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Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live—and How Their Wealth Harms Us All

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A senior editor at Mother Jones dives into the lives of the extremely rich, showing the fascinating, otherworldly realm they inhabit—and the insidious ways this realm harms us all. Have you ever fantasized about being ridiculously wealthy? Probably. Striking it rich is among the most resilient of American fantasies, surviving war and peace, expansions and recessions, econom A senior editor at Mother Jones dives into the lives of the extremely rich, showing the fascinating, otherworldly realm they inhabit—and the insidious ways this realm harms us all. Have you ever fantasized about being ridiculously wealthy? Probably. Striking it rich is among the most resilient of American fantasies, surviving war and peace, expansions and recessions, economic meltdowns and global pandemics. We dream of the jackpot, the big exit, the life-altering payday, in whatever form that takes. (Americans spent $81 billion on lottery tickets in 2019, more than the GDPs of most nations.) We would escape “essential” day jobs and cramped living spaces, bury our debts, buy that sweet spread, and bail out struggling friends and relations. But rarely do we follow the fantasy to its conclusion—to ponder the social, psychological, and societal downsides of great affluence and the fact that so few possess it. What is it actually like to be blessed with riches in an era of plagues, political rancor, and near-Dickensian economic differences? How mind-boggling are the opportunities and access, how problematic the downsides? Does the experience differ depending on whether the money is earned or unearned, where it comes from, and whether you are male or female, white or black? Finally, how does our collective lust for affluence, and our stubborn belief in social mobility, explain how we got to the point where forty percent of Americans have literally no wealth at all? These are all questions that Jackpot sets out to explore. The result of deep reporting and dozens of interviews with fortunate citizens—company founders and executives, superstar coders, investors, inheritors, lottery winners, lobbyists, lawmakers, academics, sports agents, wealth and philanthropy professionals, concierges, luxury realtors, Bentley dealers, and even a woman who trains billionaires’ nannies in physical combat, Jackpot is a compassionate, character-rich, perversely humorous, and ultimately troubling journey into the American wealth fantasy and where it has taken us.


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A senior editor at Mother Jones dives into the lives of the extremely rich, showing the fascinating, otherworldly realm they inhabit—and the insidious ways this realm harms us all. Have you ever fantasized about being ridiculously wealthy? Probably. Striking it rich is among the most resilient of American fantasies, surviving war and peace, expansions and recessions, econom A senior editor at Mother Jones dives into the lives of the extremely rich, showing the fascinating, otherworldly realm they inhabit—and the insidious ways this realm harms us all. Have you ever fantasized about being ridiculously wealthy? Probably. Striking it rich is among the most resilient of American fantasies, surviving war and peace, expansions and recessions, economic meltdowns and global pandemics. We dream of the jackpot, the big exit, the life-altering payday, in whatever form that takes. (Americans spent $81 billion on lottery tickets in 2019, more than the GDPs of most nations.) We would escape “essential” day jobs and cramped living spaces, bury our debts, buy that sweet spread, and bail out struggling friends and relations. But rarely do we follow the fantasy to its conclusion—to ponder the social, psychological, and societal downsides of great affluence and the fact that so few possess it. What is it actually like to be blessed with riches in an era of plagues, political rancor, and near-Dickensian economic differences? How mind-boggling are the opportunities and access, how problematic the downsides? Does the experience differ depending on whether the money is earned or unearned, where it comes from, and whether you are male or female, white or black? Finally, how does our collective lust for affluence, and our stubborn belief in social mobility, explain how we got to the point where forty percent of Americans have literally no wealth at all? These are all questions that Jackpot sets out to explore. The result of deep reporting and dozens of interviews with fortunate citizens—company founders and executives, superstar coders, investors, inheritors, lottery winners, lobbyists, lawmakers, academics, sports agents, wealth and philanthropy professionals, concierges, luxury realtors, Bentley dealers, and even a woman who trains billionaires’ nannies in physical combat, Jackpot is a compassionate, character-rich, perversely humorous, and ultimately troubling journey into the American wealth fantasy and where it has taken us.

