Saturday, October 03, 2009


Yet another article in The New York Times about how utterly horrible it is to be stinking rich in this downturn:

IT turns out the other half -- or at least the tiny slice who live at the top of the wealth pyramid -- are not sleeping any better than the rest of America.

(We'll be the judge of that.)

At a closed-door meeting of advisers to family offices -- which serve families who typically are worth more than $500 million -- I learned that the super-rich are just as concerned about the future as everyone else.

Even though the stock market has rebounded from its March 9 low, the family office advisers said many of their wealthiest clients were bracing for more bad news...

According to a study the Family Office Exchange plans to release this month, the super-rich are most worried about what they do not know. Some 45 percent of the 108 ultrahigh-net-worth families surveyed in August ranked the economy and financial markets as their No. 1 concern. They were most concerned about government intervention in the financial markets and a commercial real estate bust....

[A] risk to super-rich families is government action and increased regulation. They suspect it is coming but do not know how it will affect them. The result is that they are increasingly anxious about the future while still shell-shocked from the past year....

You know what, richies? Maybe you wouldn't have been as freaking shell-shocked from the past year if, a few years ago, all the regulations you fret about so much had actually been enforced. Maybe regulation is your friend, not your enemy. Maybe, when regulators don't regulate, things can actually get so bad that even people like you are affected.

Maybe regulators could have prevented the nightmare -- the living hell -- you're currently experiencing:

The basic issue for them is deciding what they want to do as a family now that they realize they cannot do everything. "You're worth $500 million one day and wake up the next and it's $350 million and you've pledged $100 million to the Met," said Rob Elliott, senior managing director at Bessemer.

Oh, the humanity!

And give me a break -- if there are new regulations, you have people to figure out exactly how to take advantage of them/manipulate them/evade them. (The very folks who are the subject of this article.) And come on -- you richies are smart enough to know that the Beckista rubes are wong -- the Obama administration, however populist it sounds at times, really, really worries about your welfare. If it didn't, it would have called down the nation's wrath on you full bore months ago. (Apparently it will never do so at all.)

Meanwhile, if you have tears, prepare to shed them now:

NO MORE EASY MONEY One reason for the subprime mortgage collapse was that banks gave mortgages to homebuyers without verifying their ability to repay. The super-rich had their own version of this: the signature loan.

In this case, a person's net worth would be verified but not, say, the value of the building she was buying. The feeling was if someone was worth $1 billion, she would have no problem paying back a loan for a $100 million office tower.

... One of the other uses of signature loans had been to pay for a lifestyle. Until a few years ago, many banks advised wealthy families to have 100 percent of their wealth invested to take advantage of the high returns across asset classes. If they needed cash, they could borrow at a low rate. It was easy, until it was not.

"They've realized they can't have everything," Ms. McCarthy said. "Now they're asking, Is it worth it? That's a question everyone should be asking."

Yeah, that's what I'm asking: Is it worth it? Is it worth it to use slippery financial practices to be staggeringly stinking rich when I could swear off them and just be startlingly stinking rich?

I'm so glad my betters have taught me this lesson -- in this downturn, it's really applicable to my lifestyle.

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