I know I’ve discussed these kinds of ‘news’ stories before, but I can’t help commenting on this Bloomberg article about the ‘suffering’ of the well-to-do. Admittedly, it’s a target-rich environment, so there’s much fun and indignation to be had. But this article, unlike many others, raises a key point: the irresponsibility of the well-to-do. We’re always allowed to discuss the moral failings of the poor, but not the wealthy. Well, as longtime readers will know, around these parts, we do not believe that personal responsibility should be the sole purview of poor, single, minority mothers.
Anyway, to the Bloomberg article (boldface mine):
“I’m not Zen at all, and when I’m freaking out about the situation, where I’m stuck like a rat in a trap on a highway with no way to get out, it’s very hard,” Schiff, director of marketing for broker-dealer Euro Pacific Capital Inc., said in an interview.
Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.
“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.”
The smaller bonus checks that hit accounts across the financial-services industry this month are making it difficult to maintain the lifestyles that Wall Street workers expect, according to interviews with bankers and their accountants, therapists, advisers and headhunters.
Like I said, I’ve dealt with the issue of having lots of good stuff, but not quite-enough good stuff (and it costs money too!). But this is the important part:
Executive-search veterans who work with hedge funds and banks make about $500,000 in good years, said Arbeeny, managing principal at New York-based CMF Partners LLC, declining to discuss specifics about his own income. He said he no longer goes on annual ski trips to Whistler (WB), Tahoe or Aspen.
He reads other supermarket circulars to find good prices for his favorite cereal, Wheat Chex.
“Wow, did I waste a lot of money,” Arbeeny said…
Richard Scheiner, 58, a real-estate investor and hedge-fund manager, said most people on Wall Street don’t save.
“When their means are cut, they’re stuck,” said Scheiner, whose New York-based hedge fund, Lane Gate Partners LLC, was down about 15 percent last year. “Not so much an issue for me and my wife because we’ve always saved.”
Hans Kullberg, 27, a trader at Wyckoff, New Jersey-based hedge fund Falcon Management Corp. who said he earns about $150,000 a year, is adjusting his sights, too.
After graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, he spent a $10,000 signing bonus from Citigroup Inc. (C) on a six-week trip to South America. He worked on an emerging-markets team at the bank that traded and marketed synthetic collateralized debt obligations.
His tastes for travel got “a little bit more lavish,” he said. Kullberg, a triathlete, went to a bachelor party in Las Vegas in January after renting a four-bedroom ski cabin at Bear Mountain in California as a Christmas gift to his parents. He went to Ibiza for another bachelor party in August, spending $3,000 on a three-day trip, including a 15-minute ride from the airport that cost $100. In May he spent 10 days in India…
He thinks more about the long term, he said, and plans to buy a foreclosed two-bedroom house in Charlotte, North Carolina, for $50,000 next month.
If you want to live care free–and you’re aware there will be ups and downs and are willing to roll with them–that’s fine. But when $350,000 per year is a bad year, it’s hard to get any sympathy from me, because I immediately ask, “What did you do with the extra money from the good years?” I was in graduate school for less than six years, and had a relatively large stipend–it was a good deal. But when your late twenties roll around, living like that gets old. Then I did some post-doc work, and most of money disappeared into basic living and rent. For a crappy apartment near the LIRR (guess what? It really does run 24-7). Postdoc positions by definition are not long-term jobs, although they do have the advantage of being for a set term (provided you don’t engage in criminal activity or something else that can get you terminated). That profoundly affects how you live.
You are always aware of how many months’ rent is in your bank account. You always save for a rainy day, since you know that when the grant is up, the rain will come. You don’t spend profligately. If you can have nice things, they are very limited in scope. And even when you live like this, there isn’t much of a cushion. So when someone earns a lot of money, and doesn’t save, I have no sympathy for them. Especially when they just have to ‘downsize’ to a middle class lifestyle.