What She Wants

Why the Truly Rich Prefer to Downplay Their Wealth

This is how you weed out the Truly Rich from the Not-So Truly Rich.

Here's something interesting from the New York Times: Do you know that Manhattan’s well-to-do are ripping off the price tags from their furniture and even bread (i.e. a $6-dollar piece of bread) so that their housekeepers or nannies won't see how much they spend?

That's just one way affluent New Yorkers are handling their unease about the gap between how much they have and their staff members have in their bank accounts.

Another way they manage this Rich People Problem is to simply never discuss how well-off they really are. In other words, they're following the cardinal rule of the Truly Rich: Don't talk about the money.

I am thinking about how their approach to wealth rings both true and untrue on this side of the world.

Much like the New York Rich, the Truly Rich of Manila prefer to keep silent about their assets and are, in fact, horrified whenever net worth, bank accounts, annual incomes, and the like are brought up so casually in conversation.

The old Truly Rich abhor being identified as Truly Rich, going so far as to create an image of a very normal and quiet lifestyle, so quiet that it becomes quite boring.

Think about the most affluent families in the country. They're seldom on magazine covers, or if at all, it's because they feel the need to talk about the advocacies or charities they support. I know of one Humble Heir who turned down a prestigious cover because “there are many more hardworking people in the company who have been there for many years and who deserve more recognition than me.”


Truth is if you are truly Truly Rich, you don't need to be in the spotlight because you don't want to call attention to the fact that you are already set for life. (Conversely, those who are revel in publicity likely feel the need to call attention to their new fortunes, and want to continue building them.)

More about boringly quiet lives: There's the Canning Heir who drives an everyman's car even if he can afford to get a sexy, sportier one from the other side of the world. There are also a few Truly Rich Ladies who insist on flying coach despite the horrible leg room so they can empathize with the masses.

And like the sensible New York Rich, the Truly Rich Moms of Manila are most excited, not about the newest It bag, but about the "generous discount on bulk toilet paper at S&R!" or "the free Schott Zwiesel knife set I got by filling up my sticker card at Rustan's!"

In conversation, the Truly Rich also downplay wealth and status:

"Look, I am not rich. My parents are," says American-born TRL. Which is exactly something that a Truly Rich Lady would say.

"We are fortunate enough to live comfortable lives,” insists my Truly Rich Nonagenarian Neighbor. 'Comfortable' is code for mansions and a fleet of cars.

"I am very normal. I drop off my kids at school every morning," mentions my Truly Rich Best Friend.

"I'm a hardworking stiff like everyone else! " says Chairman of Company in an e-mail. But he has a schooner moored at the Manila Yacht Club.

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And my favorite my remark: “Shoo!” says Grumpy Businesswoman when asked about her money.

Then, there is the opposite. Those who are intent on braggadocio, flaunting cars, clothes, bags, watches, and jewelry at every opportunity, in reality don't have as much as they advertise.

It's curious how people who don't have Truly Rich fortunes are the ones who act like they own the building, the roads, the world when in fact everything they own, they still owe money for.  Did you hear about the random woman who made a fuss at a posh mall, saying that she owned it? She didn't.

In short, dear readers, if you are Truly Rich, there's no need for sizzle and flash. As my mother always says, “Hush!”

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C.C. Coo
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