“If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It”

It was a glossy, oversized magazine, placed at precisely the right casual angle on the coffee table in front of the leather couch. The cover photo showed a slender model draped in diamonds that probably weighed more than she did.

I don’t remember the magazine’s title, but the subtitle was “For the Private Jet Lifestyle.” Presumably, you get a free subscription when you buy your private jet. Buy two jets, and maybe you get a two-year subscription.

As I skimmed through it, I didn’t find any actual articles. This wasn’t really a magazine at all, but an expensively produced catalog for very expensive stuff. High-end resorts and spas. Jewelry with lots of zeroes on the price tags. Limited edition cars with eye-popping sticker prices. Exotic and luxurious vacation packages. One of them was a month-long trip to several exclusive destinations around the world. Travel, of course, was by private jet. The cost was one million dollars.

There was a page of designer shoes in brands familiar to anyone who saw The Devil Wears Prada. Apparently at least a few of the mega-rich must be willing to spend $1200 for a pair of bright acrylic shoes with platform heels shaped like the letter Z. Or $995 for a pair of tennis shoes with five-inch heels, intended either for those “casual dressy” occasions or for giving short women an advantage on the basketball court.

Of course, there were several pages of designer clothes. My favorite (only $12,500) was a gown with a skirt made out of pieces of fabric gathered into little bunches the way you might make paper flowers. The model, despite being a size 0, managed to look as if she had spent two days in someone’s garage being stuffed with paper napkins as a float for the Homecoming parade.

And watches. Lots of watches, ranging from the ordinary (only $12,000 to $15,000) to the platinum ($75,000 to $85,000). I’m not sure exactly why, if you were mega-rich, you would need so many watches. After all, if you own the jet, it’s not going to take off without you. You wouldn’t need to worry about getting to the airport on time. Besides, the rich probably check the time like anyone else—by looking at their cell phones.

Of course, buying a watch that costs more than many people earn in a year doesn’t have much to do with telling time. The watches, like everything else in this catalog of conspicuous consumption, were intended to set the wealthy apart from the common herd. “If you don’t own these things, you aren’t really rich.” “Buy it because you can.” “Buy it because ordinary people can’t.” It struck me as an upscale version of a schoolyard taunt: “I can afford this, and you can’t—so there!”

I don’t know whether the majority of wealthy people actually spend money this ostentatiously. My suspicion is that most of the ones who do are spending money that someone else earned.

But I do know a couple of people who own private jets. At least, their companies do. Yes, they use the planes for vacation trips and family get-togethers. Still, their “private jet lifestyle” seems to consist mainly of traveling to business meetings across the country. They wouldn’t have time to spend a month on a million-dollar private jet vacation. They probably wouldn't even have time to browse through this catalog. They’re too busy showing up for work every day.

I wonder what kind of watch Warren Buffet wears?

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Categories: Conscious Finance | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on ““If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It”

  1. Frank

    Warren Buffet probably looks at his cell phone.

  2. Frank

    WB drives a 15 year old Car,does not wear a Suit more than 500 dollars,no wrist watch more than 300 dollars. (From Google.)

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