Money Changes Everything

I’m stealing the title for my post from this article in the NY Times, because it captures what I’ve been thinking about and where I want to explore. I recommend that you read the article, if you get the chance — it’s brief but intriguing — as a precursor to discussion.

The topic is money and our social relationships within the Church.

As an undergrad at BYU, I did not run with a wealthy crowd. I tried to pay my own way through school with summer jobs and financial aid. I had a car, but not a lot of cash to throw around. For the most part, I was far from unique — even the rich kids I knew were on budgets, even if they were externally determined. Still, it was strange sometimes to go to the Creamery of any of the various Provo attractions and see those who would toss $20s at the cashier while others would just get water.

10 years later, I consider myself far from rich. I don’t have a lot of debt, outside my mortgage, and my wife works too. I think I probably make more now than my parents ever did, and the thought freaks me out. Have I acheived anything? Probably not, but for some reason it strikes me as some kind of milestone. But here’s what has happened: somewhere along the line, social class has snuck in.

I’m more self-conscious about money, even though I have more of it than I used to. Two weeks ago on vacation in California, the rental car agency screwed up and offered us a convertible instead of the compact car we reserved. We almost didn’t take it, not just because it was a horrible gigantic Chrysler, but because of the thought — what will people think if we pull up in a convertible? The pressure to fit in has grown up and reversed itself: instead of the priciest jeans, now we want to preserve the image of our humble origins.

We talked with some long-time friends the other day, and they told us about how things were tight and how I made the right choice in becoming a lawyer and how they didn’t know how they were going to make things work. They have kids, responsibilities and are some of the best people we know in the world. Compared to them, I’m rich. Then the thought occurs to me, how much money I have, and how I could give them my money. Pride, my stinginess and this social barrier of wealth ensures that will never happen. And the whole time I’m thinking: this is sin, isn’t it?

Comments

  1. Well said.

  2. It would seem like a simple thing for one person to hand his/her money to another person. But from what I’ve observed, it is a very complicated matter. Complicated even if the exchange happens.

    I think the Church bureaucracy has the potential to help out in this exchange … to take the personalities of the giver and the receiver out of the equation to some extent. Even then though, a lot depends on the personalities involved.

  3. Very good post. I remember one time talking to my brother and saying that I couldn’t see myself ever living in a house as large or as nice as our parents house. He replied with “really- I hope by the time I’m their age I have a place much bigger and nicer.”
    It struck me that I was being prideful about my humility within my internal thoughts- but wondered how I could avoid either doing that or being prideful about possessions. It just seems like one or the other is inevitable.

    As for giving your friends some money- could you do it anonymously?

  4. Juliet Schor writes a lot about peer reference groups and the drive to spend more. Also about economics, social class, things like taste. She quotes a study in one of her books that demonstrated that people could predict a person’s music collection on the basis of income. Certainly issues of money and power permeate our interactions unless we are quite careful.

    I grew up on church welfare in a single-parent family blessed by Mormon polynatalism. People in the ward gave us cars, food, paternal advice, money. We ate disgusting food (we even went through a phase where we ate goat meat donated by some farming acquaintances). We wore 3d and 4th generation hand-me-downs until they dissolved (I still remember a pair of oquirrh corduroys and a frayed blue Air Force t-shirt acquired as a freebie from an air show).
    I was the poor scholarship student at a statusy college and started medical school mooching off a “Master” at one of the dorms, sleeping on a ten-year-old futon with one pair of shoes, two pair of jeans, and three shirts.

    After residency, we spent a couple years as yuppies, living in the city in an overpriced but beautiful condominium, buying hard-cover books instead of checking them out of the library, finally buying a new car, eating at restaurants once in a while. We also tried to be generous and subsidize other people’s needs but never quite as aggressively as we wanted to or should have, and because of mortgage and school loans and the expensive city we have not yet quite felt that we were as wealthy as our tax statements would suggest.

    Now we’ve decided we’re going back to school, and the details are pretty complicated, but the upshot is that in our mid-30s we’re now going to be fairly poor again, this time with kids. Suddenly, I’m nervous about people drinking on my tab or buying exotic when I’m buying a cheese sandwich and then splitting the bill. I also miss the idea of buying things for people anonymously. I have become again aware of the desperate anxiety of keeping a strict budget, of knowing the price of things, and my sympathy for those who struggle financially has increased significantly. I feel like I’m in the process of a high colonic catharsis of some of the habits of wealth that I have accumulated. For all the frustration and self-defeating spreadsheets, I’m feeling increasingly grateful for this opportunity.

    I’m eager to focus more of my social energy on simpler things, to go camping or biking or walking with friends instead of searching for expensive restaurants, to talk more about ideas than about travel plans, to phrase more of my interactions in non-economic terms.

    I also think it would be reasonable to talk about some ground rules, to provide people a way to speak about these potentially contentious issues in ways that don’t breed pettiness, alienation, or self-doubt.

    What do people think those ground rules ought to be? Should we start by being more open with those we care about? What our salary is, what we feel we can afford, how we feel about money? Or is that too ambitious? Should we have set ways to opt out of a split check (I remember showing up for a bachelor party and being told that my share of the meal was $100 when I had a couple bites and didn’t drink any alcohol–i got loudly pissed, which wasn’t very gracious either).

    I think part of the solution is in seeking interactions that are less dependent on money/largesse, though that is admittedly rather vague.

  5. The Times Article is silly-just more naive musings that assume that progress correlates linearly with time. In this case, it’s takes the form of temporal provincialism wherein each succeeding generation likes to think that they’ve hit upon (or that they’ve been required to consider) the moral sensibilities overlooked by the previous ages. It’s always been in poor taste to flaunt wealth, or even to talk about it in polite company. But here we are in the twenty-first century and (if you’re fool enough to believe what they print in The New York Times) we can pat ourselves on the back for discovering the need to handle wealth as a delicate topic.

    But on to the topic of your post: I read where this one group of rich people built a big stand where they met weekly to thank God for blessing them more than others. I think that you and I both agree that this is a terrible idea.

    But the sword cuts both ways. I know a man who owned a Rolls Royce back in the 60s. It was vandalized mercilessly. He ended up getting rid of it, because he found dealing with the vandalism to be just plain exhausting. The original impetus for income tax is that only the richest 3% would have to pay. Every time there is a tax cut, pro-government-spending types argue against lightening the tax burden of the rich. Our society is much more steeped in anti-rich animosity than it is with snobbery, if for no other reason than that the rich are (by mathematical necessity) a minority.

  6. anon for this says:

    I grew up very poor, didn’t deal with it well, and am fortunate to now be fairly well off – not rich, but comfortable. Since I live in a neighborhood and ward full of people just like me, who live in big houses, drive nice cars, wear the same kinds of clothes, I don’t generally notice that I’m any more well off than anyone else. Indeed, in my neighborhood, I’m probably at the lower end of the income scale. We aren’t living beyond our means, but if I were to try to keep up with the Jones’ in our area, I would be.

