Nishant is a junior at Berkeley. Like a lot of college students, he’s trying to figure out how he thinks about class and money as he moves towards graduation and financial independence from his parents. But Nishant’s dealing with a special set of privileges, and complications: his family is in the one percent. His dad, Vik, immigrated from India with his family as a teenager and then went to medical school. But instead of becoming a doctor, Vik founded a software company instead. It was a gamble that paid off. Within ten years, a Fortune 500 corporation had bought Vik’s company, and the family got rich.
Learning to navigate the privileges—and the burdens—of being wealthy is something both father and son struggle with. Vik is aware that his discomfort around wealth brings out a competitive edge in him that he's not proud of. And Nishant worries that his friends at college would think of him as “spoiled” if they found out just how much his family has. As Nishant thinks about what he wants to do after college, he’s also dealing with social pressure to match his parents’ financial success. “There’s some American dream kind of pressure that each generation you do better than the generation that came before you,” he told me. “I would have to get very lucky to accomplish that, and that focus is not one that I want to have.”
We asked the people we interviewed for this series to submit photos of things they felt represented their class status. Vik sent us this photo of his garage, and wrote, "Some really amazing choices of cars to select from to drive to the gym, but in the end, regardless of the car you drive, you still have to have the self discipline to make time and show up, and work out hard and push yourself. Once you're on the racquetball court or on the treadmill, class has no relevance."
This episode is part of our collaborative series with BuzzFeed called Opportunity Costs: Money and Class in America. To hear more, go to deathsexmoney.org/class.
To hear Anna and Vik talk about the Opportunity Costs series with WNYC's Brian Lehrer, click here.