Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Enough About Me...

It's been a while since I wrote about other people's money! I've been jotting down some notes over the last year or more about various situations I've encountered with friends or family whose finances fascinate me. The first one I'll tell you about is someone in my extended family. He and his wife are pretty down to earth people-- no fancy cars, no fancy clothes, and no expensive hobbies that I'd ever heard of until recently. They did do some nice travel with the wife's family, but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary for upper-middle-class people that wanted to treat their kids to a special experience. All in all, I'd describe them as people who certainly had lots of advantages in life and lived comfortably, but not someone that most people would look at and say "whoa, they are super-wealthy and have way more money than me."

But then one day, the wife casually slipped something into a conversation that did make me say "whoa." Without revealing too many identifying details, I'll just say that someone in an earlier generation of her family invented something pretty major-- major enough that unless there was some sort of unfair buy-out or other business dealing, the entire family would surely have a TON of money for generations to come. I could be wrong about that, as it's hard to know how family wealth will trickle down over generations, whether it's been invested well, etc. But I'm pretty sure I'm right, especially since the husband in this couple recently bought a plane.

Now the plane he bought is not a Gulfstream jet or anything like that-- it's a small plane that probably cost him less than some luxury cars, from what I could tell by googling the model. But still-- how many people just run out and buy planes?! In my circles, basically no one. I know one person who flies a plane because he works for a small local charter airline. And I think one of my uncles might have taken some flying lessons a while back. I myself gave Sweetie a one-hour trial flying lesson as a 50th birthday present-- I think it was about $85, and it was a really fun experience that I'd like to repeat with myself at the controls someday! But other than that, flying seems like a pretty rarified hobby. And to commit yourself to getting and maintaining a pilot's license, as well as fuel, maintenance and hangar parking for a plane that you own? That has to be a huge money pit. If you  do certain kinds of travel on a regular basis, I suppose you can avoid paying a lot of commercial air fares, but I would imagine it's extremely rare for owning a plane to work out to be cheaper.

So it was very interesting for me to go from thinking my relative was someone "like me" in terms of finances, in a very broad sense, to suddenly seeing him as being on another planet! I admire him and his wife for their lifestyle in general-- they are both smart and hard-working, certainly not anyone you'd scoff at as the "idle rich." And if the plane is the one crazy thing they want to blow some money on, it's fine with me, though I hope they are extremely cautious flying it!

Have you ever had to reassess your perception of someone's finances like this?

1 comment:

T'Pol said...

Wow! That is an interesting story. I salute them for leading normal lives and working despite being a lot richer than they look. A lot of people around me think that they would stop working if they had a wind fall or if they could retire early. They just do not understand why I still work. I can get by on my passive income but that's it. I love to travel so, I am making sure, I will have a big enough nest egg to support me for my travels in the future and also pay for out-of-pocket health expenses.