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#82 - Going To Harvard

#82 - Going To Harvard

Going To Harvard
Price: Developing a “Yahd” Accent

There is nothing rich people value more than higher education, right after money, jewelry and status. In most American households, the dream is to send at least one child to college. For the rich, they know that their children are destined for Ivy League institutions and for many, only Harvard will do. Among the myths that enshroud this venerable institution is that “Harvard is only for geniuses.” Upon meeting some of the “legacy family” undergrads you quickly dismiss this mistruth and realize that a family member with a Harvard degree from 1948 in Sociology may be more important that an outstanding SAT score when it comes to getting into Harvard, even if it is on the third or fourth admission review.

While the academic merits of America’s oldest university are clear to most, they are secondary to why rich people love Harvard; nothing says success like dropping the H-Bomb at cocktail parties. Yale is nice, and Brown used to be impressive but Harvard immediately implies that you have a great job, boatloads of cash and more class than anyone else in the room. In fact, rich people are so hyper aware of this perception that they will talk about graduating from their alma mater as though they accomplished something other worldly like smoking dope with the pope or going for a jog with Stephen Hawking.

If your parents didn’t have the foresight to graduate from Harvard and you had to slum it at a lesser known institution, fear not, you can still befriend the wealthy. Knowing that many trust fund recipients didn’t score a 1,400 on their SAT there is no need to engage in pseudo-academic discourse as they may not have made it to class anyway. Instead, learn the simplest facts about campus life. Ask about the COOP where you can pick up textbooks and a latte or mention cheeseburgers at Charlie’s Kitchen, which was probably the last time they stooped to eat a cheeseburger, but college is for experimenting. These two traditions should have your wealthy counterpart falling over themselves to share their experience with you and allowing you to form the next best thing to rooming with them. A word of warning, give a Harvard alum with a guilty admission complex too many drinks and you’ll be listening to their horror stories of growing up with Harvard armchairs and midevening calls from Harvard students looking for donations. It’s not easy being Crimson!

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#81 - Being Aghast

#81 - Being Aghast

Being Aghast
Price: Insufferable Indignation

Everyone knows that the world is full of tidbits that are surprising and unusual. Most of these fall under the category of things that you would never do; these include wearing a t-shirt to a job interview emblazoned with the slogan “You don’t buy beer, you rent it”, streaking and tattooing one’s face. When an average person is told that this happened, they will respond by looking up from their laptop long enough to lazily say “sounds like an idiot” or “what a douche bag”. Such a reaction is not enough for the rich. They are bound by a secret oath to become incensed at the indignity of such acts, cover their mouth, open their eyes wide and proclaim “well I never”. When you see this reaction, you will recognize it as a rich person being aghast

This melodramatic reaction dates back to the 13th century and literally means to be struck with terror, amazement or horror. While the rich typically suppress all emotions, being aghast is a special exception to the status quo and is closely aligned with getting insanely angry when their chef overcooks their egg yolk. As rich people “know better” than the common man and woman, they will use this display of astonishment to convey the seriousness of the cultural digression they have witnessed. Certain situations may call for the addition of a full gasp but typically the rich believe that quiet disapproval alone sends a subtle yet poignant message to the offending party thereby changing them for the better. Unfortunately, regular people never notice such passive displays because the way that they deal with something offensive includes speaking up or starting a fistfight…sometimes both!

Despite the surprising ineffectiveness of changing the world by appearing shocked, the power of being aghast is significant. Should you succeed in mastering the art of conveying indignation towards everyday occurrences you will surely succeed in making friends with the “other half”. While appearing surprised may seem easy, knowing what should astonish is the true talent. Peruse this short list; unjust war, wearing gloves lined with baby seal pelt, buying day-old roses and American states with no minimum wage laws. If you were aghast at buying day-old roses, you are a natural. The rest make for interesting small talk but will not raise eyebrows among the upper crust. For a top shelf display of this art, visit a rare book dealer and tell them that you ran over a puppy on the way to their store. Now tell them you know of a first-run Tennyson stored at 73°F and see which illicit a stronger reaction.  Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?

