perception of using it. Places like Korea rank low not because depression is less prevalent there but because there is a huge social stigma against admitting to any form of mental sickness.

  7. This post makes me think of Max Weber’s (19th and early 20th century German Philosopher) “Wealth Power and Presitige.” These three things being the things people chase after and need/want in society.

    I lot of life is burned trying to get any or all of these elusive things.

  8. Great advice, especially the part about practicing gratitude. I believe the ‘best attitude is gratitude’ and acknowledging and being truly grateful for all of life’s blessings, somehow brings more things to be grateful for! Thank you for your posts.

  9. Thanks a lot for this post Samurai. My past self can identify with John in the way of seeking extrinsic value from great positions of power. Other than the fact all the managers I worked under in the past did the same,influencing me; I found joy in feeling “high and mighty”. I am now an aspiring master plumber in the big apple. Nothing pretty to the eye about that. But the dream is real, the pay is real and the fact that I can accomplish this dream before 30 will be more real. (I am 25). This post assured me switching paths and committing to what feels right for me is the correct way to go. Thanks Samurai.

  10. Hi Sam, great article as always! I work in finance.. been through many ups and dows. It’s stressful.. I’m 34 and working my butt off. I could give 2 shits about prestige – I don’t even own a watch and I drive an Acura. I’ve been saving 50% of what I earn since I was 23. You know the upside in finance – in a couple years I could easily be making 1 mil / year .. in fact I could earn that now at GS or a hedge fund but I like the company I work for (truly). What I can’t figure out is – why don’t I just work for 5 – 7 more years and then relax and hopefully never have to worry about money anymore. I can have enough in college savings for kids, the house I’ve always wanted, passive income through stocks/bonds/real estate and a charitable endowment. So why not just grind out for 5-7 years? You advocate freedom and starting your own business… while I would love that and contemplated it.. isn’t it easier to go the employment route? Curious to hear your thoughts..

    1. If u can make big bucks for the next 5-7 years and not burn out, go for it!

      I was burnt out by 35, but wanted to last until 40. If I didn’t have an alternative (this site), I would have kept on going.

  11. Hi Sam

    A thoroughly reflective post. Welldone!

    Relativity is to blame for alot of the quest for prestige or status. Human beings typically make decisions by comparing themselves to others or to something else.

    It takes alot of self awareness to truly understand what one wants and why it matters. Sadly, many never quite get to realise this or get to this level of emotional intelligence.

    It’s also this self awareness, which is necessary as one pursues all sorts of personal freedoms in life.

    1. Couldn’t agree more! I’ve tried to instill in my daughter that she should never compare herself to other people.

      The only person you should be comparing yourself to is who you were yesterday…and are you a better person today?

  12. Sam, great article..thanks for sharing.
    But the problem is, for many of us, wise advice like this, which contradicts infact, rebukes popular belief, is either received too late, OR, people believe in still following,after whetting it out themselves…hope many of the readers would not make that mistake.

  13. I facepalm when people waste lot of money on wedding instead of invested in bitcoins – they would had a lot more money now. Yeah, their friends would call them “losers” for not having expensive wedding, but in few years they would be winners.

    But of course likes in instagram is the most important thing for most people these days.

  14. Hey Sam,

    Great post, I just reread it and should probably continue to read it periodically. I’m a big fan of the site and usually don’t comment – however I have an important question for you on the topic of prestige:

    When does a full time MBA program make sense vs part time programs vs not at all (and spending that extra time / money in starting a business or doing more at your current job, etc.)? Would you get the part time Haas MBA all over again, knowing what you know now? I feel like prestige is a big part of the MBA decision whether people like to admit it or not. How large a part did the desire for prestige play in decision?

    Thank you for the consideration!

    1. I’d absolutely do it again. Berkeley is a top 10 school and can’t be having 80% plus of your tuition paid for.

      It’s just way too expensive to go full-time for two years, pay all the tuition, is all that income, and lose two years of your life. I would go to full-time MBA program if I was already rich man had something lined up and I needed a big brea it’s just way too expensive to go full-time for two years, pay all the tuition, is all that income, and lose two years of your life. I would go to full-time MBA program if I was already rich man had something lined up and I needed a big vacation.

      Time is too precious. Only go if you know for sure after you graduate you plan to work for decades to come.

      1. Thank you very much for the quick reply. IF, at the same point in your career (I’m in a very similar position as you were), what would you pick if you had the options to:

        1. Attend Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton at the full cost of tuition
        2. Attend a ranked 10-15 school on a full tuition scholarship
        3. Attend a lesser ranked regional MBA part time program at 80-100% scholarship (UCLA, Ross, UT)
        4. Wait a few more years, and attend Wharton’s executive MBA program in the bay area (scholarship unknown)

        I’m having a hard time understanding the benefits of a part time program if you’re already working in finance and don’t need the MBA to promote. but I have that unhealthy desire for prestige (non-target undergrad chip in my shoulder).

        1. No idea about your situation Kevin. Go for the prestige and let me know how it goes! It sounds like you really want the prestige. Worst case is that you just have to end up working 2-4 years longer.

