The wealthy turn stealthy as economy weakens
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - Throwing your money around is so pre-recession.
As the economy weakens, the wealthy and the businesses that cater to them say it's more common - even chic - to scale back extravagant spending and play down affluence. Retailing experts call it luxury shame, or stealth wealth.
From Rodeo Drive to Fifth Avenue, that means one thing: Hide the labels.
Some shoppers are asking cashiers at high-end stores to put their purchases in plain white paper bags. Others want their expensive clothes and jewelry shipped home so they can walk out of the store without any bags at all.
"There's a sense of there being a gaucheness in spending in excess and coming home with a Louis Vuitton or Chanel bag," says Lucyann Barry, a personal shopper and stylist for New York's ultra-rich.
For one self-conscious client, Barry recently delivered a $1,200 Gucci handbag disguised as a gift so the rest of her family wouldn't know she had bought it herself.
Of course, plenty of rich people have become decidedly less so as stocks, homes and businesses have declined in value during the recession. And they're cutting back. Holiday sales were down at Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co. (TIF) and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Despite the slump, the affluent still maintain lifestyles that would seem extravagant to the vast majority of Americans - hundreds of dollars spent at exclusive restaurants, thousands dropped on shopping sprees.
What's different now is the extra care some are putting into making themselves seem more like everybody else.
"I'm trying to be more covert," said Edward Douglas, of Randolph, N.J., who owns a small manufacturing company that he says has so far been unaffected by the recession.
One of his luxuries is vacationing with his family in the Bahamas, and although he still intends to go this year, he's planning on flying commercial instead of by private jet.
Robert Jones, who owns businesses including a nightclub and two restaurants, now spends $400 on a regular hotel room for his family rather than shelling out $1,000 for a suite.
And instead of chartering a private plane for business trips, he's signed up for CoGoJets'"jetpooling" service - the jet-set equivalent of sharing a taxi.
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Really, really hate to break it to these folks, but they ain't foolin anyone!
As for my past rant, let me clarify that when I am paying $468.00 a MONTH for Cobra medical insurance coverage, I DO NOT want to hear that "Blue Cross will be unhappy with a request for a necessary test."
I'm perfectly willing to PAY for medical insurance, but let me advise those 50+ without jobs/benefits or those on pensions earned in the past...insurance is optional ONLY for young folks. Last year, in addition to the monthly premiums, I spent over $800.00 OUT OF POCKET for prescription drugs. And guess what? I wasn't even sick, just taking preventing medications to SAVE the insurance companies MORE expense by hospital and/or ER visits.
I am not overweight, I have always exercised, do not have high cholesterol, or any preventable chronic condition. I do have high blood pressure due to a genetic heart issue, a serious kidney/metabolism problem, both under control for 30+ years with medication/diet, and arthritis (probably hereditary).
Something is wrong with this picture, and it's looking more and more like those who actually LIVED WITHIN THEIR MEANS, saved and prepared for retirement are getting the shaft.
The MRI is finally scheduled for tomorrow, and maybe I'll know more.
As for medical insurance, I'm planning to apply to our state health insurance which is available for those who cannot get private insurance due to pre-existing requirements. Even so, IF I qualify for that, the monthly premium is nearly $400.00 with a $1,000.00 deductible for drugs; $4,000.00 for hospital stay. See what I mean?
I think it's becoming clear for many older folks (including those on medicare who have to pay for supplemental insurance) that basically, it's eat or have medical care.
There is a reckless side of me (largely subdued by my fiction writing and creating characters who live on the edge) which often rears its head and says, "Live dangerously, let the insurance go, don't take any prescription drugs, and just enjoy TODAY."
My grandmother, who lived to be 92, always told me to remember: NO ONE IS PROMISED TOMORROW.
I just have to wonder at times, why do we think that "insurance for tomorrow" is even necessary?