Michael on October 24th, 2007
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Jonathan Clements wrote a column two days ago that remains one of the most popular at WSJ.com. The column, “You’re Not Super Rich? You Lucked Out,” is Mr. Clement’s reflection on his children’s reaction to seeing the material display of wealth by others. Like most children, they are impressed at the big house and the fancy car. But he is not. In fact, Mr. Clements is outright concerned about how his children interpret OPS (other people’s stuff).

His two main points are right on. Readers of this blog and Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck will recognize one of them right away. Just because someone is flaunting expensive things does not mean they have any real wealth. In the 2000s, odds are that the fancy new car has a loan on it that exceeds its resale value and there is very little (if any) equity in the McMansion.

Truth is, unless you open the bank and billing statements of those who you envy, you have no idea as to their wealth. (Tips on identity theft are coming soon.) My experience has shown that material displays of wealth are among the worst indicators of a household’s true net worth.

Mr. Clement’s other main point is that wealth alone should never cause one to overly respect, let alone be in awe of, another. His example: Paris Hilton. I’m in no position to disagree. In my previous life as an advisor to high net worth individuals, I can tell you that they are no different that normal people. Most are okay, some are a ton of fun, and a few you’d be happy if you never saw again.

You may already be aware that The Wall Street Journal’s readership is among the most affluent of any publication. It’s very interesting that this article should prove so popular among the affluent crowd.

The lesson?

The desire and the difficulty of keeping up with the Jones’ doesn’t stop as you move up financially. Seems like many rich people understand that.

Do you?

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