30 review for Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live—and How Their Wealth Harms Us All

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan Tunis

    "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand." I love that Fitzgerald quote. And, man, did he get it right! Michael Mechanic's book is a close look at an almost taboo subject, and I was completely fascinated from the first page to the last. The author and many of "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand." I love that Fitzgerald quote. And, man, did he get it right! Michael Mechanic's book is a close look at an almost taboo subject, and I was completely fascinated from the first page to the last. The author and many of the subjects were from the Bay Area, a region marinating in money, where I spent most of the past two decades. So, the world being described was very, very familiar to me. Within Jackpot's pages, Mr. Mechanic discusses levels of richness, who holds it, and what wealth inequality is doing to our culture. He talks about how the acquisition of wealth impacts those who receive it with some surprising observations. (Depends on what kind of wealth, and how and when it's acquired.). He gives us glimpses into the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and what they choose to spend all that money on. And, to return to the quote above, he shares the psychological research that, in fact, proves the rich are different from you and me. (And not necessarily in a good way.) It's not all bad; there's also a discussion of philanthropy, and those with privilege who want to share. Absolutely fascinating stuff!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susie Stangland

    This book was was riveting! A fascinating look at the psychology which takes place for those who become suddenly wealthy or already are. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I began but from page one it instantly revealed it was a high caliber read. I also appreciated the way he humanized those with vast wealth as apposed to characterizing them the way the majority of people will. Highly recommend this book!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    An engaging, informative read about wealth in America. I felt like a voyeur peeking through windows as the author described the trappings and sentiments of the wealthy individuals he interviews. I learned about accredited investors and custom Bentleys but also about the conflicts and complications wealth brings with it. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex Gruenenfelder

    This is the first book by author Michael Mechanic, but his years as a journalist give it power. This is a book filled with the dark side of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, of private security wishes and tax-dodging dreams. I have read a number of books now about super-wealth, and this is one of the best. The way one earns their wealth clearly has an impact. Personally, I wouldn't want to live off of money that I didn't earn, and I would only want to be wealthy if brought about by real work This is the first book by author Michael Mechanic, but his years as a journalist give it power. This is a book filled with the dark side of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, of private security wishes and tax-dodging dreams. I have read a number of books now about super-wealth, and this is one of the best. The way one earns their wealth clearly has an impact. Personally, I wouldn't want to live off of money that I didn't earn, and I would only want to be wealthy if brought about by real work. This isn't a unique view. The guilt that hits some people — some by work, some by inheritance — isn't often what's discussed in the world, compared to the people who just spend their wealth and don't have any care for the working class. Coming from nothing versus coming from something makes it complicated. This is a book full of studies. It analyzes the psychology of the ultra-wealthy as much as it analyzes their actions. The intersection of race and gender with these issues is well-discussed. The racial topic especially has been neglected in some books on super-wealth that I have read, though this is improving in the post-George Floyd era. One of the wealthy Black interviewees points to the lack of a major sickle cell anemia foundation, while other diseases have big philanthropic backers. Just because one is wealthy doesn't mean their social marginalization totally goes away, and intersectionality is necessary in the discussion of super-wealth. Topics like philanthropy are on the chopping block as well. While Mechanic's criticisms of Big Philanthropy are valid, it's one of a number of times where solutions aren't clearly offered. Eliminating the charitable giving tax deduction may stop tax-dodging philanthropists, but what would the long-term effects be on charities? This book highlights the problems far more than it does real solutions, but perhaps those are for the readers to decide. Mechanic points to a world in which capitalism might truly work for all, where philanthropy is not as necessary as it is today; it's a lesson that folks of all political stripes should listen to. This is in many ways a revolutionary book. The end of our new Gilded Age is arriving. What this book shows is that most people want to be rich, but its consequences often hurt all involved. Mechanic is an empathetic writer, who truly seeks to connect to his subjects, and many of them even understand the flaws of the system. Our system is broken: Mechanic calls on all of us, especially those at the top, to help fix it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lars Oskar Slatlem Vik

