DARE TO ASK: Does money shelter you from reality?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
For middle-class to rich people: Do you feel you've missed out on the genuine
experience of life by being sheltered by your money? And do you think poor
people are more "real" than you?
Amber, lower class, Arkansas
Our loved ones can get killed, our children can do drugs and our lives can
fall to pieces, just like yours.
Mary, 29, middle class, Philadelphia
As soon as my dad got a high-paying job, our family became torn apart. Lots
of possessions and the greater living space caused envy, greed and fighting.
Brianna, Glendora, Calif.
I don't think I've missed out on anything. I think "close" poor families and
"dysfunctional" wealthy families are stereotypes. I have a loving family and I
can shop at Bloomingdale's.
Victoria, 15, upper class, Scranton, Pa.
Grandpa died a few years back and left me $30,000. I didn't worry about
groceries, bought the piano I wanted, paid for college, but never got [lucky]
during this time. Been poor: living off credit cards and minimum wage, wondering
how to pay for food, staying home 'cause of no money, and never got [lucky].
Bottom line: rich is better ... and I don't get [lucky] much.
Chris, 34, middle class, Va.
Poorer people are braver. I missed out on lighting candles in the house and
calling it a candle party when you can't pay the electric bill, or going to the
park instead of a movie because you can't afford a movie. We can't ever
understand what their lives are like, and they couldn't ever dream of ours.
Sarah, Zeeland, Mich.
Perhaps "the school of hard knocks" imparts valuable lessons, but too often
its students never graduate.
Warren, 38, Schererville, Ind.
People from old money can be more insulated from "reality" than the nouveau
riche -- folks who've recently come into the green by hard work, says
Jacksonville psychologist Gary Buffone, author of Choking on the Silver Spoon
"Research shows there are a lot of millionaires and you'd never recognize
them -- they drive older autos, they're not in mansions -- because a lot of
their wealth is earned, not given. So they came through life much like the
average Joe ... they struggled, worked hard and saved to get where they are."
Moneyed parents can fall into the trap of wanting a better life for their
kids and then overprotecting them, he said.
"They keep them in private schools, don't expose them to a broader
cross-section of the populace, provide for all their needs, buy their cars and
clothes for them."
The privileged life doesn't always add up to the good life, he noted. "I had
a client who inherited millions. Until then he was hard-working, your typical
kid. But it turned his life upside-down. He couldn't stay in college, didn't
stick with a job, because he didn't have to. It can rob an adult kid of
motivation and led to depression. There's a darker side."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.