June 27, 2003
I was digging through some clippings I had set aside when I found one that caught my eye. It was a poll about how the wealthiest Canadians see themselves.
In typical Canadian fashion, the Ipsos-Reid poll reported that 95% of Canadas top earners dont consider themselves wealthy, including three quarters of the people who are millionaires. In fact, 2% of the millionaires questioned felt they were "just able to maintain a basic standard of living" and 1% of Canadas wealthiest reported that they were "struggling".
I didnt realize things were that bad. Maybe there ought to be a home where we can look after millionaires down on their luck - besides the Senate I mean.
Last year Canada reportedly created more new millionaires proportionately than the United States. Youd think this is good news about the robust Canadian economy, with people happy and prospering, but after seeing the poll Im afraid that now all it means is more people struggling to keep their heads above water, even if it is in the comfort of their own indoor swimming pools.
To make ends meet, Canadas privileged underprivileged might have to cut a few corners. They might have to make that old tiara last through one more season. Theyll stock up on Gray Poupon mustard when it goes on sale. Theyll fire the team of landscapers and spend the weekends personally fishing gum wrappers out of the moat and scraping the pigeon poop off the gargoyles. Rich men will face the hard decision about whether to spend the money on plastic surgery for the old trophy wife, or if this is the year to invest in a new, younger one. Cigars will have to be lit with five dollar bills instead of hundreds.
Theres a lot to worry about if you are a Canadian millionaire. If you just made your first million fleecing investors, flipping real estate or selling orphans for spare parts, a big concern must be that if you spend any of it you could drop below the one million dollar mark and wont get to call yourself an millionaire anymore. It would be pretty embarrassing to have to admit that youre twenty bucks shy of seven figures. Talk about the pressure of keeping up with the Bronfmanns.
I suppose its true that money doesnt buy you happiness - or at least thats what I remind myself every time I open my bank statement. I remember that I am rich in ways that you cant put a price on - just my luck.
There are people I know who bought very fancy cars, only to be afraid to park them anywhere. Others who live in great big houses that "require" landscaping because the neighbours will holler (actually rich people dont holler - they pay a lawyer $400 an hour to do it for them). Then theres the clothes you think you should wear, the food you think you should eat and the places you think you should be seen.
Theres no doubt about it - being rich can be very expensive.
I know someone who made a few bucks and placed their children in private school because they kept getting beaten up in the public system. After paying a fortune to get them into a snooty private school, it turned out the kids continued to get beaten up - but at least now they were being beaten up by a better class of person.
I suppose thats what makes it all worthwhile.