Daily Archives: June 24, 2014

How Not to Talk About Your Money, Very Rich Edition

Hillary Clinton: Likely to be the next president of the United States, I suspect, but in the last several days, apparently clueless about how to talk about her money, of which there is a lot, and for which her ability to get more is pretty much assured until she shuffles off this mortal coil. Complaining that she and Bill were dead broke when they left the White House was at the least slightly overdramatic, considering all the apparatus, from book contracts to speeches, that exist to allow ex-presidents and first ladies to quickly pad out their bank accounts. It’s like complaining about your Ivy League law school debt when you already have a job lined up at a white shoe law firm and a clear path to partnership. Yes, you have debt; no, you’re not going to have any sort of problem getting rid of it.

Likewise, noting that you pay income tax like a common troll, unlike so many other rich people, is not a great call. One, you don’t get a pat on the back for paying your taxes like you’re supposed to be doing. Two, if you’re noting that you pay taxes on income, while other rich people pay taxes on capital gains, and that those two rates are different, a) it’s not quite kosher to imply that other people are skirting their taxes if they’re actually paying what the law requires and b) you’re Hillary Clinton, I’m not sure how much you want to advertise that fact considering President Clinton reduced capital gains taxes while in office. Three, even if you paid full freight on your taxes, if your household net worth is reportedly upward of $100 million, I expect the best you can hope for from a statement like that is a bit of eyerolling.

Very rich people, please note: In this world of Internets and Twitters and informations at fingertips, everyone knows that you are very rich. Trying to assure everyone that you’re different from all the other very rich people — and that your vast fortune is not quite like every other very rich person’s vast fortune — is probably not the winning stategy you think it is. There also comes a certain point at which “working hard” is not a reasonably complete explanation for the millions one accrues in life, at least not to the millions of people who are also working hard and paying the same full freight on taxes and somehow lack the millions of dollars in income and net worth to show for it.

It’s nice to be in the rare air where one can make six figures for showing up to give a speech. Don’t confuse that place in the world with one that is available merely through simple “hard work.” There’s a lot more that goes into it than that, much of it not directly owing to one’s own planning or exertions. Context, as always, matters.

If I had a net worth of nine figures or more, any time I was asked for comment about it, the short version of it would be “I have been very fortunate, and I know it.” Hell, that’s my standard response now, and I am nowhere near worth that much.