Richi$tan by Robert Frank

Richistan

I chose to read Richi$tan by Robert Frank because of the book’s cover. What is not to like about an expensive looking yacht sailing towards a beautiful tropical island surrounded by white sands and turquoise water?

Has anybody ever pointed out to you when you have been having a whinge about something, that you are actually lucky because your problem is actually a ‘first world problem?’ First world problems are those experienced by people who are actually quite privileged. An example is when you can’t find your favourite pair of shoes because you left them at your beach house, or you can’t get an appointment with your spray tanner before you go on holidays because they are booked out. (Okay, I’ll admit these are exaggerated examples, but you get my point).

Richi$tan is about people who are very, very rich.

The problems experienced by the people interviewed in this book are even more ridiculous than you would believe. If you can believe it, very rich people whinge about the management of their household staff which can number in the hundreds. Newly wealthy billionaires complain about not being socially accepted by people with inherited wealth. A common problem noted in the book is people who are extremely rich comparing themselves unfavourably with those who are richer again, and feel the need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. This means they feel obligated to live in a bigger house, drive a flasher car and throw more sensational parties. It’s hard to feel sorry for these poor sausages.

Richi$tan is a fly on the wall look at how the very wealthy live. Reading about very wealthy people gave me the same kind of feelings I get when I flick through a magazine with gossipy stories about celebrities who have done stupid things, a smidge of envy, a little bit sorry for them, a big hunk of feeling patronising (I’m not saying I don’t do stupid things too, but because I’m unknown, no one gives a rat’s tail when I do).

There is a very interesting chapter in Richi$tan about butler school, where butlers in training learn how to provide service to extremely wealthy people. It turns out that butlers actually earn very good money, so becoming a butler is probably a very good career move if you are service oriented. Butlers are probably in a financial position to experience first world problems.

There are also chapters about how people became very rich. Richi$tan isn’t a how to guide, so there is no point reading this to learn how to get rich yourself. Most of the interviews and anecdotes in the book are with people who have only recently became rich, mostly through their own hard work, good luck and selling out of their start up businesses at exactly the right time.

One chapter is about a man who became a billionaire and then lost all his money. (He sounds very careless to me. I hate losing anything, even a couple of dollars). These days the man who lost all his money owes $15 million dollars and lost his marriage as well. His former wife kept their home and presumably a large number of their assets which were in her name when things went wrong.

The book contains stories about resorts that have been developed for rich people so they don’t have to mix with people of lesser wealth, support groups for rich people, watches that are so exclusive that only rich people even recognise them. Would you believe there are classes for the children of the very rich where they learn how to ask a prospective partner to sign a pre-nuptial agreement? Imagine saying to your beloved with a straight face, “In our family we call it a marriage agreement and it’s purpose is to protect the family wealth”. Why not just be straight up and say, “Honey, I love you now, but I might not always, and when I stop loving you I don’t want you getting my money”. I suppose no body would ever get married if that were the case.

If you think there is a bit of the green-eyed monster creeping in here, you’re probably right. I’m happy, healthy and always have enough to eat, so really, I have nothing to complain about. Still, I can’t help feeling annoyed by whinging people who are extraordinarily rich.
I actually quite enjoyed this book and enjoyed a fly on the wall look at the rich people in it.

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