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#80 - Rare Books

#80 - Rare Books

Rare Books
Price: Disdain For Big Bookstores

James Bryce, nineteenth century British politician, diplomat and historian, said “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” Bryce was referring to knowledge, ideas and imagination. These are all well and good if you are a card-carrying member of the public library but to the rich, books represent culture, sophistication and a civilized acquisition. Visit homes of the wealthy and you will discover beautiful libraries that prominently display first edition classics bound in leather, steeped in tradition and occasionally encased in glass. To the uninformed it may appear that the rich are voracious readers, but the books are too valuable to read. So they must be great investments, but they mean too much to sell. What then is the rationale for books you can’t open and objects you won’t part with?

Rare books reflect an owner’s interests and measure how stimulating one’s host is without having to engage in conversations that may betray their depth of literary understanding. Guests are expected to unquestionably accept that rare book collections accurately represent an owner’s knowledge and taste. Shelves displaying Twain, Verne, London and Kipling show a sense of adventure that may manifest itself through sailing or drinking tap water while abroad. Libraries housing biographies of NASCAR drivers and paperbacks made into Hollywood films likewise speak volumes about your host. Think of this like perusing your friend’s iPod and finding nothing but Yanni, Vanilla Ice and John Tesh or looking through your boyfriend’s DVD collection and discovering Mariah Carey concerts and Patrick Dempsey films…it says a lot about them; they will never be in charge of entertainment and likely require therapy.

To capitalize on rich people’s love of rare books requires little more than the ability to act impressed with their collection. The trick is to let them do all the talking which will leave them feeling that you are an exceptional conversationalist. Starting their monologue is as simple as saying, “This is an extraordinary collection, which book is your favorite?” By nodding attentively and occasionally interjecting a well-timed “how fascinating”, your host will impart a surface level knowledge of their collected literary works of genius. As a warning, the worst thing you can do in this situation is to flex your own literary muscle as a means to impress. Asking their thoughts on “Hemmingway’s unique ability to convey themes through a succinct writing style that mirrors life” is more likely to result in the sound of crickets than an invitation to join them for an afternoon on the yacht. Likewise, mentioning that your father has collected every copy of Soldier of Fortune magazine published since 1987 is also unlikely to impress and may be perceived as a veiled threat culminating in an introduction to Rambo, their personal protection German Shepherd. Should you make it past the aforementioned hurdles, rare books are outstanding cocktail banter and an opportunity to tantalize and arouse those with literary leanings; little is as stimulating to book lovers as discussing the rising action, climax and denouement of a classic novel. Good luck and Godspeed!

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#79 - Black Credit Cards

#79 - Black Credit Cards

Black Credit Cards
Price: Compulsive Spending

Every month Americans buy a few thousand dollars worth of toys ranging from plasma TVs to designer handbags. These are important to the average person because they symbolize another step towards achieving their five year plan one luxury item at a time. Thanks to the magic of financing and low APRs, these same people pay only a small percentage of what they charged to their credit card, roll over the remainder and promise themselves that they will pay off the balance next month. That might be true if it weren’t for the semi-annual sale at Neiman Marcus or the twenty dollar Crate & Barrel gift card that morphed into a new couch, throw, cushions, coffee table and rug for 40% off, justified by the personal promise to take lunch to work and only drinking one latte a day for the next six months! As a result the average household carries about $8,000 in credit card debt. For the rich, things are a little different. A black, invite-only credit card is a subtle, yet effective, plastic symbol of status and success and like they say, “once you go black you’ll never go back.”

Depending on the card, the wealthy consumer elite are invited to apply for a black, sometimes carbon woven, card that offers numerous benefits that an average Visa, MasterCard or American Express just can’t provide. These include concierge services, personal assistants, financial solutions, airline and hotel upgrades, personal shopping services and while you won’t find it listed in the Benefits Booklet, using a Visa Black Card or American Express Centurion card in any retail establishment means rich people are greeted with “I want to know you” eyes by stunning men and women who would gladly accompany them to the Waldorf for lunch. Ultimately, this is why exclusive, invite-only cards were created. They are the 21st century equivalent of smoking cigars indoors and wearing jewel encrusted pinky rings and tie clips. For rich people, the concurrent introduction of anti-smoking legislation and the ability to flash exclusive credit cards meant not having to accessorize their outfits to showcase their outlandish wealth although ascots remain remarkably popular.