          We regularly rejected MBAs from Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton btw.

            1. Thought I’d chime in. I work at a large Megacorp in the Midwest. Went back part-time to get my MBA at a Top 30 program in the city I live in – solid program but not top tier at all. My company paid all of the tuition through a reimbursement program. I had some co-workers pay additional to go to part time programs in Chicago and North Carolina. I’ve also observed our full time MBA hire program. The honest reality – there is no difference in future career paths going part-time or full time in my opinion. The people who went to “more prestigious” part-time programs are in no different position than me. Those who went full time at top schools got their foot in the door, but that’s it, don’t make more and have years to pay back their debt. Also, they may have unrealistic expectations of their career to justify going back full time and spending so much money.

            2. I agree. I got the impression from two of my friends who went full-time to a great MBA program having relatively high expectations of their own career trajectory. We’ll see where they end up in a few years.

              1. From my experience getting an MBA back in the 90s, it was never about the program at the school you went to, but about what opportunities rubbing elbows with the students at the school could get you. The “Who you know” opened more doors and options than the study itself.

  15. I was just discussing this with my dentist friend yesterday. We have both been working in “prestigious” health fields and while we love our work, sometimes the stress isn’t worth it. And while we are helping people, sometimes it doesn’t seem like it with our current healthcare system. It’s important not to tie your entire self worth to your work. There are so many other things to be passionate about like family, religion, community service etc.

    If we’re not put on this Earth to be good people and help each other, then what’s the point?

  16. Excellent article Sam !!!
    Its sad to see people living for false prestige all around. Every new shiny automobile, every new home, new 85inch 3D LED …is a living example of the same.

  17. I run my own small company now and I sometimes forget that people find it prestigious. I see that I am working FT elsewhere while I build up my client base and knowledge base and working myself hard. My company is a passion project that helps people and will hopefully pay me a decent enough salary to marry my girlfriend. When I meet new people, they only see Business Owner and assume that I’m rich and fancy or that I desire to be. Nope. In my FT gig, I see the consultants and middle-managers giving up their lives for a company that will chew them up and I have no desire to join them. I want to do good for the world and have time for my friends and chosen family. Luxury goods and tricking women into spending time with me under false pretenses is not a desirable outcome.

  18. Frugal Sally

    Hi Sam,

    I love your blog and this post rings true on so many levels for me. I work in PR, mid-level role (so money is not all that great). Still, despite a bit of stress that comes with it, I love my job and am really good at what I do. One of my close friends is a single woman who spends countless hours at work doing what she can to have that prestige, to keep climbing up the corporate ladder. Doesn`t seem like she even enjoys her work all that much but the thirst for power is there and she seems to have changed so much over the years — the more power she has the more mean and greedy she gets. Power is an interesting thing.

    I do agree with some people above seeing that I, too, also wanted more of that prestige and power when I was in my 20s but, now in my 30s, realize that doing what you love (and is passionate about) is far better than getting up the food chain to only end up doing work you hate and forgetting why you started working in that field in the first place.

    Good job on everything you have accomplished. You are very inspiring! :)

  19. There is a lot of hubris in the professional world. At the end of the day, it’s what makes you happy and gets you going everyday.

    I feel bad for that entrepreneur John you met. I wonder how much longer he can burn through his funds.

  20. Money-Miser @

    This is certainly an age related concept at the core, in my opinion.

    I’m actually going through this “prestige shift” right now. I used to care so much about silly things like sneaker and clothing brands. I’d spend stupid amounts of money on a named product just to showcase myself as a success, it was ridiculous.

    Recently though I’m finding myself far more practical though. I consider whether the product itself is good quality. Is it warm? Is it comfortable? What material is it made from? How durable is it? I couldn’t care less about brand anymore, unless I appreciate the quality of the brand itself.

    I can’t quite put my finger on whether it is due to aging, or due to me taking a keen interest in personal finance now. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

  21. Whenever I come across a discussion like this, I’m overcome by the burning desire to find out about who and what my “new and improved” neighbors are next door.
    The people who reside in multi-million dollar mansions with up to 6 garages. Single family residences, these people simply cannot exist without servants to do everything for them. They virtually broadcast E-N-T-I-T-L-E-D 24-7-365 right down to have blazing spotlights illuminating their fake-stone exteriors. Half a dozen vehicles are parked in front, despite only half that number of people living there. Do these elites have money or are they piss-poor showoffs thriving on the attention of others?

    I’m comfortably financially independent myself, live well below my means with my money in my net worth not my “poor man’s” home.

    But guess which one of us gets respect and which one gets garbage thrown onto his property?

  22. Hi Sam,

    Prestige is all psychological. No one really cares what brand you buy, except yourself. And shortly thereafter, it won’t matter to you anyway as you would feel much better buying more in value while spending less (e.g. Vizio TV versus Samsung TV with the same specs). Also if you have friends that do care about prestige, maybe you need new friends :-).

  23. Financial Slacker

    I started to see the difference between prestige work and meaningful work when I began working with a not-for-profit community health center.

    I had worked in healthcare for years but always on the for-profit side. It was all about bringing in as many patients as possible paying the highest rate.

