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This podcast is about the Financial Times’ magazine and website How to Spend It.
In 1967, How to Spend It was just one monochrome page, introduced to readers as “a guide to good living”. The first edition had an article about installing home central heating, then a relative luxury; about a new electric coffee maker; and about how to select and cook a pheasant.
Fifty-one years later, the rich are very different. They are an ever more dominant and international elite: lightly taxed, politically pivotal, admired as much as criticised, and so untethered from everyone else in their lifestyles that they exist in “a parallel country”.
According to author Andy Beckett, if you want to understand the 1%, you need to read How to Spend It.
Sometimes this elite life is fleetingly visible to the rest of us – the chauffeur-driven car waiting outside a boutique in a smart part of London or New York. More often, it is invisible – the super-yacht out at sea.
Worldwide, the 1% now have half of all the wealth, the highest proportion for almost a century.
At How to Spend It, “the world’s most desirable audience, with the largest purchasing power and highest net worth” is – in theory at least – judiciously steered by expert FT journalists towards the correct purchasing decisions.
The consumption habits of this elite matter increasingly to all of us; the spending decisions of the rich are now economic and social forces of enormous power.
Meanwhile, says Beckett, a different approach to luxury journalism has been evolving – one that suggests that the good life requires eclectic experiences and products, not just pricey ones. Apparently, even the rich have begun to spend significantly less on conspicuous consumption and more on inconspicuous consumption, such as education, healthcare, pensions, and personal insurance.