Those Poor Rich Folk

I am wealthy. When I hear my fellow childless computer science graduate students complaining about being poor, it is difficult for me to understand their situation.  Regardless of how little actual money I make, it seems to be enough to support my needs. It comes with affordable health insurance, and pays for my education, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m living the high life.

It seems to be common, though, for people making much more than me and generally owning much more to feel poor. A well-publicized example is of Todd Henderson, who in 2010 wrote a blog entry about how hard it is to live on $400,000 a year. To America’s credit, Todd was so vilified for his post that I feel a little bad even bringing it up again after all this time. Only a little, though. Todd had the good sense to remove his post, but it’s an indication of just how out of touch he was that even The Wall Street Journal, timeless friend to fat cats everywhere, suggested he might try saving money by toning down his sense of entitlement just a bit.

Why do Todd and people like him think they’re poor? What Todd’s post suggests is that they grow accustomed to an expensive lifestyle. This lifestyle quickly becomes ingrained as the de facto standard when one’s friends and neighbors are also living similar lifestyles. So Todd feels that he is making a huge sacrifice when he, for instance, gives up his gardener.

As I mentioned before, I don’t feel poor, even though I make much less than Todd. Granted, I’m not raising a family, but mainly I think that my ability to feel wealthy comes from the fact that I was raised in a household that discouraged conspicuous consumption and told me to compare myself not to my friends and neighbors but to everyone in the world.

This has actually led me to feel obscenely wealthy at times, simply as a middle class American compared with the rest of the world, a conceit I believe my father and my sister may share. It’s only my mother’s common sense that has prevented the three of us from giving away all our money and living as Munks monks.

I had a couple more paragraphs where I continued to point out why Todd shouldn’t consider himself poor, but I relented. He did take his article down four years ago after all, and plenty of people have said plenty of things about it already. I will post this article, though,  posted in 2012, wherein he suggests that the wealthy people such as Bill Gates, Will Smith, and Stephen King who are concerned about the excessively low tax rates on the very rich should just donate extra money to the government themselves, if they love government so much. I’ll let you decide what you think.


4 thoughts on “Those Poor Rich Folk”

  1. I like this post and it’s timing right before Thanksgiving. An especially appropriate time to be thankful for the good things we have.

  2. My role model is the father of a friend, Jenny Hixon. Visiting them once, I asked him if it was hard living on a teachers’ salary. He said: “Money? I’m rollin’ in the stuff!”


  3. I’m reminded of four philosophers of recent memory who felt much as you do when they sang, “I don’t care so much for money; money can’t buy me love.” I agree.

    Love, Grandma

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