    With the community health center, revenue wasn’t tied to patients. It was generally funded through grants, government programs, and donations.

    When you look at patients as revenue sources, you tend to see them differently than when you look at them as people in need.

    It’s much more fulfilling helping those people in need than just cashing in on their health issues.

  24. Refocusing your efforts in order to try to build a business/create something/change the world is NOT chasing prestige? I think the world is changing, period. Things that used to be prestigious are just less so now. The fact that there are more options than ever to make money now means that going the traditional route is less appealing.

    1. I don’t think so. There’s nothing prestigious about starting from zero. Courageous. But not prestigious. If you succeed in “changing the world,” it’s not prestigious. It’s more heroic.

  25. This is the best thing I’ve read all day. Prestige…I really can’t think of a good reason to go after it unless it’s going to do exactly what you said – to make money, save money and go do something more meaningful!

  26. This particular sentence really hit home…

    “Take some risks and create something on your own, no matter how small. You’ll feel embarrassed or hurt in the beginning. But it just gets better over time. Nobody can ever take away something you’ve created”

    I’m in that frame of mind currently, and since I’m also coming up on the big 40 in a couple of months I’ve been questioning what I want the next 40 to look like. Prestige is not really the issue for me, I’ve never really tied my self worth to any external attributes. My biggest problem is the potential guilt I may feel should I finally decide to cut the cord and walk away from my career. I plan on focusing over the next few years on how to best position myself to get past that guilt/fear of the unknown.

    Your blog continues to be a great inspiration. Thanks!

  27. I like the post. Let’s not mix up prestige, success, accomplishment.
    Prestige is shallow and can be dangerous, Success is good if you know how to keep your inner self, Accomplishment is very good….

    1. FinancialFree123

      Well said. It is important for YOU to recognize you have accomplished your goals. Not so important whether other people recognize them.

      Also as Sam emphasized before – progress. If you are improving every day, you will feel good about yourself.

  28. I was starting to form a differing opinion until I read this:

    “Our purpose often gets lost because we’re tied up doing what society tells us we should do.”

    I think that nails it. Generally speaking, humans like to be told what to do. Direction provides a level of comfort. While some people no doubt begin their journey seeking prestige, I think a bigger percentage just don’t know what else to do, so they seek out what society says is a successful life. They’re doing what they’re told because it brings a level of comfort.

    I enjoyed this post, Sam. Thanks for taking the time to write it!

  29. I think prestige is more a young (wo)man’s game. The pursuit of it has certainly grown more uninteresting with age.

    I have always worked as a systems development engineer. What it did mean, once upon a time though, was prestige. We looked down upon user-space developers. We would not even condescend to consider a web developer an actual developer. If you weren’t deep down in the kernel, jiving with race conditions, interrupts and corruptions, you were a pretender. So much prestige. The glory of it all. And then my mother yanks me back to earth when she says “Well but that does mean you can or cannot fix this funny thing that my phone has been doing lately when I launch Facebook”. And you realize that all that prestige existed mostly in your head and in the heads of your clique and nobody out there in the real world actually gives a shit about your little pecking order.

  30. FinacialFree123

    I am a good example of one of these prestige seeking victims. I squeezed into a prestigious college off the wait list. Then on and off I went to some prestigious graduate programs and companies. I never felt confident at these highly competitive environment. Sometimes I am above average, and sometimes I am lower on the rung. Yes, you do become associated with the best and the brightest, but as a young person, it really is counter productive to your growth. When you are not one of the best among your peers you never develop leadership ability or confidence.

    Prestige obviously is not all bad, but as much as we can we should seek out its intrinsic value.

    A prestigious school, firm, company is prestigious for a reason. They have the best and the brightest people. They are at the cutting edge and have the most impact in their field. If you are going in for those reasons and are confident you can rise to the top. Then by all means go for it.

    I think one should be honest with themselves when they seek prestige. Like the guy Sam described, it is very admirable to hustle and start your own company. But to do it for the appearance is a recipe for disaster.

    I myself was guilty of that. Sure it sounded good when I tell people where I went to school, and where I work. But my day to day life was not that happy. 1.5 years ago I joined one of the more prestigious group in our city in hope of becoming a partner there and make banks$$$. In reality, the general atmosphere was not suitable for me. At these top companies, most people are very assertive and good at climbing the social ladder. For me that is not a second nature. Also you are constantly evaluated and scrutinized. Also coming in at middle age created a level of stress that although mentally I handled ok, but my body started falling apart. I started getting all sorts of medical problems.

    My conclusion at this stage of my life is, it’s better be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. Or better yet, be the only fish in your own pond. Nothing bad with seeking a little bit of prestige, but autonomy, freedom, and growth is much more important.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I guess another solution is to be the big fish in the big pond and kill yourself to try and get there. But we all know that getting there is brutally difficult, and once you get there, then you start comparing yourself to even bigger fish in bigger ponds.

      You might enjoy this post: The Health Benefits Of Early Retirement Are Priceless

      I’m not saying you should engineer your layoff. But the post may give you the “permission” to take it down a notch and refocus on your health and happiness in a less stressful roll.

