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为什么周围的人看起来都比你有钱?

Wait a Minute. How Can They Afford That When I Can’t?
为什么周围的人看起来都比你有钱?

I’ve done it and you probably have, too: looked at a neighbor or friend who seemed to be in roughly the same financial bracket and wondered, “How do they do it?”

我干过这种事,你可能也做过:看着与自己的财务状况大致相当的邻居或朋友,心里想,“他们是怎么做到的?”

How do they afford the elaborate remodel and the luxury vacations they’re bragging about on their Instagram accounts and the private school tuition?

他们怎么负担得起如此精致装修的房子和他们在Instagram上炫耀的奢华假期?他们怎么付得起私立学校的学费?

The feeling is envy, but it’s mixed with curiosity. And it often comes with a large dollop of self-criticism. They somehow must be better at managing their money than my husband and me. What are we doing wrong?

这种感觉中有嫉妒的成分,但也夹杂着好奇。而且常常伴随着大量的自责。他们一定比我和我丈夫更善于理财。我们什么地方做得不对呢?

Just look at a forum on the popular financial blog Mr. Money Mustache. The question asking whether “the ‘everybody seems wealthy’ illusion — is it really just fueled by debt?” attracted a wide variety of opinions, but more than a few expressed the sentiment of the commenter GeorgeC.

只要看看深受欢迎的“钱胡子先生”(Mr Money Mustache)博客上的一个论坛就知道了。论坛上的一个问题——“每个人看起来都很富有”是否“真的是债务堆出来的错觉”——吸引了各种各样的意见,但也有不少人表达了与评论者GeorgeC一样的看法。

“I often have this struggle where it seems as if everybody around me is wealthy,” he wrote, adding that he often wondered how people he knew earned as much or less than he did could afford things he could not.

“我经常有这种郁闷,似乎我周围的每个人都很有钱,”他写道,并补充说,他常常感到不解,自己认识的那些收入与他不相上下的人,怎样买得起他买不起的东西。

“To be honest, at times, it kind of makes me feel dumb and sometimes even like a failure at what I do,” he added.

“说实话,有时候,这让我觉得自己有点儿笨,有时甚至觉得自己做的事情很失败,”他补充道。

No doubt, most people could improve how they handle their finances. But better money management isn’t usually the culprit: When people seem to be able to afford much more than their income would suggest, it’s often because there is hidden wealth or hidden debt.

毫无疑问,大多数人都可以改进他们的财务处理方式。但更好的财务管理通常并非罪魁祸首:当一些人似乎能够负担得起比他们的收入所表明的多得多的东西时,这往往是因为他们有外人看不见的财富或债务。

“Wealth is even more hidden than income, because there’s no job to correlate,” it to, said Dalton Conley, a professor of sociology at Princeton University. We have a general idea what a professor or corporate lawyer makes, but “in terms of family wealth, there’s zero cues.”

“财富甚至比收入更隐蔽,因为没有工作可以关联,”普林斯顿大学社会学教授道尔顿·康利(Dalton Conley)说。我们对教授或企业律师的收入有大致的概念,但“在家庭财富方面,我们毫无线索”。

Ellen, who lives in the Washington area, knows that feeling of envy and curiosity. Like everyone else talking about their personal experiences for this article, Ellen (her middle name) spoke on condition of anonymity in order to publicly share her private thoughts about friends’ spending habits.

住在华盛顿地区的艾伦知道那种嫉妒和好奇的感觉。与其他在本文中谈论个人经历的人一样,艾伦要求不具名,只让记者用她的中间名,以便公开分享她对朋友消费习惯的私人想法。

For years, Ellen watched her friends, who had similar jobs and the same number of children as she did, spend much more lavishly on just about everything compared with Ellen’s family. They did expensive home additions. They took twice as many vacations to places farther away. They drove nicer cars.

多年来,艾伦看着工作与自己类似、有同样数量孩子的朋友们,在几乎所有方面都比她家花钱更慷慨大方。他们花大钱扩建房子。他们外出度假的次数是她家的两倍,而且是去更远的地方。他们开更好的车。

And she felt bad about it, assuming she and her husband were simply worse financial managers.

她曾对此有很不好的感受,认为自己和丈夫在财务管理上就是不如人家。

“We go to self-blame when we don’t know the whole story,” she said.

“当我们不知道事情的全部时,我们陷入自责,”她说。

Then it all collapsed. It turned out that the family was largely living on debt. They were under water on their house and had to sell it. They’re now renting an apartment.

后来,一切都崩溃了。原来这家人主要靠借债过日子。他们的房贷高于房子的价值,不得不把房子卖掉。他们现在住在租来的公寓里。

“I did feel very vindicated,” Ellen said. “I guess we weren’t doing anything wrong.”

