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Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich Paperback – Jun 24 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; Reprint edition (June 24 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307341453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307341457
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.5 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #131,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

When Frank, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, began noticing that the ranks of America's wealthy had more than doubled in the last decade, and that they were beginning to cluster together in enclaves, he decided to investigate this new society, where $1 million barely gets you in the door. The Richistanis like to consider themselves ordinary people who just happen to have tons of money, but they live in a world where people buy boats just to carry their cars and helicopters behind their primary yachts, and ordering an alligator-skin toilet seat won't make even your interior designer blink. But Frank doesn't just focus on conspicuous consumption. He talks to philanthropists who apply investment principles to their charitable contributions and political fund-raisers who have used their millions to transform the Colorado state legislature. He also meets people for whom sudden wealth is an emotional burden, whose investment club meetings can feel like group therapy sessions. It's only in the final pages that Frank contemplates the widening gap between Richistan and the rest of the world—for the most part, his grand tour approach never loses its light touch. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Frank, a Wall Street Journal columnist, observes the unprecedented rise of wealth in the U.S., which has essentially created a new country, here dubbed Richistan, with a net worth of $1–$10 million in over 7 million households, $10–$100 million in over 1.4 million households, and $100 million to $1 billion in thousands of households, plus more than 400 billionaires. Stemming from the rise of financial markets, new technology, and a freer flow of goods and information, this river of money courses around the world, seeking investments not only in stocks but in hedge funds, private-equity funds, and venture capital. Conducting extensive interviews, the author tells stories of these wealthy individuals, neither deifying nor denigrating them. With emphasis placed here on the increasing gap between the wealthy, middle class, and poor, we also learn about the challenges to society of this great disparity, the responsibility that this abundant wealth carries, and Frank's hope that some of this enormous pool of money will be used to solve widespread social problems. Excellent book. Whaley, Mary
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Aug. 8 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you enjoy intimate looks at private lives, Richistan will entertain you. If you want to learn how to improve your own life, Richistan will only frustrate you . . . by raising your sensitivities to the material things you don't have.

The book has many key lessons for the new rich:

1. If you want to be rich today, you'd better be someone who starts a successful business that can be sold for big bucks. Inheriting money is a loser's game.

2. Once you are rich, you'll be left feeling poor . . . because others have so much more. You'll lust for a way to instantly double your money.

3. You won't be able to hire the quality of help you need to get rid of daily frustrations. The help you hire will, however, charge you an arm and a leg and will complicate your life.

4. Unless you work hard to insulate them from your wealth, your children will simply be clueless about how to run their lives in any meaningful way. You, too, could be the parent of a rich parasite with a drinking or drug problem.

5. Unless you cash out, your sense of being wealthy can lead you to spend money that you can't afford to spend. A financial disaster could follow.

6. In the race to prove you count, buying things doesn't work very well. The scale of what's expected is rapidly ratcheting up . . . as are the costs. Many times, more is less in terms of satisfaction.

7. Turn your money toward self-directed philanthropy or changing the political environment, and a few million bucks can have a huge impact.

8. Your spending will reach obscene levels. Does any family really need $80,000 a year in massages?

9. You'll only feel comfortable with people with the same wealth you have. Those with less will see you as a mark.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stella Carrier TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 27 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Richistan' by Robert Frank contains some fascinating stories of various self-made millionaires. 'Richistan' is packed with both inspirational and informative content. The following is some of the interesting details woven in this tome:
Page Seven: The distinctions that are made between 'Lower Richistan', 'Middle Richistan', and 'Upper Richistan.'
Chapter One: Butler Boot Camp (Pages Thirteen To Thirty-Five): Fascinating details are discussed around the 'Butler Bootcamps' opening up across the U.S. A high number of these jobs are being filled by women. Another fascinating detail: A butler can start out making anywhere from $80,000 to $120,000 due to a shortage of qualified hires to meet the demand.
Chapter Eleven: Aristokids (Pages Two-Hundred and Nineteen To Two-Hundred and Fifty) Information is discussed on 'bootcamps' that teach wealthy children how to inherit and/or handle the riches made by their parents.
'Richistan' by Robert Frank is most likely to be enjoyed by those who are curious to know about self-made millionaires.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 105 reviews
116 of 117 people found the following review helpful
Funny, interesting, educational, effortless June 9 2007
By Stephen Balbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Robert Frank is a reporter at the Wall Street Journal who, a number of years ago, began a column on what it's like to be rich in America. This soon became a very popular and he was tasked to work on it full time. This book represents the synthesis of his experiences over the past few years.

