My friend Tom showed up at school wearing a nice Polo shirt with the polo player emblem stitched on the left breast. We oohed and aahed and didn’t understand how his mother was able to afford it on her cookie factory pay, but at lunch, when I traded him my bologna sandwich for his Little Debbie cream pie, he shared the truth: his mom bought the inexpensive Polo socks, cut the Polo emblem off, and sewed them onto plain, no-brand shirts. He would be in style and not look so poor. He even told me to look at the label on the inside of the shirt on his neck for proof.

When Tom didn’t show for our 25th high school reunion, I called him. He shared he didn’t have the money to travel because he’d cashed out equity from his house for the third time to get his wife a new car. She was embarrassed to drive the old Vega. I asked him about his mortgage, and he shared he had a six percent interest rate over 30 years. We promised to visit, and when I got off the phone, I figured by the time he paid the interest, paid the refinance fees, and added all the equity he cashed out, the $150,000 mortgage will have cost him over a million dollars.