Spent some time feeling inferior
Standing in front of my mirror
Every Picture Tells as Story
For the past two months I’ve been employed as a consultant at a financial institution doing what I’ve always done—slaving over a hot Mac designing marketing material and print collateral for new business development. It’s certainly not the most creative way to spend the day (that would be Mapstew), but it’s decent enough and it allows me to live a fairly comfortable existence—especially for someone with my amount of university-level education (which is to say, none).
The stuff I produce is intended for institutional investors. Pension funds. Endowments and foundations. Union funds. City and municipal funds. SOMEONE has to manage all that money that’s sitting around!
My current gig, however, is something new for me. The material I design is for the private banking sector. Not faceless institutions, but people with an astonishing amount of personal wealth. These people are called High Net Worth individuals. Old family money. Executives with 7+ figure bonuses every year. But it doesn’t end there. There’s a category above that. They’re called (and I’m not kidding about this) Ultra High Net Worth individuals. This job has given me a peek into a rarefied world that you and I can only dream of. And it hasn’t been good for my sense of accomplishment or self.
Here’s a section of a proposal that address the healthcare services available:
The United States offers arguably the best healthcare in the world. Paradoxically, many times that does not result in finding and receiving the best care, even for people with the means to pay for the latest treatments and with philanthropic relationships to top hospitals.
The audience for this material is people who have had entire hospital wings named after them. But this is the part of the proposal that laid me flat:
[You will receive] 24-hour access to your own advisory team, objective data on the best physicians and treatment options, expedited access to care, the collection and secure storage of comprehensive medical records for every family member.
My mom didn’t have a very comfortable end and the thing that kept gnawing at my guts throughout her last year was, “If I had more money, I could make things better for her.”
Expedited access to care. That means they never see a waiting room. They step over people like my mother. They don’t share an antiseptic-smelling room with someone who is dying. What if my wife or daughters get sick? Where’s my advisory team for them?
In the back of these brochures are biographies of the investment advisers. I get lost in reading them. Unbelievable accomplishments. Ivy league pedigrees and study abroad. Important associations and a series of capital letters and Roman numerals after their names. The bios for the institutional investors are purely factual. Do you have your Series 7? But in the world of private wealth management, they’re trying to make a personal, one-on-one connection. The bios include the spouse’s name, how many children, hobbies (Sailing. International travel. Fencing.) and important philanthropic work.
I’m not filled with self pity and I’m not fishing for compliments. I don’t think these people are any better than I am. And I certainly don’t think that all Ultra High Net Worth individuals are inherently happy. But I do sit awe of the incredible lives they’ve built. I’ve never had the intellectual capital or, more fatally, the ambition to live that large. How did they do it? I’m sure many of them had advantages that I didn’t, but that’s no excuse. I work pretty hard but the truth is that I never really tried my best. I liked having a lot of time off. I was always just coasting.
I’ve never felt more ordinary and ill equipped to handle the crisis that will inevitably come my way.
For more information, please contact your Family Wealth Director.
it is astounding, isn’t it? i’ll just leave it at that, sugar. xoxoxox
Still and all – at risk of sounding banal – health is more important than wealth.
If you had that big ol’ life, you’d be jetting about, living large and most likely not inclined to waste away the hours introducing your children to art. You’re not super ultra rich but your daughter walks around the Met as if she owns the joint. Richness can be counted in many ways.Which concludes my pep talk for the day.
Savannah: You don’t know the half of it. You should see what doors open for the wealthy. Doors I didn’t even know existed.Pat: Thankfully, I’ve never lost sight of that. Health REALLY DOES count for everything! I hate the gym but what choice do I have?Mama: Thanks. I get it. I just wish I had applied myself a little more than I did. But, boy, I had some fun.
I bet they worry about money too, albeit in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.
They say a million dollars a year doesn’t go as far as it used to in New York City these days.I like to believe that the ultra wealthy cast of characters in this world have a firm grasp of the significance of their philanthropic decisions. And I trust that they are passing this responsibility to the next generation too.
PG: You should see the vast amounts of cash at their disposal. I don’t see how it’s possible that they worry. About other things, yes, but money?Point: Part of the functionality of the relationship (in addition to healthcare) is, as you mention, philanthropic services. So it’s good to see that some of them give back. Some of them even build hospital wings!
