I never realized
Apparently, I'm way richer than I ever thought I was. Or, at least that's what some car dealers seem to think. Someone seems to think I might be in the market for a new Ferrari or Maserati.
I got a letter in the mail yesterday advertising a new Ferrari/Maserati dealership in the area. Now I'm guessing that they don't just mail those things out to everyone, as a Ford or Chevy dealer might. That's why I'm puzzled. Why did I get one? What made the marketing gurus think I might want to own a new Maserati or Ferrari? On second thought, of course I'd love to own a new Maserati or Ferrari! What middle-aged guy who's probably only a few years at most from a raging mid-life crisis wouldn't want to own one? Perhaps a better question is: What made the marketing gurus think that I might actually be able to afford to buy one? These cars range from around $90,000 (the entry price for a Maserati Spyder) to well in excess of $125,000 (the prices for some of the Ferraris). What made them think that I could afford to spend that kind of loot on a car or that I would even want to spend that money (if I had it) on such a car, particularly a two-seater sports car with no trunk space that could only function as a secondary car? After all, the car payments would be almost the size of a mortgage payment for a fairly nice house in some of the less expensive parts of the country.
My best guess is that it's because I'm a doctor, and the common perception that doctors are all rich still persists.
That's the only reason I can think of. The dealer probably purchased the list of all the doctors in the state and mass-mailed us all. This explanation seems particularly likely because the letter and brochure were mailed to my office, not my home, and my office is my address of record for the medical board of my state. Certainly it's not because I've ever made extravagant purchases that somehow landed me on a mailing list of the ridiculously affluent, like a yacht or something.
I realize that some doctors might be affluent enough to have the excess income to indulge in such expensive and impractical (although undeniably attractive) toys, but not the ones I know. Of course, I do happen to work in academia, and that automatically means that I make considerably less than most other surgeons. Certainly, to me at least, the rewards of an academic career far outweigh the loss of potential income and the much longer training I underwent (I didn't get my first "real" job until I was 37, for example), but accepting a lower salary is inevitable in academics. It just comes with the territory. I could easily increase my income by 50-100% or even more if I went into private practice, but I doubt even that would be enough for me to afford one of these machines as a second (or even first) car. Perhaps a few of the private practice guys would be in the market for one of these gorgeous machines.
No, I can't picture even the private practice docs I know (with the possible exception of a couple of plastic surgeons in the area) having the excess income to spend on cars like these.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not claiming any sort of poverty, my remaining student loan debt notwithstanding, nor am I asking for sympathy, nor am I indulging in self-pity. (Most of my readers, I daresay, would take me to task if I did, and I would probably deserve it.) I make a comfortable living, and, like most academic surgeons, because a portion of my salary comes from clinical income, I make more than most nonmedical faculty of equivalent rank, as I have mentioned before. Even in a state with a ridiculously high cost of living and stratospheric real estate values, it's more than enough. Indeed, for the first time in my life, I have nothing to complain about, at least as far as my income goes.
Even so, I don't make nearly enough to afford one of these cars, nor can I imagine my salary ever being sufficient to let me purchase one. In fact, even if I were some sort of businessperson making millions of dollars a year, such that a car like one of the Maseratis in the brochure would not be that difficult to afford, I still don't think that I'd be able to bring myself to pull the trigger and buy one. Why? Perhaps it's because I come from a modest, solidly middle-class background. We weren't poor, but we certainly weren't rich. Until relatively recently in my life, I've always lived on modest incomes--because I had to. Through college, medical school, and even well into residency, I've always had to live fairly modestly, for the most part, all while watching my student loan debts mount, awaiting some day in the seemingly distant future, when I would have the means to repay them. My one big vice was music, but I never let even that get out of control. No, unlike many of you, I was never poor, but I do know what it's like to live within a fairly tight budget, a skill that has served me well.
Now that I'm making more money than I've ever made before and actually paying down my student loans, however, it's hard to escape a vague feeling that I don't really deserve my success, that I won't be able to sustain it, that it could all disappear at any time, or that I'm just one failure or illness away from the poorhouse, my disability insurance notwithstanding. I've heard of this sort of feeling--the "imposter syndrome"--among successful people, but I never really much believed it possible until recently. (I had always considered it rather unbelievable when I was in the midst of my long struggle to get where I am now that I might not think I deserved every bit of what has come my way.) It may also be a dash of good old-fashioned Catholic guilt from my upbringing that prevents me from indulging in any sort of major conspicuous consumption beyond a nice new Macintosh computer every three or four years (I have my eye on the Macintosh Dual Processor Power Mac G5 right now, in fact, but, alas, it's too soon since my last computer purchase) and a very nice car that I bought a year ago. Or maybe it's the fact that my wife would probably divorce me if I ever spent $125,000 on a sports car, never mind whether I could come up with the cash or credit. It may even be the liberal politics the vast majority of my family (other than me) subscribes to that permeated my upbringing but apparently failed to stick to me, with the exception of my dislike of our current President. Possibly it's your basic Midwestern practicality. Or maybe it's a combination of all of the above. Certainly, whatever it is, I find it amusing at best and appalling at worst that some dealer of very expensive, very impractical sports cars has somehow targeted me as a potential client, most likely only because I happen a doctor.
On the other hand, that Maserati Spyder is really nice-looking, isn't it, with its open top and sleek styling? And wouldn't it be cool to fire up the 400 hp V8 engine to go 0 to 60 MPH in 5 seconds and reach a top speed of 180 MPH?
A guy can still dream, can't he?