05 Aug 2007

Nobodies With $10 Million

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I don’t suppose one is required to feel sorry for Silicon Valley’s millionaire working class economically exactly, but there is definitely something pitiable about seeing the Porsche and Mercedes stuffed into the minimum of parking associated with a 2000 sq. ft. 1950s tract house on a postage stamp lot.

California is in some respects a lot like Hell. Those condemned to reside in the Valley literally have its temperatures. And the great majority of the more favored, those cooled by balmy Pacific breezes, live like Sisyphus, in possession of real wealth, yet surrounded by conspicuously displayed examples of far greater wealth. Able to own a nice automobile, but still unable to afford a decent home.

“You’re nobody here at $10 million,” Mr. Kremen said earnestly over a glass of pinot noir at an upscale wine bar here. …

“People around here, if they have 2 or 3 million dollars, they don’t feel secure,” said David W. Hettig, an estate planner based in Menlo Park who has advised Silicon Valley’s wealthy for two decades. …

Celeste Baranski, a 49-year-old engineer with a net worth of around $5 million who lives with her husband in Menlo Park, no longer frets about tucking enough money away for college for their two children… Yet like other working-class millionaires of Silicon Valley, she harbors anxieties about her financial future.

“I don’t know how people live here on just a normal salary,” said Ms. Baranski. …

David Koblas, a computer programmer with a net worth of $5 million to $10 million, imagines what his life would be like if he left Silicon Valley. He could move to a small town like Elko, Nev., he says, and be a ski bum. Or he could move his family to the middle of the country and live like a prince in a spacious McMansion in the nicest neighborhood in town.

But Mr. Koblas, 39, lives with his wife, Michelle, and their two children in Los Altos, south of Palo Alto, where the schools are highly regarded and the housing prices are inflated accordingly. So instead of a luxury home, the family lives in a relatively modest 2,000-square-foot house — not much bigger than the average American home — and he puts in long hours at Wink, a search engine start-up founded in 2005.

“I’d be rich in Kansas City,” he said. “People would seek me out for boards. But here I’m a dime a dozen.”

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One Feedback on "Nobodies With $10 Million"

Dominique R. Poirier

Even though it doesn’t affect good and services it looks like a big bubble to me. No matter how rich I could be I would never buy a house over there now if I were put in the obligation to live in this place but—after, perhaps, if I can yet.

How cynical or ironical it must be for someone is happy to learn that he has been hired by the Rand Corp. at Santa Monica, for example. To be one among the best brains in the world, hired by the most prestigious institution in the world, but homeless…

Sure, they are going to fix that… Ha, ha, ha…


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