For the average person, there isn’t a hope in hell that they will ever meet the criteria for garnering such an exclusive piece of hologram embossed ABS plastic card. For starters, only 1% of Americans have a black card and the Centurion, as an example, requires spending in the range of $250,000 per year after the $5,000 one-time fee and $2,500 annual fee! Fortunately, there are numerous ways to creatively clear these hurdles; the simplest solution is the DIY method. Materials required; one can transparent black spray paint, one credit card, one roll transparent tape and one copy of the Wall Street Journal although any daily newspaper will suffice. Lay the card on top of the paper and spray one coat of paint every thirty minutes until your card appears invite-only black. Flip card, apply tape to the magnetic strip and signature area and repeat. In no time you will be using your homemade black card and well on your way to impressing your wealthy friends. As a warning, if you plan to use your new black card as a retail pick-up line, check the return policy before  impressing the well proportioned clerk at Saks by purchasing that Rolex and asking her to dinner. While membership does have its privileges, faking it will do in a pinch!

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#75 - Prenuptial Agreements

#75 - Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreements
Price: Ask Tiger Woods

If you find yourself entering a state of eternal bliss with the man or woman you will forever love, life is rose petals and champagne kisses. Should you find yourself sitting across from that same person in a room full of divorce lawyers and bankers you know what marriage looks like after it has been beaten with the ugly stick. That is, unless you entered the union with a little insurance policy called a prenuptial agreement.  Rich people love prenuptial agreements even more than they love custom shoes and trophy wives because it kills two birds with one stone; first they can rest assured that their fortune is safe in the event that their union “goes south” and upon their untimely demise their remaining fotune will pass to the Swiss accounts of their heirs.

For many people, the thought of a prenuptial is despicable since love conquers all. Knowing that divorce is Latin for bludgeoning a man with his own wallet, there are a few problems with this train of thought. First, people who think this way likely don’t have any assets, think their Rock & Republic jeans are an asset and despite living their lives by the wise words of Deep Purple, have forgotten that all is fair in love, war and banking. For those that do know how far the smitten can fall when the heart grows absent, there is nothing wrong with asking the love of one’s life to sign on the X, initial here, initial here and sign there. With a few strokes of the pen, both man and wife have shown that their love transcends money and that they truly have fallen for each other’s hearts rather than their numbered accounts.

The most successful way to befriend the wealthy when it comes to prenuptials is to indicate that you asked your mate to sign one, have signed one yourself or share a story about calling off an engagement when your true love was incensed at the thought of drawing up such an agreement. This works on many levels, most important it shows that you have a fine head on your shoulders and have amassed enough wealth that a prenuptial is sensible. If possible, poke fun at the one person in the room without such an agreement in place by offering them half a cigar or half a drink. Expect chortles and mumbled guffaws as most rich people have forgotten how to laugh or their Botox treatment restricts smiling. From here you can engage in scintillating conversation around custom tailoring, an analysis of intertemporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy or which model of Maserati is most appropriate for the children leaving for boarding school.

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#73 - Cooking Classes

#73 - Cooking Classes

Cooking Classes
Price: Trip to the Lipo Clinic

Despite the trappings of fabulous wealth, life can become predictable and eventually dull for the rich. Fortunately there is a world of exhilarating hobbies available to the wealthy that aim to inspire before the doldrums of life consume them. For most people, hobbies like skydiving, bungee jumping, scuba and rock climbing add the joie de vivre missing from their mundane existence. Not to be outdone by middle class thrill-seekers, the wealthy also like to step it up when choosing hobbies by throwing caution to the wind and selecting activities that they never thought they would do. These include driving themselves, working eight hours a day and cooking. While your evening likely includes preparing dinner, the wealthy consider this an unfathomable task that the chef, butler or, as a worst case scenario, the nanny will take care of. As such, signing up for private cooking lessons can be a thrilling way to spend a summer and an excellent excuse to visit France, Italy or perhaps Switzerland if checking on the private bank account is required.