It’s heartening to know that the “ultra wet” give back, but it’s disconcerting to know that this entitles them to jump the line.Health resources should be allocated to those with the best chances at survival and – in my opinion – are wasted when used to promote “existence” b/c it’s the amount of time but what is done with it that matters.Obscene wealth would be such a burden. I don’t believe in Jesus as an actual person, but the quote that’s attributed to him about how it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of heaven is probably accurate (not that I believe in heaven exactly either).The more life gives you; the more it expects of you. Ignoring it is costly.So if you were super rich, the expectation would be for you to give back and not with the expectation of getting anything in return to or purposes of manipulation or reputation.And there is also the annoying bit about family and friends who will become economic drains (not that you shouldn’t help people you love but they will quickly accustom themselves to your standard of living).
My best friend’s husband died of pancreatic cancer at 45, leaving her and four children. He was a farmer and she is a part time accountant. He was diagnosed on Oct. 4th and died exactly 3 months later, and the last 6 weeks were really bad.Steve Jobs had the exact same kind of cancer maybe 10 years ago, and of course, is still alive and kicking.The reason pancreatic cancer is so deadly is you don’t have any symptoms until it is to late, but I’m sure Steve Job’s was spotted in a routine MRI that rich people have yearly. I’m glad he is well, but I wish Allen had the same outcome.
I’d be very surprised if, underneath all the wealth and health, all was as good with their family life. I could be wrong. I suppose someone’s got to have it all.
‘Creative’? Moi? If only ya knew how feckin’ ‘creative’ I had to be at tonights gig! And then, the DJ who was following us blew his amp after 2 tunes! And I had to leave him mine! And he’s a prick! I swear, if it doesn’t come back in perfect nick tomorrow I’ll be charged with DJcide!Anyhoo, you have a great life my friend, from where I’m lookin’ anyway. Money? Wealth? You got the good stuff, a good missus, and wonderful kids. And you get to go to NYC every day! Have a great weekend pal! :¬)
Annie: That’s the truth. Thinking that great wealth is nothing but a party and doesn’t come with its own set of headaches is a rookie mistake. Still…I wonder what it would be like.Cat: There’s no level playing field, and that’s the heartbreaking truth.Jo: I choose to believe that they’re happy and enjoying their wealth. The thought that rich people are a miserable bunch (which is what a lot of people choose to think) is nothing but sour grapes. Map: Thanks, I will. Good health to you, your family and your poor amp, which I’m sure is just fine.
I’m glad I don’t have it all. I simply don’t have the space.
Really, it’s all simply an accident of birth. Look at the other end of the spectrum: starving folk in India or Africa.Doors you don’t know even existed. Even getting a peek can be kind of thrilling, eh?It doesn’t take much – I remember that, during the times I was a relatively frequent flyer for work, getting upgraded to “silver” and all the extra perq’s that went along with that: upgrades to first class, early boarding, access to lounges. One can easily – and quickly – become accustomed to the extra “special” treatment. Of course, it makes it that much tougher to slide back down to just being another one of the “cattle”.I hear you on the coasting bit. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve said to myself, “Where would I be if I’d applied myself?”
kykn: It really does pay to live a Bedouin existence and keep your possessions to an absolute minimum.Rob: I think that’s the rub of this post; that I only wish I had tried a little harder. Who knows where I’d be?
Lucky sperm for the most part. But I know a few of those high net worth types and, for the most part, they’re unassuming people who worked hard for what they have and are generous with those who have less.
Officially, I am entitled to a State pension. When I applied, one of the questions was “how much does your spouse earn?”Apparently, he earns too much for me to get the pension.If I told you how “much” you might choke while laughing.We will not be retiring to The Hamptons…
it’s okay. at least you had fun. I didn’t do the work AND had no fun not doing it too. amazing. you can’t possibly suck as much as I do.
HIF: I choose to believe that the majority of these people have healthy, happy lives and are altruistic with their fortunes.MIT: If you worked for it, shouldn’t you be entitled to it? Just wait until they start hacking away at Social Security.Anon: Actually, that’s true. I don’t have much to show for it, but I did have a nice time.
I’ve felt that way on a much smaller scale. Recently we had a couple visit us, a university professor and a psychiatrist. She earns at least 300,000 as a physician and his earnings are normal, but he has a job that he loves. I, on the other hand, went neither route. Not for the job I would love nor for the money. I don’t know what the hell I did, really.
That’s depressing. I don’t think I’d find the specialized healthcare quite so irritating if there wasn’t a sizeable portion of this country that believed in depriving 45 million of their fellow citizens of health insurance.