“我确实觉得自己出了口气,”艾伦说。“我猜我们没做错什么。”

Of course, not all people who seem to be living beyond their means are running up their credit cards.

当然,并不是所有看似在超前消费的人都在透支信用卡。

Sharon (not her real name), who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., has relatives who have paid her children’s full college tuition and give the family additional help.

莎伦(化名)住在纽约州的韦斯特切斯特县,亲戚为她的孩子支付了全部大学学费,还给这家人提供了其他的帮助。

She doesn’t like sharing that with people, “a little bit because I’m protecting the image of my husband that he rolls with the big boys,” she said. “And I also feel really lucky and it doesn’t feel fair. I’m not comfortable, but I’m thrilled we have it.”

她不喜欢与人分享这一点,“有一些是因为我想保护丈夫的形象,不想让人知道他在靠贵人相助,”她说。“我也觉得很幸运,感觉不太公平。我觉得不舒服,但我很高兴能有这样的帮助。”

Frederick Wherry, also a professor of sociology at Princeton University, recognizes that sentiment. “One of the things that helps to protect us as we’re trying to make our way through life is that we rely heavily on secrecy,” he says. “We’re really trying to protect our understanding of who we are and other people’s understanding of who we are.”

普林斯顿大学社会学教授弗雷德里克·惠里(Frederick Wherry)认同这种观点。“当我们在生活中摸索前进的时候,有一件事有助于我们保护自己,那就是我们非常依赖保密,”他说。“我们确实在努力保护我们对自己的认识,以及别人对我们的认识。”

I identify with that feeling. My parents contributed to our sons’ university tuition and while I may mention it when discussing college costs, I certainly don’t highlight it. I’d rather be seen as someone disciplined and savvy enough to sock away hundreds of thousands of dollars for eight years of college than as someone relying on parental assistance. So I am part of the problem.

我认同这种感觉。父母为我几个儿子的大学学费出了一份力,虽然在讨论大学费用时我可能会提到这件事,但我肯定不会强调它。我宁愿被视为一个自律、精明的人,能为儿子们八年的大学生活攒下几十万美元,也不愿被视为一个依赖父母帮助的人。所以我也是问题的一部分。

Not only do people want to play down their inherited wealth or money from family “but they actively try to hide it,” Mr. Conley said. “We have this ideology of individualism and worshiping of the self-made man or woman.”

人们不仅想淡化自己从家族继承的财富或金钱,“而且还积极地试图隐藏它,”康利说。“我们有种个人主义的意识形态,崇尚白手起家的男女。”

And theoretically, there’s a correlation between getting more because you work harder, said Evan Polman, a professor of marketing at the University of Wisconsin at Madison School of Business. “Inheritance is a violation of that correlation.”

从理论上讲,工作更努力和收入更高之间是有关联性的,威斯康星大学麦迪逊商学院(University of Wisconsin at Madison School of Business)市场营销学教授埃文·波尔曼(Evan Polman)说。“继承违反了这种相关性。”

So, why does this matter? What if we don’t know where our neighbors got the money for that new deck? Few would want everyone’s financial status to be transparent.

那么,有什么大不了呢?如果我们不知道邻居们新装修的钱是从哪儿来的呢?几乎没有人希望所有人的财务状况都是透明的。

But this secrecy helps reinforce the idea that it is only individual choices, not laws and policies, as well as our national history, that comes into building wealth.

但这种保密会强化这样一种观念:只有个人的选择才能积累财富,而不是法律和政策,以及我们的国家历史。

“It seems like a straight-up cultural issue, but public policy plays a role in how we view secrecy about money and also the consequences that secrecy has,” said Mr. Wherry, who is also director of the Dignity and Debt Network. People need to understand others are in a similar situation — struggling to pay for college or retirement or health care — to realize it’s not a personal failing and to push for reforms.

“这似乎是一个直截了当的文化问题,但在我们如何看待金钱保密及其后果方面,公共政策也在发挥作用,”身为尊严与债务网络(Dignity and Debt Network)主任的惠里说。人们需要理解其他人也处于类似的情况——为上大学、退休或医疗保险而苦苦挣扎——才能意识到这不是个人的失败,并且推动改革。

“That’s what we need to fix the problem,” he said. “If it’s just about you, nothing’s going to change.”

“这就是我们需要解决的问题,”他说。“如果只是你自己的问题,那就什么都不会改变。”

These issues most likely play out differently in affluent areas compared with low- and moderate-income communities, where “you’re probably much more aware of the struggle that neighbors are feeling,” Mr. Wherry said. “Yes, we need to be responsible, but there’s much more of a sense that there are things that go well beyond me as an individual that affect how we live.”

