Have you ever traveled to a really different part of town? Maybe one that you’ve never seen before? Maybe it’s a neighborhood with a completely different socioeconomic status.
After joining local “free” groups (like our local Buy Nothing Group), I find this kind of thing happens to me all the time.
Generally speaking, when a free item is offered on these groups, it’s placed on the old owner’s doorstep. The new owner drives over and picks the item up. It’s a simple and efficient way to share with your neighbors.
errand boy gentleman-of-leisure that I am, I have plenty of time during the day to handle these pick-ups. It also means I’m constantly exploring new parts of town and new neighborhoods.
Questing For Free Lampshades
This week, Mrs. Tako had me heading-out on just such an errand. My quest was a lampshade sitting on a doorstep about a 20 minute drive away.
When I got there, I quickly realized this wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill neighborhood — It was one of those neighborhoods where the really wealthy like to live.
What tipped me off? For me, it’s always the ridiculous circular driveways that stand-out.
Apparently, wealthy people just can’t be bothered to just back out of their driveways. The rich only go forward and never backward!
Basically, every mansion seems to have this kind of ridiculous circular driveway situation:
Another possible theory is that European luxury cars can’t go backwards. Whatever the case, those silly round driveways are a dead giveaway for a upper-class neighborhood.
Note: I believe circular driveway architecture like this actually predates cars — from a time when horses and carriages were used for luxury transportation. If you’ve ever tried to back up a horse and carriage, you’ll know why the driveways were circular.
It’s been said before that people of different economic classes all put their pants on the same way. That may be true, but the upper-class certainly don’t back-out of the driveway on their way to work.
Needless to say, I felt completely out of place.
What? How Much?
Being the wealth-curious sort of person that I am, I just had to go look-up what it might cost to live in this neighborhood — Turns out, anywhere from $1 million to $4 million dollars. The average appraised value is about $2.5 million dollars.
How big is the property tax bill on a house like this? About $28,000 a year. Just for property taxes.
The home sizes ranged from 7,000 to 11,000 square feet, with one particular monstrosity being over 14,000 square feet.
Basically, these were mansions. Huge-assed mansions. Hell, most of the garages in this neighborhood are bigger than my entire house.
Now normally I’m not the kind of person that’s envious of the success of others. Life has been good to me, and I’m really thankful for it… but these homes were just so crazy large I just had to drive around and gawk.
The Luxury of Time
One really startling observation I made during this trip was the number of service trucks parked in the driveways. A huge number of these homes either had gardeners or other contractors doing work in the middle of the day…. probably because the owners were too busy working.
In the old days, wealthy people used servants to maintain a house and its grounds. These days, they just call a contractor.
While I admit these houses are definitely pretty to look at, I would never want to own one.
If I owned such a house, I seriously doubt I’d have the time to maintain it. I’d probably be working really long hours to afford such a home. Overtime? You bet. Long commutes? Yes. Work on weekends? More than likely.
Time to mow the lawn or fix leaky sinks? Not very likely. Time to do anything but work? Probably not.
Using a contractor to do basic home maintenance would almost be a given. Such a lifestyle would save me the drudgery of mowing my lawn or fixing sinks, but it definitely wouldn’t be a free one.
I’d be chained to that desk job trading my time for money… to afford that excessive large home, maintained by overpaid contractors.
Any of this sound familiar to you?
If it does, it’s because the middle class does the exactly same thing. Just on a smaller scale.
The middle class also tries to buy nice homes (as much as they can afford). They still have the same long commutes and same work long hours to pay for their home. They also hire contractors to do much of their home repair because they lack the time and the skills.
See how similar it is?
The difference between the two rungs on the socioeconomic ladder, is mainly its scale.
I Am Not A Wealthy Person
Seeing this kind of situation is great for my own humility. It’s a good reminder that I am not a wealthy person. Not in the grand scheme of things, despite the fact that we’re worth over 2.5 million these days.
Well, after visiting this neighborhood I can definitely say “No, I don’t feel rich”. Not even close.
Seeing extreme wealth like this really puts things into perspective. The monthly cash flow alone to pay for a mortgage (and property taxes) on these houses would be more than I ever made while working. I won’t even guess how much a house like that costs to heat.
Houses like this really aren’t about meeting the shelter needs of a family — they’re mostly about displaying wealth. It’s that inefficient use of resources that bugs me the most.
Inefficiency is (for most people) a gigantic wealth killer . From buying too much home, to spending too much on cars, inefficient use of resources is what destroys most people’s chances at a decent net worth.
Most of my life I’ve tried to do the exact opposite — Instead of using resources for pointless displays of wealth, I seek to maximize resource output for the purpose of sustaining life, providing shelter, and growing my net worth.
So far, this plan has worked-out well for me.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re upper-class, middle-class, or lower-class — optimizing your lifestyle to build wealth follows the exact same patterns.
Ask yourself — How much do you spent? How much gets invested? Where will you invest it? How do you grow your income?
Answering questions like these that can put a person on the road to financial independence. Maybe even on the fast-track to financial independence.
Yes, it’s true that I don’t own a ridiculous mansion or a fancy car. Are those things even important? Not for me.
They’re a gigantic waste of resources to me. My time is far more precious than that. I wanted freedom from work as a way to buy back my time… so I simply optimized my life to earn it.
But I’m not against enjoying life either. My family doesn’t deprive ourselves — We live in a modest home, and drive well-used cars… but we do go on nice vacations and eat a lot of ridiculously good food.
All the while, our net worth just keeps growing.
That, to me is the best part of financial independence — We live a life that makes us happy, and we can’t help but getting wealthier over time. It’s pretty a fantastic life when I think about it.
That’s rich enough for me.
[Image Credit: Flickr]