1 I Made $570K Last Year, But I Don't Feel Rich (In Fact, I Feel Worried) | The Billfold

I Made $570K Last Year, But I Don’t Feel Rich (In Fact, I Feel Worried)

Jake Smith is a name I’ve made up for the person who sent me this email:

I’m a physician in my early forties. I make $450-500K. I read a lot about finance and I know that technically I am in the 1%, but I don’t feel rich at all. I don’t know if it was the way I was raised or because for a time I was living paycheck to paycheck or if it’s because I have three kids (and hence, eventually will have three tuitions to pay), but I don’t feel wealthy yet. Maybe it’s because I live in an affluent suburb of a big city and most of my neighbors seem to be doing really well. I don’t know. Have you run across other folks like this?

I had not, personally. So we arranged to speak on the phone.

LS: Tell me about your money. How much do you make?

JS: I just got my tax returns back a couple of weeks ago. My total income was higher than I thought it would be—$570K. And it was pretty good last year as well. And after reading other conversations with “rich people”—one in the $300Ks, one in $100Ks, I was surprised they thought of themselves as rich.

LS: Which is insane, to me. Of course they’re rich! How do you define rich?

JS: I think of rich as not having to worry about money, not having to worry about retirement, not having to worry about saving for your kids’ educations. I have three kids and I try to save up for their futures, and my retirement, and even with my salary I don’t feel secure.

LS: Did you grow up with money?

JS: My father was a physician. I think he made a decent amount of money, but my parents never talked about it. My mom also worked. We lived in an affluent area, but my parents were pretty cheap—we never went on expensive vacations or had expensive cars. We did okay but weren’t living a lavish lifestyle. My parents were so cheap that my sister, also a physician, has rebelled against that and has a hyper-consumptive lifestyle—high-end cars, high-end clothes. I took the opposite approach and am frugal.

LS: Did your parents give you money when you were growing up? What about for school?

JS: They paid for our undergraduate educations, but I didn’t want them to pay for my medical school so I took out loans for med school. Paying for college was obviously very helpful, though when I was in college, tuition rates were much lower than they are now. I think yearly tuition and room and board at my state school was $7K. Now I think it’s three times that. But other than that we didn’t get any money from them, and I didn’t expect it. I think that’s a good thing. It allowed us to find our own way and work hard, and my parents are enjoying their retirement now.

LS: Did you go straight into medical school?

JS: I spent a year after undergrad “finding myself”—I travelled around Europe and South America, just had a really good time enjoying meeting people, experiencing new things, not studying. My parents paid for my tickets, and I mostly stayed with friends and spent money that I’d saved. Then I came back here and spent a year doing research in a lab, and then I applied to medical school.

LS: Do you still have med school loans?

JS: I do. It’s down to about $90K, which is the original amount I took out, but during residency and training, I deferred them and it ballooned to about $150K.

I was lucky enough to make a private equity investment into a health care company, and after that initial loan was paid off for this investment, it’s doing quite well and I’m making a good amount of money from that, so a lot of my income comes from that. The ROI I get from this investment is significantly higher than the 6% interest rate on my student loans. It was a calculated risk to make this investment instead of paying down my student loans, but in the end, it paid off. So now that things are going pretty well, I’ll probably pay them off.

LS: Can you explain how that investment works? Where did the money come from?

JS: I took out a business loan that I got through my practice, but I had to guarantee it personally.

LS: Where did you learn about investing?

JS: I learned from reading a lot, talking to a lot of people. A lot of the investing luck I’ve had has been being in the right place at the right time. It could have turned out badly, but it didn’t. I’ve made some investment mistakes in the past—I invested in industries that were unfamiliar to me, and I lost a lot of money. I don’t know how much—maybe a few hundred thousand dollars. I put my family through some difficult times. During that time, we were living paycheck-to-paycheck, even with my salary. I was making $200K a year.

LS: Can you explain how that works? That is so much money. Where did it go?

JS: We lived in a townhome that cost in the low $300Ks. For my salary that wasn’t expensive, but it was the losses in this business that I’d invested in that caused the situation. I was putting up a lot of my own money and then the business failed, and we had to pay back some loans, and by the time the books were all cleaned up, I was out of money.

LS: Was your wife working?

JS: She was then, but after our second kid she started staying home.

LS: Does she share your same stress about money?

JS: She doesn’t stress quite as much as I do. I’m lucky in that she’s really frugal and she’s prevented me from making a lot of dumb purchasing mistakes in the past. It’s good for someone like me to have someone like her to keep me grounded. She does worry about the money—less so now, especially since the past couple years have been pretty good. But we do worry about our children’s futures. What if they want to be a teacher? (There are a lot of teachers in my family.) The middle class is not doing well in this country, I’m not sure how they’re going to do if they decide to go into teaching.

LS: It sounds like you come from a family of physicians. Is that something you’d encourage?

JS: It’s lot of work, a lot of headaches. I love being a physician, but every year it’s increasingly difficult to deal with the paper work and the red tape.

LS: Did you choose the kind of doctor you are based on salary at all?

JS: No I didn’t. I chose my specialty because I fell in love with it. If it paid much less, I would still have gone into it.

LS: Are you still living paycheck-to-paycheck?

JS: No we’re able to save a good amount now. Since the financial collapse, I’ve become much more conservative. I’ve built up a two- or three-year cushion. I think the world economy is unstable—the impending Eurozone implosion, the asset bubble in China.

LS: Where is that money?

JS: Just in a bank account, it’s earning hardly any interest. Whatever the rate is is hardly worth mentioning. Even our financial advisor advised putting that in mutual funds or whatever, but I’m not sure what is going to happen. This way, I might lose 1 or 2% due to inflation, but I’m not going to lose 30%. Having said that, I’m going to use the next couple years to deleverage, pay down student loans, I have a couple investment properties with mortgage, and one with a high rate, so I’ll probably pay that down.

LS: Properties! Another layer.

JS: I bought the first property during my residency. We fell in love with a condo, and during the years were there, the value increased, and then we bought another condo, then another house.

LS: So your $570K, break that down from me, where is it coming from.

JS: Most of the money is from work—$320K. I think probably $50K is from our properties, and then $200K from my investments.

LS: In addition to your fat bank account, where else is your money?

JS: I don’t have an online brokerage account yet—I plan on getting one soon. But I do have a retirement account that my financial advisor takes care of.

LS: You mentioned tuitions earlier.

JS: We started a 529 about a year ago. I should have started a lot earlier, but yeah, we have that 529 for them.

LS: Do you talk with your friends and peers about these things?

JS: Yes, not in quite the detail I’m talking to you, not hard numbers, but we do talk about it. Some are doing well, some are doing worse. Many of my friends are in the middle class.

LS: Does it feel silly to worry about money when you’re making so much more than even people you know?

JS: I’ve analyzed my worry, and I think a lot of my worry is not just for myself—we’re all in this together. Maybe I read a lot. Maybe I read too much. It’s just the way things are going for our country isn’t great. I just read a good book by Mark Blythe, Austerity: The History Behind the Dangerous Idea. It explains that in the run up to the crisis, there was a lot of private sector debt, and it became public sector debt because of the bailouts, and he calls it the great bait and switch because the middle and lower classes are now paying for it through budget cuts/spending cuts. It isn’t the bankers, who caused the crisis in the first place, that are paying for it. I worry about my kids having to pick an industry where they think about how much money they’re going to make instead of something they love. If I was on an island by myself, I would not be worried. But I’m worried for my family, for my kids.

LS: Do you feel like your lifestyle reflects your income bracket?

JS: We are proud owners of new Toyota minivan, sleek and sexy. My wife has been loving the minivan, and my friends are making fun of me, calling me a loser and a hypocrite. I said I’d never get a minivan! We also have a Subaru and I have a “entry level” Lexus (It was $32K). Average cars. We have a nice home in a good neighborhood in a good school district. I think our mortgage is in the low $700Ks, which is a lot, but it’s less than double my income. If you read The Millionaire Next Door, that’s what they recommend.

I will say, once we did move to this area, there is a palpable pressure to keep up with the Joneses. When I drop my kids of at school, every other car is a Range Rover or a high-end BMW, Mercedes, Lexus. For a while I began desiring a Range Rover—my next door neighbor has one. My wife nixed that idea but I kept pining for that. Then I was like, these cars are $80K, they get 17 mpg on the highway, I don’t need it. Especially since my car is seven years old and is not giving me any problems.

I was very stupid with the Lexus. I got it seven years ago and I leased it. I was under the impression that when you got a business car you had to lease it. Then I talked to an accountant, and found out that wasn’t true, and after the three-year lease ended, I ended up buying it through the business. That was nice because it’s a tax write-off. We got a 0% loan for the mini van.

LS: How are you teaching your kids about money?

JS: Our kids are both in grade school, and we started doing allowances this past summer. The older one has a bank account, and when she’s saved money, we go to the bank. I didn’t really have that. But I’ve read in books where they recommended doing it for kids, teaching them the value of money, the value of saving, the value of not taking on debt to pay for things. It’s mostly to teach them about money.

We had credit card debt for about a year when things were tight, but we were able to pay that off. I use a credit card for everything, and we pay it off every month. We do it for the points, for plane tickets.

LS: Do you ever feel like you are over cautious? I mean, you are making so much money. So much more that the vast majority of other American households.

JS: I think the years where I was wondering if I could make it until the end of the month—I think those years scarred me. If I were single, it wouldn’t have been as bad, but there were people that were depending on me, and I felt like i was letting them down. Now, even when there is a surplus, I feel like I’m letting them down. My income is certainly not guaranteed—you hear of NFL players who are bankrupt after five years. I know it’s very easy to squander what you have.

LS: What do you feel like you splurge on?

JS: After the baby was born, our house became a center of chaos, with the older kids and school and homework and the baby requiring a lot of attention, and we decided to hire a personal chef to save us time, and it’s been great. She’s worth her weight in gold. She comes once a week and cooks three meals for us. Because she makes a lot of food, it ends up being about five dinners. So most weekday evenings, we don’t have to think about dinner, it’s prepared. It’s a little bit expensive, I’m not sure how long we’ll keep it up.

LS: How much does it cost?

