Archive for August, 2010

Welcome to the Good Life

Posted in Life's Ponderings on August 24, 2010 by Bright Lights

5th Avenue Penthouse

New Yorkers know that the Upper East Side, particularly 5th Avenue, is known for its Old Money residents.  When we think of these people, we think of a Central Park view, antique furniture, ladies who lunch, and family names that probably have a plaque somewhere in a museum or hospital.  In short, many of New York’s prestigious and wealthy families that live in that area and have been prestigious and wealthy for a long long time.  Many of their children have attended Ivy League schools and they would consider Fordham or NYU a trade school.  In short, Old Money tends to have standards that are above the norm.  And while standards are typically a positive thing, they may lose sight of how “the other half” lives.

For those that have money, there are certain expectations of how to act.  For instance, one should know how to hold a fork, what to wear to a fancy restaurant, and how to throw a cocktail party.  Old Money might say that these actions are part of having class.

Often at the dismay of Old Money, New Money does not follow such rules.  New Money is often focused on fast cars, wild parties, new technology like flat screen TVs, and some nice bling bling.  Does New Money have less class for not following the rules of etiquette created by an older generation?  I would argue that class was never something that you can have by following those rules.  Having class has more to do with a person’s character than it does their tax bracket or their possessions.  A classy person gives up his or her seat for the elderly.  A classy person remembers to call his or her friends and loved ones on their birthdays.  A classy person sees a stranger drop a $5 bill and gives it back rather than putting it in his or her pocket.

Michael Jordan and Tyrese

This would not be NYCitylights if there were not some viewpoint that most of my readers will disagree with.  So here it is.  We owe a dept a gratitude to the New Money folks because they allow us to live vicariously through them and also teach us how to truly enjoy our money.  Lets use the Hamptons as an example.  The Hamptons is filled with enormous homes and large estates that allow the super-rich to have ample distance from you and me.  Ahhh, the sight of a small group enjoying a 5,000 SF home and 4 acres of land.  But alas, that doesn’t sound like living “the life” to me.  Now lets compare that to P-Diddy’s annual White Party held in the Hamptons.  P-Diddy’s party is nothing but beautiful people popping the Cristal and having a fun time.  He isn’t trying to enjoy his wealth in a fortress of solitude.  Peace and quiet are over-rated.

In conclusion, money and rules do not equal class.  Old Money does not own the patent on the proper way to spend money.  New Money seems to enjoy its money more than Old Money since it has a fresher memory of what life was like prior to the riches. New Money is more relatable to Joe Everyman. As Kanye says:

“The good life, better than the life I lived when I thought that I was gonna go crazy. Now my grandma-ma ain’t the only girl callin me baby.”

Lets be honest, we all know what he means.

Bright Lights, Big Wallet.

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The Paradox of Choice

Posted in Life's Ponderings on August 16, 2010 by Bright Lights

Every so often, I go for a long drive with my friend and talk about life.   A few months ago, we were discussing the book “The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less” by Barry Schwartz.  The book explores a very simple concept (that we all know deep down), which is that you can’t miss something if you never had it.  But once you have it, its hard to go back.  This short Seinfeld clip explains the concept quite well:

It kind of makes you wonder if we would all be better off without fast cars, smart phones, and big screen TVs. The irony of the “paradox of choice” is that it implies that we actually control our happiness, and yet most of us are drawn to the bright lights of possessions and materiality. Who can blame us….who wouldn’t want to have music, email, internet, and much much more on one device? Who wouldn’t want to watch the big game on a 55″ inch screen? The problem is, items that we once wanted transition to items that we now need.  For instance, back in 2000 having a cell phone was a luxury. These days, everyone from grandmothers to 13 year old kids have them.

Living in New York, a town known for indulgence and excess, its easy to see how folks can fall into a similar trap.  From fashion trends to dinner reservations, there is competition amongst Gen Y’ers to look better or be the first one to try that new hot restaurant.  In the suburbs, I think a similar comparison can be made to automobile selection.  If one is to live in Greenwich, CT, they probably will not be parking a 1998 Buick in the driveway.

As you can see, I really have no answers, just observations on the topic of happiness.  Someday, I plan to hold a Happiness Summit where thinkers can gather and form a plan of action.  If you think about it, we all spend time planning our financial future not considering whether our decisions will make us happy, just financially comfortable.  And while financial comfort is important, wouldn’t you also like to be happy?

Keep it simple New York.

Bright Lights, Big City.

East vs. West

Posted in Life's Ponderings on August 5, 2010 by Bright Lights

It has long been my contention that people who live on the West Coast are more likely to move to the East Coast than vice versa.  Today we will examine the many hypothesis and reasonings for why that may be.  But we will also offer a more neutral view which is to say that “people of a higher education and income level tend to be more transient” which is a theory by a colleague of mine who wishes to be known as Stanley.

On the surface, the most obvious reason why young people from the West Coast would move East is education.  The West Coast has many wonderful schools (i.e. Stanford, Berkeley, USC), but it doesn’t have the Ivy’s or as many well known high end schools like Georgetown and Johns Hopkins.  While everyone is different, it stands to reason that a well educated and motivated student on the West Coast may grow up assuming that there is a 50% chance (or better) that they will move to the East Coast for college.

Another factor, though certainly not a driving factor, is that families tend to have deeper roots on the East Coast than on the West Coast.  For families that have been in the U.S. for over a hundred years, it is likely that there is some family on the East Coast.  Hence, it may be a common situation whereby a family lives in California but grandparents and cousins live on the East Coast.  With East Coast families, it is possible (and probably more common) that there is no family on the West Coast.

Since this blog is NYCity Lights, it is apropros that another factor is New York City herself.  New York City, while certainly a center for finance, is also a hub for nearly every common industry.  Entertainment, advertising, fashion, journalism and technology are all fields that can be pursued in New York City.  There are not many cities in the world which offer such diversity of career choices.  On that note, folks on the East Coast do not “need” to move to the West Coast to pursue their dreams.  They may simply need to move to New York City.  The same may not hold true for West Coasters.  Los Angeles is a town focused on enternment.  San Francisco may not be the best place for a career in fashion.

Lets examine Stanley’s theory of transiency which is based on higher income and education level.  Under his theory, if you take a low to middle class ‘B/C’ student on the West Coast and East Coast, they would have the same likeihood to be (or not be) transient.  In addition, a wealthy ‘A’ student from either coast would also have the same likelihood to be (or not be) transient.  That said, he believes the more wealth and education, the higher the percentage of transiency.

Here is my conclusion.  Stanley is not wrong that more wealth and education lead to transiency.  However, I think that the other factors (like Ivy League schools mainly being on the East Coast) will still skew the numbers such that West Coasters will be more transient than East Coasters.  As an East Coaster myself, I am somewhat envious of the forces that push a West Coaster to move across America.  And while the title of this post is East vs. West, I am certain that the blending of our East and West citizens has gone a long way in uniting our Country.  So I will continue to sit in my cubicle and assume that life on the West Coast is straight out of Beverly Hills 90210 and somewhere in Los Angeles County there is someone who believes New York City life is straight out of the show Friends or Gossip Girl.  We all like to believe that somewhere out there is a place better than where we are.  From the Gold Rush to the Silicon Valley boom, I know that I am part of an age-old tradition of California dreaming.  And I am more than ok with that.  Keep it classy San Diego.

Bright Lights, Big City.