    I don’t generally walk around feeling wealthy UNTIL I meet with old friends, who knew me pre-money. I got together with one of my old friends from high school last week – we’ve primarily kept in touch through phone and email, talking every other month or so – even though we now live in the same general area. They are not well off, and have struggled quite a bit to make ends meet throughout their marriage. They have a home and all of their needs are met – they aren’t deep in poverty, but they are struggling a bit. When she brought her family over to our home, I was suddenly seeing my surroundings through her eyes – and felt uncomfortable as she exclaimed over the furniture, our beautiful kitchen, the playset and playhouse in the backyard… I found myself feeling like I needed to justify and explain myself – wanting to tell her how we got the house before the prices in the neighborhood went up so much, how the boat was 8 years old and not that great, etc. etc. I felt defensive, even though nothing in her behavior was meant to make me feel that way. I guess I was ashamed of the things I had, and if I feel that way, perhaps there IS some imbalance. I do a lot of volunteer work and fundraising, and we contribute to a lot of different charities, but perhaps on some level I am still uncomfortable with the idea that I have, and others have not.

    On another note, I would never give a friend money, unless it was emergency related – like due to a fire or hurricane or death or unexpected diseaster. I think it’s bad for the friendship/relationship and throws inequality into the mix. When I’ve had siblings that needed money, I gave them opportunities – not money. I helped a sister start her own business, and was an initial investor in another brother’s company. Those situations seem to work out much better.

  7. CS Eric says:

    Everything is relative. I remember an incident on my mission in Korea. We were in a dirt-poor house, teaching a young mother with two or three small kids. I thought I would be anonymously generous by leaving a few coins under the floor cushions we were sitting on–not much, but about what I would normally spend on lunch.

    One of the kids found them before we left, and the kids all started fighting over them. Instead of being a small blessing for the family, it caused a small fight among the kids.

    Contrast that to another incident shortly after I got home. I remember leaving a basketball game at the Marriott Center, and saw, coming down from the nosebleed section, one of the Marriott kids whom I knew from our freshman ward. I had better seats than he did, and his grandfather paid for the building.

  8. annegb says:

    Yeah, Steve, I have a rich friend and she constantly gives money anonymously to people. There are small anonymous ways of helping.

    Like last week, I won’t get any blessings for this, but I don’t care. Not bragging either, it was no sacrifice for me, but I was behind this woman and her teenage son at the video counter.

    I’m a sucker for teenage boys, and their fragility. She was obviously a single mother and getting her child a movie. She owed fines. They were nice and didn’t make her pay all of them, she put a little money on them.

    I have so been that poor single mother. So I paid her fines. I don’t even know who she was, she doesn’t know me. It was no big deal.

    Back to my rich friend, she knows our friendship would be over if she ever gave me something I couldn’t give her in return. I made that clear.

    It’s not hard for me to give, but boy, receiving is a bad word. I grew up like anonymous for this and I guess poor people have more pride than rich people. I’d probably let my kids starve before I borrowed a loaf of bread (something my mother frequently did) from my neighbors.

  9. I’ve picked up other people’s bar tabs before. Does that count?

  10. Steve Evans says:

    anon for this, maybe we SHOULD feel ashamed for the things we have. Certainly if we expand the frame of reference to a global scale, almost every American should feel ashamed for the things he or she has. Our disproportionate wealth can border on the obscene, no question.

    But that’s too large and too deep a chasm for me to address or even think about. I’m not going to go to Haiti or Darfur anytime soon. But I will go to church in an urban area where there are major wealth disparities, and you’d think that in the church, or in a ward family at least, we’d do everything we could to avoid the fine-twined linen syndrome and try to make us all one. Not so, as it turns out.

  11. John Taber says:

    Our society is much more steeped in anti-rich animosity than it is with snobbery, if for no other reason than that the rich are (by mathematical necessity) a minority.

    But that really isn’t the case in my ward, among active members my own age – at least from my perspective. Most of them are upper-middle class, with a home costing $250,000 to $500,000. (Most of those lawyers or PhD scientists who paid at least $350,000.)

    It’s not that they aren’t nice people – they generally are. But the fact that as a group, they make several times what I do (as a civil servant), and own houses worth several times what I could possibly pay, is intimidating to say the least.

  12. anon for this says:

    I agree Steve. I actually had the opportunity to go to Africa to volunteer in a village there after raising funds to help the villagers buy the land their village sat on. Seeing the poverty, the inequity of what I have compared to what they had, I felt deeply guilty. I felt the urge to sell all that I had and give it to these people. I had a lot of sleepless nights after returning to the states. I’m haunted with the knowledge that so many children die from easily preventable diseases, like Malaria. It seems so obscene. I did step up my efforts and get involved in other efforts to help third world countries. It feels so small. I don’t know what the solution to that is.

    But back to what you were talking about – the problem I see with just buying someone – say a ward member, family member, etc., out of their problems, even out of love, is that it is a temporary fix. In my experience, other than small random acts of kindness, giving money to someone usually doesn’t really help them. It makes us feel better, but it doesn’t address the reason they are struggling in the first place. I think rather than focusing on giving money to eliminate the disparity (other than increasing fast offerings to help with urgent needs), the kindest thing we can do is address the problem – helping someone get an education, making them aware of better opportunities, etc. The best calling my FIL ever had was ward employment specialist. He didn’t just try to find the people who came to him jobs, he tried to help them obtain skills, become aware of government grants that could help them with education, etc. He made a real difference.

  13. I once observed a young mother with a daughter who stubbornly refused help that she seemed to need very badly. I felt stuck between admiration and frustration with this mother’s attitude. On one hand I admired her tenacity and determination to make it on her own dime. On the other hand it was very easy for some well-off people in the ward to help her out. It was in no way a hardship for them and they would have been grateful for the opportunity to use their means to relieve her stresses and burdens.

    One time I was asking her how she was doing and she turned on me and said rather irately “why is everyone always asking me that?!” I felt bad about being such an annoyance. Clearly there was an excess of concern and that question was no longer welcome. After that I had to be careful how I approached her.

  14. cj douglass says:

    I remember when I was in high school(early 90’s grunge faze) I was about to walk out the door with one of my fathers old green 70’s coats with a big whole in it. He was bewildered why I would want to wear his old crappy coat when I had a brand new one in the closet(kind dorky but new). Another thing that confused him was the fact hat I would take a shower everyday but only wash my hair once a week. We weren’t rich or even well off at the time but we lived in a nice suburban community and my parents could afford to provide our necessities. Why was I so bent on looking poor? Why do I still today never wear this really nice watch that was a gift to me from a friend. I feel embarrassed by it. I’ve started to realize that this is a form of pride for me. I really don’t want anybody to think that I’ve been given anything when in reality I’ve been given so much by my parents alone and by God I’ve been given everything.

