Marks Paneth and Shron New York City accounting firm partner Alan Dlugash has clients whose paycheck is earned handling investments. "These people never dreamed they'd be making $500,000 a year," he said, "and dreamed even less that they'd be broke."

Wait, what? BROKE if earning/making $500,000 a year? For many wage earners, such a revelation might be considered foolish to the point of warranting scornful laughter. But, just such a situation is documented truth. The story is that a well-regarded investment counselor, one Andrew Schiff of New York, made a speech about gold at a California investment conference during February of this year. Seems that while in a traffic jam he exited his car and was seen and heard emoting about how his $350,000 a year salary doesn't cover his family’s private school tuition, a summer rental cottage and an upgrade he’d like to make on his 1,200 square-foot Brooklyn duplex.

“The New York I wanted…is…just beyond my reach; I feel stuck,” he said during an interview with a Bloomberg reporter, Max Abelson.

The accounting partner, Dlugash, reports he is spending a lot more time these days counseling his Wall Street clientele about their expenses. He observes, “People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress. When I tell (my clients) you don’t HAVE to cut that, but…you've got to cut THIS, they say, ‘But I can’t,’ to which I say ‘But you must’” Oh, really?

Some of the money making up these financial elites’ (in our country’s top 1 percent by income) salaries comes from bonuses, the amount of which is said to have dwindled; not as many zeroes, these days, it seems. So Wall Street types – bankers and their accountants, advisers, headhunters and their therapists – say it’s “difficult to maintain the lifestyle” they expect.

The 2010 Census offers data for comparison; median household income in 2010 was $49,445, lower than that in 2009 – and less than 1 percent of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s $7 million “restricted stock BONUS for 2011,” which, as noted earlier, might have shrunk from 2010. During essentially the same time period, what DIDN’T shrink is the percentage of Americans living in poverty: 15.1 percent, the highest in two decades.

Andrew Schiff, the investment guy, says “I can’t imagine what I’m going to do. We’re crammed into a 1,200 square foot duplex; we don’t have a dishwasher and we have to do all our dishes by hand.” From the perspective of one of “those who doesn't have money and (can’t) understand the stress,” quit the hand-wringing and get a second job flippin' burgers - or - quit the hand-wringing and figure out how to live on $350,000 a year.

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