While cooking classes are not an impenetrable bastion of the wealthy, rich people tend to have a different set of expectations for these courses. For the rich, being surrounded by world renowned chefs, fresh ingredients from around the globe, the finest kitchen implements and closely guarded cooking secrets is occasion to uncork another bottle of red while the pros create their masterpieces. Spending a month drinking in the Tuscan sun while observing a veteran of the dutch oven fold egg whites, fabricate port reductions and spawn the perfect soufflé lends the credibility required to authoritatively critique a Michelin four star restaurant and is therefore an invaluable experience. Cooking classes are a little like the Dummy’s Guide to becoming a New York Times food critic without the need for a sophisticated palate, experience or a cynical writing style. Nonetheless, such an experience will promote Bunny McCooking-Class to head of choosing restaurants and ordering lunch for her country club ladies group. Like port with chocolate, this newly developed expertise is best served with tales of Fabrizio the pool boy and his prowess in sunscreen massage.

But how does this help you? The best way to leverage this champagne fountain of knowledge is to grease the baking sheet of inquiry. You must walk the fine line between asking questions about the cooking school without broaching the subject of cooking technique; a surefire approach is to ask about the region in which the class was held. This enables them to speak about the setting without being put on the spot about class content. Bonus points if you can steer the conversation to the Le Creuset and Emile Henry cookware they outfitted the estate kitchen with afterwards. After all, their staff deserves the best when cooking for a discriminating palate like their own!

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#72 - Scotch

#72 - Scotch

Scotch
Price: Years of practice

The first time that you tried scotch it may have tasted like the perfect blend of paint thinner and ass. As every frat boy knows, if it tastes like ass, turn it around. While this advice may work in some situations it is unlikely to alter this alcohol-based assault on your taste buds and olfactory senses. Despite this apparent flaw, rich people love scotch. To the uninitiated, rich people will insist that scotch is an acquired taste and break into a polished soliloquy on the finer points of this pricey malt beverage as an explanation of why you should love it. A scotch aficionado can block your exit with their knowledge of Scotland’s pride while a room of aficionados can ruin your evening by peppering you with unpronounceable distillery names and heated debates around chill-filtration. If being bombarded by terms like single malt, mash, Scotch Whisky Order of 1990, Glenlivet and Auchentoshan sounds like a nightmare, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

As with all things alcoholic, the more that people ply you with booze as a means to convince you of its superior taste, the less likely you are to know what the hell you are drinking which makes the evening progressively more palatable. Such is the case with scotch thanks to exacting standards that mandate a minimum 40% alcohol content. Getting through the last glass makes the next all the easier. Is swallowing your first ounce of Oban getting in the way of making friends with your wealthy companions? Think about the difficulty that Cinderella must have had the first time that she got to the ball. The red headed stepchild worked through her gag reflex before she and Prince Charming lived happily ever after and so can you.

You may be thinking, why scotch? All spirits have a distinct personality and therefore appeal to specific subsets of the population. Thanks to the Russian Mafioso, vodka represents mystery and new money, tequila goes hand-in-hand with cougars looking to bag an unsuspecting twenty something, cognac with rappers and bourbon with interfamily marriages. Scotch, since 1495, has perpetually represented the sophisticated statesman with elegance, taste, class and ambition; it is like a Rolls Royce among Cadillacs. For this reason, the rich will learn to love this aged liquid and speak of pungent and potent malts, with richly peaty, deep, smoky flavor that has an intense, long ambrosial finish. Such knowledge is a means to highlight their station in life and knowing this can help advance yours. Who knows, drink enough scotch at the country mansion and the trophy wives may recruit you to help them with their case of Patron. Bottoms up!

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