Life as a ‘Trustafarian’

The Village Voice’s Anya Kamenetz recently wrote a piece on the experience of being a rich ‘trustafarian’ in today’s world.

“Some people do treat me differently when they learn I have money. Doesn’t really matter, I guess. It’s not like I’ll be buying drinks for everyone!” He shares a $1,400-a-month apartment in the Columbia Waterfront district in Brooklyn with a girlfriend who has a pile of student loans and no gilded background. “She refuses my help—I doubt my parents would let me pay off her college debts anyway.”

Tyler says he, too, doesn’t flash his cash around. He says that some unrestrained spending back in boarding school “took a toll on his friendships,” when he was “unempathetic” and “unthinking” about the material differences between him and friends on scholarship.

Thomas allows that people have made derogatory comments about his family money over the years. Today, he says, a relatively modest lifestyle helps deflect criticism. “I can’t really remember the last time I got angry or nervous or embarrassed. It’s not as if I’m going to Suede and getting a banquette with three bottles of Crissy. I hang out on Smith Street and drink Red Stripes.”

When these kids talk about class, they generally refer not to social divisions like family names but to material status markers like restaurant meals, clothes, cars, exotic vacations. Young people at various levels of relative affluence—those lucky enough to pay for private universities by check, for example, or live in the city without worrying about the rent—learn to navigate this world of luxe so smoothly that class distinctions seem to disappear. Yet bring up the topic of money directly, and the hidden boundaries are soon revealed.

In the end, though, the silver-spoon set is not so different from the rest of us. While they may not have to worry about basic needs, they eventually learn that the real challenge in life is making something of yourself no matter what you start out with. Thomas calls this attitude “a sense of luck of the draw, and hard work somewhere down the line.” Andrew agrees. “I have many friends in the U.S. and abroad who are living off inheritances and aren’t working, and some are very miserable,” he says. “I tell them all that the remedy is to get a job and fend for yourself; it helps you find direction in life.”