Good morning, over at Savvy Scott we will discuss if should you improve your Christmas gifts with your increasing income?
When you think Guatemala, you probably get an image of small huts, dirt roads, kids not able to attend school, and a general state of poverty. But in Guatemala, if you are rich, you are VERY rich. The Gini index that measures the disparity of income between a country’s inhabitants place Guatemala high up on the list of income inequality, only surpassed by a handful of countries in the Southern tip of Africa. Here are a few of the extravagances I have witnessed, or was related first hand (not from a friend of a friend who may have hear something like…). It is all very real.
People go to work in their helicopter
The traffic is pretty bad in Guatemala City, as the city has grown really fast, and a growing middle class can now afford cars, so it is not uncommon for rich people to fly to work. They have an helipad in the garden, or on top of their building, and land on top of the office building.
A record number of private planes per capita
Guatemala apparently has the second most private jets and helicopters per capita in the world. Drug lords may add to the mix but mostly it is for privileged kids. The roads outside the city are bad, if you average 40 miles per hour with your car to go somewhere it is a good day. Between potholes and heavy trucks driving like crazy, the rich will rather fly to holiday 200 miles away. Which is also why there is a crazy high number of acquaintances who died piloting their jet after too much party.
Buy your house cash
When you get married, generally your parents buy you a house. Think $500,000-$750,000 house. The rich rarely do mortgages, just credit cards.
Live with bodyguards
There was a time when there were a lot of kidnappings and abductions in Guatemala, so many rich people still have bodyguards. Being barely able to stand a maid four hours a day myself, I find this one particularly tedious. The most ironic part is they are often the ones plotting your abduction as they know best your routine and your house inside and out. So if you go to a nice restaurant in Guatemala City, you’ll see all the armed bodyguards waiting in front, in a tainted car. Even the mayor of my 3,000 inhabitants village has heavily armed bodyguards, but that is because he is into some weird things, not that he made it to the 1% of Guatemala.
Spend $25,000 on flowers for a wedding
When the rich get married, they go big. They want to impress. Last time I was told about a ceremony where flowers alone cost $25,000. Below is a wedding in a colonial ruin that is pretty standard for upper class Guatemalans (Credit). You don’t do a seating table, you just invite people, and it is usual that those people invite more people, or at least a date, so you never know how many guests will come to your wedding. A 500-800 people wedding is usual for big families.
Holidaying in Miami
Miami is like a second home to rich Guatemalans, who generally own a pied-a-terre there. They fly over three or for times a year, mostly to hit the malls “because you can’t buy anything of decent quality in Guatemala” or “the choice is too limited, what if someone shows up with the same shirt?”, a few bars, and come back. They almost never tour the interior of their beautiful country and tell me in a high pitch voice “you know more of Guatemala than we do!” because aside from a few luxury developments on the coast or the colonial town of Antigua Guatemala, they have never visited anything else.
Breed from within
There are only a few families worth marrying into, if you have money and belong to one of those families yourself. From daycare, all is made so you only socialize with your cast. Only a handful of schools are acceptable, like the American school or the German one. Same for college. And when you start dating, the first question someone asks you is your last name, to make sure you belong. It makes for a pretty narrow dating pool, but unless your parents can “place” your sweetheart within the Guatemalan hierarchy and approve of his or her background, there will be no wedding. Classes don’t mix in Guatemala. You may bring back a foreigner from your semester abroad though, without too much scrutiny.
Living like you’re in Pinterest
This is a pretty typical home interior (credit) another one (credit) I love colonial decor don’t get me wrong, and having low cost hired help to keep it all neat and tidy is fantastic. But I also like houses where you can see that people actually LIVE. Where a stain on the wall tells a story about your kids. Where you can sit comfortably on a cushy sofa. The nicest houses look like a Pinterest picture all the time, and are full or nice things that never get used.
Use your cocktail dress once
It would be a great shame if people noticed you wore the same dress twice to a wedding or social event. So for every event, women buy a new dress. Generally in Miami (see above), or have it tailor made to make sure it is unique. If you want to keep up appearances but are broke, you can borrow a dress from a friend. But never show up with the same one! Considering each bride does a dozen bridal showers, plus the engagement party, plus the wedding, it requires a lot of apparel. And if you are included in bridal parties, even more, so you can allow the bride to have Pinteresting pictures to publish with perfect smiles and perfect outfits (see above).
They have never worked
The high class we are dealing with today is mostly one that was handed over large sums of money and has never worked a day in their life. There is a saying “hard working granfather, rich son, panhandler grandson” talking about how fast they are going through that money. Millions of dollars disappear fast when you need a private jet and $200,000 weddings. I know someone who went through over $200,000 in a year, then ended up broke again, and that is not uncommon. As they have to keep up with the other Guatemalan Jones, they also go into heavy debt to do so. Most indebted person I have met had about $20,000,000 in debt. But was fake working, pretending to keep afloat the family business rather than admitting failure.
Being a “millionaire” starts at US$10M
This one always seems weird. To be a millionaire in the local currency, the Quetzal, you need around US$130,000. But a friend who has a net worth of roughly US$6M describes “millionaires” as those with at least two digit millions. There are a lot of low key millionaires who were given a $500,000 house by their parents plus a couple other properties to get a monthly rent from, but the really rich have dozens, hundreds of millions. Even a bigger contrast to the average population making $300 a month.
4 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms
The usual house has a private bathroom and a walk-in closet for each room, plus a bathroom for visitors, one for the in-law suite or the guest room, and one for the service room. Bigger house have two service rooms, as they employ a handyman and a maid (or several, in which case same sex workers sleep in the same room).
1 bedroom, 1,200 sqft
Luxury houses and apartments are huge. You can find one bed apartments the size of a five bedroom in Paris. A medium house is 5,000 sqft, and 10,000+ sqft houses are not unusual. While I am all for enjoying money, I find it sad that the hard work of the previous generation is going in such futilities. I also