  15. Frank Fish says:

    Steve, this is a fantastic, if painful post. I’ve seen material competition in my own family, and now among friends who were, until recently, economic peers.

    Money breeds so much animosity, it seems. I speak from experience. McMansioned Mormons fill me with resentment, but how can I be sure it’s not jealous resentment rather than righteous indignation? I’ve always said that if I were rich, I would figure out how much I need and give the rest away. But would I? No idea. And how would I figure “need”?

    Here’s how I know I’m just a hypocrite. I would have happily taken the convertible! Also, once when I was bumped to first class on a plane, I smugly sat there as all the plebs filed past, enjoying their jealous glances.

    The rich feel guilty, the poor are full of resentment. It’s an awful world. Unfortunately, not even Jesus could get his people to change this. Oh, for Zion.

  16. cj douglass says:

    Also, once when I was bumped to first class on a plane, I smugly sat there as all the plebs filed past, enjoying their jealous glances.

    Priceless! Sounds like your the only healthy one Frank.

  17. The fact of the matter is, while some people are obviously disadvantaged from the start, many people in the U.S. make poor choices that impact their earning capacity and financial stability. If you choose your profession wisely, work smart and hard and take care of yourself, you’ll have more than enough.

    As far as the third world goes, there’s only so much we can do. I think we have to ask God why He allows so many of His children to be born into such horrible and tragically short lives.

  18. FF: “The rich feel guilty, the poor are full of resentment.”

    That’s right. Put another way, money is emnity.

  19. anon for this says:

    “I’ve always said that if I were rich, I would figure out how much I need and give the rest away.”

    The paradox is that by keeping your money and making more of it, you can do more good. By being a wise steward of my money and not just giving it all away, I am able to employ people and pay good wages, contribute generously to charity, pay tithes, help others start their own businesses – the money multiplies and ripples outward. The Gates foundation gives out literally billions and billions every year, including $1.5 billion for global immunization programs for children, over $258 million towards the development of an affordable malaria vaccine, $110 million for Save the Children, and a LOT more. So is he a highly moral man for giving away so much, or immoral for keeping so much?

  20. Frank Fish says:

    Anon,

    By “give away” I do mean “give away sensibly, constructively.” As for Mr. Gates? I have no idea how moral he is. Clearly the Foundation is a wonderful thing. I would like to know the percentage of his giving to his overall income to know whether Gates is truly heroic, however. But fair play to the man. He could give nothing.

  21. Perhaps money is emnity, but I don’t think it has to be. The natural man is an enimy to God – this doesn’t mean that we have to be. I still remember when my wife got pregnant and I told a couple very close to me who had struggled for years to get pregant. I was a bit worried about how it would play out; but, when I told them, the only sentiment I felt from them was exultation. True joy. That was a gift.

    The whole idea that emnity can exist or that the giver or reciever may be put out by and gift of money is only a condemnation of those parties. If they truely loved each other, then this would not be an issue. There would be only joy. So, love first, then give.

    I do miss the days when I didn’t have a mortgage or car payment. We were much more generous. We gave away more than we paid in tithing. But now, graduated, we have a large mortgage and a car payment, and I am to scared to be generous. Sad.

  22. President Benson noted the ills of pride in both rich and poor in his seminal discourse on pride.

  23. Bill Gates just said (I prolly heard it on NPR) that he hated being the richest man in the world and that being rich has brought him nothin but problems.

  24. We would be wise to use the Church as a model of how to spend money and how to help the poor. They have sufficient for their needs, they invest for the future (that means spending money on stuff), they are as self-sufficient as they can be (and look for ways to be more so), they are still learning, etc. They are also not giving fish to the poor but rather (trying to) teaching them how to fish.

    We shouldn’t feel bad for trying to increase our means, especially because like anon-for-this says (and the BoM), the more we have the more help we can render to the poor.

  25. Bill,
    If you’re reading, I’m more than happy to relieve you of your burden.

  26. I have been pleased to observe the efforts of my Stake Presidency here in Davis County to get us to give of the abundance that we have to those in the third world. Two years ago we had a major push to donate to the Church’s well projects. As a stake we were responsible for providing drinking water to thousands in Africa. Last year we focused on the church’s wheel chair project. We gave hundreds of wheel chairs. Could we do more? Probably. But each attempt to overcome selfishness is progress.

  27. In 1989, President Benson wrote:

    Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See 2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous. (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1, 1989.)

    The rest of President Benson’s talk makes clear that this “poor-man’s pride” does not excuse the pride of those convinced of their own superiority based on their material possessions.

    Steve’s topic is very important and I wish more Latter-day Saints would contemplate it very deeply. We could all self-socialize (i.e. consecrate) much more than we do for the benefit of the poor in society.

    However, I resist blaming the rich for the poverty of the poor. It might just be a natural tendency to kick against certain pricks, or there might actually be something to this aversion. That is, people’s choices do indeed influence their financial security. But we are to survive by sweat and toil in this telestial world as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Thus, we are given over to chaos (simply, the biological and random processes of the world), to a large degree, and chaos does not care whether we drive a mercedes or a pinto, or a donkey, for that matter. In my view, for that matter, God himself does not care much either whether we drive one or the other or neither. Maybe we shouldn’t either.

  28. Ronan, I think you need to write an official letter of request. I’ve heard he responds well to those.

  29. John, I’m not blaming poverty on the rich. I don’t care to speculate as to what makes one person rich and another poor — I’m just trying to identify the duties of the relatively wealthy.

  30. I never said you were.

  31. just sayin’, is all.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m not affluent by the standards of our ward. At best I’m in the middle of the pack, or maybe in the bottom half somewhere. I am, however, a big city lawyer, so I make decent money. (My ward is pretty affluent.)

    But we live in the same starter house we bought 18 years ago, which is easily one of the most modest homes in our ward. We could have afforded to move up to more expensive digs, but we happen to like our house very much, and my wife prefers its intimacy to a big, showy place (I wouldn’t mind a little more room, but I’m fine with staying put. We’ll probably die in that house).

    So on the one hand, I think I’m being all frugal and responsible with my money; very Nibleyesque and all. But on the other hand, I think sometimes I do take a little bit of perverse pride that I live in such (comparatively) modest surroundings (the blue collar neighborhood in the south end of our ward instead of the affluent palatial homes in the north end).

  33. rleonard says:

    Check this out.

    If we are poor we judge the rich for being rich

    If we are rich we judge the poor.

