Good question! Despite what Dimples said, above, it's not about money. Being an elder costs you money, in fact, because you're on display at all times and you have to "take the lead" in expending your energy and resources. There is some psychological "pay" in that you hold a position of authority and many look up to you because of it. As one brother said, if you're going to do this, you might as well be an elder; at least that way, you get something tangible out of it while you're alive.
I used to think that, too, but lately I haven't been getting anything out of it except a guilty conscience for having to verbally support what I now perceive to be a lot of crap. I've been hanging in because of some misguided belief that I can help others by being a buffer between the publishers and the hardline elders who rule most congregations. However, I am beginning to see the futility in that.
The answer to your question, how did you not see it?, is that I DID see it, but I explained it away. You do that, you know, if you are immersed in something and can't see the forest for the trees. Eventually for most elders, I believe, the explanations stop holding water but by then there are family and business/financial obligations that make it difficult or impossible to slip away. It's at that point, to deal with the rest of your question, that some elders begin to "fake it."
That's where I am now but I don't like doing it, so I plan to stop pretty soon.
Meanwhile, I hope you won't judge me harshly. I did some things I'm ashamed of, in retrospect, but I suppose we all have. I did the best I could and I always tried to be more of a comfort than a nuisance.