What if we all walked around with our net worth flashing over our heads? How would it change the way you behave or treat other people? Our perception of financial success is oftentimes very misinformed.
There is a lot of data that shows what we see and what we think about wealth is misinformed. Chances are the person with the fancy car and big house is not as wealthy as you think. It is more likely the person driving the used Toyota and smaller house who is the one with the wealth.
Check out this article on Stealth Wealth.
If you had the ability to see someone’s net worth as you walked around your daily life how would that change your behavior?
There is a popular series called Black Mirror on Netflix. Each episode takes place in a not-so-distant future. In this future world there are new and potential technologies that are shown throughout the series. Most of these new technologies are enhancements to what our current smartphone is capable of. But instead of a phone you have implants in your eyes that act as cameras and hard drives implanted in your brain.
These technologies allow you to quickly retrieve and see information. This series is not for everyone. Mrs. ReachingTheCrest found it “too disturbing” and couldn’t watch it. One of the standout episodes is the season 3 opener called Nosedive.
Here is a description of the episode:
“Lacie Pound lives in a world where people can rate one’s popularity out of five stars, from friends to strangers on the street. Lacie, who is obsessed with being received well, begins the episode with an approval rating around 4.2. She lives with her brother Ryan, who has a lower approval rating and does not worry about it. Lacie is eager to move out to the “luxurious” Pelican Cove, against her brother’s advice. In order to be able to afford to live there, she must either pay an exorbitant rent or earn a discount by having a rating of 4.5 or above.”
This got me thinking – instead of being able to see each other’s ‘popularity rating,’ what if you could see each other’s net worth?
Let’s set aside all of the security concerns for a moment.
Imagine your surprise when the small business owner you called to fix an item in your house shows up with a 7-figure net worth. Would that make you question the cost of his fee? Or would you just be confused?
Would it surprise you to see that person who lives in the big home with his fancy cars in the driveway having a negative number? Or a number certainly not fitting your perception?
When I first thought about writing this post, I was assuming it would be about all of the terrible things that would result from this openness. There certainly are several bad things that would most likely result.
Here are a few
- Probably a more strict class system would result. I think it’s human nature.
- Superiority complexes
- Inferiority complexes
- I can imagine a lot of employee/supervisor relationships would just get weird. See my post “All My Bosse’s Are Broke.”
- Annual pay raise time might become really biased
- Getting a job offer might be harder or easier depending upon your number
- Finding out your new accountant has a bad number of his own might make you lose trust
I’m sure there is much more. Post your ideas in the comments.
What About The Good?
However, the more I thought about it, if our world was a completely open door with the knowledge of everyone’s financial situation, that would mean that everyone would know their OWN financial situation.
People would be more educated. Our society might focus on some of the good that comes from trying to accumulate some wealth.
This isn’t the “Greed is Good” portion of the post, but the “you should save for your family’s financial security and your retirement versus buying every new gadget” portion of the post.
Instead of people congratulating you on that new fancy car, they might ask, “What were you thinking?” Instead of feeding everyone’s ego with praise on extravagant vacations and new TVs or bigger homes, we would be a society focused more on responsible consumerism.
Maybe the best one would be that Facebook and Instagram posts would probably become more realistic. We could only hope.
In many ways, the truth would come out. Financial guru and coach Dave Ramsey talks about being financially fat. When a person is 100 lbs overweight it’s hard to hide this fact. But you can be 100 lbs financially overweight and hide it really well. It’s really easy to fake wealth. Credit cards, car loans, and home loans all allow people to hide what their true financial position really is.
Maybe living in a more open world of personal finance would have its benefits despite all the obvious downfalls.
What do you think? How would this change you? Any Black Mirror fans out there?