Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Joys of Averageness

Whoever first said "nothing ventured, nothing gained" was clearly unaware of the concept of inherited wealth. Most of us get a bit jealous when we read of people born into money, since of course life would be a lot easier starting out from a top rung. And the jealousy turns to pure contempt when we see the inheritors are lowlife sacks of crap who waste their opportunities and act like entitled monsters destroying everything in their slovenly paths (see, the Hiltons, the Kennedys). But this has more to do with how such people go about in the world rather than simply the fact that they were born into wealth. There are just as many examples of people born to rich pedigrees who have taken advantage of those opportunities to go much further--Winston Churchill, J.P. Morgan, Batman--and give us the idea of someone standing on the shoulders of a giant to reach just a bit further.

As for the jealousy though--is it really warranted? Sure, the wealthy have a much better life than the poor--not having to worry about how to pay for your kids' health care or having to stretch your food budget to incorporate Spam is definitely better--but beyond a certain comfort level it's hardly clear that the rich are happier than the average. Having money will make one used to a standard of living that no longer feels special, and yet forced to worry a lot more about maintaining that standard of living which can be more precarious for the wealthy. While it seems hard to imagine someone getting upset that they have to trade in their Bentley for a used Honda, try to imagine that for most of us that's like trading in a mattress for some bags of rolled up newspapers. I'm not suggested we regular folk cry for the wealthy--but this may explain why they're not necessarily as happy as we think they ought to be.

So what is this happy medium between anxiety-producing wealth and anxiety-producing poverty? About $75 K.


  1. Nice to know I'm in the happy medium. Pretty sure that I'd be happier higher up the scale.

  2. TC--indeed! As C. Montgomery Burns said on the Simpsons, "I'd trade it all...for a little more."