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Title: My dad is billionaire Steve Ballmer. Here's what it was like growing up rich and being kind of ashamed of it.
Source: [None]
URL Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/ste ... %80%94%C2%A0March%2023,%202024
Published: Mar 19, 2024
Author: Jane Zhang
Post Date: 2024-03-23 18:34:42 by BTP Holdings
Keywords: None
Views: 108
Comments: 6

My dad is billionaire Steve Ballmer. Here's what it was like growing up rich — and being kind of ashamed of it.

I don't spend money as lavishly as I could; I'm aware of hedonic adaptation.

Pete Ballmer Headshot
Pete Ballmer, Abanti Chowdhury/BI
Photo of Jane Zhang

As told to Jane Zhang

Mar 19, 2024, 4:15 AM CDT

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with 29-year-old Pete Ballmer, a standup comedian living in San Francisco and one of the sons of billionaire and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Up until I was in late elementary school, my understanding was that my family was rich, but I didn't know that we were globally and historically rich.

I knew that my dad was a big guy at Microsoft, and I remember a kid asking me how many bathrooms my house had. Another kid randomly asked me, "Does your mom drive a Mercedes?" And I was like, "No, she drives a Ford Fusion."

Growing up, we didn't get more expensive Christmas presents than most of the other upper-middle-class kids I knew. I got the new Gameboy one year, and in high school, I asked for a bench and a set of weights. Another year, my parents got us a ping pong table that we set up in the basement.

My parents hated seeing us make stupid purchases

Their approach toward money, in broad strokes, was: If it's something that you ultimately need, we can buy that for you. They both hated seeing stupid or unnecessary purchases being made, so the implicit rule was don't be wasteful; be smart about what you spend your money on.

For example, I started playing lacrosse in fourth grade and asked my mom for a nicer lacrosse stick. She was like, "No, you just started playing. You don't need the nice lacrosse stick."

I got the less-nice lacrosse stick.

I'm sure I asked my parents for some money here and there, but it was never, "Just ask us, and we'll get you the money." I mean, I didn't really care about what I was wearing, and my brothers and I were fine with driving our dad's old '98 Lincoln. We had an Xbox, and I was eating a lot of Chipotle with my friends. (I drove the neighborhood carpool and got paid in Chipotle gift cards — it was awesome.)

What more does a teenage boy even need at that point?

We didn't really talk about money

There were some indications that we were rich. Our family took really nice vacations, but as a kid, there was a disconnect between things and how much they cost. I just thought, "Oh, I guess we're in Japan, now."

For both my mom and my dad, having a lot of money was a relatively new experience, as was raising children. They raised us in line with how their parents raised them, and since they didn't grow up talking about wealth, they didn't talk about it with us, either.

It was nice to just be a kid and not really think about it, but as I grew up, I started feeling pretty uncomfortable that I was in a wealthier family than any of my peers. I didn't like that people had presuppositions of what I was like purely based on that.

My parents had an attitude of "rich kids are too much, and we don't like that," which was in some ways harmful since I was a rich kid.

But I started to derive pride from the fact that I wasn't as spoiled as I could be, that I didn't have gobs of money thrown upon me. People would say nice things about the way my brothers and I approached money.

I worked summer jobs and internships to save up

In elementary school, I got an allowance of $10 a week. I obviously didn't have any real need for it, and I'd forget to collect it from my mom probably over half the time.

Middle school is when I started to actually want things that were more expensive. I read about a new phone, the Palm Pre, and wanted to buy it. My parents agreed that they would pay for the phone plan if I paid for the phone. I worked as a caddy at a golf course near our house and saved up enough to buy it.

The summer after 9th grade, I started a landscaping company with my friends. It's funny to look back on — we were just a bunch of well-to-do suburban children. Let's just say we weren't doing as good a job as your average landscaping company might.

I also did a couple of software engineering internships during high school and college, which I got — I feel it's important for me to say — without connections.

My parents paid for all of my tuition and board in college, which is a lot of money. I used the money I saved from my internships to spend on things like meals out at restaurants, drinks at bars, occasional new clothes, and concerts.

After graduating, I borrowed $1,000 from my parents for an international trip I'd planned with some friends. But that wasn't enough to cover it, so I borrowed another $1,000 from one of my roommates because I didn't want to ask my parents for more money. The experience of not wanting to go back to your parents to ask for more is pretty human and universal; you don't want to be viewed as irresponsible.

