More Than Money
Issue #27

Lifestyles of the Rich and Simple

Table of Contents

“Plane and Simple”

BEFORE I MARRIED a rich guy, I worked my tail off. As a television newscaster, radio talk-show host, and newspaper columnist, I was a voyeur in the world of the rich and famous. I saw their homes, their wardrobes, their jewels. I interviewed them, and I judged them. How could they possibly justify spending what they spent on the things they spent it on? Now I live in that world of so much stuff that screams of wealth: stuff to wear and stuff to drive, stuff to sleep in and under, stuff to hang on your neck and on your walls, stuff to look at, listen to; so much stuff you can't even remember what you own. Funny, living in the Land of the Rich isn't as easy on the conscience as it was going in on a day pass. Now I am the rich woman dashing out the door of one of her several houses, joining her husband in the back of the sedan headed for General Aviation. Oh, you don't know General Aviation? That's where the private planes are. If you're driving (and you're probably not, because NetJets provides a car and driver), you stop at the gate and speak the tail number of your aircraft into the intercom. The gates part dramatically and you're in, driving right up to the Gulfstream. Every time I do it I feel like Cinderella. I spent most of my life doing the bidding of the figurative ugly stepsisters, and now I'm at the ball. My handsome prince is an investment manager with an international clientele and holdings all over the world. He and his partners could have afforded this luxury years ago, but they couldn't bear to "waste" so much money. Finally, they faced the fact that the jaw-dropping cost wasn't even a blip on their financial radar screen and the advantages were priceless. At first, I groaned. More wretched excess! But the lifestyle of the rich and simple is a challenge if you adore the lifestyle of the simply rich, and I cannot deny that I do. That private plane is a little fantasyland with wings. I still jump up and down like a five-year-old when I get out of the long black car and walk up the magic stairway into the cabin of that luscious private plane. I get a tingly feeling like a kid going to the Ice Capades at night. Onboard amusements abound, and if you're trying to get your work done, there's plenty of privacy and connectivity. Here's the fax, here's where you plug in your computer, here's the phone. Hungry? You tell them in advance what you want to eat-ask for anything!-and then your dream meal is served at a real table with linens and crystal and china and silver. But I never forget that someone else's deprivation subsidizes the luxury of the rich, and that's the very high price of my enjoyment. It's why I'm trying to stay on the low end of the ridiculously high end of the consumer culture, while my husband leans hard in the other direction.

There are thousands of reasons I could feel guilty for savoring the decadent pleasures of the rich life. I could protest the waste and elitist privilege by refusing to participate. But what purpose would that serve? The plane would still take off. My husband would still be on it. I'd cheat us both out of the fun of being together, our number one priority. As a journalist, my mission was to report information that would inspire others to help ease the suffering in the world. I'm still in the same game-I've just got more chips. The big money I give away now comes from my husband's job, the same job that gives us access to a private jet. I knew full well when I married that I was riding off with the handsome prince to his kingdom, operative word "his." I could be equally happy in modest circumstances. (Our circumstances are modest, compared to what we could spend.) I choose to enjoy the perks that come with being a rich man's rich wife. I live as simply as I can in a life that's anything but simple. I talked him out of buying an apartment in Paris and a house on Paradise Island. Right now, that's the best I can do in the Simplicity Department.

- anonymous author

(anonymous author) is chair of the board of More Than Money and president of the Harnisch Family Foundation.

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