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Reading how uber-wealthy in New York suffer is rich

June 05, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

Just to make you feel better, you ought to know that the rich are suffering, too.

A story in The New York Times - and this story could only come out of New York - relates some of the painful cutbacks the wealthy have had to make in these unsettled financial times.

It's pretty heartbreaking, hearing about salaries that have plummeted from $8 million a year to $2 million. According to The Times, they are selling spare diamonds, forgoing $350 highlights at the hairdresser and sacrificing travel on $10,000-an-hour private jets.

And people who are used to that kind of jack apparently have no idea how to handle the trauma.

In all, it makes me feel kind of lucky. Price of gas goes up, I just eat out one fewer time a week. Price of milk goes up, I drink water. It's no big deal. Heck, some people are even celebrating the fact that beer is now cheaper than gas - which is why more and more people are pulling up to the filling station and ordering gasoline by the pitcher.

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But one New York counselor related a story of a distressed man whose income had dropped from $20 million to $8 million. He kept it secret from his wife - who has a taste for fancy clothes and vacations - and went into debt to finance her lifestyle.

Were the wife to find out that they were all but destitute, worrying along on a paltry $8 million, the man said he believed she would leave him. Really? That happens in New York? Maybe they have a better handle on things - marriage is so much easier if you don't let your emotions get tied up in it.

Of course, if this gold digger were to leave, you or I would say, "good." If the girl's only in it for the money, how comforting can that be?

"Do you take this man for better or worse, for richer or poorer?"

"Uh, define poorer."

But apparently, at this financial level, cutting her loose is not an option. She'd talk. Dude just isn't bringing home the cash like he used to. And that would be very bad for the ego.

The Times says, "Friends and business associates could avoid them as they pass their lunchtime tables at Barney's or the Four Seasons. And these snubs could trickle down to their children.

"'They fear their kids won't get invited to the right birthday parties,' said Michele Kleier, an Upper East Side-based real estate broker. 'If they have to give up things that are invisible, they're O.K., as long as they don't have give up things visible to the outside world.'"

It's tough being rich. We get a pay cut, we go down to the local bar and gripe about it as loudly as we can to anyone who will listen. Of course no one will, because no one cares. We all got troubles.

But the wealthy have to hide it. The story says that to save on a $165-an-hour session with a personal trainer at the gym, they can't just stop going. That might hint at a problem. Instead, they ask that their sessions be moved to a time slot they know is already taken.

But this leads to another problem. Personal trainers say that they notice the rich are eating and drinking more to deal with the stress, and hence are getting fatter. They might lose their wives, but at least they still can afford the Heath Bar milkshakes.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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