Receiving an inheritance at 25

After college, I never considered not having a job, so I became a product manager at a game development company.

Then I inherited a sum of money from my grandfather when I turned 25. He had worked his way up to middle management at Ford and put the money he saved into Microsoft stock, which did pretty well and ended up being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time I received it.

When I first heard about it, I was a junior in college. My initial reaction was that I would decline it — I was still pretty uncomfortable with my family's wealth and figured I could get a pretty high-paying job in tech and wouldn't need their money.

But then I turned 25, and I didn't decline the money; in retrospect, that would have been a very silly decision.

I'd also started doing standup comedy in college and continued doing it on the side while I worked. After about four years of working as a product manager, I quit to pursue comedy full-time.

I'm now a paid regular at some comedy clubs in the Bay Area, and I've also done some festivals. I do around five shows a week in addition to an open mic or two, and I produce Don't Tell Comedy shows.

Between what I get from my inherited investments and my income from comedy, my money has remained pretty stable because of my spending habits.

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Poster Comment:

In the late 70s in Chicago, I was doing newspaper relays for Manor News which was the agency about half a block from where I lived. That old '76 Blazer was a gas hog and I would shut it down in summer to count out papers on the tail gate.

one morning a cop flagged me down. He was asking what I was doing while his partner checked out my truck. I told him, "Newspaper relays for manor News."

Then he asked his partner, "What's in back?" She replied, "Newspapers."

Then I said, "And you were thinking it was midnight auto parts." LOL

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#1. To: BTP Holdings (#0)

I am a millionaire now because of 30+ years of sinking my paycheck into 401K rather than buying rims and/or speakers for my B-Donk_Donk. It hasn't changed me, I still eat spaghetti and wash my own dishes. I made ham and beans for supper tonight, must have cost all of $1.32 per serving.

“I am not one of those weak-spirited, sappy Americans who want to be liked by all the people around them. I don’t care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. My affections, being concentrated over a few people, are not spread all over Hell in a vile attempt to placate sulky, worthless shits.” - William S Burroughs

Dakmar  posted on  2024-03-23   18:58:09 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: BTP Holdings (#0)

That old '76 Blazer was a gas hog

I remember you mentioning it, like a 4.31:1 final drive, lol. Seems like you'd blow the engine if you drove it over 70mph for more than a few miles.

“I am not one of those weak-spirited, sappy Americans who want to be liked by all the people around them. I don’t care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. My affections, being concentrated over a few people, are not spread all over Hell in a vile attempt to placate sulky, worthless shits.” - William S Burroughs

Dakmar  posted on  2024-03-23   19:04:15 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Dakmar (#2)

4.31:1 final drive

I think that rear end was 4.10:1 ratio. That was paired up with a 250 C.I. straight six. ;)

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one." Edmund Burke

BTP Holdings  posted on  2024-03-23   19:23:06 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: BTP Holdings (#3)

Still, I had a friend that had a '70 Plymouth Road Runner. It would do low 14's in the 1/4 mile, but overheated if driven over 70mph for like ten minutes. Ridiculous. I knew another dude that had a 64 Plymouth Street Wedge with 2.92 rear end that could cruse at 120mph all day. That was much more fun, although there aren't many places to do that outside of Montana or West Texas, lol

“I am not one of those weak-spirited, sappy Americans who want to be liked by all the people around them. I don’t care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. My affections, being concentrated over a few people, are not spread all over Hell in a vile attempt to placate sulky, worthless shits.” - William S Burroughs

Dakmar  posted on  2024-03-23   19:33:16 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: BTP Holdings, Esso (#3)

250 C.I. straight six.

My first car was a 1974 Mercury Comet with a 250 C.I. straight six. Should have got at least 18mpg, I even rebuilt the the carburetor and changed the plugs, points, condenser, rotor, and twiddled with the timing on several occasions. It turned out there was a hole in the fuel line, letting in air bubbles at idle and siphoning out fuel at speed.

“I am not one of those weak-spirited, sappy Americans who want to be liked by all the people around them. I don’t care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. My affections, being concentrated over a few people, are not spread all over Hell in a vile attempt to placate sulky, worthless shits.” - William S Burroughs

Dakmar  posted on  2024-03-23   20:10:12 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: Dakmar (#4)

West Texas

The Llano Estacado or Staked Plain. Lubbock is in that area. ;)

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one." Edmund Burke

BTP Holdings  posted on  2024-03-24   19:05:26 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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