“I’m not Zen at all, and when I’m freaking out about the situation, where I’m stuck like a rat in a trap on a highway with no way to get out, it’s very hard.” That’s a quote from Andrew Schiff, a marketing director for a Wall Street brokerage firm. Schiff, who lives in Brooklyn, NY, recently told Bloomberg News that lately he’s been freaking out a bit. He’s not sick, and his children are healthy and happy. Rather, what’s got Schiff on edge is that, with Wall Street revenues dipping, he’s not getting a huge bonus this year. That means he’s got to support his family on his salary alone — his $350,000 salary.
Despite being in the top 1 percent of income earners in America, Schiff says getting no bonus this year has been hard. He needs to pay for his apartment in Brooklyn, a vacation home in Connecticut, and, perhaps hardest of all, expensive tuition at his kids’ private school. “People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” Alan Dlugash, a partner at a firm specializing in financial planning for the wealthy, told Bloomberg. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”
Dlugash has a point: Nobody wants to see kids suffer and there’s some truth to the idea that a child getting yanked out of school midyear is hard. Beyond that, however, it’s difficult to conjure up much sympathy for Schiff, Dlugash and people like them.
Indeed, it’s hard to lose money. It’s something millions of Americans are dealing with nowadays and it’s surely painful for them all. But complaining because you’re not going to be able to afford your second home in Connecticut is tone deaf and ridiculous when the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent. A lot of Americans are making do with a lot less than Wall Street bankers and one thing many of them have learned is that there is joy to be found in things other than nice homes and expensive cars. Perhaps it’s taken this long for that same idea to reach the upper echelons of wage earners.
One hopes that Schiff’s children will get to finish out the year at their school with friends and teachers they know. But one also hopes that if they’re forced to go elsewhere, the kids will find a great education there. And perhaps Schiff himself can learn to take comfort in the fact that his kids are healthy, interested in the world and smart, not that they’re rich.
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