The wealthy are always competing for status, and often in the strangest ways. The compete to show they possess the right opinions about race relations, sexual equality and the environment, of course. They eagerly join museum boards and charities focused on politically popular diseases. Being the member of the right club and going to the right schools helps, although not as much as it once did.
And now the wealthy have a new status symbol: getting ripped off by Bernie Madoff. Because Madoff is said to have only accepted an exclusive group of wealthy investors, saying you got ripped off by Madoff is a subtle way of saying that you’ve got big money. From those who spend their summers in Nantucket to those spending evenings at the Yale Club, Bernie Madoff has become the new name to drop.
“We’ll only be out in Nantucket for two weeks rather than the whole month,” a Nantucket regular recently told a friend. “We lost money in the Madoff thing.”
It is especially useful to those who lost money in the huge market downturn this year or found that their real estate investments were under water. Those losses can be a bit embarassing, almost an admission of failure and of commonness. Anyone can lose money in the stock, bond or real estate market…and almost everyone has. But to lose money to Madoff, well, that takes something special.
We suggest you try this out. Next time someone asks you to do something you aren’t sure you can afford, simply use the now fashionable Madoff Decline.
“I’m sorry dear,” you say. “The Madoff thing, you know? Isn’t it just terrible?”