Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Guest Post: Do good looking people have it easier?

NOTE: Today’s guest post is from Nelson Smith, one of the funniest and most controversial personal finance bloggers I know. He writes at Financial Uproar, and can also be found on the Canadian Finance Blog.

Every workplace has at least one of them. They’re the person who gets the promotion and raise even though they’re not really that useful. They have a sexy and wonderful girl/boyfriend. They always seem to get the lucky breaks. Everything keeps on getting better for them. And why do they do so much better than the rest of us? Unfortunately for us common folk, there’s not much we can do about it. They get the breaks because they’re attractive.

You might not believe it, but it’s true. All sorts of studies have linked attractiveness to benefits such as increased income, greater job security and interestingly, a greater chance of getting a loan. This isn’t just limited to women employees either. This article from The Economist argues that attractive NFL quarterbacks earn more than their uglier brethren, even when they have identical stats. Of course, many of the female readers of this blog would argue that being a starting NFL quarterback would make even the plainest of guys automatically attractive.

For those of us who aren’t sexy enough to be models, this kind of sucks. Imagine going up against an attractive person in a competition for who gets a promotion. You’re both equally qualified. You both have an identical work history. Guess who gets the promotion? You better dust off your resume, maybe the ugly company down the road is hiring. You got screwed because someone else was lucky enough to be born with higher cheek bones than you. It’s not fair, but it happens.

Like anything in life, you need to work hard to differentiate yourself. Intelligence will always trump attractiveness. So will hard work. And rejoice ugly fellas, all you need is to make a higher than normal income, and you should be able to end up with an attractive woman. The higher the income, the higher you can aim. Aim for the sky plain guy, you can do it.

Whether you like it or not, the fact is that women place an elevated value on their looks. Over 90% of cosmetic procedures are done on female patients. If used effectively, an attractive woman can use her looks to overcome her lack of intelligence or education. How many of the guys reading have given an extra hot waitress a bigger tip than normal? Plus, she can use her excess looks to land a guy with a higher income.

Sexy people will continue to get the breaks. Businesses realize their customers would rather deal with a hot receptionist. Sales rep jobs will always be dominated by good looking people. And let’s not even get started on strippers.

There are already a ton of reasons to work hard at your job. I’ve got another – you might just end up being in competition with someone who’s hot.

Nelson Smith is the author of the handsomest personal finance blog out there, Financial Uproar. His real job is working for a potato chip company, where he gets all sorts of free chips. He’s single ladies, so feel free to follow him on the Twitter, where he usually tries to be witty.


Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. kndollar says:

    Love this guy!

  2. Amy says:

    I read this post 5 or 6 times, and I can’t decide how I feel about it.

    I was slightly offended, but at the same time I had to agree with some of the points.

    I’m sitting on the fence for now. :)

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Hahaha, that’s what I like about Nelson. I’m always slightly offended by his writing, but 95% of the time I find myself agreeing with some part of his message. :)

  3. AMD says:

    I think what you’re not mentioning here is the confidence factor that a lot of these studies have talked about. Attractiveness often equals a high level of personal confidence, and the confidence is also a big driver in promotion (doesn’t hurt coupled with attraction).

    • Diana says:

      You hit the nail on the head here – I think people are very quick to say that it is all looks but there is plenty of research that suggestions that there’s more to that. You don’t have to be super model pretty to be consider this attractive bunch it is more people who take care of themselves by partaking in physical exercise, carefully taking care of their clothes, wearing makeup. Whether you like it or not you are constantly being judge on how you present yourself. This is nothing new, friends!

      • Ban Clothing says:

        @Diana: I agree, usually people who are put together are more confident. I also don’t think it means a person neeeds to be a super model however, people who care about their appearance seem to get hired over those that don’t. It’s common sense, who wants to hire the grungy unshaven guy over the clean cut guy? I noticed an arrogance about this article which is interesting since Nelson Smith isn’t particularly good looking.

  4. Echo says:

    Nelson, thanks for writing a follow-up to my guest post here about needing some luck in order to get ahead. I didn’t realize it at the time but my lucky career breaks must have occured because I’m clearly more handsome than my gargoyle-like colleagues. They didn’t stand a chance.

  5. Hate to admit it, but I think you are correct. Whether or not people want to admit it, they unconsciously attribute positive traits with things that are pretty and negative traits with things that are not appealing visually.

  6. I think you made some good points but also missed the mark on others- women get rewarded in some contexts if they’re good looking, but IF they’re considered good looking. For women that don’t fit the mold they can be left out or even reprimanded more than men. Some companies have strict grooming and dress requirements for women (like in the service industry) that don’t apply for men. So while being hot is a great advantage for some women, if you don’t “take advantage” of your femininity you aren’t just ignored, you can be seen as a less of a go-getter.