JS: It costs around $300 a week. Which is a lot. I know it’s a lot. Even before the baby came, dinner was always stressful; we knew when the baby came it’d be doubly so. We don’t have a nanny or an au pair and our parents don’t help out that much—we’re mostly by ourselves. So we did some research and happened upon this personal chef. She also does the shopping. It’s only been a couple of months.

LS: What do your friends think?

JS: I think I’ve mentioned it to one or two of them, but it’s not something I would advertise. I look like an average guy and the things I do with my hobbies are not congruent with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It’s almost out of character. But this is one thing that is a luxury, and I think it’s okay for now.

LS: When did you start reading books about personal finance?

JS: I read Mortgages for Dummies and Personal Finance for Dummies in the mid-’90s prior to buying my first condo. Because we did not talk about money in my family, I was ill-prepared to start thinking about money and investing and buying homes. So I did my homework and learned about the whole process. In grad school, I had delusions of grandeur until I read the Millionaire Next Door. That book and other books like it are great for teaching us how to live under our means and for reminding us that material things are often meaningless and that a life pursuing status symbols can often lead to a debt filled existence.

Two years ago I read The Two-Income Trap by Elizabeth Warren (now senator from Mass.), which really rocked my world. She shows empiric, convincing data on how the middle class is becoming increasingly hollowed out by the rising costs of health care, education and houses. This is the primary reason that the middle class is falling behind and not because they are overspenders. I agree with her that overspending is not the primary reason for our country’s current situation. However, I think that she does dismiss the fact that we do live in a consumeristic culture. I mean, I have known lots of people stretching to buy big homes/cars, things that they could not easily afford. (You don’t have to buy the Range Rover SUV when a Hyundai SUV will do just fine).

LS: Do you have a plan to make more money? More properties, different investments?

JS: One of the reasons I have a lot of liquid reserve is so that I can make investments. I’m doing my homework right now as another opportunity to make a private equity investment has presented itself. It will take some time to research this thoroughly enough for me to be comfortable in making the investment. The returns should be higher than the interest I’m currently paying on my debts.

This is why I’m not going to pay off my student loans in one fell swoop (though I plan to be more aggressive about paying it off this year). I will eventually open an online brokerage account so that I can start buying public equities. It will mostly be in the form of ETFs, index funds. I’m not an expert in stock picking, and so will likely pick funds that follow the broad market and buy more shares in these funds every few months or so (dollar cost averaging). I’m going to start small and slowly build this up as this is the area of investing I have the least amount of experience in. But, with all these investments, I still do not want to drop below at least a two-year cushion of living expenses.

LS: What would it take for you to feel like you were rich?

JS: I don’t know the answer to that. In college, before I had a job, before I was working, the six-figure mark was a goal for everyone. And now I’ve hit the half-million dollar mark. I don’t know if I’d feel rich if I ever met the seven-figure mark. I think the important question is, can you still be happy, regardless of your income? Maybe it’s not so important to feel rich. It’s more important to feel happy and content.

LS: But still, you’re worried.  What are your feelings about the economy right now—when did you start feeling so worried for the future? What initially inspired that?

JS: Well, we’ve had quite a turbulent start to the millennium haven’t we? At least in a geopolitical and macroeconomic sense we certainly have. Look at what’s happened. We had 9/11, two boom/bust cycles, two wars, a prolonged recession that nobody saw coming, and now a growing student debt bubble. What’s going to happen next? Yes, the stock market is booming and housing is making a comeback, and there is certainly a layer of calmness at the moment. What belies all of this however is still an ocean of latent instability. We live in such a globally interconnected world that it is frightening. I’ve read Freefall and The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz. Both were very eye opening, you should read them.

On more of a personal level, this past decade has been a turbulent one as well. My best friend passed away, other friends have been laid off, I’ve had physician colleagues go bankrupt, and the recession has not been kind to some of my extended family.

Nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed and your life and your fortunes can turn in a heartbeat. I think that’s why I’m worried—not just for me, but for my family, friends, and for all of us really. (Or maybe I’m just a closeted doomsday prepper!?)


See also: •“A Conversation With a Single Mom Living on $40,000 a Year”

“Giving Up a Six-Figure Salary for $60K and Sanity”

See more interviews with people about their money


166 Comments / Post A Comment

olivia (#1,618)

Very interesting interview. One thing that stuck out to me for some reason is the comment about not needing a Range Rover SUV when a Hyndai SUV will do. BUT NO ONE NEEDS AN SUV EVER. They’re expensive and gas guzzling and not even particularly safe! And I’m not even some sort of anti-car hippie!

olivia (#1,618)

@olivia Upon reflection I think it stuck out to me so much because it’s emblematic of the insane level of lifestyle creep that allows someone who makes $500k+ a year feel not rich.

chic noir (#713)

@olivia – Well said Olivia. I guess being rich is relative. In my eyes, making 500k makes one rich. Not the I can quit my job rich, but the I can eat fresh healthy foods, purchase a decent house and spend a day in the emergency room rich.

Lifestyle creep is dangerous as is keeping up with the Jones. Both to our wallets and piece of mind.

chic noir (#713)

@chic noir – I guess another thing that got me was the stress over paying for his child’s schooling. With his salary, if he had purchased a more modest priced home, he could’ve paid off his mortgage, student loans, and saved enough for his kids to attend state schools within 4 years.

Not of course because we don’t do that sort of thing on this blog. Amen

notfromvenus (#3,955)

@olivia Eh, it depends on where you live, and what you do?

I moved out to the exurban foothills of the Appalachians a couple years back, and my compact car just isn’t very practical here. When it’s icy – or worse, snow on the ground – I can hardly even get over the steep hills that are the only ways out of town. And a lot of people around here have SUVs and pickups because they do trades or are small farmers and need the cargo room or to go off-road.

That being said, a white-collar worker that lives in the suburbs in most places is not going to need an SUV.

sax (#4,188)

@olivia We need an SUV. At least if we want to do the things we enjoy. So I would disagree that no one needs an SUV EVER. Because we need our SUV in order to go the places we go and enjoy the things we enjoy. In my area some scientist would need an SUV to get into study area’s. We don’t need it to live but unless you feel we should live in a very restrictive communist society where you are only allowed to do an enjoy certain activities and lifestyles I see that there can be a need for them and less need for paving everything!

laluchita (#2,195)

I just… I can’t even… HOW IS A $32,000 LEXUS AN AVERAGE CAR? I just can’t feel sorry for this guy’s money worries when he is living with 3 cars and 3 houses and a 3 year cash cushion in savings. I honestly can’t imagine how anyone could be so un self aware.

olivia (#1,618)

@laluchita And 3 cars but 2 adults? What? That just makes no sense whatsoever. I bet if he simplified things and had like say, 2 cars, and 1 house with a mortgage that was less than $700k, he’d feel a lot more secure. Because maintaining all that must feel like a ton of pressure. But you don’t HAVE to maintain all that!

the rat lady (#785)

@olivia Yes. My dad is A Rich Person and constantly creates pressure for himself this way. Every time we talk, he complains to me about all the maintenance he has to do on his four cars and two houses, and I am just physically incapable of sympathizing. You are one person and you live alone! Why do you have four cars??

Sarah @twitter (#3,921)

@laluchita it sounds like one of them is his corporate car which he may not be able to use for personal use

@olivia Yeah…the maintenance seems like an enormous time and energy suck. My parents own a nice but not-well-maintained house in an urban area. They could afford it, but it was expensive. They put a lot of effort and time and money into it and now they are selling it not because the house isn’t great (it’s a truly great house!) but because the maintenance is soo soo soooooo much work. It’s not just the mortgage, it’s the lawn and the cars and the roof and the gutters and the refinancing and the EVERYTHING. It is a money pit. I imagine that having 3 houses, even if they are in tip top shape, would be three times the money pit.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@olivia The extra houses are rental properties, not vacation houses.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@laluchita $32,000 is how much a new Chrysler Concorde cost in 1999. The factual average cost of a new car is about $30,000.

ThatJenn (#916)

@dj pomegranate Yes, I spend a lot of time talking to friends who have never owned houses about what money pits they are. I hopefully do not come across like the person above, but people seem to often go, “I’ll save so much money over renting!” by calculating just the monthly costs of mortgage, insurance, and taxes (or worse, just the mortgage!), and in my experience – I’ve been a homeowner for nine years, of three different homes (not overlapping) – that’s been less than half of what I’ve paid each year to live there. Maintenance has cost me MUCH more than my mortgage/taxes/insurance seven of the nine years.

That said, I still don’t really have any sympathy for this person, especially if they feel those are average cars. I get that the non-business cars (I’m just going to overlook the Lexus as a business-owned car) are not luxury cars, but a brand new Toyota minivan? That’s a starting MSRP of $26k, but with most packages it’ll be closer to $40k.

All that said, I do understand where he’s coming from on his past, living paycheck-to-paycheck, scaring him into feeling insecure. If he is worried about the value of his investments, truly worried that something terrible could happen, bad enough that he could never work again, sure, he’ll be worried about money forever. But I think most people don’t define rich as NEVER worrying about money.

He says some of his friends are middle-class. I wonder what that actually means.

notfromvenus (#3,955)

@laluchita $32k new is, like, a mid-range car like a Corolla. He probably feels like it’s average, even though it’s a Lexus, because he bought it used.

Olivia2.0 (#260)

@notfromvenus I mean, No. That is not the price of a new Toyota Corolla. And a Toyota Corolla is not considered a mid-range car.


A new Toyota Corolla in Chicago prices for just under $15,000.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Let’s just settle the thing — here’s a list of 2012 and 2013 cars between $31,000 and $32,600 MSRP (starting price only!):

BMW 1-series
Volvo S60
Acura TSX
Toyota 4Runner
Buick LaCrosse
Chevy Silverado
Nissan NV200
Hyundai Azera
Lexus CT 200h
GMC Sierra 1500
Nissah 370Z
Nissan Maxima
Audi A4
BMW 3-Series

Toyota’s top-of-the-line sedan, the Avalon, is $30,990 MSRP.

BradenDunlop (#4,003)

@laluchita I interpret this interview as him being overly “self aware”.