  31. Charleston.C

    I have not been reading since 1/1/2014, but have probably gone through enough previous posts that I might as well have been a reader for the last 3 years.

    Check your paypal ;) and Happy Holidays and keep up the good work.

  32. A fantastic article – I love the focus on humility and self-awareness. I often find that people obsessed with prestige are trying to cover a deep sense of insecurity; a bit like the fellow in your article.

  33. I’m not sure what I can add that @financialpanther didn’t already say about the law. The culture is driven by prestige. Every website bio on a law firm’s page will tell you where that lawyer went to law school. It doesn’t matter if he or she has 20 years of experience practicing law, people still want to see where they went to school so they can decide whether they’re “smarter” or not.

    Your list of the 15 paying highest companies has two law firms (I wonder how many people reading this post identified them right away as law firms? Hint: Probably only the lawyers!) but what’s funny is that only one firm is in the top 10 most prestigious (and it’s not the top). There’s always a more prestigious position or place to work.

    The only contra point I’ll make is that prestige is its own driver, so the fact that 99% of the population has no idea which law firm is more prestigious is actually what makes it so prestigious to some people. Certain people want to be part of an exclusive club that other people don’t even know about (those are the coolest clubs, right!?)

    1. I could tell, b/c the Category section is on the right of the chart :)

      I’m surprised Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz wasn’t on the list. The thing is, there are many, many lists.

  34. This piece made me feel way better about myself. This is one of the very few things I can say I haven’t wasted my time on. I often kick myself for wasting time and I feel a whole lot of grief over lost time which is what I hope FIRE will ultimately bring me (along with joy and peace). But I’ve never wasted my time on wondering what other people think of me or prestige or living up to other people’s expectations. I’ve always beaten my own drum and done things my own way.

    @Dollar After Dollar – not chasing compound interest (I didn’t even know it existed in the real world) and generally higher interest rates earlier is also one of my regrets.

  35. Gold Medal Finance

    I like to think I’m not driven by status and that I’m over chasing such silly things but every now and again I find myself doing something illogical that doesn’t make financial sense in the interests of chasing prestige >_<

    Usually I catch it before I act on it and remind myself why it doesn't matter but it's easier said than done sometimes!

    The ironic thing is that for most people the very prestige they are chasing will add no material benefit to their life and can sometimes evoke a negative reaction from the very people they're trying to impress :S

  36. Great Post Sam! This is a thought provoking topic for those of us open for self-reflection. Sometimes life makes you realize it through major impactful events (job loss, loss in family, etc.) to those that are ready to listen. Prestige, Envy, Selfishness can lead to major accomplishments, but would ultimately lead to misery if there is no purpose. I had to go through a few events (not life threatening or heart-breaking) to realize the futility of prestige or giving importance to what others think. Ego plays a central role in keeping these negative drivers alive and no one (even those who realize the futility) is immune to the pull. I have to remind myself everyday (or a few days in case I forget) to check the ego and come back to reality with humility and being grateful to be blessed with my life.

  37. Most ambitious people seeks prestige and self-actualization in the beginning of our career. It’s a major driver and motivator to climb the corporate ladder and to prove to ourselves, families and others we can do it. We only stop chasing when our missions/ goals are accomplished or fulfilled. Once we sit in the corner office, some of us realized it is no longer such a big deal and we start look inwardly as to what makes us happy and fulfilling. Right now, I am in this stage in my life that prestige is less important but having a work, home life balance are very important for me.

  38. I think anybody trying to get up the corporate ladder is seeking prestige to some degree, so I’ll freely admit that I fall within that category. While I shy away from public fame, getting promoted with bigger responsibilities is something that I’ve always strived for, and as a result, I was able to get to FI much faster. And I think most people that adamantly say they don’t seek some prestige and at least admit that they occasionally need affirmations aren’t truly honest with themselves.

    I’ve met alot of people like John in start-up settings, and I agree with you, that if he doesn’t have a MVP or even a beta client after 1.5 years, he should be chasing something else.

  39. Brilliant article, more sentimental than most of your other articles, but it also resonates more with me for that very reason. This article is a reminder of why i keep coming back to your site Sam. I am looking for perspective and meaning, not just a lot of $ that really does not fulfill in any way. I know its an oft repeated cliche l, but money by itself really means nothing, and yet many of us are giving up our hapiness to acccumlualte money which we think will make us happy; very counter inuitive. One does not need a whole lot of money to actually live a meaningful/fulifilling life, but we do need is courage to fight society’s pressures and to succumb to a earn and spend lifestyle which no amount of money can save you from. If there is one thing that people living life on their terms have in common, its courage and the ability to resisit societal norms. That, in fact, is the real path to freedom.

  40. The only prestige worth anything is having a large enough net worth that you can work on things that are worthwhile, right? The trick is getting there. In many cases, the prestigious jobs pay the best and will get you there the fastest. But you have to have a plan, or you will get caught up in the wealth and the lifestyle and never sock away enough to get out.

    Great article!