与低收入和中等收入社区相比,这些问题在富裕地区很可能会以不同的方式得到解决。在中低收入社区,“你可能更清楚邻居们的困境,”惠里说。“是的,我们需要自己负责任,但更多的是一种感觉,有些远远超出我个人能力范围的东西,正在影响着我们的生活。”

“The secrecy surrounding money may also differ to some extent in countries with higher rates of unionization,” Mr. Conley said, “where salaries are more transparent.”

“在工会化程度较高的国家,金钱方面的保密性可能在某种程度上有所不同,”康利说,“那里的工资更透明。”

Some say we’re focusing on the wrong thing if we’re looking at the outward signs of wealth. The reality now is that if we’re going to envy our neighbors, it shouldn’t be for their BMW or new swimming pool. It should be for their fat 401(k) or gold-plated health insurance, because the ability to put away large amounts of money to secure our future and our children’s future is the sign of real wealth now.

有人说,如果我们只看财富的表象,就会把注意力放在错误的事情上。如今的现实是,如果我们要羡慕邻居,不应该是为了他们的宝马车或新泳池。应该羡慕他们充足的退休金账户或优厚的医疗保险,因为有能力存下大量金钱,保障我们和孩子的将来,这才是如今真正的财富标志。

The top 1 percent of households still spend money on conspicuous consumption but “the thing that really separates them is their spending on inconspicuous consumption,” said Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California, who analyzed Americans’ spending habits for her book “The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class.”

最富有的1%的家庭也会有用于炫耀的支出,但是“真正让他们与众不同的,是他们的不显眼的消费支出,”南加州大学公共政策教授伊丽莎白·卡里德-霍尔基特(Elizabeth Currid-Halkett)说,她的书《积少成多:一个关于渴望出人头地的阶层的推论》(The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class)是一本分析美国人消费习惯的著作。

Over the last few decades, wealthy people have increased how much of their spending they direct to education and retirement, compared with members of the middle class, whose expenditures in those areas have remained more or the less the same.

在过去的几十年里,富人在教育和退休方面的支出增加了,而中产阶级在这些方面的支出基本保持不变。

For example, in 2014, the last year of Ms. Currid-Halkett’s analysis, the top 1 percent of American earners — those making at least $340,000 annually — directed, on average, 6 percent of their total expenditures to education. According to her research, that percentage has climbed significantly since 1996.

例如,在2014年,也就是卡里德-霍尔基特进行分析研究的最后一年,美国收入最高的1%的人——年收入至少34万美元——平均把总支出的6%用于教育。根据她的研究,这一比例自1996年以来显著上升。

Only about 1 percent of the expenditures of the middle class — people making about $40,000 to $60,000 annually in 2014 — was devoted to education, a number that has stayed static for almost two decades, Ms. Currid-Halkett said.

卡里德-霍尔基特说,中产阶级——2014年年收入在4万到6万美元之间的人群——只有大约1%的支出用于教育,这个数字在近20年里一直保持不变。

And about 20 percent of the top earners’ expenditures go to personal insurance and pensions — an annual average of $32,500 in 2014 — compared with just under $4,000 or about 8 percent for the middle class.

高收入者大约20%的支出用于个人保险和养老金——2014年的年平均支出为3.25万美元——相比之下,中产阶级这方面支出不到4000美元,占8%左右。

“The change in spending patterns among the rich are probably the biggest signifier of class divide in America today,” she said.

“富人消费模式的变化可能是当今美国阶级分化的最大标志,”她说。

No doubt, some will scoff at people comparing themselves to their neighbors and offer the advice that they should just focus on their own lives. And there’s some sense in that. But competitiveness and inquisitiveness are part of being human.

毫无疑问,有些人会嘲笑那些把自己和邻居比较的人,并且建议这样的人关注自己的生活就好。这是有道理的。但是好胜心和好奇心是人性的一部分。

Charles (his middle name) who lives in the metropolitan Phoenix area, said he speculated about friends who seem to spend and spend and spend with no visible income coming in.

查尔斯(这是他的中名)住在大菲尼克斯地区,他说他对那些似乎一直在花钱却没有可见收入的朋友有着种种猜想。

“They do things that absolutely leave my wife and I scratching our heads,” he said. “I would consider our lives completely fine. But I do think people look at all these types of people around the country and wonder: ‘How are they doing that? How can they afford it?’”

“他们做的事绝对能让我和妻子摸不着头脑,”他说。“我觉得我们的生活完全没问题。但我确实觉得,全国到处都是这种人,大家看了都会想:‘他们是怎么做到的?他们怎么能买得起呢?’”
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