Megano! (#124)

Wow, you have a 2-3 year cushion and STILL don’t feel rich!? That is just…insane. I can’t imagine having that much of a cushion for just myself, much less 4 other people.

OhMarie (#299)

@Megano! Totally–I feel pretty rich most days, and I MOST DEFINITELY do not have a $700k mortgage and a personal chef and a $32k car and years worth of cushion.

loren smith (#2,300)

@Megano! My husband and I have a two to three year cushion, and we don’t feel rich. We debated ordering a pizza for about half the day yesterday because it seemed like a silly thing to spend money on – I think so much of it is perspective and preterites.

loren smith (#2,300)

@loren smith priorities, man. Maybe I should use that cushion to get some more schooling…

themegnapkin (#444)

@loren smith I think often people are “rich” because they do think about money so carefully? Good on you and your husband for the 2-3 year cushion – you might not be in such a secure position if you acted like a rich person.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@loren smith hey loren – why are you saving? if you want to study, and financially can, do it! if you want to use it to retire, do it! but, seems like you and your husband are a bit more logical about cash money and other money than this dude.

notfromvenus (#3,955)

@loren smith There’s also 2-3 year cushion and there’s 2-3 year cushion, you know? I have that too, if I lived on like $20k/year. He’s probably got 7 figures in the bank.

@fo (#839)

@notfromvenus “He’s probably got 7 figures in the bank.”

Based on … what? He owes $90k in student loans (not at rock bottom rates), he borrowed against his practice to make the PE investment, etc, etc. If he has $1mm in cash, he’s a financial idiot.

the rat lady (#785)

Sounds like this dude has some underlying anxiety problems that just happen to have manifested themselves in his attitude towards money. But why half-ass things? If he’s really worried about the imminent collapse of the world economy, he should start saving up for an addition to his basement in which to store his gold krugerrands.

melissa!@twitter (#3,807)

@the rat lady Yes. When he said the goal should be not feeling rich, but feeling happy, I thought Yes please buddy go down that road!

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@the rat lady Yeah, agreed that it has to do with anxiety. Which is understandable, but he should probably think of seeing a therapist.

francesfrances (#1,522)

This is insane. I really want to appreciate this and feel compassion for this person. Kids are expensive. Homeownership is expensive. He has responsibilities I don’t have. But he makes almost 15 times what I make, and I make more than most of my friends.

I mean, this is just totally crazy. This guy needs to chill out, be happy, and enjoy what he has. Move to a modern house, drive a nice Ford, and calm down. Or, just stay where he is and enjoy it! Sounds like he’s doing everything right. Ugh, I can’t even form a coherent sentence, I’m so blown away. Be happy, dude. You’re doing good. You are very wealthy.

Mae (#1,769)

@amyfrances Yeah, that’s my feeling. He has $200,000/year in investment income? And a personal chef? And yet he identifies as a struggling middle class person. I just can’t.

AitchBee (#3,001)

I hope Jake will derive some measure of peace from this reassurance: NOPE, YOU’RE DEFINITELY RICH; NO NEED TO WORRY ON THAT FRONT BUDDY

Also: “I took the opposite approach and am frugal.” Haaaaaaaaa

themegnapkin (#444)

I picture this guy as Jon Hamm’s character on 30 Rock – totally un-self-aware.

themegnapkin (#444)

@themegnapkin and, apparently, not uninterested in getting out of that bubble.

I know there can be this weird stigma around the word rich. But dude, you are Rich! He and his wife seem like very smart people and are doing very smart things with their money. But he really needs to let go of some of his anxiety. Cause even though his family may have lived “paycheck to paycheck”. I’m pretty sure at 200k he didn’t have to choose to pay the heat or feed his family. I really think his surroundings have warped his world view.

Lily Rowan (#70)

I think coming from a place of thinking you have to pay for your kids’ undergrad with cash is really hard, because of how crazy the costs have gotten. So he’s thinking he’ll need half a million just for college, not to mention private school, if they do that — I don’t know, I’m just saying I can see where an upper-class but not extravagant life is really expensive, and being a sole earner must be scary.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Lily Rowan Oh, and also the thing about how hard it is to downgrade — obviously people raise families on much, MUCH less, but everyone must admit that the prospect of losing what they currently have would be really painful.

@Lily Rowan Yeah, even if his disaster scenario is really just having to live like the rest of us, I could see how facing the prospect of losing your house, and telling your kids that although you COULD have paid their undergrad with cash, you screwed up and now they have to go deep into debt would be hard.

sea ermine (#122)

Oh wow I feel really bad for this guy. I mean he’s clearly very wealthy, had a high income, 3 cars, 3 properties, and a 3 year savings cushion. If you have all of that and are still freaking out that must be a little sad. I think if everyone lived by his standards no one would feel rich. I feel like he’d be much happier with one, affordable used car and a house in a cheaper neighborhood. I hope his kids don’t end up with his attitude and outlook.

Mae (#1,769)

@seaermine I do think it would be hard for him to move to a small house and buy a used car, though, because he’s already embraced a social milieu in which a very high standard of living and a high level of consumer spending is the norm. I think it would be hard to get out of that, once you’re in it.

sea ermine (#122)

@Mae That’s true. I guess he would have had to start at that point and stay there, rather than trying to downgrade and feeling like he failed or lost something.

@seaermine “I think if everyone lived by his standards no one would feel rich.”

I think that’s really his issue – the vast majority of the people he surrounds himself with live by those standards; therefore, he doesn’t feel rich. I have a very wealthy family member who always says “rich is relative”. Yeah, it is, if you’re rich! If you live in a $5 million house and your neighbors have $10 million houses, sure you won’t feel rich in comparison. But statistically you are (very) rich.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Mae I wonder about this with my parents. My dad has overspent his way to a very high standard of living, and if he ever wants to retire, he’ll have to downsize dramatically – but I think that will be surprisingly hard for him.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

I mean, I have sympathy for this! Because if your idea of “rich” is that you can spend freely with no concern for running out of money ever, then, no, this guy isn’t “rich.” There are probably like 15 people in the entire world that, if this guy had their life, he would feel “rich.” Everyone has problems.
And if you, like this guy, think in terms of “rich” instead of “comfortable” or “financially secure” then I could definitely see how that leads to anxiety. And you’re allowed to be anxious about your own situation without it necessarily meaning that you consider your problems equal to someone who is actually financially insecure.

franklina (#3,924)

@BananaPeel So I basically read it as the author is “anxious about [his] own situation without it necessarily meaning that [he] consider [his] problems equal to someone who is actually financially insecure.” He just defines “rich” differently than most of the commentariat so far.

jfruh (#161)

Out of curiosity, does that $300/week cost for the private chef include the groceries/ingredients, or just the chefly labor? Because $300 week for groceries and prep for 5 prepared meals for two adults and three kids is … not exactly frugal, but not exactly Caligula-level extravagant either.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@jfruh oh yeah I am also interested to know this! I assumed it was salary but not ingredients.

@jfruh Yeah! That is way less than I thought it would be to outsource cooking for a family of five.

@battle school dropout I mean, think about how much we talk about going out to eat/not going out to eat. For approximately the cost of 10 big city brunches (assuming you drink a bloody marry or whatever), you could feed 5 people 5 meals!

@jfruh Yeah, and if it saves you time and stress, I can definitely see this as a worthwhile expenditure, akin to having a cleaning service or sending your shirts out or whatever.

CL (#3,590)

@jfruh Come on. Of course it’s just labor. The personal chef does not make minimum wage.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@CL He said she only comes once a week, so that could be like, 3-8 hours, or anywhere from $100 an hour to $37.50 an hour. I would like to know more about this! I think it’s a great idea if it fits your lifestyle and budget (same for hiring someone to clean your house.)

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@CL It sounds like she only comes for half a day or something once a week, so it wouldn’t be even near minimum wage.

But yeah, I’d be interested in hearing more about it too. I guess I don’t know very much about the personal chef industry. at all

questingbeast (#2,409)

@BananaPeel My friend’s a personal chef. But he works 12 hours a day, five days a week for one family, and is salaried, so that’s a bit different. I don’t know what he makes, but better than his recent restaurant jobs apparently.

Titania (#489)

@sunflowernut I’ve interviewed a couple of personal chefs for various things–it doesn’t include the cost of groceries, but it does include the time spent on shopping, prep, and cooking. Assuming that this family of 5 would have to spend that money on groceries anyway (when I was growing up in an affluent town as a family of four, our grocery bill was around $350 a week) they’re paying for someone to take over the hassle of planning a week’s worth of menus, going to the grocery store (ever taken young kids grocery shopping? Prepare to tear your hair directly out of your head upon entering), prepping those meals, and cooking them. While it is absolutely, definitively a luxury, I think it’s a worthwhile expenditure if they both hate to cook and can afford the expense–if the chef spends 2 hours shopping, 2 hours prepping ingredients, 6 hours cooking, and then packages up all the food with serving instructions, puts everything away, and cleans up for 1 hour, she’s making a good rate, but they’re definitely saving themselves a lot of time and hassle. If the parents had to do all that, my guess is it would take them at least 50% longer if not more, so opportunity cost, blah blah blah.

Also, I kind of see this as one of those situations where rich people spend more money upfront to create incidental savings and good because they can afford it, such as purchasing a Prius. This makes their food budget very, very predictable–they probably have less food waste than most people who don’t spend all that time planning out a week of meals, they won’t fall into the trap of ordering takeout or going out because no one can get it together to cook, and my guess is that they are eating better meals because someone skilled is preparing them–anyone who’s ever had restaurant brussels sprouts after a lifetime of Mom’s steamed monstrosities, can you imagine growing up eating vegetables that actually tasted good? What a bonus that would be for your kids. It’s definitely a luxury, and personal chefs make a nice hourly rate, but as they go this is actually one luxury expenditure that has a lot of added value. Much more so than a Lexus.