  41. I chased prestige for years. In college I made about $100 a day in tips along with an hourly wage (a fortune for a college student) that was all disposable income. I have $0 left. I wanted the ‘ball out’ in the bars, buy fancy clothes, and show the ladies how “cool” I was. Ah, the compound interest that would have accumulated today. Prime investing years (2008-2012). Thankfully I have learned my lesson.

    One thing rings true, we chase prestige because we are selfish by nature.

  42. Ten Bucks a Week

    You got that right. I’m choosing a much less prestigious business school because going to Europe is a dream and it is so much cheaper.
    One funny thing is that I got a Amex Platnium ad right in the middle of your article, I don’t need that prestige!

  43. The Scholar

    I do feel sorry for John’s wife and daughter. At the same time, I do you know how things can get boring after a while. If he’s just flirting, and nothing else, what’s the big deal?

    He must’ve suffered a financial loss, or didn’t do as well as he expected. A lot of us lost a lot of money during the last financial crisis.

    As a result, it is natural to want to start all over and create your own better mouse trap. The odds are against him, but that’s great that he’s trying.

    It’s so funny settling being your own CEO and feeling like you are the bomb. And to dangle a potential marketing position in front of a woman he’s attracted to is what a lot of guys in power like to do.

    The woman knows better. So if she wants to get involved with a guy who has delivered on nothing over the past 1 1/2 years, then so be it. She’s probably bored at home or so and just wants some excitement.

  44. Fiscally Free

    I totally agree the unhealthy desire for prestige is a widespread and serious problem.
    Deep down we all want to impress others, but I think most of us go about it in the wrong way. Instead of showing how intelligent or generous we are, we buy overpriced “luxury” goods to prove our worth. Unfortunately anyone with a credit card can buy these things and they don’t say anything about you, other than your willingness to overspend.

    I think we all need to be comfortable with who we are, and stop caring so much about what other people think. If you can do that, you will almost certainly be a lot happier.

  45. Financial Panther

    Man, you really hit the nail on the head here. Coming from the law world, prestige was all I cared about early on. It’s only once I started working that I realized prestige don’t mean nothin. Out in the real world, no one has any idea what any big law firm is. I used to be so surprised when I’d say the name of my law firm, and someone in my city didn’t know what it was. As if some regular person in a bar is supposed to know that.

    To avoid prestige, I really think it’s about getting out of your regular group of people. Law students are obsessed with prestige because that’s what every other law student cares about. But if you get out there, out of that comfort zone and talk with regular people who aren’t in that world, you’ll realize that all that prestige crap doesn’t really matter to like 99% of the population.

    One thing, can I argue that “city prestige” is something that a lot of people seem to care about a lot? I see this a ton with friends of mine who don’t make a ton of money, yet refuse to move from their “prestigious” city, even though they could do much better in a lower cost of living city. I find that a lot of people don’t move simply because a city isn’t “cool” enough for them. That’s why you don’t see a lot of people moving from the coasts to the midwest, even though there are a lot of good jobs out here.

    I was born and raised in a “prestigious” east coast city and my family still lives out in that prestigious city. I ended up moving to an unprestigious city in the Midwest – at least to people on the East or West coast – that I argue still has everything anyone needs to feel cool. It’s got cool bars, cool restaurants, theater, music, jobs, etc. There’s energy here, just as there is energy in any city, I think.

    I’m very happy where I am and am positive that living here has benefited me much more financially than it would have if I lived out East like I should have. Lower cost of living, lower student loans, good income, and much less pressure to keep up with the joneses because people out here are much more humble and less flashy.

    A lot of people, in my opinion, would do much better if they’d consider less prestigious cities.

    1. So true to meet new people out of your niche who have never heard of your employer. Very humbling and good for the soul!

      I never thought about prestigious cities. I just went to NYC b/c that’s where the job was. Same thing for SF. Great cities with an international attraction, but the cost of living is so much higher than inland cities.

      It feels like life is pretty good everywhere in America, and I’ve been everywhere. If you can make good money and live in a low cost of living city, that’s great.

      Now that I think of it, there was this famous line in Liar’s Poker saying, “You don’t want to be stuck doing equities in Dallas!”

  46. Physician on FIRE


    If I wanted prestige, I would have been a surgeon. Those of us in anesthesia are a little lower on the totem pole, but fortunately, no lower on the pay scale.

    I expected this to be more of a “Don’t waste your money on status symbols” post, but it was more of an indictment of Fintech John and all the other Johns like him. Nicely done.


    1. What’s hilarious is that non-doctors have NO IDEA what is considered the most prestigious types of doctors. We think all doctors have pretty prestigious careers.

      It really goes to show how much prestige is in our own little niche and so self-driven.

      1. In school I told a pre-med student if I were a doctor I’d probably be a podiatrist or something else low consequence and she scoffed at how podiatry is washout specialty like it had some reflection on my abilities. And I thought

        1) a podiatrist is still a doctor


        2) I’m not a podiatrist and have no interest in being a doctor.

        I went on to get an MSEE in applied Electromagnetics, and I have a feeling she never became a doctor, podiatrist or otherwise.