    I’ve experienced this at work in the service industry. When I was able to buy nicer clothes that fit and were more feminine (when you’re broke and you have some androgenous black slack that look mannish it’s not attractive) I got better hours. Conversely though, men seem to still be promoted more than women and at my work, men got promoted more than us since we were the “image” of our business and being in lower level service positions helped maintain that by putting us front and center in front of clients. It’s funny that a compliment, “You gals look better than us” became an excuse for keeping us in lower paying jobs though other women could have been promoted.

    Looks truly are a measure in the workplace, but it can benefit some and hurt others and for guys sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter much.

    • I firmly believe that, all things being equal, attractive people will have an easier time than their less attractive peers. Fortunately for plain looking people like myself, intelligence, ambition and work ethic will always trump attractiveness.

  7. I’ll second, third and fourth the correlative factor here: Confidence. I have no doubt that good looks can and will serve many people well in the workplace and elsewhere, but they’ll only carry one so far. The REAL driver behind this is the confidence that comes with attractiveness, and the cumulative effect of a lifetime of that working in one’s favor (which breeds more confidence). That said, one need not be above average in the looks department to walk through life with an air of confidence – it can come from many other sources – such as intelligence. And the bonus is that if you’ve got it – confidence that is (minus arrogance) – something amazing happens: You actually become more attractive than you otherwise are and can take full advantage of all the aforementioned benefits yourself.

  8. There is a concept called “Erotic Capital” which regards looks as just another asset that people can leverage to make money or achieve other ends. It’s offensive because we should be rewarded on merits and it feels like sexism or racism or other prejudices. But in the reality of a dog-eat-dog world, if you have an asset or can create one easily then why not? You can, at the same time, argue against it but if it means dough then use it.

  9. Bridget says:

    For the people hoping it’s confidence that’s the determining factor, it’s probably not. Even babies respond more positively to attractive people, and children will claim and attractive teacher is “nicer” and “reads better” than a less attractive one. It’s our biology to favour attractiveness, and no wishful thinking will really change that.

    That said, I don’t think the less attractive or unattractive are necessarily doomed. I like to believe skills will take you further than looks, but yeah, all else equal, the pretty people win.

  10. I think it’s almost factual that good-looking people have it easier, right? And I agree with the confidence opinions, too.

    That said, do ugly people really have it harder? I’m not sure that it goes both ways.

    Haha okay I feel kinda weird debating this, so that’s all I’ve got.

  11. Average Joe says:

    Does my butt look big on this blog?

    Sorry…couldn’t resist. Thoughtful post. Thanks.

  12. Debbiel says:

    Hell yes! Good looking poeple have a huge advantage in the work place (and pretty much all aspects of life). As someone else mentioned it isn’t confidence either – even babies prefer good looking people. Teachers also favoured attractive children over their less attractive classmates. Unfair? Yes. It is a fact of life. I know I’ve gotten jobs because of my looks before (of course they get you in the door, but you still have to be able to do the job ultimately). No question about it. I’m not overly confident either, so it isn’t confidence.

  13. PKamp3 says:

    Nelson types truth to power, as always. Height is a good marker of attractiveness, and check out this study.

    Full disclosure: Hiding behind my avatar is a 5’10” male. Considering the average male height in the U.S. is 5’8″ I’m sure I get a small boost!

  14. Diedra B says:

    Wow I better hit the gym
    I thought I was cute but my career isn’t doing so well

  15. Josh says:

    You’d be amazed at how you dress plays a role, too. Your looks may be genetics, but those schlumpy Dockers, creased dress shirt, mismatched tie and scuffed shoes sure aren’t!

  16. No one ever said life was fair. Mother Nature sure isn’t! But I feel that just like most people are “average”, most people are “average-looking.” You’ll get the outliers – the folks who are extremely attractive or very unattractive, but most of us are somewhere in the middle, and we can improve our appearances with dress (trade an ill-fitting suit for a well-tailored one), cosmetics (more for women but can also work for men), professional assistance (a dermatologist for skin problem, for example), and staying in shape.

  17. I’m fascinated by both this post and the lively comments. I’ve read the studies (okay, I’ve read news articles about the studies) and I agree: attractive people certainly seem to get ahead.

    I think this happens more in some industries than others. It seems real estate developers — the kind who build mass-scale suburban communities — tend to hire great-looking women, even if a less-attractive woman is equally or more qualified. But this is probably less of a problem in a highly technical field like petroleum engineering.

  18. Buck Inspire says:

    Way to put yourself out there on a controversial topic. Life is unfair, true, but we all can do more than just accept the cards we’ve been dealt. We can work harder, learn more, dress better, etc. If the hiring company takes you over someone better looking, do you really want to be there anyway? Do what you can to get ahead and don’t worry about things outside of your control.

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