@jfruh I agree. Also, I think the term “personal chef” is throwing people off. This isn’t Downton Abbey, she isn’t available 24/7 if you get peckish at 2am. I don’t think people would be as shocked if they said they got takeout or ate at restaurants most nights a week, but that would be probably more expensive and less healthy than what they’re doing, especially if anyone in the family has any restrictive dietary needs.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@MilesofMountains Yes and also thank you @Titania for explaining! Considering, you know, how important FOOD is, if you can afford a personal chef, go for it. Man, if I had a personal chef I would probably be eating so much healthier! (I am starting to think of personal chefs in the same category as personal trainers, i.e. yeah I can do it on my own, but it’s also OK to pay a professional to help improve your life.)

sherlock (#3,599)

Wow. I agree with the general bewildered response to this. What I’m having a particularly hard time getting my head around is the investment income. I at least understand the whole not “feeling” rich because of raising lifestyle standards (three cars/personal chef/$700k house), which while not sympathetic is at least something that we’ve seen discussed frequently on the Billfold before.

But he seems like he’s investing a LOT of money, and a lot of it in high-risk assets. How can you make $200k off of investments and NOT be rich? Even with a crazy high ROI, he must have made a really big initial investment to get such a large return. I feel like that’s just not something that people who are not wealthy would do – he wouldn’t be able to afford the risk of losing so much.

He also seems to have really strange and inconsistent ideas about risk – why is he too afraid to invest his savings in a mutual fund, while simultaneous making a ton of much, much more risky investments?

olivia (#1,618)

@sherlock Yes, the investment choices were especially bizarre. If you’re risk-averse, get bonds and invest in index funds or something.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@sherlock I agree with you. To be honest, I question the accuracy of some of the information in this post.

JS said that he made 200k from his investments this year. Let’s assume that he’s making 10 percent on it (which would be good in today’s US economy). That would mean his investment capital is 2m.

He also said he has multiple properties which contributed 50k. If he’s not subtracting the interest and the expenses, then this figure is misleading. That’s not income to him. His income from the houses should only should only recognise the profit, not the gross.

If he’s investing based on Investing for Dummies and Elizabeth Warren, it’s not surprising that he worried about losing the lot. The whole story just seems to be a bit exaggerated to me.

Sarah @twitter (#3,921)

@sherlock he’s a partner in a private equity firm. that’s not a normal investment. it’s way more risky but the rewards are way better than even the best stock picker will ever see. there are tons of PE firms investing in various new med tech/drugs/procedures. i’m assuming he’s in one of those and that they got a success. PE firms are similar (sometimes indistinguishable) from Venture capital firms. Big hits make way more that 10%

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Sarah @twitter if I understand the post correctly, he made an investment in a health care company. He’s not a partner or otherwise associated with a private equity firm (based on my interpretation of what he said).

It’s difficult to follow the actual funding amounts in the post, but he appears to have purchased a share in a health care company. Perhaps it’s the place where he works as a doctor or it’s another place entirely. If he’s receiving 200k per year from it, he’d probably need to have 2m in it based on a 10 percent return. Even if we double it, he would need to have 1m in it. These amounts don’t make a lot of sense to me, given his 700k mortgage, etc. It reads like he’s terribly over-leveraged. If this is true, that would explain his stress levels.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Bewildered is a good way to put it. He’s on a financial dissociative fugue. He could pay off his $90k in student loans in, what, a year, and is choosing aggressive and risky investments instead — and still feeling unhealthy amounts of anxiety about money? It’s like he’s piling up plates at a buffet when he already ate dinner and he’s allergic to all the food.

@fo (#839)

@WayDownSouth “he made 200k from his investments this year. Let’s assume that he’s making 10 percent on it …. That would mean his investment capital is 2m.”

That’s an awful assumption, as he said it was a private equity investment. He may have put in $10,000, $100,000, $1,000,000, or more. If I were to guess, I’d say he put in $250k to $500k, likely over a few years, and started getting a meaningful payout on it in 2011.

@fo (#839)


PS: And that assumption (up to $500k invested) and the $200k one year payout does *not* mean he’s made “40%” on his investment, as the timing of $$ in and $$ out matters a great deal–he may end up “doubling’ his money, but if it takes 10 years to do so, getting $200k/year for 5 years, then it’s more like a 10% annual return (which is still *great*) than “100%” return (tho it is, also, 100% return).

Titania (#489)

@aetataureate It reminds me a little of the story published here a while back by someone who was afraid to pay off their credit cards, because it would mean actually confronting the future. This guy feels to me like he loves drama (as the kids say)–he’s making high-risk investments rather than pay off his loans (which it seems like he could pretty much do in one fell swoop if he really wanted to) or get the main chunk of his money somewhere stable because the pressure of that debt and instability drives him forward to earn. To you, Mr. Smith, I say the same thing I say to all my students who claim to do their best work on deadline–you don’t do your best work on deadline, you just do your only work on deadline. You have three kids, don’t be afraid to act like a boring adult–and if you choose to continue with your current path, you don’t get to complain about the stress.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Titania I love what you say to all your students and should in fact say it to myself a lot.

King (#3,988)

@sherlock My guess is that the “private equity investment in a health care company” for which he received a loan for the initial investment is directly related to his employment. For example, he could be one of several doctor/owners of a surgical specialty hospital or of an imaging facility and his share of the profits from that business is the income from investments that he describes; not exactly your normal investment.

BradenDunlop (#4,003)

@sherlock Investing in a brick & mortar that you retain some level of control in is, to me, more enticing than investing in mutual funds or bonds. While it may carry more risk, at least I understand the risks. Mutual funds, especially employer sponsored programs, usually have hidden fees and they still have a relatively high level of risk associated with them.

madrassoup (#929)

Logan, I respect that you are so nonjudgmental, because it means that you can engage people in ways that draw them out without making them feel self-conscious.

THAT SAID, this dude is frustrating for reasons that have mostly already been outlined in other comments. But I also notice that he doesn’t mention charitable giving or volunteer work of any sort. I mean, people are entitled to spend their money and time however they want, plus it sounds like this guy’s too afraid of going broke any day now anyway, but it seems like it could do a lot for his sense of perspective. Right now he only compares himself to other rich doctors and to his rich neighbors, who all seem to share a similar habit of conflating luxuries with necessities that therefore allows them to believe that they are barely getting by and hardly indulging at all.

Even the way he talks about his upbringing and young adulthood seems clouded by a lack of exposure to other people who weren’t as privileged he was (which is why he says things like, “my parents paid for college but it wasn’t expensive” and “I spent a year traveling on my parents’ dime” with no sense of what markers of wealth those things were and are).

But what’s really frustrating/annoying is the idea that being “rich” means being immune from worry and responsibility. There is a lot wrong with that, but most strikingly it’s the failure to acknowledge the difference between worrying (about retirement, college, etc) and planning. Those things are not the same.

Sarah @twitter (#3,921)

@madrassoup he didn’t talk at all about his week to week, day to day spending though so we really have no clue if he does charitable giving

@madrassoup This-he says his parents were ‘cheap’ but then says they send him traveling. Um.

loren smith (#2,300)

@Jake Reinhardt my parent’s are cheap – they’re the first to admit it. My dad buys all his clothes at Value Village and they fix everything, ride bikes instead of drive, really cheap. They sent me traveling when I graduated from high school. Being cheap isn’t being poor.

@loren smith Your parents aren’t cheap. They make different choices about where they spend their money. That’s not the same.

franklina (#3,924)

Whoa, I’m not sure I understand why everyone is being so harsh on this guy. I think for many people, “rich” is such an abstract thing that it’s hard to recognize in your own life. When your day-to-day is taken up with mundane tasks and a lot of justifiable worrying about the economy, future college spending, perceptions of those around you (and it’s pretty audacious to expect others’ perceptions to *never* affect you), etc., I can understand how you wouldn’t feel “rich.”

If you were flying off to TED summits every other weekend and sent your kids to boarding school in Switzerland, okay, that’s pretty obviously rich. But for the vague amorphous “upper middle class,” it’s a very subjective line to draw between “financially rich” and “financially not rich.”

Also, anyone who was an active investor during the financial crisis can understandably feel much less secure no matter where their current income/investment levels stand. It was scary. Watching money basically evaporate and supposedly sound institutions (and their previously enviable employees’ salaries!) disappear overnight leaves a bitter taste in your mouth for years to come. With that understanding and fear that nothing will last, it’s hard to feel totally secure no matter where your income lies.

the rat lady (#785)

@franklina I wasn’t trying to be harsh, despite joking a little bit above. My primary feeling after reading the article was sadness about the guy’s obvious anxiety. He is doing so well! He has a diversified income and a huge amount of saleable property that he could use in case of emergency. He has a spouse who could work should the need arise, although she might prefer not to. He has hedged his bets in every possible way and he still sounds miserable, and I see pathos in that.

Mae (#1,769)

@franklina People have all kinds of feelings about their money, and people with a lot of money are not immune to worry and financial stress, certainly. But: someone who makes 12 times the median income is objectively wealthy, and the fact that this guy doesn’t feel wealthy (or even financially secure) is evidence that he has absorbed pretty skewed expectations. I don’t think we should blame him for that, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge that his feelings about his own wealth don’t have much basis in reality.

franklina (#3,924)

@Mae Okay, but what reality? Objectively comparing one’s income against the median income is one base, but so is day-to-day existence, the people you come in contact with, etc. Skewed expectations, maybe, but if you want to go down that road, no one here should ever complain about our financial security because we’re doing a lot better than [insert poverty-stricken third world country here].

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m a grad student and “objectively” make less than the median US income, but my reality is not feeling poor. It’s all very relative, personal, and context-dependent… (including the context of maybe needing help for anxiety issues, which I think @the rat lady is saying).

Mae (#1,769)

@franklina Much of this is subjective, absolutely, and yes, our experience of poverty and wealth is extremely context dependent. I don’t think anyone is denying that. But, in the present context of the U.S., he still has a lot of money, and his level of anxiety about it is surprising, even to him.

SterlingCooper05 (#2,529)

He mentions the Millionaire Next Door, but he resembles the high earning income affluent as opposed to the balance sheet affluent. He buys the Toyota, which most millionaires drive, but also the Lexus on a lease, which people buy when they want to act rich. Most Millionaires also live in a house worth $300-400K, not $700K with a mortgage and student loan debt. So, he makes a ton of money but needs to make some adjustments to be the millionaire next door. Maybe that is why he’s so anxious about money.

