LOST Magazine
December 2008 / January 2009 – No. 29

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by Robert Sullivan

Among the basic types of people who can be said to be not rich are, first, the poor — who, if you laid out $9.95 for this book, are a group that most likely does not include you — and, second, those who are not rich and understand that they are not going to be rich and have either gracefully or grudgingly come to accept that and have, in lieu of a chalet in Colorado, decided to remodel the kitchen, or at least half of the kitchen — the second half is planned for next year.

The third type of not-rich person is that person who wanted to be rich, who then was rich for a short period, and who now, through a series of incidents that might but would not necessarily include jail, injury, idiocy, disillusionment, procrastination, too much champagne, a television shopping network problem, or bad luck, has ended up no longer being rich and is not happy about it. This is the person who can be considered to have unsuccessfully unriched himself. A lot of the characters in Evelyn Waugh novels fall into this category, living on estates between the World Wars, eating on once beautiful but now chipped china, languishing in decay. But this category would also include someone like the celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump, who, during the 1990s, accidentally got not-so-rich for a time, before eventually getting rich again, his happiest state apparently. This group also includes countless formerly wealthy people who now live among us like us.

This group has presumably gotten not rich by accident, often in a manner that they are not happy with, often resulting in rash measures, such as jumping out of buildings, and the truth is I don't have a lot to say about that. My experience in not getting rich lies elsewhere. If you were once rich and are now not rich, then I must presume you either have a lot of natural not-getting-rich talent or none at all and your nontalent is momentarily dormant. If you are currently rich and you are interested in becoming not rich, then you will have to look elsewhere for advice. Just off the top of my head, I might recommend you read The Grapes of Wrath a few dozen times or take a vacation among the ever-dwindling middle class. But like I say I don't want to give you bad how-not-to-get-rich advice.

Reprinted from How Not To Get Rich, by Robert Sullivan. © Robert Sullivan. Published by arrangement with Bloomsbury USA.

Editor's Note:  "Economics" was originally published in LOST Magazine No. 1, back in 2005, when "unriching" oneself was much more often a result of concerted effort or choice.

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Robert Sullivan is the author of The Meadowlands and A Whale Hunt, which were both New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and the national bestseller, Rats. He is a contributing editor to Vogue and a contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times. He lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Buy Robert Sullivan's books through Amazon at the LOST Store.

Articles in this Issue

Economics, by Robert Sullivan
A Nation Cannot Grow Rich by Fighting, by Henry Loomis Nelson
Bad Money, Bursting Bubble, by Kevin Phillips
Liquid Assets, by Mark Kingwell
What's in the Bank These Days?, by Bunny Crumpacker
The Cost of Counterfeiting, by Dana Thomas
How to Profit from the Coming Rapture, by Steve and Evie Levy
Auntie Blessy and Yamashita's Treasure, by Robin Hemley