The drawbacks of being an oligarch


I’ve heard so much about oligarchs lately that I couldn’t help wondering if it might be a good career move for me. Before I made the switch though, I thought I should find out more, so I went to my go-to for career advice, my good friend Google. That’s where I learned that Russian oligarchs wield a bit of political power along with busy day jobs of making, spending and laundering money.

Sadly, I’m not qualified for the position seeing as I’m not Russian—or a billionaire. But based on my research, I don’t think it would be that great anyway. And that’s not just sour vodka talking. There are a lot of things about the job I wouldn’t care for, not the least of which would be hanging out with a certain self-centered, bad-tempered Russian president.

Also, I’m not cut out for managing people and I’d need employees if I were an oligarch—pilots to fly my airplanes, crews for my yachts, a commander for my personal submarine, groundskeepers to mow my golf courses, handsome pool boys to clean my swimming pools and, of course, housekeepers to keep all my mansions clean. There’s no way I’m doing that myself.

Then I’d need a payroll department to pay all those employees and managers to order them around when I’m not there. The next thing you know I’d be holding staff meetings and hiring and firing employees all the time. I’d be so busy I wouldn’t have time to enjoy my tennis courts when my friends came over. That would be a shame because I’m sure if I became an oligarch, I’d have more friends. Probably more relatives too. 

Not only would they always be asking if they could stay on my private island or take one of my Ferraris for a drive, they’d expect better gifts from me than I give now. Plus when we’d all go out to lunch and the server asked if we were all on one check, everyone would look at me expectantly. Sure, I’d be able to afford anything on the menu but I’d never again enjoy the simple pleasure of having someone else buy me lunch.

Another drawback is that instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, I’d be trying to keep up with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet. Right now, Alexei Mordashov is the richest Russian oligarch, with Vladimir Putin, whom you may have heard of, coming in a close second. But I was shocked to learn that while Mordashov is the richest oligarch, he’s not the richest person in the world and not by a long shot. Elon Musk has a whopping 223 billion compared to Mordashov’s measly 29 billion. I bet a lot of people see Mordashov way down there on the list of billionaires and feel bad for him. No one likes being pitied. 

I suppose it’s possible he and the other oligarchs are richer than we think. One of the skills of a successful oligarch is knowing how to hide money from people who have the gall to think you might owe them some of it. Apparently there are lots of ways to do this besides the one we all think of first: putting it in your mattress. If you’re a billionaire, that takes a lot of mattresses. So oligarchs are forced to find other creative ways to hide their wealth, including money laundering, which is not what you’d think: forgetting to empty your pockets before you throw your pants in the washer.

You can see how hiding money is hard work even if you only have 29 billion dollars to hide. Plus there’s political influencing, management duties and yacht shopping to be done. Being an oligarch is a demanding job, but I’m sure any oligarch would tell you it’s also very rewarding—at least financially.

Dorothy Rosby is the author of three books of humorous essays including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time. Contact