@SterlingCooper05 Yeah, but he didn’t say *where* he lived. In NYC or SF, 700k doesn’t even put you anywhere extravagant.

ellabella (#1,480)

@Jake Reinhardt FACT.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Jake Reinhardt Jake, I think he said that he has a 700k mortgage, not that the house is worth 700k. For all we know, the house is worth 300k and he has multiple mortgages on it (from when it was valued higher) to fund his investments and property purchases.

He also has outstanding student loans, possibly still car loans, possibly mortgages on the other houses, possibly student loans for his wife, etc. Even if we assume that he’s making 570k gross, then we don’t know how much he has in capital versus loans (i.e., what’s his actual net worth). I suspect that’s the source of his stress.

readyornot (#816)

Some people seem to define rich as the ability to sustain the same lifestyle off of only passive income and never have to work again. But passive income is inherently risky, and JS seems to have some anxiety about those risks (burned once, we’ve all come through that same crash). So it seems like he worries about being able to sustain a lifestyle with only his salary.

RosemaryF (#345)

I think that this guy needs to look into therapy. He obviously has anxiety issues over money. Anyone who has his income level and has such stress over future spending needs therapy. (Saying this as someone who has significantly lower but still comfortable income level and is in therapy because of my anxiety over things that could happen in 20 years.)

Sloane (#675)

@RosemaryF Totally agreed. And maybe develop a closer working relationship with the financial adviser to shift some of the worry to someone else? Or at least have the financial adviser tell him that he’s doing ok. This guy seems like he’s reading so many books and comparing himself to so many people, but not getting outside input into how he’s going.

LightSideUp (#2,934)

Kudos to him for being honest. He shares his economic liabilities with us and provides a different economic perspective (especially in terms of investments and lifestyle inflation). If you can’t learn something from this interview, you’ve got a long way to go.

Thanks for your time and transparency, random early 40s physician.

faustbanana (#2,376)

I’m not feeling any bewilderment towards this guy. It seems that he acknowledged repeatedly that yes, he IS rich and he knows it. Yet due to anxiety he constantly frets about what tomorrow might bring. He sounds like a sensitive, worrier type. Being a doctor, he probably deals more with death and insurance company BS than your average person does, seeing families lose their loved ones/savings because of illness – that’s enough to keep anxiety at a constant hum if it’s something to which you’re predisposed.

@faustbanana oh god insurance company bs is enough to make you doubt in the very existence of goodness in the world.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

Wow, guys. Wow. Okay, I’m clearly not on the same page as a lot of other commenters here (except in that I found this to be a really interesting interview). It sounds to me like Jake’s got his head on straight and is trying to do as much as he can for himself and his family. I was glad to read a perspective that we don’t normally hear much here.

This guy is way ahead of me on the life path, and I’m definitely more in the “wealthy is a state of mind” camp than most, but… when you have so many financial things to worry about, I am certain that it’s pretty hard to avoid worrying about your finances. A lot of us are just at a different life stage than Jake. Having kids who depend on you and a marriage and strong roots in a town make a huuuuuuge difference. If I had kids, I would never ever feel comfortable in my financial situation, no matter how objectively great it was. Plus, the economy is pretty bad still, and 40s are the time when mortgages and kids’ tuition and retirement planning can all come to a head, so that’s a pretty huge problem, especially for someone who still has $90k in student loans.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish everyone could stress less about money. However, I think going “no, trust me; you’re rich” to anyone who makes more than you doesn’t really help anything. This is a community for discussing financial issues/fears, right? If you can afford to hang out on the ‘net (or go to yoga/live in a big city/choose to try and wait out your dream field/go to the bar with your friends or eat out on the regular, like a lot of us do), you’re richer than a lot of people too. You don’t see them going, “boo hiss get off The Billfold and call a wahmbulance.”

< / rant >

@Caitlin with a C Really good point about kids, especially. Kids are so, so expensive, and so vulnerable and so many things can go wrong and school and health and vacations and … !!! Just thinking about kids makes me nervous about finances. So while I think this guy totally is rich and probably has some other anxieties that he is funneling into his money-nerves, I think it’s pretty normal to worry about providing for your family in (what you perceive to be) an unstable environment.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

@dj pomegranate Baaaah, not just his kids! What about parents?! (This is a thing that truly terrifies me: parental care.)

To all:

To clarify my stance, I do think this guy is rich in terms of the $$ (and the life plan) compared to me; however, I don’t think he’s wrong or somehow has less right to feel this way.

I mean, I feel very “you brought this upon yourself!” on here whenever someone posts about how they just can’t give up their lattes/yoga class/apartment in Manhattan/whatever thing that costs money they could be saving (but don’t comment on it, because… um… so what if you like having little luxuries sometimes?). I feel that way about myself and how I managed to put myself into deep credit card debt/move to an expensive big city from a farm town/go to a private grad school. There are costs associated with every class of living, and we all make decisions like humans. It’d be cheaper for me to move in with my mom, but I don’t feel like that’s an option that brings me forward in life.

Dude’s got three young adults who he is personally responsible for, and he’s also 20 years ahead of most of us in life, so of course he has a ton more money and an established career and he’s found places in his life where he prefers to pay extra to save himself time/pain. He probably also has a more realistic view of what happens when you have an emergency and he probably also has to worry about things like possibly adding 0-4 dependents in parent form for the rest of his life if anyone has any medical issues at all. I don’t think being older and wealthier or reaching a certain income threshold means that you get to stop worrying about money — that’s how you end up with nothing for retirement. I’d be obsessive about this stuff if I were him too. In fact, I am — that’s why I spend so much time on this website for people who obsess about their money situation (okay, and because I love you guys in my heart parts and it’s fun here).

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

@Caitlin with a C Whoa, that was longer than my original point.

mygoldies (#2,349)

@dj pomegranate I agree with you both about kids making a big difference to financial anxiety. This is a leap given what is written, but the other thing that gives me pause is where he says not too long ago his best friend died. Grief is a complicated process, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some fears over his own mortality and his family not being taken care of.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Caitlin with a C Yes, I am terrified about the potential costs of parental care. My mother and her husband definitely have plans to take care of themselves if anything goes wrong/in retirement. My dad doesn’t, is in debt, and he completely supports his husband financially. If he were suddenly unable to work, I worry that I’d be responsible for taking care of at least him, and while that’s daunting enough, I worry about whether I’ll be expected to take care of his husband (who does not have children), and also I absolutely positively could not give them a life at the standard they currently live at – I can’t even come close to affording that for myself. This is scary to me.

I wonder if there’s anyone the Billfold can tap who can write about helping out parents who are used to living larger than they themselves do? Or just in general about having to support their parents, how they planned for that, etc. Mike has written some about himself, but his parents are still living independently and (if I recall correctly) still working, too.

cjm (#3,397)

64% of Americans do not have $1000 of cash on hand to pay for an emergency. So, they don’t have even 1 months expenses saved, let alone 3 years. 60% of cars on the roads are older than 7 years. The oldest car he has is still newer than 60% of cars out there. The best selling non-truck car in 2012 was a Toyota Camry, so even people buying brand new are spending about $10,000 less on a car than he did.

This guy simply doesn’t have to worry about money. He already, in his emergency fund, has enough saved to pay for his kids to go to most colleges (Say, $200,000 each for 4 years.)

If they pay off the loans and the house and the cars before retirement, I bet they could live off of his investments if they even out to $100,000 a year.

If the world economy collapses, then no amount of money will save you. He needs to buy gold, wheat, and ammo if that’s what he really thinks is going to happen!

@fo (#839)

@cjm “He already, in his emergency fund, has enough saved to pay for his kids to go to most colleges (Say, $200,000 each for 4 years.)”

Where do you get the impression he has $600,000 in his ‘emergency fund’?

notfromvenus (#3,955)

@@fo He said he enough saved up to live on for 2-3 years…. which, for someone that makes >$500k, has a $700k mortgage, four houses, three cars and three dependants, probably is at least $600k.

@fo (#839)


So, if *you* saved “2 to 3″ years of expenses in an “emergency fund”, that would mean ALL of your current spending for 3 years, without any reduction in spending on anything?

Besides, when he says “2-3 years”, based on the rest of his anxiety, he’s rounding up, and contemplating some lifestyle cutback. Bet $1 that it’s under 18 months at his currently monthly burn rate, including the chef and private school, etc etc. It’s more like $150k (maybe $200k) than anything like $500k.

@fo (#839)


Also: He has $50k in positive, *taxable* cashflow from the 3 houses they don’t live in. So, everything else zeroes out, they still have ‘enough’ to live on, meaning that the ‘emergency fund’ is only doing partial duty–it’s a backstop.

And, from a place where they were insolvent just a few years ago, and no brokerage account, how does he save $600k?

Let’s say they got out from under the cc debt, bad investment debt, etc 7 years ago (when he leased the Lexus), and that he was making the $320k + $50k in rental income each of those 7 years (with an added $350k of cap gains last 2). After taxes, and assuming (badly) no state tax, that’s a bit over $250k/year (with an extra $150k each of last two years). We all agree he spends *a lot* of $$, and with private school, you really think he was saving over 25% of his net income those 5 years? And that their total annual spending (not ‘expenses’, but spending) is just over $150k per year–which would mean that he has an ‘emergency fund’ of 4 to 5 years, not 2-3. It just doesn’t add up to more than ~$250k (*possibly* plus most of the cap gains, but at least $100k of that is earmarked for loan payoff, anyway) that’s in savings.

honey cowl (#1,510)

Hahaha this is slightly insane.

peas of mind (#3,959)

@honey cowl

He certainly doesn’t sound like someone I’d like to have a drink with.

themegnapkin (#444)

I find this article so frustrating in part because his anxieties (which I am sure are real) about money are of his own making, and he doesn’t seem interested in doing anything about them. He could downsize his house, move his money from admittedly risky investments into safer ones, broaden his experience and social circles so that he understands that a Lexus is not an “average” car, funnel his extra money into college funds for his kids, etc. He says he reads all of these books about investing – including the very good “Millionaire Next Door” – but I don’t think he understands them, or absorbed any of their principes. I commented above that he reminds me of Dr. Drew Baird from 30 Rock, he also reminds me of Sherman McCoy from the Bonfire of the Vanities, especially in the chapter where Sherman wonders how he could possibly spend his entire salary of $1,000,000 each year, then goes through his purchases and justifies them — OF COURSE his daughter deserved $20,000 window treatments for her room!
He feels like he is financially precarious. Millions of people feel like that. But unlike those millions of people, Jake’s ability to do something about that feeling is entirely within his grasp, and he doesn’t seem to realize it.

themegnapkin (#444)

@themegnapkin that was meant to be a reply to Caitlin with a C. And, /rant.

