Being Truly Rich vs Looking Rich


This short, stumpy man waddled up to me.  He wore a raggedy work shirt with 2 buttons unbuttoned from the top.  His helmet was stained.  His boots were muddy.

“Ay! When is your barge arriving to unload all the materials?” he shouted at me in a whiny voice.

I did not work with him.  He was not from my company.  Why was he asking me this question?

Nevertheless, I replied, “10am!”

He stood there, surveying the entire Ah Huat Shipyard.  His keen eyes taking in every single detail.  This was a busy shipyard where lots of ships and barges come to unload construction materials.  It looked like an old school junkyard – metal and debris were scattered all over the site.  Heavy machinery crawled around and toiled away solemnly – on a Saturday morning, when most people were still in bed sleeping.

The short man muttered to himself and waddled away.

I was still ‘weirded’ out by this stranger poking his nose into my business.

“Hey!” I called out to him.  “Who are you?”

He turned and looked at me, surprised.

“I am Ah Huat!”

And he waddled off again, in the direction of the office.

I looked at the signboard that said Ah Huat Shipyard.  Yes, I just met a possible multi-millionaire and he is a humble, unassuming man with no airs, works on Saturdays, and is not afraid to get his hands dirty on the job.  I watched the dwarf-like figure trudge away into the distance with awe and respect.


*The name of the shipyard has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.


Rich guys, tough guys


I’ll never forget that incident.  I was still a young project executive/engineer then and I could not help but be confounded every time I came across a millionaire in that blue-collared industry.  They were not your stereotypical, suit-wearing, sleek and flashy-looking rich man.  In fact they were usually wearing dirty stained shirts, sweating at the armpits, working on weekends, trudging around in work boots, like some blue-collared grunt.  They were tough as nails, fearless yet humble, confident, optimistic, sometimes philosophical… and full of amazing stories of luck and hardship.

I revered in their presence for I knew that these men were not born with a silver spoon.  They had built their wealth with blood, sweat and tears and their intense work ethic make us young fresh grads look like a bunch of pussies.  My ambition was to be not only as rich as them, but also to be as tough and as badass as them.

Looking at them always reminds me of this quote:

thomas edison opportunity is missed

All these rich guys look so down and dirty…then what about those nicely-pruned, ‘rich-looking’ guys?


Don’t be a Rich Poseur


I don’t know about you but I’ve never understood the point of trying to ‘look rich’.

I don’t understand why people buy expensive clothes that can’t even last a few washes.  I don’t understand why people wear expensive watches and risk getting robbed.  I don’t understand buying a super fast car when the speed limit is 90km/hr and you are stuck in a jam most of the time.  I don’t understand lavish, pool parties where everyone takes photos and post on instagram to make others jealous.  I don’t understand expensive wine or $1000 champagne that you buy in a club and the waitresses will stick sparklers on the bottles and carry them in the air to draw attention to you.  I don’t understand buying expensive suits so that you can stand around and look important at an event, when you really aren’t that important.  I don’t understand eating at expensive restaurants where the food comes in pathetic, bite-sized portions because ‘it’s about the presentation’.

I don’t understand why people who are not really rich… try so hard to look rich….

I mean, doesn’t this sound counter intuitive, to work your ass off, make lots of money, then blow a whole chunk of it to buy an expensive car or a 500K watch just to show people whom you don’t even care about – that you’ve made it?  I mean … who gives a shit what other people think?

And if you are truly rich, imagine the kind of people you will attract by flaunting your wealth.  Won’t you be attracting — Leeches, gold-diggers, gamblers in debt, schemers, opportunists, jealous eyes, or any other superficial person who wants to be your friend just because you are rich?

Shouldn’t you try to look as poor as dirt –(okay maybe that’s too much) — I mean look ‘average’, to see who still has the decency to treat you with respect, and who will filter themselves out by looking down on you or shying away from you?

If I am not rich –  I won’t try to look rich.  (That’s like putting cotton wool in your shirt to try and make your muscles look bigger.  Yes, it’s embarrassing when people find out the truth.)

And if I am rich, I don’t need to look rich.

Just take a cue from Mark Zuckerberg – he wears the same grey shirt every day.  Or Warren Buffet living in his unassuming, cosy, little house. Or Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Ikea, who flies economy class and drives his decades-old Volvo.


Don’t Show Off. Show Up!


It’s not about showing off how rich you are.  It’s about showing up to get shit done.

It’s not about getting rich to buy stuff you don’t need.  It’s about gaining financial freedom to do whatever you want.

It’s not about impressing others.  It’s about being better than who you were yesterday.

And lastly, to end off my rant…remember guys…


The goal is to BE RICH… not to look ‘rich’.


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1 Comment

  1. James

    i am going to share this.. 100% agreed. Maybe i should start wearing a grey formal everyday to work from now on :p


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