Super Rich: 'It's Not About Necessity'

"My tax rate is courtesy of the U.S. Congress, and the people that pay very high taxes like my cleaning lady, who pays more on her payroll tax than I pay on capital gains," Buffett said. "This has been a prosperity that has been great for the super rich, and it's been bad for the middle class and I think that should be changed."

So Buffett lives modestly in a modest home and has pledged to give most of his fortune to charity. When asked if he has similar plans, Parmar said, "you're talking about Warren Buffet who is at the end of his career -- I have just started."

Parmar said that he gives 2 to 3 percent of his earnings each year to charity.

"Most of the time with me the question begins with someone who feels strongly in the story and makes me believe in it. And if that happens, I'll do a donation.

And Parmar said he is also helping in other ways, by spending more.

"If everyone at my level stops spending … it's going to hurt the economy even worse," he said.

Robert Frank disagrees. He said a problem occurs "when you say your private jet is for the sake of the greater good, when you say, 'Well, I'm buying this to benefit the larger economy' or 'Look at all the jobs I support.' Forget it. You know, trickle down has its limits, and if you're living in a 45,000-square-foot house, you're doing it for yourself, not for the rest of us."

How Much Is Too Much?

As many of the rest of us struggle with the daily rigors of this economic downturn, Parmar remains a bit, shall we say, disconnected. Take his bills, for example:

"My staff pays them," he said.

And the value of his home?

"I probably think it's gone up in value," he said.

He said that the outcome of the presidential election will "probably not" change his lifestyle.

Frank said that Americans have a love-hate relationship with the rich.

"Americans have always been ambivalent about wealth," he said. "They aspire to be wealthy, but at the same time, they wonder, wait a minute, you know I'm a working schlub, I'm worried about gas prices, and this guy is making more than a billion dollars a year in some cases. They're wondering, wait a minute, how much is too much?"

Standing inside the bowling alley in his home, Parmar said his lifestyle is not a question of what he needs.

"It's not a question about necessity at all," he said. "You know if you ask the people that know me very well, there is probably less than 10,000 square feet of this house that I actually use on a regular basis."

"I think today's wealthy, in 2008, in the middle of recession, should not be parading around their wealth," said Frank. "But frankly, in their world, they don't see anything wrong with it. So, today's wealthy should be concerned about how they're perceived. For themselves, but also, for the preservation of today's wealthy. If you don't want a revolution in America, you should be quiet about your wealth."

Parmar does have some wealth management advice of his own.

When asked what he'd tell somone who said, "I have $50, what should I do with it?" he replied, "You could go skydiving."


"Yes," he said. "It's a good way to spend it."

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