Why Are We So Focused on Everyone Else’s Wealth?

You all the know urban legend of the conversation between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Fitzgerald: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

Hemingway: “Yes, they have more money.”

It never happened, but it points to an interesting question: Why are we in America so fascinated with other people’s wealth?

We talk about it, make movies about it, track it incessantly. We have the Bloomberg Billionaire Index and the Forbes 400. We track the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, and took note when the Koch Brothers wealth surpassed $100 billion.

There seems to be an unhealthy obsession with other people’s money in America.  I plead guilty to contributing to this. Whether it is about hedge fund managers or the wealthiest New Yorkers, I have posted chart after chart on the subject. My focus is usually — but not always — an explanatory warning on the dangers of excessive fees for investors. That was the underlying focus of my presentation, Romancing Alpha, Forsaking Beta.

However, the most viral thing I have ever posted at Bloomberg View was a chart highlighting the difference between the Rich and the 0.01%.

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