Lifestyles of the rich and oblivious

Apparently smaller bonuses this year are causing all kinds of angst for the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street.

Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

Not to mention the hassle of having to search all over to buy discounted salmon at $5.99 a pound or not going on ski vacations to Aspen or to the Mardi Gras or having to make do with just a one month vacation instead of the usual four. And that’s just a sample of the ‘hardships’ they complain about.

Mitt Romney is a perfect example of someone who has lived his entire life within this kind of wealthy class and has no idea of what life is like for ordinary people. This is why he is so tone-deaf about remarks about his wealth and makes oblivious comments such as that he too has feared getting a pink slip or that he is currently unemployed. This is the kind of thigh-slapping humor that people in his class indulge in amongst themselves, because they are secure in their vast wealth.

In a weird way, I understand what these people are saying. It is never easy to lower one’s lifestyle, whatever the starting point may be. What I don’t understand is how they cannot realize how self-indulgent and even infuriating such comments sound to the vast majority of people who are unemployed or barely employed or even to the middle class. Why don’t they restrict their whining only to their close circle of people in the same upper income bracket and not go blabbing to the press? Do they really want the tumbrils to come after them?


  1. says

    In a weird way, I understand what these people are saying. It is never easy to lower one’s lifestyle, whatever the starting point may be.

    I kind of feel the same way. I’m not at all what one would call wealthy, but I do make six figures (only just), and I can tell you I stress out about money all the time. I can’t really bring myself to start hating on the ultra-rich until we’re talking like $500-600k/yr or more. In some expensive cities, the $350k/yr this guy makes is just not that rich, especially if he has a lot of expenses.

    But yeah, I agree it sounds horribly tone-deaf. In any case, why aren’t we taxing the fuck out of people making seven figures or more? I’m reasonably sympathetic to those who want to go easy on people making in the range this guy is making, but there comes a point….

  2. P Smith says

    The wealthy who “lose their job” are very much like the poor who win the lottery: they have absolutely no clue or experience in handling the situation or the financial realities of it. The poor are (usually) incapable of managing large sums of money, and the wealthy are incapable of living without it.


  3. unbound says

    Nit-picky item, but $350k isn’t actually 1%…it takes a bit over $500k to hit 1%. I’ve seen this problem in a few places.

    I do agree with James Sweet a bit. $350k is a good living, but there is huge difference between making $350k in LA or NY vs making $350k in a mid-sized town in the midwest. My sister only makes about $20k more / year than I do…but her living in the midwest, and me living in the greater DC area, the effective difference is substantially more than that $20k represents.

    But, I still don’t have a lot of sympathy for the guy.

  4. EmbraceYourInnerCrone says

    I guess I’m a heartless person, but I can not sympathize with him, at ALL. I have a brother who hopes every day not to be laid off from his job, which he hates, because he would not be able to afford the meds for his wife who has lupus.

    I have a friend who just got a job last year after several years of unemployment. She had to borrow money from family to be able to keep her little house while she looked for work. She is finally almost all paid back, and her dog has to have a growth removed to be able to keep her mobility. Which may sound like a waste of money but not for someone for whom her dog is her family. She has no land line, a pay-as-you-go cell, no cable tv and no internet. She had it turned off so she can finish paying her brother back.

    So maybe this guy has to explain to his kids that they have to make some cutbacks because of the economy, I don’t think it hurts kids to be told the truth. You can’t always get what you want.

  5. Mark says

    No sympathy at all, and forget you guys saying you can sympathize.

    There is no city on earth where you can’t live comfortably on $100,000 income. The most expensive city on earth, from a recent survey from the Economist, is Zurich (this varies from year to year; right now the Swiss franc is doing well enough to push it to the top). The median household income in Switzerland is around 100,000 francs, which is very close to $110,000. Zurich is more expensive than the rest of Switzerland, but I can’t find income data for just Zurich. However, I can confidently guess that this would be a comfortable level to live.

    So, perspective: to live comfortably, anywhere on Earth, a total family income above $100,000 is more than enough.

    Now let’s say you’re living on that, doing normal, middle-class things. For whatever reason, you’re the only one in your family who’s working. And at the end of a year, someone hands you $250,000. How the hell are you going to use all that money!? If you’re living within your income, and you suddenly have $250,000 extra, how can you possibly still not have enough money?

    Here’s the things that much money can do:

    – Pay off ALL student loans ever accrued by a law/medical/other postgraduate student, including those leftover from undergraduate, immediately.
    – Buy a house. A brand new suburban house. No loans. You just now own a house.
    – Buy a confocal microscope, DNA sequencer, flow cytometer, or mass spectrometer (with money left over to pay a post-doc to run it).
    – Buy five luxury cars.
    – Buy 50 of the car I drive now (and it isn’t a clunker).
    – Hire a personal team of chefs to cook your family any meal you want at any time.
    – Hire Mano Singham to write all the pro-Jesus articles you want (okay, maybe kidding on that one).

    Point is, that’s a damn lot of money, and it’s money this guy gets every single year. And for him, it isn’t enough? He doesn’t have the nuts to tell his kids he has to, *gasp!*, send them to the same school that every other kid goes to? What, are his kids too good to let them mix with the rest of us plebs? Take a bloody hike!

  6. Ms. Anthrope says

    People who regard spending one month versus four months in a CT summer rental as a major privation should start talking to those who have to choose between food and heating oil to get their perspective properly adjusted.

  7. Tim says

    Thank you, sir. Well said. I’m so fed up with hearing the “Well, if you lived on the East/West Coast, you’d really understand that you need a lot more money” nonsense argument.

    Again, well said. (Especially about hiring Mano. :-D)

  8. Drolfe says

    For an individual or a family? 350k for a single earner is probably “part of the 1%” (in 2010). (And a family with two 350K earners almost certainly is.)

    Anyhow, I have a hard time believing that a guy that spends $32,000 on his fifth-grader’s tuition is struggling to survive (seeing as a third of American households make that much.) In fact, that looks like a pretty easy way to keep the BMW: put that kid in public school and become a stake-holder with the rest of us.


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