Review of: Richistan

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Richistan A Journey Through The American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich, by Robert Frank, copyright 2007, published by Crown Publishers

Frank, a senior reporter for the Wall Street Journal, on assignment, researched, analyzed and wrote about the country of the rich – Richistan.

Richistan is inhabited by those living in ‘lower Richistan’ affluent professionals, etc whose money (1 million to 10 million net worth) is half derived from their salary and a third from investments. They are politically conservative. Middle Richistan’ is inhabited by small business owners with 10 million to 1 billion in net worth. The 1.4 million – in 2007 – middle Richistanis are politically more liberal than lower Richistanis. Upper Richistanis are less numerous (just a few thousand) and they have upwards of 100 million in net worth. Most upper Richistanis made their money by starting, then selling their own business. The billionaire portion of upper Richistani were even fewer in number in 2007 – only one thousand.

Frank goes on to examine the characteristics and lifestyles of these recently rich people. He examines the services they use (such as butlers); ways they made their money (such as public storage, beanie babies, Yankee Candles and potatoes); ways they lost their money (such as dot com crashes and spendthrift spouses); how they spend the money (on bigger and bigger things– yachts, houses, planes and properties); how they are changing the landscape of philanthropy (applying business metrics to measure success in giving) and destroying the rules in old boy rich clubs and activities (inviting the ‘wrong’ people to charity balls or being ostentatious).

He tells stories of how the Richistanis intentionally band together to impact political elections and gives the reader a view into discussions that happen in Richistani support groups – set up to help each other deal with their own wealth and the changes in their lifestyles it has brought.

Through it all, Frank provides actual names of living Richistanis with real examples from each of their lives.

Read this book to understand and address:

  • Curiosity about what goes on in wealthy circles
  • Frank’s insight into the cycles of wealth the US has encountered – including the most recent (1990-‘s through the 2000’s)
  • Observations on the impact of wealth holders on the rest of the US population
  • Specific examples of what today’s new rich people believe, do, have and buy
  • What the world of the rich is like.

What I liked:

  • Reading about how butlers are trained and the things they do for the households who employ them (butlers can earn in the $100,000 dollar range in annual salary)
  • Discussion of the various periods of wealth building and how they are differentiated from each other
  • Stories of how some of the inhabitants of Richistani made their money
  • The lighthearted treatment – treating the rich folks like they are a separate country.

What I wished for:

  • More on the kids of the Richistanis
  • A sequel.

Favorite quotes:

The lives of the upper Richistanis has become incredibly complicated. To run them, they are creating ‘family offices’ – large companies dedicated entirely to serving a family’s day to day needs, from investments and legal work to travel plans and hiring household staff.” 

“Idle rich are being replaced by the workaholic wealthy”

“Social Entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teachhow to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry”.

“A survey by Prince & Associates, a wealth research firm, found that most millionaires today plan to leave at least 75 % of their estates to their children.”

“Experts predict that the number of millionaires and billionaires is likely to grow at least 6 percent a year in the coming years”.

For more on wealth lifestyles see:

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