October 16, 2019

At Column No. 500, a Look Back at Lessons Learned

I found at least one group of people who were able to manage a windfall without having it destroy their lives: winners of MacArthur Grants, which are given annually to, well, geniuses.

One of these wacky stories, about a high-end pawnshop, constituted the only time one of my columns landed on the front page of The Times. It was novel and pointed to a truism of human desire: Rich people overspend like anyone else, but when they go, they go big — and then might struggle to pawn their Bentley.

In the fall of 2009, as the column was nearing the end of its first year, I learned valuable lessons from readers on two topics.

The first one really rubbed readers the wrong way. It looked at the psychology of wealth in the aftermath of the Great Recession and why so many people had begun to associate accumulating wealth with bad behavior or outright thievery. The reaction, which I also wrote about, was a case of blaming the messenger, but it helped me to develop a thick skin when writing something I felt was necessary even if it would be unpopular.

The other column elicited all sorts of shared stories. It looked at a battle in Westport, Conn., over a stone wall in which legal fees had cost the homeowners two or three times what they had paid for it. Readers were critical over what they deemed a waste of time and money — the battle stretched on for three years after my column was published — but they also sent in their own stories of real estate troubles and disputes with neighbors that had cost them dearly.

And it was responses like those that helped with many of the 500 columns. Some of the best ones came from readers with questions. Please keep them coming!

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/05/your-money/wealth-lessons-500.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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