Modern Schadenfreude

Definition of schadenfreude: Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.  Greatest opportunity to engage in schadenfreude in at least two generations. Why? Vanity Fair has it here.  Want to know why it's the greatest opportunity in memory?  Here's a taste:

The new thriftiness takes a bit of getting used to. “I was at the
Food Emporium in Bedford [in Westchester County] yesterday, using my
Food Emporium discount card,” recounts one Greenwich woman. “The
well-dressed wife of a Wall Street guy was standing behind me. She
asked me how to get one. Then she said, ‘Have you ever used coupons?’ I
said, ‘Sure, maybe not lately, but sure.’ She said, ‘It’s all the rage
now—where do you get them?’”

One former Lehman executive in her 40s stood in her vast clothes
closet not long ago, talking to her personal stylist. On shelves around
her were at least 10 designer handbags that had cost her anywhere from
$6,000 to $10,000 each.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I guess I’ll have to get rid of the maid.”

Why not sell a few of those bags?, the stylist thought, but didn’t say so.

“Well,” the executive said after a moment, “I guess I’ll cut her from five days a week to four.”

And then there's this:

Alexandra Lebenthal, a New York–based wealth manager for investors
with between $2 million and $20 million in assets—the modest to
mid-level rich—offers a keenly authoritative portrait of a
thirtysomething Lehman banker, married with kids, in a guest column
called “What It Costs” on the Web site NewYorkSocialDiary. Blake and
Grigsby Somerset are fictional, their finances all too plausible.

Before Lehman’s stock began to plummet, Lebenthal suggests, Blake’s
annual compensation was $9.5 million—much of that in company stock. He
was carrying a $2 million loan used for a house in the Hamptons, but
felt perfectly able to afford his annual expenses: the Park Avenue
apartment maintenance ($120,000); the Hamptons house mortgage
($75,000); the nanny and driver ($100,000); his wife’s clothing
($100,000); the personal trainer three times a week ($18,000); food,
including restaurants ($30,000); charitable benefits and other
nonprofit causes ($200,000); private school for three children
($78,000); Christmas in Palm Beach ($15,000); spring in Aspen
($15,000); and a wedding-anniversary diamond necklace for Grigsby
($50,000).

At least Blake has been hired on by Barclays. But his Lehman stock
portfolio is now worthless. He and Grigsby have to cut their annual
living expenses from about $1 million to a fraction of that, and do it
in ways that don’t show, for the worst—the worst—would be the public disgrace of falling out of their social class.

First to go: vacations, the trainer, the driver, and entertaining.
No restaurants, no shopping excursions, no new ball clothes for Grigsby
(last year’s will have to do). But, for now—for appearances—the
Somersets will scrimp to keep the kids in their schools, and the nanny,
and the Hamptons house. For now.

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