  47. Is there a correlation between desire for prestige and self-esteem? Yes absolutely. Unfortunately I think this is one area where we are going backwards as a society. It is very much a “look at me” culture, everything from sports celebrating every individual good play to entrepreneurs tooting their own horn.

    I don’t however believe that the pursuit of power and prestige lead to unhappy lives. The NEED for it does. Having it as the end goal probably isn’t as healthy as simply a byproduct of a different goal.

    I tell people I’m a small business owner and avoid the prestige labels like “entrepreneur” and “start up founder”.

    1. Good point about the NEED for prestige leading to unhappy lives.

      One day, try telling someone you are unemployed and looking for new opportunities. I did that for 1.5 years when I played tennis midday on the weekdays at the public park. It was kind of embarrassing at first, but felt very cathartic on the ‘ol EGO!

      1. Brian - Rental Mindset

        It will be really embarrassing when I learn no one wants to discuss hiring me!

  48. There was a point in my corporate-world career when I was seduced by power. I remember being at a company picnic and oddly several of my staff and their significant others crowded around me and basically started to praise me about random stuff and give me a lot of attention. It felt really weird at first – I almost wondered if they were actually trying to poke fun at me – but they were just being friendly and sincere. It’s kind of unsettling to think about that now, but I remember getting a big high at that time from feeling a sense of power.

    My days of managing people are past me now and I’m actually SO much happier. I think the incredible amounts of stress and burdens I went through as a manager made the allure of power almost like a way to justify the pains I went through. I thought at the time that management was the ultimate career path for me, but not anymore. Now I’m just happy managing myself and my business without all of that managerial madness!

    1. Haha, that’s awesome! SO FUNNY about you being seduced by power since I know you so well, and you are the most unassuming, non power hungry person I’ve ever met! :)

      Nobody has kissed my ass before, probably b/c I was never as kind as you. I’m too direct and like to joke around too much.

  49. DH’s family helped raise a boy who’s parents were divorced and very poor. This kid was very smart and went on to be an attorney. I remember a couple years after he graduated I asked him how it feels to be a big time lawyer and to my surprise he replied with the amount of debt he had from college was astronomical and he was always broke. When he’d come into town we’d sit for hours debating current events, laughing etc. The last time I spoke to him he told me that he was barely hanging on and didn’t know what to do. It was the last time I spoke to him because about 3-4 months after that he committed suicide. I’m so mad at him and miss him. We liked him just fine when he was really poor growing up and broke afterward, and proud of him for trying to get out of poverty. I guess the pressure of it all got to him.

    1. That’s a very sad story Elizabeth. I wonder if we are pushing our children and young adults too hard. At the same time, I see a lot of softness as well “cry ins,” “walkouts” on campus etc. Like everything, balance is important.

      Sorry for the loss.

  50. Jack Catchem

    Lol, thanks for the article, Sam. A lot of my toughest career choices were made difficult by the prestige inherent in the “obvious” choice. Becoming a cop instead of going to Pepperdine Law was tough. I had to ignore the prestige of a law degree. Remaining in local law enforcement instead of joining the FBI was also tough. I had to ignore the prestige of the government finally acknowledge it I am “Special” (as an Agent).

    Still, every time I see one of the legions of articles about how many lawyers hate their jobs or compare my 3/12 schedule with overtime against the Federal minimum 50 hour workweek and 25% LEAP pay, I smile. I turned my back on prestige and have had an awesome decade because of it!

    Also, don’t undermine your own power as The Financial Samurai. It may not be the hard power of an employer, but your ability to influence and persuade your audience (soft power) is still insidiously effective. As an example, look at the people (like myself) whom you have persuaded to claim their own piece of internet real estate by creating blogs and writing!

  51. GPA Underdog

    I largely agree, but I think the forces are co-linear. Needing it but not having it precedes having it but not needing it.

    In a lot of ways, I think the prestige is what drives the work ethic. If a businessman didn’t want prestige/success, he’d stop after just his family was fed. Prestige, however, brings glory to the household, “I didn’t fail and Mom can be proud of me.”

    But ultimately, if that equation never flips, you run into those who stay too long at their jobs because a lack of self-worth.

    I would argue that if people want a taste of prestige, go get it. But be mindful that you’re being judged on what you do after you have it.

  52. The Green Swan

    Prestige means very little to me. For me and my family it’s more about earning a good living, saving for the future, staying healthy, and being able to enjoy the hard work. Of course it’s still very important to enjoy life while still working (I’m not pushing everything back to retirement). But, I also understand the payoff my hard work now gives me later in life. Way more important than prestige.

  53. Great points.

    At the end of the day, a corporate job is just a way to make money in order to food, cloth, and house you and your family.

    When people try to come off as ‘all that’ because of a job title, it automatically tells me this person is not a free thinker and needs approval from others for their ego.

    I have much more respect when people build things on their own rather than any corporate job.