    If we are middle class we judge em both!!! The best of both worlds

  34. John Mansfield says:

    I live in an area where house prices have more than doubled over the last five years. Those who owned their houses before prices took off have a couple hundred thousand dollars or more in extra assets. Several of our ward members are in the process of selling and moving to cheaper areas. Housing sales have cooled a little, so it is taking longer to sell than it would have the year before. Curious to know why people do what they do, we’ve asked these folks why they don’t take $50,000 off their price so they can sell more quickly. The answer from all is that they have plans for how they will use every dollar from the sales and the plans will be hindered if they realize less than maximal profit. The plans for their newfound wealth are good ones, many based around becoming free of debt, but none involve sharing the bounty with the poor, at least none that we’ve heard of.

  35. I’ve come up with a solution to this whole problem. Anybody here who has money that is making them wicked can dispose of it by sending it here:

    The Guilt Fund
    c/o D. K. Landrith
    55 Boylston Str
    Boston, MA 02101

    You needn’t worry about what will happen to it once it arrives. Just count your blessings that it’s not around anymore.

  36. An anonymous contributor says:

    My father died when I was young and as a result we grew up quite poor. I told the bishop that I would have to put off my mission while I finished earning the other half of the money needed. He informed me that a family in the ward had approached him about helping with my finances. I paid half and they paid half. I am eternally grateful.

    While on my mission I needed to make a large purchase. Quick mental math showed that it was the equivalent of my monthly contribution or *half a missionary month*. That method of weighing costs stuck with me. My house payment is about three times a missionary month. My wife and I were looking at a car to replace hers. The monthly payment would have been about a missionary month. We decided instead to purchase a used car from the mission home and send the rest of the money to support a real missionary.

    This method of weighing costs coupled with my Scottish blood, makes me a naturally frugal person. Unless someone knew us well, they would think we were any middle class family.

    I went to graduate school for a number of reasons. To better use my talents. To support a large family (I believe in family planning, in my case it means having a large one). To be able to earn money with which to bless the lives of others. Unfortunately, there are some members of my ward that feel that they know better how I should spend my money than I do. There are off-hand snide comments about how I should fund this or that project in the ward. Ever hear those comments about the rich doctor, dentist, or lawyer? I’m being judged by my degree. But then again, perhaps someone with access to the tithing records has loose lips.

    The bishop knows some of the good works I do, since he makes a good conduit. The people receiving the charity have reason to regard the church with fondness. It can’t easily be avoided if you are supporting a missionary. But he doesn’t know it all. My Christmas cards may include a gift card to a widow or a struggling young family.

    I am bothered by the greed at both ends of the monetary spectrum. The rich who grind on the face of the poor and the poor with grasping hands who cannot be satisfied.

    My twin brother is an auto mechanic who seems to never have enough money. Both he and his wife work. I know that their combined income is such that they could live very comfortably, IF they wanted to. But he always has to have a new toy. And they always have to have a nice vacation. Last year their home was up for sheriff’s auction for back taxes. Maxed out on credit card debt. I could have bailed them out, but I have two children in college (they pay half of tuition) and I’m not an enabler. Or I should say, I’m enabling a young man who is currently serving a mission and did what he could to pay, but needs a little help. My way of closing the circle. It sure feels good.

    I’ve given my name as anonymous because I’ve commented on some of my good works and I try to do those in secret as instructed in scripture.

  37. Good test for friends: Romans 12:15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Real friends sincerely rejoice in each other’s successes and try to help each other solve problems with dignity intact. Real friends are rare.

  38. A family in my branch “lives the law of consecration’–their term, not mine. They put all their money in a pot and take out what they need. Daddy “employs” sons, although neither son has skills that fit real well in Daddy’s business. One of them is currently being paid to remodel his own house, which he intends to flip and buy a better one. He would not be able to do this without the family. Parents own all the cars (and gas them?) and the kids (all adults) just use whichever they need. Car seats are frequently not where they are needed.

    As I heard a married-into-the-family member describing this I just thought: those guys are nuts. But really, they are trying to be very United Order. Good, right? How come we, as a church, are always extolling the virtues of independence and self-reliance? The Order is in the scriptures. Being independently wealthy is only in a negative way.

  39. Seth R. says:

    A lot of people who went through college like to point to their college days and say “I know what it’s like to be poor!”

    There’s just one problem. “Being poor” isn’t just a matter of limited funds. “Being poor” also requires a poor future and real financial distress. You have to be really hurting. Most college kids never experience REAL poverty. There are no crushing debts (that they have to deal with immediately anyway), no lack of health coverage, no starving children to feed, no delinquent mortgage to pay, no danger of having the utilities shut off, no overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

    I say “most” because a sizeable portion of college students actually have experienced real poverty. But most haven’t and I don’t think these privileged young aristocrats have any right to be talking like they’ve “seen the hard life.”

    The above comment is not directed at the original post, or against the comments (seeing as I didn’t read them). But I thought I’d throw it out since this seems like the sort of thread where otherwise quite privileged young people might see fit to “jam” about how they took out a “summer internship in the poorhouse.”

  40. I love this post Steve. LOVE IT!

  41. After my husband was laid off when Gateway Computer closed their Salt Lake location for building computers, and he had spent months looking for a job, we were forced to move in with my parents. This was in the middle of the recession, and jobs were hard to find, especially with so many people with similar skills and experience let loose on the market.

    When he finally did find a job, he went to work every day and spent the whole day on his feet, walking long distances and routes throughtout the day. The shoes he had were old, and they hurt his feet. The support was no longer good, and so his knees hurt, and on up into his back; when you have a bad shoe, especially when you do so much on your feet, it affects everything upwards, painfully.

    My sister, whom I had always thought of as being so self-focused, awkwardly and gently approached us about paying for an expensive, but VERY good pair of shoes; the only shoes in the past that had solved these problems that radiated upwards.

    It was difficult for us to think that we couldn’t even provide such a necessity, but then we felt the Spirit and knew that my sister was sincerely and earnestly desirous of humbly and not proudly doing us this service; and so we accepted.

    It is a difficult thing to describe the sometimes complex feelings that are involved in a situation like this, but the effect I saw in my sister, of how edified she felt (she did not boast or proclaim/exclaim her deed; I just observed and felt a spiritual benefit in her countenance and manner thereafter), of how touched and affected SHE seemed to be by the experience, helped muchly with the awkwardness on our part of being in such a position, and testified to my heart of the power of charity, the power of Christlike service, when sincerely and humbly done, for both the giver and the recipient.

    I . . . . hope that I am . . . not imposing with my presence, length, opinions, views, experiences, relating thereof, identity, or my me-ness. I apologize if who I am and what & how I express things is . . . unwanted or inappropriate.

  42. I don’t think you should apologize for your participation here or anywhere else in the bloggernacle, sarebear. For myself, I appreciate your views and insights.

