Saturday, April 21, 2007

"So, you're rich?"

This question was put to me during a dinner conversation this week. I was explaining that I live south of the university campus, so had little knowledge of things north of it. It's just not on my drive home. When I mentioned the suburb I live in, one of the ladies there paused and said, "So, you're rich?"

I don't remember if this was before or after the conversation about me owning stock. That was met with praise and "wow". I'm pretty sure they were all thinking I own hundreds of shares, for thousands of dollars worth of value! Hardly. I own 20 shares. I bought them for about $30 per share. They're worth about $55 per share now. That's a grand total of $500 gained, over 3 years. More than I'd get if I put the money in a sock drawer, but not enough to retire to the Argentine. What's more, this stock was purchased with money out of my paychecks, so I didn't really have to decide when to buy or anything.

How do I do when I actually pick and research a stock? Recently, I had been following a different stock. I'd been watching it for months, watching it move up and down. So I took the plunge and bought a few shares. Never purchased a stock from the open market before! Whee! Within two months, the company lost 80% of the stock value. What was $30 is now $5. Ouch. I'm not some sort of Wall Street tycoon, that's for sure.

But really, the perception comes from the area I live in. I live slightly more than a mile from another student. She lives far enough that the name of her suburb is different, and that effects how people perceive where she (and I) live. Her place is probably much fancier than mine, because she's just a fancier person, overall. She has cherry cabinets and matching appliances. I also have... cabinets. And all my appliances are in the same general "white" color family. Except for my toaster oven, which is sort of yellow. But it's been through a pop-tart fire (not my fault!), so it can be forgiven.

I'm like a lot of people I know. I eat instant oatmeal, eat lots of dried pasta, and drink lots of (free) water. I live on a combination of weekly job income, occasional musical money, and loans. I don't have lots of people over, but mostly because 1) I'm a slob, and 2) I feel bad saying "Hey, let's hang out at my place. We just have to drive half an hour, through complicated streets to get there! It'll be totally spur of the moment."

That second point leads to awkward moments, such as last week when I invited my dinner companion (and myself) back to HER place so we could keep talking. Sure, nothing weird or bizarre about that! (The fact that she's someone else's girlfriend doesn't make it any less weird, just so you know.)

So, no. I'm not rich. I budget myself $150 in groceries every month. Some months it's easy to stay inside. Some months, not. But it's fun to realize that some people see me as rich. A momentary ego inflate. Then, the realization that people who care about that aren't really people I want to know. Hmm.

I thought about this more when I was having dinner with another friend at a nice Italian place. It's lots better than whatever pasta you might find at McDonald's, but it's still the sort of place you can get dinner, salad, and desert for $12, if you take advantage of the "value times". While we were eating, she commented that she'd never been to this restaurant before. "I don't really have any friends who'd eat at this place." Except me, right? "Well, you're different." Hmm.

It's interesting how much you can give people the wrong idea by just mentioning where you live, where you eat, the fact you have investments, and that you take vacations on a private yacht in Aruba. Oops!

I mean... vacation in Branson.

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