  54. Great idea! I should get a new business card so I can be a founder and CEO of a fintech company. I wouldn’t want to spend that kind of money to attend those conferences, though. John sounds like he is having a midlife crisis. People struggle to break free from their everyday routine when they get to that age and feel stuck.
    I don’t care for prestige or power. They just don’t call to me. Money and comfort are my weaknesses. :)

  55. Sam,

    You seem like a humble and thoughtful individual, so I’m only pointing this out as a possible foil to your posts because I’ve been a reader long enough to know you welcome dissenting opinion…

    Isn’t being FIRE with your own income generating personal finance blog and the freedom to do as you please just a different, more modern form of prestige? You have a loyal readership, many who envy you and your lifestyle, plenty of money and freedom, etc. You have figured out how to achieve the contemporary American dream! Certainly you have done this mostly on your own merits, but to think what you have accomplished isn’t prestigious is using an outdated definition of the word.

    None of this is to say you chose this path and continue to do so out of the need for others admiration, just that if you told people you are a “personal finance blogger with a multi-million dollar net worth” instead of a “personal finance blogger who quit GS due to burn out to pursue (his) dreams”, you would likely get very different reactions.

    I think there is nothing wrong with deriving varying levels of self-worth from prestige, in its many forms. Determining if the prestige is achieved and maintained on merit or on metaphorical handouts and good looks is what separates the Johns and the Sams of the world.

    Great post, as always.

    1. Hi Kendall,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Interesting notion about changing the traditional definition of what is considered prestigious. I’ll have to think about that further.

      I don’t look at freedom as prestige. Freedom is just freedom. There’s nothing attached to freedom – no title, no company. Think about a 65 year old traditional retiree. Is she considered prestigious? I don’t think so. She’s just considered a retiree.

      What I am proud of is starting this site and keeping it going since July 2009. There have been plenty of times when I wanted to do nothing all week, but I stayed committed. It absolutely feels good to hear some random person say “I’ve heard of your site” or something of that nature. I have yet to find something more gratifying than building something of your own to contribute to society.

      Perhaps this is why I like to plant trees, clean, and remodel houses. It’s very satisfying to see progress!

      The “Contemporary American/World Dreams” is accessible to so many more people now. And by that nature, it’s not prestigious at all since it’s not exclusive.

      Thanks for reading.


  56. Great post.

    So many quotable quotes.

    “At the end of your life, nobody is going to care about your prestige and power. All they’ll care about is whether you were a kind enough person who touched their lives and wanted to help other people”

    Thank you

  57. I don’t care about prestige anymore.

    Used to work as radio DJ. The pay was good, then it turned bad. But I was a local celebrity and it was hard to let go of this. Fortunately the radio station closed down and I started working on my web design business.

    Am not famous anymore, but I earn WAY more than before.


    Years ago I was far more concerned about other people’s perception of me, but as I’ve progressed through my thirties, I’ve realized it just doesn’t matter. I do believe my desire for prestige at a younger age was due to low self esteem; I needed others to know I was successful and that my life was wonderful (even if it wasn’t). However, I was never interested in fancy cars, expensive clothes, the best TV, etc.

    I drive a 4 year old Honda Civic, and only bought that after my 13 year old civic finally bit the dust. I do have to admit I do like nice clothes, shoes, bags, but buy most of it at consignment shops. I have a nice condo, but could have “afforded” a much bigger house if I was worried about perception.

    I am proud of my accomplishments, but do not typically advertise them. I don’t feel the need to make sure people I meet know I’m successful. The only person I need to impress is myself; and that is only to keep me motivated and engaged in life!

  59. I definitely felt the prestige factor coming out of grad school. I was one of 5 people in my graduating class who didn’t get a job at a Big 4 accounting firm and instead went to work at a mid-sized regional firm that no one had heard of. As much as I liked my job, I wondered about what it would have been like to work at one of the more prestigious firms, and I felt a bit disappointed that I didn’t have the chance.

    After a year or two, I realized prestige wasn’t worth it because I was one of the few people in my graduating class who still was working at my original job (and still enjoyed what I was doing). The rest of my peers were fed up with the long hours and had moved on to their next endeavor.

    Having a prestigious name attached to a resume may open more doors, but it doesn’t mean you’ll continue to stay there if you’re unhappy with your job.

  60. Frankly I think prestige causes low self esteem. A few years ago there was a study into why rich neighborhoods have a higher incidence of suicide. The findings of the study were it was the lower income in those neighborhoods offing themselves and a big cause for many was the stress of comparing one self financially. Essentially there is no ceiling to searching for prestige as there is always someone better. Pursuing it as a goal will push you for a while, it might even help initially in things like sports where you want to be the best. But at some point regardless you will top out, so the prestige can’t be your primary driver.

    1. Very interesting. The Atlantic did an article on the high levels of suicide at Palo Alto High School. The median home price in PA is around $2.3M. So basically every family there is a millionaire or multi-millionaire.

      What’s it all for? To go to a prestigious school to try and make more money at a prestigious company when you already have the money? What a waste.

  61. I’ll feel free to extend that first paragraph to its logical conclusion:

    6) is the ultimate reason why the Middle Class and the Working Class in America are going to hell; why these people end up in debt, broke, and/or homeless.

    I’ve been typing about this stuff for well over a decade now. Image over Substance is what present-day America is all about, and the majority of people can’t afford this lifestyle but They Need To Impress Others To Prove Their Own Worth.

