Wealth's comforts: The wealthy's discomforts
Delving into the apparent social anxiety of being rich and the personal angst connected to U.S. income and wealth inequality, “Rich People's Secrets” was the Sept. 10 cover story of The New York Times' Sunday Review section.
“Over lunch in a downtown restaurant, Beatrice, a New Yorker in her late 30s, told me about two decisions she and her husband were considering,” wrote Rachel Sherman, a New School associate professor of sociology and author of “Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence.”
“They were thinking about where to buy a second home and whether their young children should go to a private school,” Sherman explained. “Then she made a confession: She took the price tags off her clothes so that her nanny would not see them. ‘I take the label off our six-dollar bread,' she said.”
A $6 loaf of bread, it seems, isn't enough to get overly repentant about, compared to a Rolls-Royce Phantom's $497,525 base price (plus add-ons to cover myriad factory customization options) or the $38.5 million price of the 12,900-square-foot penthouse at One Wall Street or, for on-wrist prestige, the $485,350 Rolex GMT Master II with white gold and diamonds (the same watch “preowned with papers” is $410,000).
For relaxation, consider the Southampton summer place on the market for $150 million (562 million Saudi riyals), featuring a 20,000-square-foot main residence, 16 bedrooms, 21 full baths and nine partial baths. It has 14 oceanfront acres, a bayfront lot, private beach walkways and, if the surf isn't picture-perfect, indoor and outdoor pools, two greens, a tennis court and pool, golf and tennis houses.
Still, these are all minor-league expenses compared to outlays in the world of super-yachts. The world's most expensive yacht, the 100-foot History Supreme, was purchased for $4.5 billion by an anonymous Malaysian businessman. The price was largely due to the 220,000 pounds of gold and platinum used, with a thin layer of solid gold enhancing the entire boat, from its full base to its anchors, staircases, dining area, decks and rails. The master suite features a bedroom wall made from meteorite rock, a statue made from Tyrannosaurus Rex bones, and a 24-karat-gold panoramic wall aquarium. Also onboard is an iPhone wrapped in 500 diamonds and a liquor bottle featuring a rare diamond valued at $45 million.
Worth $3 billion less than the History Supreme, the Eclipse is the world's second most expensive yacht, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Measuring 536 feet, it features a 70-member crew, 24 guest cabins, two swimming pools, a disco hall, two helicopter pads, three launch boats, a submarine, bulletproof windows, armor plating, an anti-paparazzi laser shield, intruder detection systems and a first-rate missile defense system.
President Herbert Hoover's Treasury secretary, Ogden L. Mills, once said, “On $50,000 a year, you can't even keep clean.” An American businessman, politician, lawyer and horse breeder, Mills owned Wheatley Stable, which owned and bred Seabiscuit as well as Bold Runner, whose offspring included Secretariat.
Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (email@example.com).