  43. Thank you. I am just wierd, and awkward, and too rambly and lengthy at times. Needy, as well. I try as best I can to keep that moderated, and will continue to do so. I probably shouldn’t have said anything, and hope no one is peeved that I did.

    Anyway, thank you . . . it means SO much more than you can know.

    On topic, I also can say that being poor is good for the waistline. Teehee!

  44. Oh, and VERY frightened.

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    BTW, did anyone else see Friends with Money? I thought it was a pretty good flick.

  46. D. Fletcher says:

    Meanwhile, I walked away from my six-figure-income job last year. I like to have nice things, obviously, but I don’t like the idea that my life might be judged successful primarily by the dollar amount I’ve accumulated.

  47. She said, I’m sorry baby I’m leaving you tonight
    I found someone new he’s waitin’ in the car outside
    Ah honey how could you do it
    We swore each other everlasting love
    She said well yeah I know but when
    We did–there was one thing we weren’t
    Really thinking of and that’s money–

    Money changes everything
    Money, money changes everything
    We think we know what we’re doin’
    That don’t mean a thing
    It’s all in the past now
    Money changes everything

    They shake your hand and they smile
    And they buy you a drink
    They say we’ll be your friends
    We’ll stick with you till the end
    Ah but everybody’s only
    Looking out for themselves
    And you say well who can you trust
    I’ll tell you it’s just
    Nobody else’s money–
    Money changes everything.

  48. word, Cyndi. Word.

  49. a random John says:

    So how did you like the car Steve?

  50. rJ, it was mediocre, like all big rental cars. Nice to have the top down, but the stereo sucked, it didn’t handle well and was a boat on the road.

  51. I wish everyone could see some of the disparity of wealth in the world. I think it brings up questions that are hard to answer. Why do I have so much? Why do others have so little? Could it really have anything to do with what they chose in the pre-mortal life? (I hate that doctrine but it could be true, right?)
    Then I think it would make us come to terms with some of our guilt. Guilt causes paralysis from what I see (mostly) and therefore is not very useful in the practical side of things. We feel guilt and so we don’t give, we don’t know how to give, we’re afraid we’ll be offensive to others, we feel overwhelmed by the task of giving (esp when you’re talking global poverty which is overwhelming).
    If we just love and give then maybe we would learn better how to do it and when. We might offend a few proud along the way, or give money unwisely or sometimes give too much or sometimes save too much but at least we’re doing.

    I agree with Seth R. on the “poor” life of college students being not so poor. My growing up life was not unlike smb’s. Our nuclear family situation was very desperate and very poor but we weren’t stuck in any poverty cycle. While our extended family didn’t necessarily bail us out, both granddads were professors, both grandmas were college educated. Both parents college grads. That made us believe that there were options available that most genuinely poor people can’t even imagine.

  52. Kevin,

    Yes, RT/JNS and I saw it. I quite liked it.

  53. I’m a sucker for teenage boys, and their fragility. She was obviously a single mother and getting her child a movie. She owed fines. They were nice and didn’t make her pay all of them, she put a little money on them.

    I have so been that poor single mother. So I paid her fines. I don’t even know who she was, she doesn’t know me. It was no big deal.

    That is a good thing to do, isn’t it? The times I’ve been able to help people without them knowing it (or knowing me) have always been the best.

    I’ve always said that if I were rich, I would figure out how much I need and give the rest away.

    But how much you need changes. I live in a house that would probably sell for 170k. If I moved into the ward down the road, a base level house would run 650k. What do I need? There are people living in 90k houses in this town.

    The same for cars. I’ve driven Honda Accords with 100k miles on them. But if I drove one at work, people would be concerned. I’m wearing a $9.00 Lands End close-out shirt as I type this, but I’d hesitate to wear one to Court.

    I balance it by the schools my kids go to (they are in the best available schools) and what works with work (my wife has it easy, everyone wears scrubs where she works). Which is why I stayed in Texas when a chance to transfer to the West Coast came up.


    My twin brother is an auto mechanic who seems to never have enough money. Both he and his wife work. I know that their combined income is such that they could live very comfortably, IF they wanted to. But he always has to have a new toy. And they always have to have a nice vacation. Last year their home was up for sheriff’s auction for back taxes. Maxed out on credit card debt. I could have bailed them out, but I have two children in college (they pay half of tuition) and I’m not an enabler. Or I should say, I’m enabling a young man who is currently serving a mission and did what he could to pay, but needs a little help. My way of closing the circle. It sure feels good.

    Nicely said, and exhibits “what is enough” in discussing your brother.

    I don’t think you should apologize for your participation here or anywhere else in the bloggernacle, sarebear. For myself, I appreciate your views and insights.

    Amen.

  54. I watched Friends with Money and liked it, though it was quite the contrast after having just seen United 93 (my wife and I sometimes do the movie marathon thing).

  55. MikeInWeHo says:

    Back to 10: “you’d think that in the church, or in a ward family at least, we’d do everything we could to avoid the fine-twined linen syndrome and try to make us all one. Not so, as it turns out.”

    I wonder if the fact that the majority of the (U.S.) members identify as Republicans plays a role in this. See also the first paragraph in comment #52. What a great way to assuage my guilt as I drive by a homeless person in my luxury sedan: It’s because of the pre-existance! Think I’ll try that one next time those yuppie-liberal-hypocrite-pangs strike.

    RE: 20. Mr and Mrs Gates have repeatedly declared their intent to give away EVERYTHING via their foundation by the time they die. Their children will not receive their riches (although I’m sure they won’t be working at Wal-Mart). It gives me a whole different perspective on Microsoft. My vote is that he’s a very moral man. He’d be a great Mormon, actually, but I suspect he’d have trouble biting his tongue over those wee historical problems. But think of the tithing!

  56. Amri: Why do I have so much? Why do others have so little? Could it really have anything to do with what they chose in the pre-mortal life? (I hate that doctrine but it could be true, right?)

    Maybe, in the pre-existance, the most righteous spirits were the ones who chose to be born into poverty and the weakest among us were put into the comfy-zone.

  57. Seth R. says:

    Re: meems

    No, I don’t buy it. It sounds too much like handing out a “consolation prize” to the suffering.

    Your life sucks, but at least you get to be a ‘sweet spirit!’

    There is nothing inherently moral about suffering. It turns some into saints and some into wretches and the rest into something in-between.

    Poverty and suffering are moral neutrals when it comes to strength of character.

  58. Mark IV says:

    I agree, mostly, with the claim that students cannot legitimately be called poor, but I think that also shifts the conversation to the real issue.

    It isn’t so much about money, but about prospects for the future. An engineering student may well be dirt poor, sleeping on the floor and living on store brand mac and cheese, with lots of student loans to pay off. But he doesn’t get as much sympathy as someone whose standard of living may be higher at the moment (semi-decent apartment, some furniture, more balanced diet), but who has little hope of ever improving on that.

