Richi$tan: A Journey Through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank

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Richi$tan: A Journey Through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Are you rich? Am I? Should one want to be rich? How rich is rich? This is a fascinating inside look at what life is like for the über-wealthy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: July 2007
Publisher: Piatkus Books
ISBN: 978-0749928230

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I thought, at first, that this book might be a bit dry. I feared it might be boring, repetitive, and filled with facts everyone already knows from flicking through newspapers, reading interviews with big wigs and watching the odd reality TV show. But then I spotted the two hotties in string bikinis, lounging on a yacht on the front cover, and I began to think it might be quite a fun, entertaining book after all.

Imagine a country populated with nothing but millionaires. Let's call it Richi$tan...

The book starts out by getting straight to the point and defining what we mean when we talk about the rich. Last century people might have dreamed of making a million and retiring to somewhere nice at the age of 50, but in the current economic climate, you need to have a net worth of $100 million upwards to be counted as properly rich. (Being American, the book only talks in United States $, and when they talk of a million of this, a million of that, it's this currency they're using - so no chance of sneaking off to Thailand or similar to be a millionaire in their weaker currencies.) That retiring at 50 thing? Not for the rich of the 21st century, many of whom have a compulsion to keep working, investing, donating, finding something with which to occupy their time even if the rest of us can't imagine why they don't scale things back and spend the odd year drifting around the Caribbean in their 400 ft yachts (the minimum for the jet set of today - anything around the 100 ft mark is little more than a dinghy).

The number of rich peeps is growing at an inordinate rate too, and this book covers the many new industries spawned as a result of their growing demand, from the butler academies to the $600,000 wrist watches to the skills courses to teach the children of Richi$tan's inhabitants how to cope with their inheritances and the expectations upon them. If you ever wanted to know how to secure a prenup without losing your betrothed along the way, this course is for you, though you will have to study up alongside those who class $10 million as "not very much", barely worth investing and probably best spent on a quick trip to Vegas.

It's not all easy sailing though. Those whose stories are told in the book are quick to point out that money doesn't buy happiness, and many of them feel worse off now than previously thanks to the new worries filtering in to their lives. Keeping up with the Jones is taken to a whole new level in Richi$tan where you are judged by the cars you drive, the yachts you own:

My friends made fun of me, complains one gentleman, who ended up bowing to peer pressure and returning the $50,000 car he'd just bought his girlfriend, exchanging it instead for one worth more than double that.

I thought this book was brilliant. It has such an easy, accessible tone that you can read it as if it's a trashy magazine rather than a formal business style book, but the references at the back clearly show that there's substance to the facts to match that latter genre rather than the trashy mag. Reading the first few pages I was instantly reminded of the Imogen Edwards-Jones exposé series ... Babylon especially Hotel Babylon which provides similar insight into the gaping divide between them and us, the rich and those who service them.

There were some truly fascinating revelations in the book that show this other world in a way you would never imagine, and though the positives and negatives are balanced (after the section on a guy who made it big, there's another on someone who lost it all) I can't help feeling a little inspired right now, as if I've suddenly been made aware of a new life out there that is more than a little appealing to me.

Thanks to the publishers, Piatkus, for supplying this brilliant book.

For a look at riches from a corporate rather than personal level, check out The Corporation.

Buy Richi$tan: A Journey Through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Richi$tan: A Journey Through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Richi$tan: A Journey Through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Richi$tan: A Journey Through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank at Amazon.com.

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Magda said:

But doesn't the authors make any moral judgements about the world which allows, no, approves of such level of personal wealth and the concominant inequalities?

Zoë replied:

The author does and he doesn't. He certainly acknowledges the pressure such a world puts on the "ordinary" folk who try to keep up and who often go into debt before they invariably fail in their keeping up attempts (thanks to the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor). But he also discusses the many new service and luxury gifts industries that such wealth has spawned. The figures quoted with regards to how many lower level jobs are directly and indirectly created and supported by each of these really rich people are quite astonishing.

Magda said:

Yes. How kind of them.

(It's the first time there's been a butler shortage in the UK since the 19th century).