Friday, 9 June 2006

Luxury Lifestyles

“When I used to work in a store”, Said my friend, “I owned a car, a house, and wore a watch my dad gave me”. “But Now”, he continued, as his hand moved to show me his lavish surroundings, “I have a nicer car, a bigger house, and a watch which took a man in Switzerland two years of his life to make… I was content then, I am content now, not a lot has changed apart from my surroundings, and my ability to buy things of such magnitude, that I am fascinated by simply being able to buy them”.

This rather humble description of his life is quite different to (and I hate to say it) the bulk of people for whom the luxury lifestyle becomes something which they feel they are simply not content without having, with their lives geared around achieving it. If you look even at the dictionary definitions of luxury, “Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort”, or “Something expensive or hard to obtain” you see the onus is that luxury lifestyles are a demonstration of wealth, the ability to obtain, and the ability to create a ‘comfort zone’ where one is surrounded by the things, they feel, they require to be happy.
The media always look at footballers and celebrities as being the ones who partake these idealistic lives, but talk to any purveyor of product/service to these markets (eg: yacht brokers, jet charter, master jewellers, real estate) and you will see that the market is, in the main, comprised of individuals who stay ‘under the radar’, but who are supremely wealthy with lifestyles in excess of sports personalities and all but the most established of celebrities. These individuals are ‘old money’, entrepreneurs, royalty, business families, financiers and more.

“The purchase decision now, is about whether or not it hurts to buy it” says Peter Harrington, Master Jeweller. “The typical high net worth customer is far more discerning than to buy a brash diamond encrusted watch, for example, the real decision is whether or not it will ‘hurt’ them to buy the article”. In context, he is referring to the burgeoning market of individuals purchasing watches in excess of £100,000 and similarly making jewellery purchases towards the million pound mark.

Like many, I watched the ITV documentary on “Britain’s Biggest Spenders”, and saw good examples of this, with an individual who had got themselves into over £80,000 in debt as they tried to achieve a luxury lifestyle, a lady who was content with her life, but spent lavishly to entertain the ones she loved (notably not discussing the price of her purchases), and an individual who felt almost obliged to spend vast amounts (and discuss the amounts!) to become the master of conspicuous consumption! On the other hand, there are people I know who would never aspire to such things, and are perfectly content living lives of, as one put it, “priviledged mediocrity” where, “for the most part, I can buy the things I want, treat myself now and again, and don’t have to worry too much. I’m happy, my girlfriend is happy, what more could I ask for”. “Besides anything”, he continued, “the more you have in the world, with fancy cars, and jewellery, the more you have to protect, and the more you worry about losing it. For me, luxury is coming home every evening looking forward to seeing my girl, being able to relax and not worry too much about what life will throw at me”. Charles Kingsley, a popular author during the Victorian era which [In my opinion] saw the same differences in terms of “haves” and “have nots” summed it up well saying, ““We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about”

So when talking about this buzz-phrase of ‘luxury lifestyles’ consider first what it would mean to you to be happy, that is your luxury.

I’m going to finish with a story from last year!

A good friend of mine sold his business a few years ago, and we’d been to a party in East London, on the way back, we stopped for food at a KFC. Bear in mind that we stopped outside a KFC in quite a poor area of London, in a £275,000 rolls Royce (with chauffeur). At the party, a few of our friends had accused him of being a bit of a “flash harry”, so I asked him why he buys the things he does! His response…

”For me Vikas, the cars, the toys, all these things, remind me of what I have achieved in life. We’re not here for very long, and while I don’t advocate spending beyond ones means, there’s no sense in having wealth, and not being able to enjoy it. Life is quite a tough thing at the best of times, and so why not indulges yourself when you want? If it makes you feel good!”

Probably the wisest words of all!

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