    Such a good book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lissa

    3.5 stars. I feel as if this book has two parts. The first details the lives of the ultra wealthy. How they earn (or inherit) their money, how they avoid paying fair taxes, how they spend it, how they keep it and how they give it away. To be honest, I personally find rich people pretty boring so I struggled to get through this part. The second part, however, talks more about wealth inequity and why it exists and how it is getting worse. The author does a good job of laying out the issues and I f 3.5 stars. I feel as if this book has two parts. The first details the lives of the ultra wealthy. How they earn (or inherit) their money, how they avoid paying fair taxes, how they spend it, how they keep it and how they give it away. To be honest, I personally find rich people pretty boring so I struggled to get through this part. The second part, however, talks more about wealth inequity and why it exists and how it is getting worse. The author does a good job of laying out the issues and I found the information absorbing yet infuriating. While I wish the book was more focused on the information in the second part, I still found it informative. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Akindle

    A story of America’s elite, the upper 10% this book is a 5 Star story of how money makes a difference and what it is like to be wealthy. I got this as an Arc from NetGalley. My rating is not affected by getting this for free as an ARC.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Must read in the world of income inequality What my 👂 heard ⤵️ no matter how you slice it I'm your guy I'm looking for a way to turn a buck into five half of American adults with the lottery American spelled 81 billion dollars in 2019 on the lottery up 6% from the year before that and that's more than 2/3 of the GDP of most Nations it's also 10 times the amount spend each year on the world's books1 if you can't take the risks the big money is off limits you're not going to make a lot of money unless Must read in the world of income inequality What my 👂 heard ⤵️ no matter how you slice it I'm your guy I'm looking for a way to turn a buck into five half of American adults with the lottery American spelled 81 billion dollars in 2019 on the lottery up 6% from the year before that and that's more than 2/3 of the GDP of most Nations it's also 10 times the amount spend each year on the world's books1 if you can't take the risks the big money is off limits you're not going to make a lot of money unless you risk making a lot of money as a 5% are you can't buy your kids into Yale but they'll be starting off from second base even if you're still flying coach capital is crucial but hard to obtain it. you'll find out that your ideal income it's always going to be double what you make that seems to be true and should give you a lot of anxiety overtime 10% of the smart people find out how to get all the power and all the money that's kind of where we are today then there's the redistribution somebody comes in kicks over the ant hill hey cut that s*** out then they go away and the ants are coming back wealth x club I'm in the more money than brains club life evaluation scores depreciation after your basic needd are met most of wealth related social comparisons are particularly toxic as they bring about feelings of inadequacy most of the research about wealth is not how good the stuff is it's about what the stuff says about how valuable of a person you are I just don't have that fallacy to cling to being rich is having money being wealthy is having time cash rich time poor to be content with a little is difficult to be content with much is impossible we tend to compare ourselves to those in our socioeconomic orbit beggers don't envy billionaires just other beggars who are more successful we take our cues from people closest to us in our profession not a chance in China it's bad optics I've gathered up enough tails of wall not for one book but two poorest and brownest a high conflict scenario even his gatekeepers have gatekeepers despite all the do goodery anyone with wits and Moxie can one day drive that Bentley is the myth that keeps the pitchforks at Bay I'm a born hype man black taxe not a talent issue it's a access issue smart pretty and a young speaker i have nothing to offer other then hyperbole we summered in Venice I borrow and leverage tens of millions of dollars to earn tens of millions more billionardom real estate is us he greets me warmly can you i like talking with you because your so quotable