    So I’m going to assert that the real problem is a lack of hope. Humans are amazing, they can get through terrible things if they can see the end of it. It is hopelessness that is discouraging and grinding, and which we should be working to relieve, along with the immediate temporal needs.

  59. woodboy says:

    Re. #11:
    Please inform me of the location of this magical Shangri-La where Ph.D. Scientists make $350,000, as I am apparently underpaid by an order of magnitude.

  60. woodboy,

    I think said figure was referring to the value of the house one lived in.

  61. Floyd the Wonderdog says:

    In High Priest’s Group one Sunday, one of the brothers started complaining about how he couldn’t afford to pay tithing. Others joined in. This was the High Priest’s Group. The supposed strength of the ward. Their complaints really bothered me. One brother could afford to drink soda pop and view over 200 cable channels. Another has a boat, a motor home, and a cabin. None of them appeared to have missed a meal recently.

    I shared my experience about one of the brothers in Korea. Although he lived in a tin shack with a dirt floor, he could afford to pay tithing. He told us that he had enough for his needs and that God had blessed him greatly. He had the gospel.

    The juxtaposition of the fat and sassy High Priests (after the order of King Noah) with this humble brother was interesting. It’s all a matter of perspective. We can be satisfied even in poverty or we can be greedy in the midst of wealth.

  62. Lamonte says:

    Steve,

    I’m really late responding to this great question. It’s an interesting subject. I don’t tell my parents how much money I make because they would think I’m filthy rich – but I’m not. I live in suburban Washington DC not rural Idaho and so it’s all relative. My house costs more than ten times what they paid for theirs (30 years before) but now my house is worth more than twice what I paid for it. I probably couldn’t afford to buy it today (except for the incredible equity I now have – it’s a circular discussion). My wife bought a convertable last year and was embarrassed to drive it to church for a while until the Stake President saw us in it at a social function. He gave us some smart remarks until I pointed out that the convertable costs no more than his SUV. I went to Asia last year to visit my wife’s sister. It was not a cheap trip but made much more affordable because we didn’t pay for food or lodging. While there I discovered that I could have a suit tailor made for less than I can buy them off the rack in the US – even during a sale. The tailor made shirts costs $16. So now I wear tailor made clothes (the tailor has my measurements and has made two additional suits since I got home) and I’m finally feeling OK about that. I pay my bills on time, live in a modest, yet attractive house, and contribute to charity when I can (and yes, I am a full tithe payer although there was a time when I sounded like those HPs in #62 and used it as an excuse NOT to pay tithing.) Having said all of that, I think we have to make our own peace with God about how we spend our money. It’s a personal thing and WE have to be the one’s to decide when it becomes sinful.

  63. Steve Evans says:

    Lamonte, can I get the name of the tailor?

  64. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 62 That is such a good point. I’m amazed at how broad the American definition of “necessity” has become. We’re just buried under mountains of stuff: cell phones, cheap DVD players, unbelievably cheap clothes…it goes on and on. Almost none of it is necessary to sustain life, even reasonably comfortable life.

    The dilemma is that we’re all part of our local community and come under tremendous pressure to consume according to community standards. It’s easy to say we should reject consumerism, but very hard to apply in real life.

  65. Lamonte says:

    Steve – if you’re serious I can get you the contact information tomorrow. The name is “Dung Tailors” – I think that is pronounced like “young” or “Yung” in District One in Ho Chi Minh City. The expensive part is the trip to HCMC for the initial fitting!

  66. John Taber says:

    Re. #11:
    Please inform me of the location of this magical Shangri-La where Ph.D. Scientists make $350,000, as I am apparently underpaid by an order of magnitude.

    You misread my post, here: “Most of them are upper-middle class, with a home costing $250,000 to $500,000. (Most of those lawyers or PhD scientists who paid at least $350,000.)” They aren’t paid that much, that’s how much they paid for their homes (and sometimes a good bit more.)

  67. Steve Evans says:

    Lamonte, I’m totally serious. Do I need to go to HCMC for the fitting, or can I have my measurements taken locally and sent to them?

  68. Seth R. says:

    I know several lawyers who are making closer to $40,000 a year (in private practice).

    Not really “hard-luck cases,” but not exactly filthy rich either.

    When you factor in cost of big city living, and the ridiculous amount of hours worked (not to mention large school debt payments), new associates at big law firms aren’t making as much real money as their high paychecks would suggest.

  69. Will the real ldsblogs.org PLEASE stand up?

    Do some of you agree with me that a lot of the Archipelago spends too much time on things of no importance (and I’m a guy who enjoys the Geoff and Geoff-spinoff speculation threads)?

    I wish people would blog on this rich/poor issue more. Some times it’s important to just ask questions and bring up the issues. Maybe the Archipelago could also start offering solutions. If that sounds too much, check out what BYU has started (www.selfreliance.byu.edu).

    Also check out BYU’s new PBS documentary “Small Fortunes.” I can almost guarantee it will be a life changing experience for you. It goes over the microcredit movement (which offers small, low-interest loans to the world’s poor). It also introduces specific ways regular people can help out. You’ll love it.

  70. middle child says:

    I just dropped my children off at their YM/YW functions, driving through million dollar home neighborhoods and through security gates to get there……..and, in the not too distant past, I have lived in wards where most lived in trailers or subsidized housing. (we were in a trailer)

    I have to say that the wealthy in my ward are so extremely generous. Cabins are filled every weekend with newlyweds using them for honeymoons, family reunions of anyone who asks, and relief society retreats. One daughter is at a lavish mansion now, where the entire Stake YW is there having the time of their lives. The other is at another beautiful home playing volleyball in a huge yard and working on personal progress.

    I grew up very poor. My parents were constantly talking about the rich people and how evil all of their stuff was…….guess what? My sister and I both grew up and got very rich, pretty much on accident….but the old stigma plagues us both…..we are constantly either hiding it, or apologizing for it.

    I give…a lot. I provide excellent employment for a lot of people and overpay them and provide excellent training for every part of their lives. I share the gospel all over the world in my travels and business deals. I offer my home, and everything I own to anyone who needs it….and, believe me, we always have out on loan either a vehicle, a camper, a tractor or our basement…..I am so thankful that when people need help, there is somewhere comfortable to go & get it…..we were very poor early in our marriage and there were times that the ‘haves’ really bailed us out…..

    I often look at the beauty of the temple and it’s grounds and think about how people of all demographics are drawn to it…can you imagine the bill for keeping that place up? We are drawn to beauty. So, it’s really a missionary tool, too, right?

    I have a lot of property and people come out here and spend weekends, just to feel peace and space….to have a retreat. Some people tell me that it has been the most renewing weekend of their lives because of the beauty of the property…that they let go and were able to think and connect with themselves. I certainly could not have offered that had we stayed in the small trailer we lived in 15 years ago….