JanieS (#1,826)


I just … I can’t …

:head explodes:

katieeitak (#1,964)

Wait…where’s all the money going? I don’t even get this.

ThatJenn (#916)

@katieeitak The money’s going into savings. Let’s note that he doesn’t say “I feel like I don’t have any money” or even “I feel like I don’t have enough money to do everything I want.” He just says he doesn’t feel rich – in the definition of rich he has in his head.

3jane (#645)

I really admire everyone who can at least attempt to relate to this guy’s perspective, and I really appreciate him sharing it, but I could barely even get through this article. I know this guy acknowledges that he is well-off, but I’m not sure he really has a grasp on how most people live.

I also wish he had talked more about this year he spent living “paycheck-to-paycheck.” Right now my assumption is it is not the same as when I was living paycheck-to-paycheck and making $300/week.

3jane (#645)

@3jane That comment came off as snarky, but I am actually genuinely interested in hearing about the paycheck-to-paycheck period and how he relates that to his current situation. And I am fully aware my assumption could be wrong.

ThatJenn (#916)

@3jane Yeah, I am trying really hard to be fair to him – because I think he has tried to be very balanced when talking about his own situation – but his use of words like “average” made me actually gasp out loud at how out of touch he seemed, saying things like that. BUT! The Billfold is showing us a different perspective and I really value that!

notfromvenus (#3,955)

@3jane I really in my life have never made more than $400/week, and even at that I could save a little to pay for two classes a year at community college.

aetataureate (#1,310)

I can’t decide how shitty to be about the way this interview has not been proofread or punctuated much or anything, so I’m just going to be that shitty about it. Especially for something that’s obviously already high traffic and starting a lot of conversations.

@aetataureate I have actually written a comment about this previously and then not submitted it because…I don’t know why? C’mon Billfold, I <3 u, get your editing game together!

ellabella (#1,480)

Obviously this guy is really really really rich, and I definitely agree that he has some unadressed anxieties about this, but as someone who is basically one of this dude’s children (two siblings, physician father in mid-50s, etc), I would say that it’s unfair to say someone is crazy or poorly adjusted for worrying about money. I think most if not all people worry about money, and that it doesn’t necessarily correlate super-closely with how much money you make.

Also, some of the back-of-the-napkin calculations here are grossly underestimating the cost of raising children. I think most of us progressive, liberally-minded Billfolders probably do or would aim to provide our kids with as much good education as we would feel we could afford. Obviously you do not need to spend lots on schooling to provide a great education for your children, but given the means, many people would prioritize that (over the Lexus or whatever).

Some expenses that others haven’t mentioned that this guy likely shells out for include $20,000/year/child for private school, especially if he lives in an urban area with limited access to quality public schools. Say another $5,000/kid for extracurriculars (instrument lessons, sports, overnight camp, exchange student programs, etc. etc. etc.)

If they live far from family, say that’s 1 flight/year to both the inlaws. $300x5x2 is $3,000, and that’s basically the most affordable flight one could possibly get, not in a holiday season, etc. etc. These kind of expenses that would be minor for an individual end up being really expensive when you’re a family of 5.

I’m not saying he’s not rich (HE IS!!!), but I am saying that this money is going somewhere, and it’s not all going to the private chef and Range Rover.

Oh, and don’t forget that when you’re making that much money, your federal + state tax rate is probably nearing 50%. This is probably his pretax income. (And because of marriage taxes, if his wife worked a job making, say, $60,000 a year, she would be taxed at the same rate as her husband, and take home only about $30,000 or whatever. )

ThatJenn (#916)

@ellabella Strongly agree that he is not wrong to worry about money and so on. Also, it’s easy to be judgmental about the fact that kids don’t “need” private school or whatever, but he’s made a decision about how to raise his kids based on the resources he has available to him, and good for him! Hopefully he’s not going around complaining to his “middle-class” friends about being broke or anything, but it doesn’t sound like he is – it sounds like he is giving us some personal insight into his own mind, where he still worries about having money.

SnarlFurillo (#2,538)

@ellabella Ahhh, but in his initial email he says that he lives in “an affluent suburb of a big city,” which are notorious for having palatial and private-school-like school districts, funded by the property taxes on all of those 700k homes.

ECW (#2,765)

@ellabella I think you are tapping into this guy’s real worries. I could also be described as “Jake’s Kid” which is great, but means I really sympathize with the stress this guy has. Being a well-off provider/parent puts pressure on “Jake” not just to get his kids through college but beyond. He has great savings, but is still worried about collapse of the system, about paying for college, about his kids being teachers and not making as much money as he does.”Jake” has done great but clearly wants to provide the cushion needed to ensure that his kids can do whatever they want as adults, and never see their lifestyle drop below what they had as children. And that is crazy stressful, and also not really a bad goal. The commenters here always love a good “trust fund” story, and appreciate the sacrifice it means that parents/grandparents made. Jake comes across to me like Logan’s dad, the guy who is going to agonize if his kids aren’t financially secure, feel obligated to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to bail them out when they fail financially, and never feel like he has quite enough to ensure that they, plus him, his wife/possibly parents are guaranteed this kind of life for as long as they need it. More so than a critique on Jake, I think this interview points out just how much disconnect there is between “wealth” and “family financial security.”

@fo (#839)

@ellabella “Obviously this guy is really really really rich”

No, he just spends a lot lot lot of money, and **still** spends less than his neighbors.

Also, had he simply *burned* the $100k+ he lost on earlier investments, he’d probably have a lot less anxiety. Had he spent it on furniture, etc, he’d have a lot lot less anxiety, and had he put it in a money market account, he’d have a lot lot lot less anxiety. But he didn’t–he made investments that went south, and he had to work extra hard to recover from them—NB: it’s quite possible he would have been better off *financially* had he filed BK at that point, but he didn’t.

BornSecular (#2,245)

Holy moly.

That is all.

Sarah @twitter (#3,921)

I think a lot of this anxiety has to come from the fact that he says he has seen colleagues end up in bankruptcy and that some of his family did not come out of the Great Recession that well. I guess that all is understandable to me. I mean, he has a ton of assets and a lot of wealth but it wouldn’t last forever.

jenfizz (#100)

This is the sort of drivel we should expect when we live in a culture that equates wealth with happiness. He thinks money should make him happy and if he’s not happy (ie living a life free of anxiety or worry) then he must not have enough money. Meh.

chic noir (#713)

Well this article has certainly started fireworks. The only way we can fix income equality in the states is for people like Jake Smith to speak openly about money.

This article rubs many working and lower middle class folks the wrong way in the same vein that Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce rub “real women” the wrong way.

@chic noir TRUTH. Good analogy.

I would feel rich if I had a 2-3 month cushion. I consider things like new bras and meat to be luxuries. Spending any money on entertainment or dining out feels extravagant. And I have a college education and am working in my field. Granted, I’m grossly underpaid for my skills and education, but I’m still making a little more than twice the minimum wage. If it’s this hard for me to get by, I honestly don’t know how people who make minimum wage can do it. Things need to change.

But I digress. I don’t want to read about how well-off people manage their money. I want to know how people like me, living paycheck-to-paycheck, manage their money. If I made as much money as this guy I wouldn’t have most of the problems and stress I have now.

chic noir (#713)

@fondue with cheddar . If I made as much money as this guy I wouldn’t have most of the problems and stress I have now.

Agreed, life would be pretty good for me too.

Since there needs to be another voice on his side in this…
-For all the people who say “don’t compare yourself to the people around you financially, just do you”, why should he compare his financial situation to the average person’s? Everyone should have financial goals, regardless of income, cash flow or net worth. He has goals. That’s a good sign. Having goals and not yet being at those goals is a natural source of concern, anxiety-driven or otherwise, for anyone.
-He clearly stated that his investment interest rate exceeds that of his debts, assuming inflation is allowed for. In that case, let it all rack up because you’re in the black. If you have what’s effectively an arbitrage opportunity, use it.
-Kids cost a lot, and US schools cost a lot. That’s just a fact of life. Wanting the best for your kids is something I think we can all agree on. Living a lifestyle worse than your parents’ isn’t something anyone would wish on his/her kids. Obviously, these kids live a pretty good life now. I think it’s only natural for him to want this life to continue, if not improve.
-A house that costs $300-400K simply isn’t feasible in a lot of places. Moving to a cheaper area isn’t feasible for everyone, and even so, one of the primary perks of being rich (as this man is, and we all acknowledge) is getting to pick your neighbourhood.

This guy’s doing fine. He has some areas he needs to work on financially, like those still-existing student loans, but he knows that and is paying attention, which is a good thing. That his wife stays home but they apparently still need a personal chef feels strange to me but I don’t have three kids like they do.

Best wishes, “Jake Smith”!

@Matthew Gordon@twitter I don’t think that just because his wife stays home it means she should be doing the cooking every day. He doesn’t say what she does, but ‘not working’ doesn’t automatically equate to ‘not busy’. Or maybe she just doesn’t like to cook, and the person they have hired does?

he should pay off his debt…and then visit a psychiatrist lol

citizen200 (#3,933)

Wow, I had to create an account to say – rich people are fucking crazy, man. They are so, so crazy. This guy is crazy. It’s also very common for very rich people to be terribly afraid of global catastrophe – I guess the higher you climb, the longer the fall – but if the financial system collapsed, or whatever, people would find a way to carry on. Of course there would be terrible collateral damage – and the world would be a very different place. I think it’s the latter that scares rich people the most; that the current hierarchy might change. And, of course, most people just don’t have the luxury of worrying about this kind of thing.

Anyway, I make less than $200 USD / month (sup, Peace Corps), so maybe that’s why I’m so shocked (when I see a car that looks like it might have air conditioning, I am actually impressed). Though I grew up in a community that fills up with mind-bogglingly wealthy people every summer, AND I worked in finance for a bit – but the way rich people think and worry is just alien to me.

