ARBOR WEALTH: Beverly Hills mansions and yachts in the Hamptons

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“I look around leaves are brown …

And the sky is a hazy shade of winter…

Hang on to your hopes, my friend.” From “Hazy Shade of Winter” as performed by Simon and Garfunkel

Every winter some of the world’s leading economists hold a conference in Davos, Switzerland. And while ensconced in this ritzy resort, some will pontificate.  Like investment advisor and billionaire Jeff Greene.

Greene’s recent pronouncement? We are all living too high on the hog, and we all need to cut back on consumption.  Here’s the exact quote from Forbes Magazine: “America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence. We need to reinvent our whole system of life.” 

Well, as my Dad used to say, “Now wait a minute.” Whose carbon footprint is Greene referring to? Is he talking about our hollowed out middle class, where many folks are working minimum wage jobs? What are these folks “consuming” that they should cut back on? Many Americans aren’t “over-consuming,” they’re just trying to survive. Or was Greene talking to his ultra-wealthy peers, folks who move in his own economic circle? I hope so. For them, smaller may indeed be better. 

Here’s the rub: Greene arrived in Davos in a private jet, with two nannies attending to his children. He currently owns five homes, one of which is a 63,000 square foot mansion in Beverly Hills.  And he spent a cool million on his wedding.  Greene has yet to upgrade his boat, though. He’s still making do with a 145-foot yacht docked in the Hamptons. One fill-up for the boat costs $100,000. To quote a famous movie about over-consumption and greed (for fun, let’s just call it “Wall Street”), “How much is enough, Gordon? How many yachts can you water-ski behind?” 

How does one tell the masses with a straight face to trim the fat from their personal budgets, while one’s own lifestyle is almost a parody of jet-set excess?  I’m sorry, it’s just incongruous. 

Greene has no doubt worked hard to achieve status and wealth.  And that is certainly admirable. He has the same free speech rights as everyone else. And yes, much of what he is saying has merit. 

But here’s a free tip: next time you instruct the middle class on cutting back, keep your private jet in the hanger.  There is already considerable resentment by those struggling in the current economy of those with remarkable wealth.  When you make Greene’s salary, it’s easy to fall out of touch with those whose paycheck doesn’t include the same number of zeroes. For many folks in today’s economy, consumption simply means covering the bare necessities, which are not something that can be cut back on.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.