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Color of Money

Embarrassment of Riches

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page F01

My grandmother, Big Mama, was a savings goddess. How this woman was able to set aside so much of her puny paycheck every week has been an inspiration to me for my entire life.

Big Mama was great at teaching me how to save. But what she didn't do well was show me how to spend and not feel guilty about it.

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I don't think Big Mama ever felt comfortable spending money, even when she purchased something she had saved for. And I'm just like her.

My husband and I recently moved into a big new home. For the longest time, I was embarrassed to tell people where I lived.


I was ashamed that I could afford such a nice home. I was raised to believe you should always handle your money as if you were one shopping spree or paycheck away from being poor. But I'm not (I don't even like shopping).

I know I'm not alone. I know there are other people who are doing well who don't see themselves as well-off.

In fact, a new study from the Visa credit card people found that an increasing number of affluent individuals, people age 35 to 54 whose household incomes are at least $125,000, report embarrassment with being identified with wealth and status.

Although their household income is at least triple the national median, more than a third (39 percent) of affluent individuals described themselves as "middle class," while a little more than half (52 percent) thought of themselves as "upper middle class."

Seventy-two percent said they didn't like or were embarrassed by the terms "wealthy" or "well-off" to describe their economic situation.

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