If there is one thing that I have noticed, it is those that are extremely wealthy are always the most worried about money. Not the people making $75k to $100k a year, not the person making $30k a year. Its always the people at the top.

They are the gold bugs, the heirloom tomato people; but then they go and drive immensely expensive vehicles and buy huge houses. I wonder if they are afraid of losing the status, materials things, or the relationships with those at the top with them.

I wonder if it is internal motivation to stay on top? How they got there in the first place?

I love these columns by the way please keep them going. Sorry for any typos, banging this out on a mobile.

novembertea (#2,203)

Um… stay at home wife and they still hire a chef? That seems weird. A lot of things seem weird about this guy’s situation. A 700k mortgage is a big deal, even for him. And then he STILL has 90k in student loan debt?

@novembertea As per my comment above, why should the wife automatically have to cook? Maybe she’s busy, maybe she isn’t into cooking.. In my home we pay a cleaner every two weeks because they’re better at it than us and because we have chosen (luckily we can) to prioritise time over a small amount of $$

notfromvenus (#3,955)

@novembertea At that income level, he could’ve lived frugally, saved up for a few years and just bought the $700k house outright and saved a bunch of money. That part seems weird to me.

It is really crazy to carry 6% interest debt while having hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings! Even if he believes that his high-return investment is quite low-risk, he would get lots more money by taking out an equity line on his home (3-4% interest) and using that to invest rather than neglecting his med school debt.

Also, expecting to do better than 6% return just because you are special is incredibly risky; just look at his own investment history! It is less likely that becoming older and wiser helped him make a good decision for his “hit” and more likely that he just got lucky.

boringbunny (#3,260)

why do people want so much for this guy to acknowledge that he’s wealthy? i mean, it’d be gauche in real life to say, hey, i’m wealthy and clearly, whatever he says doesn’t help anyone’s circumstances. if he said he didn’t have to worry at all about money, would that make us any happier? what would we say if people poorer than us pressured us to proclaim that we were wealthy and that we shouldn’t worry about money anymore? or are we just trying to convince ourselves that money really does buy happiness and his article is an affront to that idea – like you can make 10x the amount of money and still worry like crazy. i’ve read those other articles – couples making $200k or whatever and they’re all “we’re wealthy – we just throw money at things” and that makes me worry. nothing is permanent and this guy at least gets that.

peas of mind (#3,959)


You know, I think it really matters that this guy can’t see himself as rich. It speaks to the fact of how important stability is.

And I think the question of whether or not our wealth (as a nation and as individuals or families) is growing is something we fixate on, but we don’t regard stability in the same way. In the U.S., we glorify the notion of risking a lot and hitting it big, but we don’t pay attention to the fact that the very system in place that allows people to hit it SO big, and to become SO incredibly wealthy also means that people who do not hit it big are pretty much fucked. It’s a ”winner-take-all” system. And a system like that (especially in an economic environment where the middle class has been in serious decline for decades, and in a country that doesn’t have a real social safety net) encourages people to aim for obscene wealth, because the only other option is barely scraping by. So people glorify extreme wealth and the consumerism and materialism that signify extreme wealth, and legitimately wealthy people don’t feel wealthy because it’s unstable (and hoard their money, and spend their time trying to obtain greater and greater wealth), and nobody wins. That is a pretty interesting, and deeply fucked-up system of wealth. And I’m inclined to think that a society that put as much value on the idea of stability as it did on wealth (and had economic policies that reflected that value structure) would be made of communities where people felt a lot less worried, and a lot more stable, and a lot less like they needed to make seven figures and a range rover just to scrape by.

So yeah, I want this dude to acknowledge his wealth. Because not acknowledging it is evidence of how fucked-up our economic landscape is.

chic noir (#713)

@peas of mind – What an excellent comment. Your comment should be made into a post.

AuntAgatha (#3,942)

Are there any stay-at-home parents who can share their thoughts on this family’s hiring a personal chef even though the mother stays at home? Is this something you would do if you could afford it? I don’t have children and both my parents have always worked, so I don’t have a good perspective on this — but I’m having a hard time imagining why cooking is so stressful for her.

ellabella (#1,480)

@AuntAgatha My mom is a “stay-at-home” mom and while we never had a personal chef, we did have a cleaning person. My family is lucky enough that the choice for my mom to not work for pay wasn’t a question of, “will you be the primary homemaker or contribute income to pay for those services?” She stopped working to have quality time with her children and to be able to contribute to a lot of organizations that wouldn’t be able to pay her for her work. My mom more greatly enjoys driving (less-privileged) kids who wouldn’t otherwise have rides to extracurricular activities, and would rather do that than clean the bathroom. She likes to cook and sees that as a valuable way to contribute to the family, but if she didn’t, why not outsource it and spend the time you would otherwise be stressed out shopping and preparing food doing things that make you happy and contribute to the family. I don’t know, playing in the backyard with your kids; helping them with their homework; volunteering; whatever. Obviously these are privileges but if you have the ability, why feel the (arguably patriarchal) pressure to cook? There are many other valuable ways ones’ time can be spent. Not sure if that’s how this woman’s time is being spent, but we don’t know that she’s sitting around getting pedicures by any means.

Also, the reality is that many people of all incomes eat out a lot, which is generally less healthy. If you’re looking at 3 meals for a family of 5 out, you’re talking about the same amount of money for something way more expensive and less healthy.

Finally, just a note that part of what makes it possible for many families to have two-earner households is the sharing of responsibilities like coordinating soccer games, carpools, PTA fundraisers, etc. usually disproportionately by mothers (and some fathers) not working full-time. There are some systemic issues here of course but it is a huge responsibility that often falls on the shoulders of those who are more available to do it. We shouldn’t undervalue this contribution.

notfromvenus (#3,955)

@AuntAgatha Having a personal chef sounds awesome, and a maid awesomer, and I’d totally do that if our household income was $500k. But doing that while *not working* is definitely the sign of being very rich. What does she even do all day, if she’s not working and not keeping house?

Titania (#489)

@AuntAgatha You’ve never met anyone who hates to cook? I’m not a stay at home parent, but I certainly know plenty of young, single, responsibility-free peers who avoid their kitchens entirely, and I imagine not all of them will grow out of it. Being the primary cook for a household requires a number of skills ancillary to actually putting things in the oven–shopping, ingredient prep, meal planning, timing the dishes, reusing leftovers, even just adapting when something goes wrong–and those take time to learn and require an inclination to learn them, they’re not that intuitive though they feel that way when you’ve been doing it for a while. If she’s never learned or never cared to learn, planning three meals a day every day would of course be very stressful.

Also, anecdote time–my best friend’s mom when I was growing up was a stay-at-home mom who hated cooking, but they weren’t the kind of people to hire a chef. Guess who was always eating at friends’ houses avoiding yet another meal of grocery-store rotisserie chicken, pasta, and limp steamed veggies? Just because you’re forced to do something doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get better at it or enjoy it any more than you otherwise would.

Titania (#489)

@notfromvenus If she’s like the moms I babysat for growing up, she has a tennis game in the morning, gets some shopping and household necessities done, picks up the baby from half-day pre-k around noon, goes to lunch, has meetings in the afternoon for various events and committees, maybe does a little freelance work from home, picks up the older kids at 3, schleps them all around town to various activities until dinner, has dinner with whoever is home, starts the kids on homework, picks up around the house, says hi to her husband who will work the kids into a frenzy in the hour he’s home before they go to bed, gets the kids through bathtime, book-reading, and bedtime, comes downstairs for a few hours of being an adult before bed. Add in multiple loads of laundry throughout the day, as well as doctor visits, volunteering at school, and various social events. My mother worked when I was growing up, as an attorney, and I plan to keep working as well. I think it’s important, both for mental health and to set an example for your children. But schedule-wise, these ladies certainly fill their days.

ellabella (#1,480)

@Titania This is great to know about yourself, but I really feel like its important to be aware that what works for you (having a job when you have kids) doesn’t make it the answer for everyone. Certainly some parents need to work to maintain their sanity; others probably need to stay home to do the same. Of course plenty of people are trapped or choose to be in situations that don’t make them happy, but that’s one person’s experience and isn’t generalizable. You basically outlined exactly what my mom’s days have been like for the last 17 years, and she’s LOVED it. Now she’s looking to returning to work, and excited for that. It worked for her/my family. I feel like every family that is lucky enough to have choices in this regard strikes a different balance.

Princess Mom (#4,019)

@notfromvenus What does she even do all day? She has an infant, not to mention two other children, one of whom is old enough to be involved in classes and activities. If I’d known a personal chef was so inexpensive when my kids were small, we would have eaten a lot less McDonald’s and Hamburger Helper because that’s all I had time to get on the table between preschool and karate.

The anxieties discussed in this article need to be shared with a therapist, not the internet. I’m pretty sure you can afford it dude.

There are quite a few comments here saying they’re finding it hard to sympathise.. I didn’t think he was looking for sympathy per se, so much as just describing his situation. I agree that he does seem to be ‘rich’, especially compared to most, but I found the point to be more the way he sees himself compared to how we view him.

@Catherine Doran@twitter That’s true, his problems are real. But it’s hard to even read about someone talking about their problems when your problems are so much harder. It’s like a 120-pound woman complaining to her obese friend about not fitting into last year’s bikini. There’s a huge disconnect between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and when you’re in the latter group it’s painful to be reminded of it.

Jessie@twitter (#3,957)

@Catherine Doran@twitter Thank you. I’m quite sure he did not participate in the interview because he was looking for anyone’s sympathy. And I would go further to say that he doesn’t claim to have any urgent ‘problems’ that need solving. He’s rich and stable but still very worried about the overall macro financial situation; the track that we are currently on concerns him. He has children so naturally he is going to think about what their future will look like. I think it’s always good to hear another perspective. And this interview has reminded me that I should probably add a few financial books to my summer reading. Thanks for the interview, Billfold.

