A Few First Hand Accounts Of Different Life Experiences

May 2, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Life Experiences

What’s it like to be rich as in 1% rich?

Here are some observations from a 17-year-old still growing up in a wealthy household. 
1. I live in blissful ignorance of my family’s finances. 
Ask me about my parents’ yearly salaries, income, our investments, household net worth, etc. and I couldn’t tell you anything except that we are ultra high net worth (≥ US $50 million, don’t know how much exactly). My parents deliberately keep me in the dark when it comes to money, and I’m completely OK with that. I think they made this decision because first off, one wants some loudmouthed kid talking about rich their family is – especially not where I’m from. In the first grade, one of my classmates was kidnapped for over US $100 million (she was safely returned a day later). It is not very safe to be rich AND high-profile about it. It is also considered low-class to talk money no matter who you are. Also, they never wanted me to develop a superiority complex because of my family’s money; in my view, I never have. That being said I guess there is one “downside” to this…  
2. The rich kid’s “Invisible Hand” notion of having a never-ending, limitless amount of cash to spend.  
Obviously this isn’t a truth but a perception. By never-ending, I mean that wealth has basically been a “constant” throughout my life, not visibly affected by financial crises, tax raises and so on. By limitless, I mean that I have never faced something that I cannot afford. As such, I think that rich kids are not necessarily BIG spenders, but are CARELESS spenders for sure. When you literally have an unfathomably large amount of money at your disposal, it’s so actually easier to spend than to save. 

3. In terms of spending, my family has a very much “Quality over Quantity” mindset. 
For my family, budget constraints are so high they are out of sight out of mind. It’s not that the price of a good determines my perceived marginal benefits from it: I love the US$0.50 street foods in my native country. But I do have the power of choice to substitute a less desirable good for a more desirable “luxury” good, and I do this often. My mother once told me, “If something is going onto or into your body, it better be high-quality.” 
4. On that note, I guess you want anecdotal evidence of the above points, so here are some cool things I’ve grown up with / noticed:  

– Anonymous



What Does It Feel Like To Be a Smart Person?

Being smart is usually an incredible gift but occasionally a difficult burden.

At the peak of my high school math competition “career,” I was ranked about 25th in the United States among all high-school students. Given that there were  about 15 million high school students in the U.S., this put my math skills somewhere in the 1-in-a-100,000 to 1-in-1-million range. This felt—and still feels—pretty freakin’ awesome.

Being that good at something had several significant benefits. One benefit was that I had a ton of confidence in high school, and that confidence quickly extended far beyond math. I was nerdy, but unlike the stereotypical nerd, I was pretty sociable and even felt borderline popular. I also felt like I was capable of any academic feat and basically assumed that my 1-in-100,000 status applied to most subjects. I ended up winning state and national awards in things like Science Bowls and marketing competitions, and I also took more Advanced Placement tests than anyone else in the state during my four years in high school. Thinking back to those days is pretty amusing because I wasn’t that great at most of the things I was being recognized for, but it turns out that being good plus  being a good test-taker plus being confident can take you pretty far in the academic world.

Anyway, the confidence was great, and doing well in various math competitions helped me get into some of the top universities, which resulted in me getting great jobs after college, and subsequently led to a very happy and successful career (so far).

Now for the negatives:

  1. I assumed intelligence and academics were all that mattered, and things like friendships, sports, etc., were nice, but not as important. A pretty bad assumption, in retrospect. As a meta-comment, I think people frequently tend to overvalue things they are good at and undervalue things they are average at.
  2. For a long time, I used to discount people who were less smart. That doesn’t surprise me given that rankings were so heavily emphasized during my school years, but I wish I hadn’t fallen into this trap. I ended up having fewer real friends than most of my classmates. I try not to regret things that have passed, but I also wish someone had slapped some sense into me when I was younger.
  3. I assumed that being in the top 0.001 percent in math meant that I was in the top 0.001 percent in overall intelligence. Not so. IQ tests showed that my overall intelligence was somewhere in the middle of the 99th percentile, and real life showed that I was far from exceptional in things like social skills and work ethic. It took a while for my ego to come down to earth and match up with reality. The fall was necessary but often unpleasant.
  4. The pressure to perform can be very high. When you have a reputation for being smart, many people assume you can solve any problem that comes up. If something is hard, everyone’s eyes turn to you as if you are the golden goose of bright ideas. If you struggle a little bit, you get teased with, “Hey, I thought you were smart!” If you fail, people are surprised and say a lot with their silences. When you have a big ego, disappointing people is really painful. I remember making up excuses about not having time for various tasks so that I could maintain my reputation. Today, half of me writes this off as being a teenager who didn’t know how to act with integrity, while the other half cringes that I actually lied to people in order to avoid the risk of public failure.
  5. Meeting people and dating are often frustrating. The difference in IQs between me and someone who is a little above average is the same as the difference between someone average and a moron. (What can I say, Wikipedia is harsh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ) Well, it’s not exactlylike that, but sometimes it feels like it. It can be hard for me to connect with people I meet and find good topics of conversation. On the flip side, to a person who is socially gifted, I’m probably the one who seems like a moron.
  6. While I’ve worked hard, most of my successes came from my innate intelligence. As a result, I got used to being naturally good at things. Recent studies have shown that people who believe intelligence is innate tend to give up much faster than people who believe it can be developed, and that was definitely true for me throughout most of my 20s. I’d try things once or twice, then stop if I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, which was often. There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance when you’re not good at something you expected to be great at, and the easiest way to resolve that dissonance is by quitting.
  7. I sometimes feel guilty about how much easier some things are for me than others and also about how I let them get to my head for so many years.

Overall, being smart brought many accolades and successes, but it also made me anxious, afraid of failure, and eager to quit at the first signs of hardship. I recently entered my thirties, and while now I have most of these issues under control, it took a good ten years to do that—10 years that I could have spent building stuff, trying more things, and not vacillating between being annoyingly cocky and being insecure. At thirty one, I’m finally working on things I wish I had worked on at twenty one.

Conclusion: being smart brings a lot of advantages in life, but it can also keep you from being well-rounded and warp your views of reality. If you know someone smart who views intelligence as the only important thing in life, please give them a whack on the head.

– Anonymous



(photo: @willcornfield)

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