April 16, 2012

Bashing the Whining HENRYs (WHENRY)

It seems over the past couple years that high income individuals complaining that they don't have enough money has become a reoccurring theme in the media.   Theres been a few notable examples and they often stir up a significant backlash from the public, bloggers and other news outlets who all have a grand time bashing the people for having the gall to whine about only making 10 times as much as most people.

Not long ago PK from DQYDJ.net  clued me into the term HENRY which stands for High Earners, Not Rich Yet.

The Investopedia definition of HENRY says it is :

"A buzzword coined in a 2003 Fortune Magazine article to refer to a segment of families earning between $250,000 and $500,000, but not having much left after taxes, schooling, housing and family costs - not to mention saving for an affluent retirement."

HENRY's are more or less the bottom rung of the 1% group.   They are high earners but not mega millionaires.   Some individuals in this group feel they are down trodden because they get a "rich" people target applied to them but they don't have private jets or the good butlers.   They then stupidly take their irrational whining about their supposed financial difficulties to the Internet where they are quickly roasted by the 99%.    This is one of the front lines of class warfare.   If front lines consisted of a rich moron shoving his foot in his mouth and a million other people pointing out he's a fool.

I'm sure the vast majority of HENRYs are sane and nice folks who work hard for their money and have more sense than to whine in public in front of actual poor people about how hard it is to put Jr into the elite prep school while also saving 15% for their retirement, paying the housekeeper AND affording the decent size apartment in the nice area of Manhattan.   But in any group theres always a small % of the population which have more Internet access than sense.   So we see a small trickle of HENRY's who go out on the web to whine about how tough if is for them to live in their gated community on 'only' middle 6 figure incomes.   These are the Whining HENRY's which are a very very small subset of the HENRY's.

I'm going to mint my own new acronym for these Whining HENRY's and call them the WHENRYs

The WHENRYs fail to realize is that when you have it better than the vast majority of people, very few people will have any sympathy for your complaints about how bad you think you have it.  Its like complaining to a starving man that your filet mignon steak was slightly over cooked.   Its like complaining to the driver of the 1990 Chevy minivan with mismatched body panels that your 5 hundred series BMW isn't quite as nice as the Mercedes AMG you've had your eye on.   Its more or less a 'let them eat cake' kind of mentality.

Last year MSN wrote Down and out on $250,000 and did a decent job of examining exactly how 'hard' it is (or isn't) to survive on 5 times as much as most people make.   These people may accumulate a lot of expenses that lower income families don't see or realize, so there can be a sliver of truth to the complaints.   But mostly those expenses are things like private schools or over priced housing.   And the complaints amount to pointing out how theres not much left after you spent it all.   Sometimes the argument boils down to just saying "New York City is very expensive".    Ok, I get that.  Manhattan can be really expensive and hard to afford on even 6 figures but that doesn't really mean you're poor either.

Theres also a very big difference between saying "I don't feel rich" and "I feel poor".   I think some of the WHENRY's actually mean to say "I don't feel rich" and thats reasonable for them to think that, but they are wrong.   The definition of 'rich' is very relative in peoples minds.     For someone who has a $9 /hr job and $500 in their checking account, they may look at anything in the 6 figure income range ans 'rich'.   Rightfully so I'd think.  If you're worrying about whether its ramen or breakfast cereal for dinner tonight since thats all you can afford then someone making $100,000 would certainly seem 'rich' by comparison.   But for that person making $100,000 they often don't 'feel rich' and they'd likely put the income bar for 'rich' level higher up closer to $250k or much more.    It almost turns into a moving target such that an individual defines 'rich' as 'a lot more than I make'.   

The HENRY's are in the top 2-3% of income earners.   This puts 97-98% of the population below their income level.   A large portion of the nation will look at such an income as 'rich' level.   The HENRY's themselves will however may not 'feel rich'.   Sometimes people get out of touch with the rest of the world and people often have skewed or biased views of things.  If you travel in a circle of people who are doing well financially then its harder to see just how hard most of the people actually have it.   This is when the WHENRY's make the "let them eat cake" kind of statement of declaring that they aren't rich but are in reality really poor just like all you actual poor people.

Some of the WHENRY whines comes from their dislike of taxes.    One of the most well known examples of such a WHENRY was Todd Henderson.  He infamously posted on his blog (later deleted) about how he is downtrodden and can't afford a tax hike and how the world will end if he has to fire his household servants.   Here's an article that discusses his article and has some quotes.  His foot-in-mouth moment was basically a idiots misguided way of saying that he didn't want to pay more taxes.   Few people really enjoy a tax hike, so I can understand that basic sentiment.   But dislike of taxes doesn't rationalize pretending you're 'poor' or 'barely making it' when you have enough money for a multitude of luxuries and still mismanage or simply squander large sums.  Taxes don't make you poor.

Sometimes the WHENRY isn't a WHENRY at all and is just a misquoted HENRY.  The misquotes are made by the media in an attempt to get another sensational article that 99% of the readers can love to hate.   I think this is what happened recently with the example of Andrew Schiff.   I talked about Schiffs case not long ago.   When you read his actual quotes he wasn't saying he felt poor nor whining about not being able to make ends meet, yet that is the picture the writer seemed to paint.

WHENRY's often display a lack of understanding about what 'make ends meet' really means.   They will declare all their expenses and also list their retirement savings and their savings and then say they are struggling.    If you can do things like save for retirement, pay for your kids tuition and still have money left over after you buy yourself various luxury services then you are certainly making ends meet.  Failing to 'make ends meet' means you can't pay your bills, can't save or invest excess money and generally means you pile up debt spending just to subsist.    The WHENRY's are almost always the opposite and have excess discretionary money for luxuries, carry little debt other than a mortgage and almost always save for retirement and invest on the side.  

What do you think?  


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