“I think our mortgage is in the low $700Ks, which is a lot, but it’s less than double my income.”
Well there’s your trouble right there.

jmlstocks (#3,972)

Here’s some advice for the good doctor: Listen to your financial advisor. You have learned lots about your job from years of experience, nobody could step in off the street and do your job as well as you could. Why then would you think you could do an advisor’s job as well as they could? The reality is you’re working very hard for your money, but your money’s not working very hard for you.

taxgirl (#4,018)

@jmlstocks well said

This guy seems like a real self-obsessed jerk. Half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. It is healthcare providers like him that are bankrupting the US healthcare system because every doctor wants to get paid like a Wall Street executive. This is the mindset of doctors. Socialize medicine like the rest of the developed countries and this guy would be lucky to be paid half what he makes. Shameless greed and hubris.

Doing Well (#3,994)

I have to say, I’m impressed with the civility of the comments on this page. So, I thought I would share my own story as someone who’s situation is similar to the doctors. Even though I make 200k a year and I’m part of the 2%, I still feel financial anxious. I know that I’ve lost touch with reality and I’m rich, but I don’t always feel rich. I used to consider myself frugal, but that’s probably not true anymore, however compared to most people making 100k or more, I am frugal. I don’t know where people get the money for all the thing they do, but I certainly can’t afford the new clothes and little luxuries that I see so many people indulging in.
I paid for my own way through college and latter paid for my own way, through loans, for graduate school. I was living paycheck to paycheck with mounds of debt. Since I nothing to lose financially I started a business and created even more debt for myself. The business took off and I paid off all my debt. For a few years I was scared to spend any of my new found wealth. I lived fairly frugally, and by frugally I mean that I didn’t buy a new car. I wouldn’t spend money on Starbucks or lunches out. I didn’t go out to dinner more than once a month. I didn’t buy expensive clothes or take extravagant trips. I didn’t go to expensive sporting events or concerts. Eventually I began to experience lifestyle creep, I bought a new bigger house, an investment property, and a couple of toys ( a 10 year old convertible and a 10 year old motorcycle). Even though I make 200k a year and I’m part of the 2%, I still feel financial anxiety. My Dad lost his job when he was fifty, and I worry about losing everything too. I’m happy with what I have but too scared to switch careers or take any real risk. I have two kids that I will be putting through school and the likelihood they will ever experience the same standard of living that I have, is really low. I think one of the points is that even though intellectually you know you are rich and you don’t have to worry about the day to day expenses like rent and food, money doesn’t always buy you happiness or piece of mind.

BradenDunlop (#4,003)

My sentiments are the same as Doc. I dont think it’s that I dont feel rich right now ($150K), it’s that he’s not sure how to maintain and ensure being “rich”. It’s highly likely it is a lingering effect of the “recession” we all just experienced. Financial stability is almost as fragile as life itself. If you are not worried about it, it’s going to bite you.

taxgirl (#4,018)

Some of my happiest, nicest clients are almost at the proverty level (pro bono of course). Some of the most wonderful clients are multi-millionaires. And all in between. The most valuable lesson I have learned with 30+ years at my job is Money is like heroin. The more you have the more you need. There are people living in shacks and huts who think we are RICH snobs because we have utilities and computers. Trust me, there are also people in JS’s world wondering why a Doctor isn’t driving a Jag – It’s all relative.

Ana V (#4,725)

Taxgirl, you are right on.

j a y (#3,935)

I actually think this guy is pretty self-aware. He knows he’s rich and it’s at odds with his feeling insecure about finances. And that part of that comes from wanting to maintain a fairly expensive lifestyle for himself and his family.

While I’m not even NEAR the income he makes, I have less anxiety. I’m single and I have years of ‘cushion’ – because I do have a fair amount of anxiety. The difference of course, is that my cushion is living at $12k/year, which is bare-bones but fine for me but probably impossible for him.

YES he is wealthy – I am not envious but I am little annoyed. He and his family live a luxurious lifestyle and I can understand how balancing his finances to maintain that could make him anxious and stressed, but he seems to be out of perspective … has he ever traveled to parts of Africa or Asia? what he earns in a year could probably support an entire village for that period of time..

If he and his family chose to live more modestly(and still quite comfortably) he could certainly enjoy a life totally free of money worries .. so, no sympathy here… I don’t get why he’s moaning about his financial situation.

I’m sure if he was forced to live on welfare for a couple months his perspective would magically change…

A Kook (#4,810)

@Cloven Angel@facebook Who pays Welfare? Yes, anyone on welfare too long becomes entitled and also enslaved to think that their life choices don’t actually matter. And as long as they check the right box, they can continue to live a false struggle of slavery.

Ana V (#4,725)

I’m in the exact same situation as Jake. Husband and I are in the middle 30′s and for the last 4 years we’ve had similar income (over $500 K) except the year before last, in which we made almost triple ($1.2 MM), last year only 250K (bad business decisions) and this year is looking like 300K (due to carrying losses from last year) and all I do is worry myself sick every day.

I think it’s the fear of being middle class again, of easily loosing what so easily comes in each month, when it’s so hard for the average person to earn. And I feel average. I was never like this though, and I feel far from being wealthy.

We don’t do expensive clothing or go all out on lavish expenses or luxuries. No boats. No vacations in Aspen or the Hamptons or Europe. One home in FL and one in the Caribbean (our original home which we still own). We do drive a Porsche and an Audi Q7, just because I guess cars are our thing, even when we were “poor” we drove BMW’s.

We paid our $750K home in full (no mortgage) cash buy, and its in the best zone in one of the best cities in the state (to live in,, according to publications, etc). That’s it. You’d see us walking around in flip flops and would think we’re dead beats. That’s fine with us. But I do need help with my daily psychosis and constant worrying. Too cheap to pay a shrink.

I was able to take $250K I saved up a couple of years ago and invested it getting a 16% annual ROI (yeah baby). Our monthly expenses are $15K which I think is ridiculously high and I have to wrestle around with the hubby constantly to keep it down. We’re a family of 4, with 2 boys: 8 and 3. Who the heck spends 2 grand in groceries each month? Guess who.

Right now if I don’t save at least $10K a month I get a nervous breakdown. I was never like this. What the he** happened????

A Kook (#4,810)

He seems very grounded actually. It’s difficult living as a responsible wage earner in a society where our currency could collapse at anytime. Luckily, he has invested in a career that he enjoys (regardless of money) so I think he is living his life well. Still I’m sure he has made personal sacrifices (emotional, social, financial) to get to his goals and he is the kind of doctor who has earned his money.

This is an interview, an expose’ if you will. No sympathy is being asked for, a slice of insight you might not run across in your day to day. And to the people who are jealous or post negative comments, would do better just to get on with their own lives, rather than spread their apparently negative attitudes regarding their finances. Make peace with yourself. Don’t hate on people for being people.

The value in this article as I see it, we are all in the same boat. Rich or poor, we all worry about our future, because we live in such an irresponsible country (Corrupted by IMF) which could go bankrupt at anytime (e.g. Russian bread lines). Or financially forced to feed our families foods that cause cancer, genetically modified dead food or “Canola oil” which causes heart attacks. It isn’t really food or healthful and should not be sold as food. But our whole society driven by special interests and corrupt government which ruins our health and then says “whoops! so what.” It seems like their goal is to keep us between Life and Death. And we must pay money we may not have to live. Or very difficult choices to keep our Love ones healthy and alive.

It’s not that this guy couldn’t or hasn’t lived cheaply. Life is an investment of your family, your time, your resources. I’m not advocating to let finances run life, or to be fiscally irresponsible and be a burden on others. Clearly Life is about Balance. Health and longevity is one of the greatest investment, but family, community, career these are also very important to a full life that doesn’t amount to poverty or tragedy. We are conned every day by marketing selling us things. Once it was Lucky cigarettes to cure your sore throat, now it’s whole grains and canola oil to promote health. (Rapeseed oil was not designed for consumption and is now bleached and contains hexane to be turned into the false health food Called canola.)

Why a commenter would suggests someone go to a third-world country they aren’t from, to see people starve to death to “get perspective”? Is just plain dumb. And makes me wish this commenter would do that to themselves. :)

It doesn’t sound like he became wealthy because he wants to feel rich. He is wealthy because he invested well in his passion and future, and had the follow through, drive and determination to get there. He also had the discipline to be there and act when a good investment came along. And he has taken hits and setback as well, and not wound up sucking up others charity with his carelessness. This is not an easy feat. The toughest thing of all is to have the courage and discipline to get one owns life in order, so that when opportunity knocks, you are available and ready to answer.

Jabezc (#5,163)

It’s in your head, i worked as a chef on a mega-yacht, i can tell you, these people were as rich as it gets, and all they could do was moan about what they did not have.

My situation is similarly sad. When I was in medical school, my family of 4 lived in a small, unfinished but paid off house, drove 2 used and paid off “real” average cars (a Dodge and a Ford) and “survived” on $12,000/yr. We had no cable TV, never ate out, didn’t take a vacation in 7 years, never went to the movies, etc. After about 6 years in practice, I was making $425,000/yr and felt like I was unbelievably rich. Heck, I was paying about $150,000/yr just in TAXES! So we started taking 2 vacations a year, mainly cruises. My wife even got a NEW mini-van lol. We were buying our kids and ourselves way too much stuff. In fact, we rarely denied ourselves but we were still saving $50,000/yr even though it should have been more. Then we started being outright reckless with our money. We bought a big house and estate and paid $750,000 for it. We kept our original house as a rental and even bought another rental. My income has dropped to $300,000 and I no longer feel rich but I do feel “comfortable”. I don’t feel rich because my mortgage is $50,000/yr, I still pay about $100,000 in taxes, my wife’s Toyota is $6,000/yr, we still take too many trips (my wife’s ideas) that cost about $15,000/yr, we’re paying $30,000/yr in tuition, utilities and insurance cost about $10,000/yr, etc, etc, etc. I think though that we do manage to save $20,000/yr. We do have almost $1,000,000 in cash in IRA’s and 401 K’s but can’t touch them. We’re not living from paycheck to paycheck but if I don’t work, I don’t get paid so I still feel “average”. To me, if ALL of my bills were paid off and I had no worries and I could CLEAR $50,000/yr, then I would feel “rich” I think. But that’s a long way from happening I think for me. Maybe by the time I’m 67 and I get Medicare!

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