That is the point of this blog, which is sometimes missed by some readers. I am not blame-shifting here. I am not saying the poor "deserve their fate" or that the shrinking middle class "had it coming" or that somehow I am above the fray.
Rather, my point is (and I did have one) is that we all succumb to these kinds of feelings - craving status, to be exact. We all try to impress people we don't even know - which in an odd way, makes sense. You can't really impress your friends with a fancy new car - they know how broke you really are. But strangers? We can make them think we are rich by merit of a fine ride. Or so we think. And this why having a bitchin' ride is so coveted in the ghetto, and the middle-class drives silver or beige Camrys. The middle-class has a 401(k) and doesn't need to impress people they don't know - as much.
And that is why wealthier people tend to look down on those who drive flashy cars as being nouveau riche or gauche. And they are probably right about that. I remember growing up, a neighbor down the street had a Porsche 356. He beat his wife and his kids were sent to reform school. They had money, but they didn't have much in the way of common sense. They were shunned by the neighbors.
Some of the biggest financial mistakes I have made in my life revolve around cars. There are cars that I wish I had kept a few more years, others that I regretted selling (but sometimes had to sell, nevertheless) and others that I definitely regretted buying. In most cases, the show-off "look at me!" cars were the worst sort of bargains. The more plebeian rides, ironically, gave better satisfaction. The most fun cars I had were broken down old clunkers I worked on - with the working on being the fun part, not the driving around and showing off.
I had a nice Camry which I though was a nice car. It was the first car I ever owned with power windows and air conditioning! I stupidly traded it for a Taurus SHO which fell apart on the dealer lot and depreciated down to nothing in no time. For the few years I had the Taurus, I could have driven the Camry that much longer. The amount squandered? $25,000 at least - enough to buy a nice secondhand 3-Series BMW!
The M Roadster might get sold someday soon, perhaps. The only reason we've kept it, is that it has so few miles on it (54K) and its resale value has sort of flattened out. But it is not a comfortable car (indeed, many have 50,000 miles or less, even after a decade-and-a-half) and increasingly, even hard to get in and out of. In terms of cost per mile and depreciation, we're looking at about 33 cents a mile, double what the X5 was (18 cents) or the F150 (15 cents). And as you get older, you want less of a "look at me!" car so much as you want a "don't look at me!" car. Urban camouflage sometimes is handy. If you want to rob a bank, use a beige Malibu as a getaway car.
But kudos to our reader for understanding, at least, his own motivations. We all fantasize about "looking cool" with the latest sneaker, or Abercrombie shirt, or cool car or truck or boat or whatever. Our marketing overlords know this, and pitch these things to us accordingly. How many fancy vacation packages are sold on the perceived status? No one will admit it, but part of going on an expensive vacation is posting all those pix to Facebook, so everyone will be envious, right? Well, no one admits to that out loud, but then why do people post shit on Facebook? Funny thing, when you post something on Facebook, they call that your "Status" - the word has two meanings, and perhaps Facebook uses both.
And really, not many people are exempt from this. Even my stinking pot-smoking hippie brother ended up buying a monster SUV (according to his last voicemail, we don't talk). And maybe those hippies compete to see who has the coolest tie-dye or best patchouli stink or who is the most politically correct or whatever.
It's human nature, human weakness. We all do it. To get ahead in life, realize when you are status-seeking, and either squelch the behavior by "doing the math" and realizing how broke status will make you, or find a way to do status-on-the-cheap.
But the more you can walk away from status, the wealthier you will be in life. It is a lesson that takes most of us a lifetime to learn, if we ever learn it at all....