Singapore is known for being one of the most expensive places in the world to own a car. At the time of this writing, a new family car like a Toyota Corolla 1.8L would have set you back by S$165,000 (about US$132,000). If the price of a basic BMW 7 series cost nearly S$400,000 (about US$320,000), try guessing the price of a new sparkling Ferrari!
Even with such exorbitant prices, exotic cars such as Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche or the more common ones like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are plying Singapore roads daily. While many believe the car you drive reflects the level of success you have achieved, the reality is far from the truth!
Young adults or even teens driving exotic cars are common sight these days. But do you really believe that these youngsters have made it big by selling stuffs over the internet or running highly successful businesses at such a young tender age? Or are they more likely driving their dads’ cars? Whatever the answers may be, these guys (youngsters and adults inclusive) could be living well beyond their means. Are they supposed to be impressive just because of their fanciful cars? More like making unwise decisions to me, especially if they're the squeezed middle-class trying hard to look rich. The fact is many people are getting themselves highly geared financially unnecessarily. How? By buying things they don't need, with money they don't have, trying to impress people they don't like!
Can the type of car a person drive represent his or her level of success? Think about it, millions of people worldwide are driving more glamorous cars than Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest man. He had been driving a 2001 Lincoln Town Car (worth about US$11,000) with a license plate that reads "Thrifty" before it was auctioned on eBay. The profit from the sale of his Lincoln was then donated to a nonprofit organization. Warren Buffett now drives a 2006 Cadillac DTS worth about US$12,000. Clearly, the car that one drives is not a reliable indicator of one’s financial success. In fact, Thomas Stanley's (author of The Millionaire Next Door) survey of self-made millionaires in America reveals that the most popular make of car among the wealthy is not a Rolls Royce or a BMW, but a Toyota!
I wouldn't think twice about spending money buying properties or any other assets that would generate good investment returns. However, I couldn’t allow myself to spend lavishly on exotic cars that won't generate any income, even though I can afford to drive any car that I want. As a matter of fact, I only recently bought a used Mercedes-Benz E200 (with the blessing of my dear wife of course) which was my reward for the investments made over the last 2 years that added another 7-digit figure to my net worth. Before this, I’ve been driving Japanese sedans for most part of my life. While my E200 is certainly not the most glamorous of cars by any standard, it’s nevertheless paid in full and maintained well regularly.
Just 2 weeks ago, I was in the Mercedes-Benz Service Centre when I witnessed another Mercedes-Benz owner who was complaining loudly about the high cost of maintaining his car. The service advisor had earlier recommended him to have the almost worn-out brake pads replaced, and that would cost about $600. But that guy rejected the advice, complaining that he had already spent so much servicing his car. Unwilling to spend the addition cost for the brake-pads replacement, he insisted that he would only get it done on his next visit to service the car. Can you believe this? Here's a man who chose to pay a premium to drive a Mercedes-Benz, but refused to pay a small price to maintain the safety of his car. Instead, he would rather expose himself and others to the risk of an accident caused by faulty brakes! This man has simply gotten his priorities all wrong.
I’m not against anyone enjoying the finer things in life, if affordability is not an issue. But blowing your budget or borrowing unnecessarily just to enjoy luxuries could destroy your financial future. Why fall into the debt trap that enslaves you? Just to keep up with the Joneses? The reality is that the Joneses are broke!
Hence, don't rush into buying your dream car or other big ticket items on a tight budget. Buy only when you can well afford to. Learn to live below your means, because BEING rich is far better than LOOKING rich!
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