"Richistan" is a colloquial term Frank uses to describe the booming numbers of wealthy. Starting in the late 1980s, there has been a doubling or tripling of the number of wealthy households in the US, currently at over 9 million with $1 million or more in net assets. Within this "nation within a nation" there is a class system, with the "lower class" rich (or "merely affluent") in the 1-10 million net worth range, the "middle class" rich in the 10-100 range and the "upper class" rich in the 100-1 billion range. The billionaires, estimated to be about 1000 strong in the US, are in a separate group entirely. Each of these groups have distinct spending patterns and investment goals. 90% of these new rich came from middle or lower class backgrounds and everything about them is different from the stereotypes of the "old" rich: how they made their money, how they spend it, how they give it away.

Frank's book is both easy reading and hard to put down. I listened to the audiobook version, going through the 7 hours in "no time". Although educational, this is also a very funny book. The audio greatly enhances the humor as the narrator has perfect timing and change of voice, many times I was laughing out loud, yet at the same time going "ah-ha!". A rare treat.
90 of 96 people found the following review helpful
I Live in Richistan June 26 2007
By Jon Hunt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Greenwich, Connecticut, a town featured in Robert Frank's great new book, "Richistan", is my hometown and a place where I have spent my entire life. As the author points out, Greenwich used to be known as a place of old money but the new money that has flown into town over the past decade or so makes it a spot of even more enormous wealth, capturing all levels of the super-rich as Frank describes. As in many cities in America the new money is most evident in the McMansions that have sprung up. (as some people call it, "Vulgaria") I wonder if every new McMansion has to have Greek-like columns.

Frank does a comprehensive job in explaining how the rich live, but it is of note that so many Richistanis, when asked if they have enough money, say "no". If you have $20 million you think you need $40 million. He offers another excellent chapter on how many of the rich aren't any happier with all their money, with many of them being more miserable. But his best point is that the super-rich have created a class unto themselves, and towns like Greenwich, which has a sustainable middle class, will itself, in the future, become even more separated between rich and poor. It's a sobering look. I highly recommend "Richistan".... it's a terrific exposé and an eye-opener as well.
73 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Your Jaw Will Drop... June 7 2007
By Alison Onianwa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The "new rich" have been around for a few years now, but beyond the nonsense to be seen or read about in the tabloid realm, we've never had the opportunity to take a look at what the lives of these people are really like - until now.

The people of Richistan did not inherit their wealth, it was earned, sometimes quite quickly, for others it was a steady rise to billionaire status. What this book gives its readers are sharp and humorous obervations on how they made their money and how it has changed their lives, for better and/or worse. For instance, read why it now takes five people to kill a renegade mouse in a big house instead of one...

Similarly, the author then takes a look at the different industries and jobs that so much money in the U.S. has spawned. For example, the founder of the Starkey Institute for Household Management (aka: Butler School) wouldn't be where she is today if it weren't for the labor shortage of 20th century butlers. Then there's the need for private chefs, an army of nannies, housekeepers, pilots and executive assistants.

And where does a mega-billionaire go on vacation? How does he find a spot that will guarantee his total security and privacy? Richistan will tell you about the man who answered these questions and built a quasi "time share" business for islands instead of condos...plus you'll read about the billionaires who go there and how they spend their vacations.

It really is addictive stuff and a great beach book for the Summer. For self-confessed business junkies who enjoy reading about mega-successful business people, and how they got to where they are - this is a must-read, because you get all of that and so much more.
50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Tell me tell me, how to be, a Billi-onai-ai-ai-aire! Aug. 15 2007
By Dark Mechanicus JSG - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Rich, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, are different from us. Fitzgerald was right: they *are* different from us.

They own 500-foot yachts, for one thing.

For another, they own watches that are more expensive than a Rolls Royce. They hire "household managers", uber-butlers who double as managerial major domos, to run their vast, sprawling estates, and when they buzz their Household Manager to have Jeevesy 'bring the car around', they're probably talking about their 1.1 million dollar Bugatti Veyron or 750K McClaren Mercedes supercar---or if they're in a downscale mood, maybe it'll just be the Maybach.

You know, to slum around in.

As Bob Dylan (himself, by now, no doubt a 'Richistani') once sang "The Times they are a-Changing"---though not the way Dylan and his hippy brethren might have imagined. We find ourselves in an era of ostentatious wealth, in a time when the Forbes 400 is made up solely of billionaires, in a time when the rich are getting richer---much richer, fabulously richer!---and the rest of us? Well, forget about it.

That's the ostensible subject of Robert Frank's book "Richistan", which, on the whole, is a light, airy, engaging little fluff-piece that takes the reader from one enclave of Richies to another: from a Palm Beach Red Cross fundraiser to Butler Boot Camp in Colorado, from a man who made his fortune building teensy little ceramic villages to the grinding account of a tech billionaire who lost his entire fortune during the Dot Com bust, from billionaire philanthropy to what Frank calls a 'new Rich man's politics'.

