Lori Borgman: Pity the poor billionaires who didn't make the cut

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceJuly 15, 2014 

Forbes released their first-ever list of the 185 richest families in America. I couldn't help but wonder who the 186th family was and how they took the news about not making the cut.

"That's got to be tough no matter who you are," I said to the husband.

"They'll get over it," he said.

I don't mean to say the husband is hard-hearted sometimes, but . . .

I imagine Mr. and Mrs. 186th brooding over lattes and nursing their hurt in the back of a stretch limo all the way to their weekend place in the Hamptons.

"We were so close," Mr. 186th says, despondent.

"I told you Facebook was a bad investment," Mrs.186th snaps, texting her plastic surgeon for another round of Botox.

Perhaps they can fight their way out of the doldrums by buying a little treat to lift their spirits - say a bag of Hershey kisses, a new yacht or maybe a chain of islands somewhere.

No. 19 on the list is the Mellon family, the great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Mellon. Their money is 175 years old. That's not just old money, it's ancient. The Mellons are billionaires, quite naturally. Millionaires are so last century.

A stunning photograph shows four of the Mellons, a sleek Mr. and Mrs. Mellon standing on either side of a sleek dining room table with the two adorable little Mellons playing on the table. Every detail is perfect - designer clothes, designer shoes, designer furniture, designer picture frames and designer artwork on the walls, not the knockoff prints you buy already framed. Even the children look like designer children.

It is all so perfect that it is painful.

Where are the Legos scattered on the floor, a juice box tipped over and spilling off a chair, and junk mail piled on a shelf? Even a simple water ring on the dining room table would bring it all so much closer to reality. But that's what billions do, allow you to escape reality. Or at least try.

"It must be boring to be that rich," I muse to the husband.

"Try me," he says.

I wouldn't mind being bored a week or two myself, yet it all looks so Downton Abbey. "Weekend? What's a weekend?"

"I wonder if any of these rich people know how to download online coupons?" I ask out loud.

"These families own Mars candy, grocery store chains, plastic storage bag empires, household cleaner kingdoms and cosmetic domains," the husband says. "They don't coupon."

"Poor souls," I sigh. "To think they have never known the thrill of a Kohl's 30 percent off.

"I wonder if they hunt for cheap gasoline? Do they know how to use a major credit card until they acquire the maximum dividends allowed for the year and then switch credit cards?

"Do they ever find their grocery budget stretched tight and play 'Let's Eat Out of the Freezer'?"

The husband says not to worry about billionaires. He's probably right. I just don't like to see anyone without survival skills they might need one day.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to exercise my middle-class creativity by heading to the freezer to see what's for dinner.

(Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at lori@loriborgman.com .)

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