Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sorry, Nicole. The Buffett's closed.

"The perfect amount of money to leave to your children is enough so they feel they could do anything, but not so much that they feel they could do nothing."
Warren Buffet, 29 September 1986.

I've been learning a lot about Warren Buffett recently.

The second richest man in America is a bit of an oddity. Despite having a personal fortune worth over $60 billion, he makes an intense effort to live 'normally.'

The 78 year old still lives in the same modest Nebraska home he bought in 1958 and is vocal about his opposition to the 'ovarian lottery' which creates 'dynastic wealth.'

Buffett had to earn his money, and accuses those who grow up in wealthy circumstances of being merely "members of the lucky sperm club." His contempt for the likes of heiress Paris Hilton is palpable!

But it turns out that you can't be incredibly wealthy without finding a Paris Hilton somewhere within your own family - and in Buffett's case, her name is Nicole - his youngest son's adopted daughter.

This 32 year-old 'abstract painter' lives in the liberal community of Berkeley, California and if this article in Marie Claire is anything to go by, a more ungrateful, undeserving brat you'd be hard pressed to find.

Marie Claire tells a tale of woe:
"What's it like when your grandpa is the richest man in the world? For Nicole Buffett, it means forgoing cable TV and health insurance and making do on $40,000 a year."
Excuse me while I spurt my coffee across my keyboard.

According to the 2006 Census figures (and household incomes have declined since then) the average income in America is $35,499 dollars. The vast majority of those people can afford cable TV and health insurance - in fact, they don't have any choice!

Nicole's 'making do' on five grand more than the average American, so perhaps she shouldn't be complaining about it!

But poor old Nicole has a different story to that of the average American. While they go to work for minimum wage, struggling to pay bills and make ends meet, she lives in an artistic colony in a California college-town - struggling to make it as an artist (instead of just struggling to 'make it' like regular folk.)

She is able to sell her paintings for as much as $8,000 apiece (arguably only thanks to her famous name) and therefore doesn't feel compelled to go out and get a real job like the rest of us (hence why she doesn't have health insurance, even though she could afford it.)

"I've been very blessed to have my education taken care of, and I have had my living expenses taken care of while I'm in school," she boasted in the documentary "The One Percent," an examination of the lives of rich families.

However, following that expensive education, she clearly felt entitled to continue to be supported by her wealthy grandfather:

"It would be nice to be involved with creating things with all that money," she said on the Oprah Winfrey show. "But I feel completely excluded from it."

Ironically, Nicole Buffett's done wonderfully thanks to her adopted grandfather's money. She enjoyed a top-notch liberal arts education most Americans would be unable to afford. Then, instead of joining the 'real world,' she's managed to make an arguably comfortable living as an artist.

Living in New York, I know plenty of struggling creative people who'd think their dreams had come true if they got to earn $40,000 a year painting pictures!

But instead, Nicole Buffett demonstrates - and Marie Claire advocates - this curiously American phenomenon of pretty girls developing a totally undeserved sense of entitlement.

Nicole Buffett lives well - better than the majority of Americans. Yet because of the family name her mother married into (however briefly - she divorced Peter Buffett in 1993) Nicole feels she deserves to live the millionaire's lifestyle, without doing anything to deserve it.

Somewhat ironically, the Marie Claire article ends with a defiant statement that's in complete contradiction to everything she said previously:
"I will always be self-reliant," she says, curled up on her couch, her dreadlocks draping her body like a quilt. "Grandpa taught me that, and it has set the tone for my life."
You can see her art at Nicole's website, HERE.


paisley penguin said...

OMG - I make just over the average and I have cable TV. I have health insurance cause I work for a living. If I could make $40K a year as an artist I would totally do it.

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