Frank, in his introduction, bills his little survey of the uber-wealthy as a work of anthropology: get in, take lots of pictures, ask a lot of questions, boogie out, research report in hand. Now, granted, Anthropology takes a lot of different forms, but Robert Frank certainly proves one thing: if you're going to do an anthropological study of a strange & insular tribe, it's a lot more fun hunkering down in the clubhouse over Johnny Walker Black or at the Polo track canvassing your subject as opposed to sweating it on the veldt studying a bunch of spear wielding massai.

Rather than venture deep into the ominous, inky blackness of the deep jungle, though, Frank confines himself to the coastline: this is a book of shallow little fly-bys at the rich, rather than the more adventurous safaris into the interior.

You'll learn how one rich guy runs his charitable giving in what Frank bills as an 'exciting new philanthropy' (uh, he uses---a spreadsheet! and he, um,---sets benchmarks!), and you'll learn how a bunch of Colorado rich people carried out a political coup (they, um---spent lots of money! and, uh,---used the Internet!).

But that's pretty much it. There's nothing here that you don't already know: chances are you know the astronomical rate at which the U.S. has been minting millionaires, or that a cool million isn't that cool anymore because it doesn't mean what it used to, or that the Rich are driving a boom in luxury goods---including little toy rich dogs like chows, uber-luxury whips like Bentley & Rolls-Royce, the advent of million dollar supercars getting totaled minutes after being purchased, and of course the crazy yacht phenomenon, with yachts getting bigger & more opulent than ever.

You know all that, right?

Well, maybe you don't. And if you don't, then "Richistan" will be a nice, amusing little read: an airplane read, a read you absorb quickly (it took me about 45 minutes) on the planeride from Portland to Topeka. It's sorta like a pamphlet.

Or, for that matter, a Wall Street Journal sidebar. That's not a surprise, because that's what Robert Frank is: the wealth reporter for the WSJ. The writing here is not unlike what you'd find there; it's breezy, somewhat bland, not particularly contentious, and about as shallow as the deep end of the kiddy pool at the Las Vegas Ritz.

If that's all you're up for, then "Richistan" should be just fine. But if you're looking for something deeper---something more akin to, say, David Brook's classic "Bobos in Paradise" (not a book I always agreed with, but one that was both rigorously researched, socially edgy & brilliantly written) then you'll find "Richistan" keenly disappointing, poorly edited, & fairly stupid.

Case in point: by the end, you'll be ready to gouge your eyes out with chopsticks if you have to read the word "Richistani" one more time.

But that said, "Richistan" just isn't all that. With its super-wide margins, ultra-big font, and news-of-the-week format, it's more stocking-stuffer fluff than anything more serious or substantial.

JSG
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Lifestyles, Spending, Fears, and Anxiety of the New Rich Aug. 8 2007
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you enjoy intimate looks at private lives, Richistan will entertain you. If you want to learn how to improve your own life, Richistan will only frustrate you . . . by raising your sensitivities to the material things you don't have.

The book has many key lessons for the new rich:

1. If you want to be rich today, you'd better be someone who starts a successful business that can be sold for big bucks. Inheriting money is a loser's game.

2. Once you are rich, you'll be left feeling poor . . . because others have so much more. You'll lust for a way to instantly double your money.

3. You won't be able to hire the quality of help you need to get rid of daily frustrations. The help you hire will, however, charge you an arm and a leg and will complicate your life.

4. Unless you work hard to insulate them from your wealth, your children will simply be clueless about how to run their lives in any meaningful way. You, too, could be the parent of a rich parasite with a drinking or drug problem.

5. Unless you cash out, your sense of being wealthy can lead you to spend money that you can't afford to spend. A financial disaster could follow.

6. In the race to prove you count, buying things doesn't work very well. The scale of what's expected is rapidly ratcheting up . . . as are the costs. Many times, more is less in terms of satisfaction.

7. Turn your money toward self-directed philanthropy or changing the political environment, and a few million bucks can have a huge impact.

8. Your spending will reach obscene levels. Does any family really need $80,000 a year in massages?

9. You'll only feel comfortable with people with the same wealth you have. Those with less will see you as a mark. Those with more will put you down and make you feel poor.

The book also suggests (but doesn't really develop) the point that there's a split between the very rich and the merely rich, in terms of attitudes and lifestyle. The merely rich are the local professionals who vote Republican (the ones the best selling how to books emphasize) and want to belong at the country club. The really rich are entrepreneurs, and they think the whole system (whatever system it is) stinks. They plan to replace or improve on what the merely rich like (think Donald Trump).

The best parts, to me, were those where a person or a married couple were profiled. I was particularly interested in the story of Philip Berber, the Jewish Irishman, who is reshaping third-world philanthropy by nudging aside the NGOs in Ethiopia to let the people help themselves through his personal charity, Glimmer of Hope. His story begins on page 157.

The book is a very easy read, and it goes down like a good ice cream soda. Everyone will end up feeling superior to most of the people in the book. What more can you expect from buying and reading a book?


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