Posted by Leonard Steinberg on December 22nd, 2011

The word RICH has to be one of the most used words of 2011….it also happens to be a four letter word. Just like the word LUXURY, it also has to be the most mis-used word, although in this lie many similarities.

What is rich?  What is luxury?  Both are very much words that have great meaning when evaluated relatively. To most earning $ 250,000.00 per year, someone earning $ 2 million per year is rich, while they consider themselves well off at best. Many million dollar earning bankers view themselves as poor next to movie stars and basketball players. To most buying an Hermes Kelly bag is luxury, while for someone else a Coach bag has the same value. Luxury can be a material object, service, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance, or refinement of living rather than a necessity. Luxury is free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being. It can also be a means of ministering to such indulgence or enjoyment. Luxury can be a pleasure out of the ordinary allowed to oneself. It can also be a foolish or worthless form of self-indulgence: the luxury of self-pity. Its all very, very relative though.

Rich is defined as having wealth or great possessions….. abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds: the big question is who defines what abundant is. Right now the world seems entirely focused on income as the definition of wealth. A co-op Board frowns on high income alone and does not consider that to be rich without substantial assets too. Old Money is often assets-rich and income-poor……so is someone with OLD MONEY rich if they cannot afford to replace the tattered curtains in their living room?   Then again, someone rich in Montana, may be quite middle class in Manhattan, a best.

I find that the bigger struggle is actually within the so-called ONE PERCENT: I constantly hear the outrage of people who thought buying a one MILLION dollar apartment in New York would deliver the home of their dreams….the dissilussionment  at the reality is Austin Power-style in its shock. TO buy a $ 3million apartment in New York these days, you probably need an income of at least $ 1million per year: thats not the 1% at all….. A $10 million apartment buyer would need to earn lots more than that……more like the 0,001%. I hear many who earn around $ 500k a year furious at those earning $ 5 million per year who pay less taxes than they do benefitting by all kinds of legal breaks that they simply do not have access to.

So while the class war that exists between the 99% and the 1% is potent, even more extreme is the class warfare within the 1%. Its all relative at the end of the day. All of it. I feel certain that the poor in Africa would consider the poor in the USA well off. Maybe RICH and LUXURY are the most mis-used words of 2011?