    So, I hope we can also see what is good and right with the ‘haves’ . Having been on both sides, I know that you can give on both sides….in different ways, but equally effective and equally accepted by Heaven. Being a ‘have not’ has a tremendous amount of simple abundance. I don’t want to sound trite when I say that having money really complicates your life, in ways you never could have imagined. I think most people who are trying to live the Gospel are just really doing their very best…..giving what they can give, wanting to give even more, just like everyone else……but, giving is complicated, too…..

    It will be interesting to have this conversation with the Savior someday and see what He would have had us do.

    Thanks for the great post.

  71. middle child says:

    And, Steve,
    We use an excellent tailor in Thailand, he claims to have made suits for the prophet and several G.A.s (but, who knows…could be a name dropper))….his name is Jesse and I’d be glad to hook you up with him…he allows you to send your measurements and sends you a chart to show you what to measure.

    We used to buy at the Men’s warehouse, the cheap $200 ones, because that’s all we’re willing to pay…these suits are just phenomenal and cost $200 for incredible quality and fabrics

  72. Steve Evans says:

    I accept all tailor hints. drop me a line: darth_flannel@hotmail.com.

  73. these suits are just phenomenal and cost $200 for incredible quality and fabrics

    Yes, but is the suit a genuine piece of Dung?

  74. Steve Evans says:

    lol.

  75. lamonte says:

    Steve – I’ve just checked in before bedtime. Here is the contact information:

    DUNG
    221 Le Thanh Ton
    Dist. 1 – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    Tel. 8296778-8245676
    FAX – 8236808
    MOBILE – 0903 954546
    E-mail – dungtailor@hcm.vnn.vn

    I’m not sure how they feel about mailed in measurements. You could probably contact them and find out. I just know that when he took my measurements he seemed to measure in places that most tailors don’t measure. By that I mean that he was a lot more thorough than most tailors. But then again, I’ve never had a tailor made suit before.

  76. Steve, this post started with you agonizing over your relative wealth, progressed to you suggesting that we should be ashamed of our wealth, and has now arrived at the point where you openly solicit recommendations of tailors to construct custom suits. I think you can close the thread!

  77. Steve Evans says:

    gst, we have come full circle! It’s a threadjack, to be sure. But let’s face it — I’m not soliciting Saville Row bespoke tailors here.

    Perhaps you’re suggesting I should be ashamed of the idea of custom threads. Ahhhh — proving my point AGAIN!

  78. I concede that homonymous poo suits are not exactly what Thorstein Veblen had in mind when describing “conspicuous consumption.”

  79. Steve Evans says:

    I’m glad you brought up Veblen. Essential reading for what I have in mind, I think. Veblen would hate us, all of us, on this thread. But the notion of consuming for its own sake it something for consideration.

  80. Lamonte says:

    Steve and gst – may I point out, which I already did, that the tailored made suits in this thread are significantly less expensive than even those found in the discount/seconds stores in the US. So aren’t we talking about the opposite of conspicuous consumption? Back in the 80’s I was working in Los Angeles on a temporary work assignment. I noticed an interesting phenomenom at the gas station. This is when gas cost about $1.20 per gallon. At the station in Santa Monica where the gas was average priced, there was no line at the station, but just a few bocks away, probably 4 or 5, but within the city limits of Beverly Hills, the gas was $1.45 and the line was around the corner. These are spending habits I find hard to understand. And it’s just one of the reasons I will never live in Los Angeles – but that’s another issue.

    If I buy a small house of superior quality with excellent finishes and state-of-the-art technology and I pay the same price as someone else does for a McMansion with brick on the front and vinyl siding on the other 3 sides then who is improperly spending their money?

  81. I wouldn’t be caught dead buying Santa Monica gas.

    But seriously, it seems that the phrase “McMansion” is most often deployed not to decry someone’s ostentatious display of wealth, but to ridicule the owner’s taste. The same opprobrium does not attach to the owner of a similarly-priced, or higher-priced, Manhattan apartment.

  82. Lamonte says:

    gst – I guess I was trying to make an analogy between wise spending and wasteful spending. The “McMansion” is big and therefore more impressive to gaze at because of its size, while the more modest looking house might be more “valuable” because of its location, the quality of the component parts or unique qualities of its design. The general public may not recognize such quality and therefore the owner obtains less prestige from making that purchase but hopefully value is more important to the owner than prestige. I’m not sure that any of this relates at all to Steve’s original premise.

    By the way, I hope I didn’t offend you by expressing my feelings about LA, honest as they may be.

    Lamonte

  83. MikeInWeHo says:

    McMansions are a highly symbolic, recent phenomenon and therefore worthy of discussion in a string like this, imo. They’re not just variations on expensive Manhattan apartments or pricey high-quality homes in elite neighborhoods.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never seen a line around the corner for gas in Beverly Hills. Wheat grass shots on Bedford, maybe. But we wouldn’t want to caricature the rich, now would we?

    No offense that you don’t like L.A., Lamonte. I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

  84. The “McMansion” is big and therefore more impressive to gaze at because of its size, while the more modest looking house might be more “valuable” because of its location, the quality of the component parts or unique qualities of its design. The general public may not recognize such quality and therefore the owner obtains less prestige from making that purchase but hopefully value is more important to the owner than prestige.

    No. The owner of the small house you describe is just as likely to be interested in money-based prestige as the owner of the “McMansion,” but he also enjoys the added prestige that flows from demonstrating his good taste, and living in an old money neighborhood.

  85. Incidentally, for what it’s worth, I share the proper snobbish disdain for new-money McMansions, notwithstanding the fact that my ward is almost entirely made up of them, and that I will almost certainly be living in one soon. I have no political, environmental, or moral objections to them. I just think that they’re poor taste. And I grew up in a 120 year-old field stone farm house, which I regard as ideal.

  86. A question for you to consider: to what extent are career choices dictated by financial rewards instead of the amount of societal contribution afforded? Not that we don’t need some business executives and lawyers, but it seems that career choices are dictated too much by finances… and society as a whole will suffer because financial rewards and societal contribution are at best weakly linked in Babylon. In Zion everyone will have his material needs abundantly met whether his talent and vocation is art or science or business or medicine or education (and “careers” as we know them probably won’t exist either).

    Of course, in asking that question I should disclose that I’m a twenty-something unmarried PhD student in science – maybe I’m a bit idealistic…

    I highly recommend Orson Scott Card’s thought-provoking essay “Consecration: A Law We Can Live With” at http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-consec.html. One of the most influential things I’ve ever read. King Benjamin’s sermon too.

  87. Seth R. says:

    I don’t care if you spend a bit for quality clothes. You can more than make up for it by buying a less expensive car (or even forgoing putting that ridiculous spoiler on your new Civic). Some expenses are more gratuitous than others.