  9. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    Who hasn’t wondered how it would feel to hit the Jackpot? Whether through the lottery or stock options, with great wealth comes great responsibility (or anguish according to this book). The rich, it turns out, really are different... but not necessarily happier. Jackpot investigates every aspect of what great wealth does to people and their families. From how much it costs, the loss of privacy due to the required staffing including security, and the struggle of how to avoid spoiling the children, Who hasn’t wondered how it would feel to hit the Jackpot? Whether through the lottery or stock options, with great wealth comes great responsibility (or anguish according to this book). The rich, it turns out, really are different... but not necessarily happier. Jackpot investigates every aspect of what great wealth does to people and their families. From how much it costs, the loss of privacy due to the required staffing including security, and the struggle of how to avoid spoiling the children, it’s all included here. The book also looks at the impact on society overall of the unprecedented access of the super wealthy to politicians who make the laws. From someone who binge watches My Lottery Dream Home, this book was an eye-opener. Most of the people on the show win less than a million so the demographics are slightly off. A better analogy is Tom Hanks’ issues with his rapper son Chet. Making life easy for your kids is generally not a good thing according to the book. Some failures in life are character building. Overall, if you are curious about, or envious of, the extremely wealthy, Jackpot is a must-read. It’s a fascinating look behind the velvet rope that is never seen on carefully curated Instagram posts. 5 stars! Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    This book talks of the obscene wealth of individuals have multiple homes, cars and basically anything they want without ever having to inquire about prices. The rich need to hire entourages to handle their finances, open their mail, clean their houses, coordinate their daily schedules, raise their children, provide security, maintain their residences, their cars, boats, planes and search for more possessions to acquire. Psychologists speak of paranoia, narcissism, passive aggressive behavior, This book talks of the obscene wealth of individuals have multiple homes, cars and basically anything they want without ever having to inquire about prices. The rich need to hire entourages to handle their finances, open their mail, clean their houses, coordinate their daily schedules, raise their children, provide security, maintain their residences, their cars, boats, planes and search for more possessions to acquire. Psychologists speak of paranoia, narcissism, passive aggressive behavior, over dependency, odd behavior and difficulty forming close relationships that individuals with enomous wealth have battle. The rich are jealous over individuals who are leading “regular normal” lives. Then we read about how happiness declines after a certain income and the book details how people who win millions are hounded by friends and strangers and organizations. If the search is for happiness, it is suggested to redistribute your wealth and your power and invest in your community and make a living like the rest of the world.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Cory

    This book is in a class by itself. There are many books written about the super-wealthy, a notoriously difficult cohort to write about because of their extremely private and inaccessible nature. This is a thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and definitive book on the subject. I especially love the author's conclusion that instead of getting pitchforks out and condemning the super-wealthy, we should instead encourage the rich to grab their pitchforks and pitch hay along with the rest of us. Micha This book is in a class by itself. There are many books written about the super-wealthy, a notoriously difficult cohort to write about because of their extremely private and inaccessible nature. This is a thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and definitive book on the subject. I especially love the author's conclusion that instead of getting pitchforks out and condemning the super-wealthy, we should instead encourage the rich to grab their pitchforks and pitch hay along with the rest of us. Michael Mechanic is such a great author that he should consider a follow-up book with the steps necessary to enact that societal change. My highest recommendation. A strong contender for Book of the Year.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eliana

    This book was fascinating, well-researched, and really enjoyable to read. It touched on so many aspects of being ultrawealthy that I never would have considered. Some of the financial terms discussed went over my head but luckily the book was written in such a way that I could enjoy it even though I didn't understand every single concept. This book was fascinating, well-researched, and really enjoyable to read. It touched on so many aspects of being ultrawealthy that I never would have considered. Some of the financial terms discussed went over my head but luckily the book was written in such a way that I could enjoy it even though I didn't understand every single concept.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ann Pollard

    I don't think so... Boring and often off-topic. I don't believe it accomplished what it set out to do. I wanted to get inside their heads. Mostly, this failed. I wish I hadn't bought it. I don't think so... Boring and often off-topic. I don't believe it accomplished what it set out to do. I wanted to get inside their heads. Mostly, this failed. I wish I hadn't bought it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Hornik

    An exploration of having great wealth: what it’s like, what it does to you, and what it does to the world. Written in a breezy, magazine style. An easy read, juicy, that reinforces a feeling of overall doom.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kayo

    What an interesting book. It had a wealth of information (no pun intended). Author really researched the subject. Great book. Thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Audiobook. I got an hour and a half in but I just don’t really care about people who feel guilty for being so rich or what they buy with their money. Cars are boring.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen Bruns

    Cwdxx we w see x by

  18. 4 out of 5

    This Feral Housewife

    This book was seriously interesting in the topics it covered. You find yourself thinking of all the different ways you have seen this play out in real life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Beard

    The most enjoyable moral outrage I've ever read. Vital reading of you want to understand America. The most enjoyable moral outrage I've ever read. Vital reading of you want to understand America.

  20. 5 out of 5

    kadath

    Sickening how these rich bastards have always gamed the system.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mathieu

    Very interesting book to learn how the rich lives, what they struggle with, and how money is actually quite hard to handle !

  22. 5 out of 5

    Barrie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Tang

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shaina

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jason Kassin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Bendicksen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Artbikes

  30. 5 out of 5

    Meh

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