Dear American Millionaire Who Doesn’t Feel Rich:

According to a Fidelity Investments survey of 1,000 millionaires you, and 419 of your fellow millionaires, don’t feel wealthy. Excluding your real estate holdings and your retirement funds, you have only one million dollars in investable assets. To truly feel wealthy, you said, you would need in access of seven million dollars.
I was explaining your situation to a friend of mine who lives in an impoverished township called Philippi. Philippi is a community of 150,000 people located outside of Cape Town, South Africa. You could call it a suburb, but suburbs in the U.S. don’t have staggering rates of unemployment – 40% or higher. Our suburbs don’t have one in five adults infected with HIV. Few people in our suburbs go hungry every day and fewer still are chronically malnourished.
The friend who I was talking with, Bandile, said if you wanted to feel better about your lack of wealth, you should visit him in Philippi. That sounded like a good idea, so I took it upon myself to be an advance man for you. I spent a night at Bandile’s home in Philippi to check things out should you decide to take him up on his offer.
It’s autumn in South Africa and despite what you might think, it can get very cold here. Bandile has no source of heat in his home. If he has money, which he doesn’t these days since he is unemployed, he might occasionally buy paraffin to heat his house, but paraffin is dangerous. Should a fire start in one house, especially in informal settlements where homes are built from whatever discarded materials are available and placed right next to each other, it’s not unusual for a single fire to destroy hundreds of shacks and displace thousands of people. Bandile wouldn’t want that to happen to you, so if you visit in winter you best bring warm clothes.
Bandile lives in a two-room house. The front room serves as a living room and kitchen and is constructed of concrete. The bedroom that was added on in the back is made of zinc and poorly constructed. Holes in the ceiling let in rain and holes in the walls let in the cold and the rodents. Bandile lives with two adult cousins. The two oldest men share the only bed in the house and the younger one sleeps on an old sofa in the bedroom. When you visit, the three roommates will all sleep in the bed so you can have the sofa.
As you may have gathered, Bandile’s place isn’t a B&B. You won’t have a bed to sleep in and there won’t be breakfast either. There was no food in Bandile’s house when I stayed with him. I mean no food. Not a slice of bread. The lack of food made me curious about what the rat found to eat in the house. There must have been something under the sofa I slept on because I heard it scratching and gnawing throughout the night.
Don’t worry, you don’t really see the rat. Bandile has only one lamp and that is in the other room. There is no light in the bedroom so it is very dark, which makes for good sleeping until rays of light begin to shine through all of the holes in the walls in the morning.
Oh, I nearly forgot, there isn’t a bathroom. Bandile is fortunate, however, in that he has a toilet outside. Many people in the townships don’t even have an outhouse. The unsanitary conditions in those areas mean that diarrhea is a major killer of children.
Of course the lack of a bathroom means you won’t be taking a shower in the morning. Bandile will, however, boil some water for you, put it in a basin, give you a bar of soap and a cloth so you can have a sponge bath.
Getting you to and from Bandile’s place will be a bit of a challenge since he doesn’t own a car and public transportation can be spotty and sometimes dangerous. I would suggest bringing a good pair of walking shoes.
Bandile is very much looking forward to your visit. He hopes that you will help to spread the word to your fellow 419 millionaires who also don’t feel rich. If all of you would visit him in Philippi, Bandile could launch the first guesthouse in his township.
I told Bandile not to get his hopes up. I mean, you only have a million dollars. Maybe when you have accumulated seven million you can pay a visit to Bandile’s home. Then you can see the way the majority of the people in the world live.

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