  88. Lamonte,

    Both are spending improperly, or neither. I subscribe to the less is more idea, but we can go to far in either direction.

    The term McMansion doesn’t have a sufficiently objective definition, and is used to describe a house that is too large for a person’s needs and built for ostentation. But my Uncle’s house with his 8 kids was only a 5 bedroom 3 bath . Is that too large? For our family of 3 yes, for my uncle, a little tight. BUt large houses do have costs, increased transportation, heating costs, materials costs, etc.

    We can go too far in the other “Not so big house direction” as well. One’s quality is another’s ostentation. It’s all about the attitude.

  89. MikeInWeHo says:

    I can’t define McMansion, but I know one when I see one! All the farmland in the small Michigan town where I was raised is being gobbled up by them. And you’re right, of course, in some cases it could be quite appropriate to live in one (see current Polygamy string on T&S).

    The McMansion phenomenon is a hot button issue for knee-jerk NPR types like me. Does anybody in here read Salon.com ??

  90. ElouiseBell says:

    Steve–

    Thank you for dealing so beautifully with an issue that needs our best thinking and most heartfelt deliberation.

  91. Thanks, Elouise! I’m no poet but I know what makes me feel itchy and uncomfortable. The interaction of wealth and religion is messy, painful and heart-breaking.

  92. Aaron Brown says:

    I grew up in a very wealthy family. We lived more conservatively than our wealth might have allowed, but it was still obvious to most people that we were doing quite well. I will never be able to claim to know what it’s like to be “poor.” I have been in very tight financial straights before (usually resulting from my own bad choices), but as one of the commenters said above, that doesn’t really constitute my knowing “poverty,” since I knew I had a huge safety net below me, whenever necessary.

    This has been an interesting discussion, on many levels. I’ll just add a few points that haven’t been made yet:

    1. I’ve long been amused by how thin-skinned many wealthy members of the Church are about their wealth. There’s a lot of insecurity out there, in my opinion. I don’t have all the answers as to what constitutes “too much” conspicuous consumption, whether there is an objective dividing line between “wants” and “needs”, and what our precise duties to the poor are, in every single circumstance. But I do know that the list of rationalizations many wealthy Churchmembers can, and often do, use to minimize their obligations to their fellow man is a long one.

    2. Commenter at #71 said:
    “My sister and I both grew up and got very rich, pretty much on accident….but the old stigma plagues us both…..we are constantly either hiding it, or apologizing for it.”

    Oh, the stories I could tell! (But I won’t). Suffice it to say that I have family members that suffer from the need to “hide” from their wealth too, since they think that people will judge them as snobby, selfish, etc. I have always said that people are more likely to judge them based upon what they do, how they act, who they are, etc. Don’t let your wealth define you, either by turning you into someone who defines himself by his possessions, or turning you into someone who constantly fears that other people will define you by those same possessions.

    3. Comment #71, again:
    “I don’t want to sound trite when I say that having money really complicates your life, in ways you never could have imagined.”

    True, but at the same time, there’s nothing more annoying than listening to a wealthy individual proclaim how “hard” their life is, when there’s such a simple solution to the hardship right at one’s fingertips: Give your money away. Once again, I speak from family experience here.

    The wealthy really aren’t in a position to draw parallels between the struggles they face from having so much money (and I don’t deny the struggles are real) and the struggles of the impoverished. The wealthy always have the option of disposing of their assets, so as to relieve themselves of the downside of accumulation and ownership. The poor do not have the option of easily acquiring material goods so as to remedy their plight. It doesn’t go both ways.

    Aaron B

  93. The wealthy always have the option of disposing of their assets, so as to relieve themselves of the downside of accumulation and ownership

    ETB’s wife did just that.

    BTW, I’m curious why Mr. Fletcher walked away from his job.

  94. I will tell you two things of advice:

    1. No matter how small the amount, when people go in with you for something, like, say, 10 people go in with you for flowers, which total $15.00, COLLECT! I was too embarrassed to collect on these group things for years and I ended up paying a lot of money. Now I just go up, get in their face and and say, “pay up,” and they hand me their quarter.

    I read that many peoples are embarrassed about discussing their sex lives, but Americans are most embarrassed about money. I know I am. I used to be embarrassed to say I didn’t have any money. No more.

    My husband is very cheap and rich. But it’s not because he’s cheap, it’s because he’s married to me and God promised me in my Patriarchial blessing that I would be blessed with money and the opportunities to share it. It’s true. It always works out and I say, “you owe it all to me, so quit complaining about the checkbook.”

    On a serious note, DKL, the check’s in the mail.

    2. Don’t be embarrassed about getting the right amount for a check when you go out to eat. I am and I always end up paying the most. And my friends are rich! Rich people are cheap, no offense to any rich people here.

  95. Seth R. says:

    Annegb wrote: “I read that many peoples are embarrassed about discussing their sex lives, but Americans are most embarrassed about money.”

    Amen. People are much more willing to discuss having an affair than they are willing to discuss filing for bankruptcy.

  96. Yeah, and I’m right about going after your friends for that dollar they owe, too. Also rich people will let you pay as long as you keep doing it.

    I often go back and read my posts (I’m sure everybody does) and find them all skeewampus, because I’ve put something in at the wrong place and got confused. As I did above.

    But I just look at it for a minute and think, “oh well, by tomorrow I’ll have forgotten all about it,” and I leave it for you guys to figure out.

  97. On a serious note, DKL, the check’s in the mail.

    I’ve heard that one before ;)

    Looking forward to the next post on this subject.

  98. cchrissyy says:

    94 “ETB’s wife did just that.”
    wher can I read up on this? I hadn’t heard…

  99. In a number of biographies of President Benson, it comes up that his wife had a trust fund. Whenthey married, she gave it away so that they could start life on their own.

    Interesting approach. I had a partner in a practice group that felt that he’d known an awful lot of trust fund babies and that none of them was “worth a flip.” [himself included.]

    I think I’ll blog on this tonight or tomorrow.

  100. Lamonte says:

    I have been personal friends with (2) trust fund babies and they are two of the best people I know. Totally unpretentious and without any arrogance. On the other hand, I was shocked when I was out to dinner with one of them and when the check came he pulled out a “tip calculator” so he could get exactly 15% of the total bill. I guess that’s how the rich get richer.

  101. I have been personal friends with (2) trust fund babies and they are two of the best people I know. Totally unpretentious and without any arrogance. On the other hand, I was shocked when I was out to dinner with one of them and when the check came he pulled out a “tip calculator” so he could get exactly 15% of the total bill. I guess that’s how the rich get richer.

    Well, I thought well of my partner too, and I’ve really thought well of some trust fund kids I knew who were members, including one I even dated.

    But … I need to think more, I still haven’t blogged on it.

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