    It doesn’t even have to be anything large-scale like luxury cars, the simple working class is digging their own graves by starting out small. Buying bottled water, for instance, rather than drinking tap water. The money wasted on that endeavor is cumulative over time; placed in an account somewhere where it could grow could mean the world over the course of years. But, no, they Need to buy those bottles of water and they Need to have $12 lunches each day at some cafe…

    1. I find the biggest waste of money to be interest payments. I know a ton of people who borrowed every dime they could in college, bought a new car soon as they graduated, charged up credit cards because they deserved vacations and stuff, and topped it off with taking out a mortgage with the smallest down payment they could have who spend more in interest in a few months than I’d spend on lunch if I went out for 12 dollar lunches 5 days a week for a year and went through a couple cases of water a month.

      To make it even worse most of them claim they can’t afford to save because of the debt, yet all they ever do is save the minimum and blow the rest on going out or on random junk like fancy cell phones. Whatever you could reasonable spend on lunches and bottled water isn’t going to come close to what a lot of people will dump on interest payments over a lifetime.

  62. Apathy Ends

    Prestige is something I was shooting for before I understood how money works. The bulk of the population is after it and will never be able to afford it. There are also plenty of fakes running around like John (who seems to have a whole mess of problems with his image – hopefully his wife IS a Financial Samurai reader)
    that chase the title and lifestyle, but don’t have the hustle, experience or intelligence to deliver.

    1. Jack Catchem

      I like your point, Apathy. Although not necessarily “fakes” I am amused to compare people who live in “unaesthetic” apartment complexes with Porsches & Maseratis in the carports against the Beachfront mansion owners who answer the front door in Kirkland sweat pants.

      The people most focused on image may be the least comfortable with their reality.

      1. Apathy Ends

        I think they are a fake if they are stringing people along with a job they don’t actually have – but delusional and a “fake” seem closely related to me

  63. Graham @ Reverse The Crush

    Great post Sam,
    This is really interesting and coincidental. I was watching a documentary on F. Scott Fitzgerald last night and even the great writer himself was subject to chasing prestige. The documentary claimed that he wrote books in part to impress women just like John did. Apparently he wrote The Great Gatsby and hoped it would revive his marriage.

    I do think the desire for prestige can create unhappy lives. I think the worst case scenario is when someone starts chasing a job title or role that doesn’t suit their strengths. They take courses they have no interest in and cannot pass instead of focussing on their strengths.

    Although everyone including myself cares about prestige to an extent, I believe I’m fortunate because I have this innate desire to want to do the opposite of everyone else. To your #2 point, I think that’s the only way I could ever gain complete satisfaction, my own work.

    Thanks for the thought provoking read!

    1. Very interesting about F. Scott Fitzgerald! I picked up the Great Gatsby several months ago and was AMAZED by his literary genius. Truly amazing work.

      It’s true, we men have this incredibly innate desire to impress women and gain adulation from women. There’s a good saying from Gemma Teller from Sons of Anarchy, “Men need to be loved; women need to be wanted.”

  64. Go Finance Yourself!

    John sounds like a real POS.

    I have to admit that I enjoy the prestige that comes with being a CFO. I also love what I do and the company I work for. I’m working to accumulate enough money so if that ever changes I can get out and continue to do something I enjoy, regardless of my title. People treat you differently when they find out what you do for a living. But if you have enough money to live on and can afford to leave a high power job to do something you love, then who cares?!

    1. Maybe just a fella who is bored, with low self-esteem, and a desire for excitement. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t done something terrible, yet.

      Congrats for being CFO! When will you be shooting for CEO?

      1. Go Finance Yourself!

        Maybe I misinterpreted. When you said he’s been seeing a woman in the Bay area for over a year, I took that to mean he’s having some sort of extramarital relationship with her.

        Thanks for the congrats. No desire to be CEO though. I plan to be retired by the time someone would hand the keys of the company over to me :) Plus, that’s a whole other level of stress I don’t want!

  65. Excellent article, Mr. Chairman… uh, I mean… Sam. ;)

    I really love that you address this topic head on. I’ll be the first to admit I used to chase prestige when I was younger. Now that I’m older, I realize it was a lot of wasted energy.

    If you practice gratitude and look to serve others, you won’t be able to think about yourself. The beauty in this is that it also eliminates your fears. Without fear, you will take the actions that will make you grow and draw others to you.

    In this place of growth, is where you’ll find the “prestige” you were hungering for in the first place… except you won’t need it or want it. Ahhh, the ironies of life. :)

  66. Wow, Sam. I know a lot of people who could seriously benefit from reading this. I feel like the Nashville version is saying you work someplace super hip like an indie record label or the newest tech company that’s decided to move their support team from SF to Nashville. The problem is, these jobs pay horribly. What’s even more hilarious is many of these gigs receive thousands of applicants.

    1. Ah Nashvegas, my home town…the scene there has changed quite a bit in the last 10 years with a lot of people coming from SF to Nashville. At least the state income tax is lower than here in California. That is a 5-10% savings depending on the tax bracket and housing prices are at least 50% lower.

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