Whenever the truly rich are asked about their favourite hobbies and pastimes, philanthropy invariably seems to come top of the responses. Really?
Now, to get it straight: we are not scornful of the laudable charitable efforts of the filthy rich, of course. One has only to look at the huge efforts of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, and their Giving Foundation, to be impressed by the many billions raised for good works around the world. Indeed, the saintly Sage of Omaha has just given away another $3 billion or so, in the form of stock in his company.
Even so, do surveys of the super-rich which show that approaching 60 percent of them put philanthropy at the top of their pastimes and priorities really ring that true? For many of us in private banking, frankly, no.
On the face of it, giving comes well ahead of pursuits like travel (one third), art (about 29 percent) and fashion and style, about one-quarter.
Golf can only aspire to be a pursuit for 11 percent of the really richerata, according to a study by consultancy Wealth-X. Even skiing only attracts about seven percent of the respondents to its survey.
(Incidentally, those who invested in classic cars over the past decade have down pretty well, but wine buffs are the new winners. The Knight Frank Luxury index puts collectable cars up six percent in the past 12 months, but fine wine has risen by 12 percent).
But back to Wealth-X. We bow to the professionalism behind its study, but personally have our doubts about the motives behind some of the responses. Indeed, philanthropy seems to be the default setting among the rich, no doubt mindful of the growing chorus of disapproval about the inequality of wealth distribution in the West.
Actually, as many of us know at first-hand, the perennial pursuit, nay fanatical life journey, of the rich is to make even more money, and become even wealthier.
So we must all bow to the wisdom of the Duchess of Windsor, who observed so accurately that one can never “be too rich or too thin".
Benjamin Franklin put it another way, “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.”
Despite the wave of populism which decries what it sees as excessive wealth inequality, so what is really wrong about becoming a “filthy” (and particularly as the mega-HNW help keep us all in a private banking job)?
Indeed, we must turn to Dr Johnson for his dictum, “A man is innocently occupied than when he is engaged in making money.”
And one can never ignore dear Oscar Wilde, “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.”
A quote from Donald Trump is of course essential: “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”
Perhaps the man in the White House, when ready for another of his midnight, could take to heart that old Russian saying, Yesli khochetsya rabotat’ lyag pospi i vsyo proydyot (‘if you feel an urge to work, take a nap and it will pass.’) Or in Donald’s case, go for another round of golf.