How's the Economy Doing? Take a Look at Trustafarians

trustafarian handbook
trustafarian handbook

If you went to college or have spent any time in a big city in the last 30 years, you've probably heard about trustafarians -- and may have even seen a few. The unmotivated, slacking child of privilege, the mythical trustafarian combines a flush bank account with endless resentment, a sense of entitlement with middle-class shame, resulting in a final product that resembles a very well-funded vagrant.

While most of us may have briefly wondered how a guy who looks like he wandered out of a Phish concert could afford the rent on a $2,000-a-month apartment in a tony neighborhood, Brian Griffin has taken the time to dig deeply into the trustafarian lifestyle. In The Trustafarian Handbook (Adams Media, $11.95), he dissects the wealthy dropout way of life, analyzing the different types of trustafarians, their natural habitats and -- perhaps most important -- what they do when the money runs out.

This final consideration may be the most relevant: Griffin suggests that, when it comes to economic indicators, trustafarians can be tremendously useful. Basically, it works like this: In flush times, people have discretionary income that they can spend on high-priced luxury items. The mark of the greatest and most valuable items is that they're purely decorative -- serving no actual, defined purpose, they exist solely to show that the bearer has great wealth and can spend it carelessly.

Trustafarians as a Vanity Purchase

Following this logic, it's hard to imagine a better vanity purchase than a trustafarian. After all, why should one blow money on another Ming vase or Faberge egg when it's possible to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars subsidizing an offspring's seven-year study of Balinese folkways at an elite -- or at least expensive -- private university?

And once college is over and the family jewel is properly polished and faceted, one can make the final touch with a suitable setting -- preferably an apartment in New York's Williamsburg or East Village areas.

When times are good, trustafarians fill the streets, but what about when the economy takes a nosedive? Well, as the last two years have brilliantly demonstrated, tough times call for hard decisions, and favored possessions must sometimes be cast aside to pay for necessities. This is when trustafarians truly come into use as key economic indicator.

Facing a Cold Choice

As the parental trickle down slowly dries up, the prices of hemp jewelry and blown-glass bongs plummet, and, one by one, the neighborhood vegan and macrobiotic restaurants close their doors. Ultimately, the parental funding may, perhaps, dry up completely, leaving the young artist/anthropologist/ganjanographer facing a cold choice between work and starvation.

At this point, Griffin notes, many trustafarians clean up their act -- at least slightly -- in order to get a job. In other words, if you start seeing a lot of guys with dreadlocks and facial tattoos wearing expensive, ill-fitting suits, it may be time to put all your money in gold and shotguns.

While Griffin occasionally drops into painfully unfunny axe-grinding, the book is full of insightful commentary and mordant humor. And with the economy in flux, it never hurts to be well versed in an emerging economic indicator!