I started thinking about what billionaires spend their money on when I first read that Jeffrey Epstein was offering to pledge his $77 million Manhattan Mansion and other collateral at his bail hearing. Then a piece in nypost.com reported on all of his real estate holdings, as listed in his court papers, as follows: 9 E. 71st St., Manhattan, worth $55,931,000; 49 Zorro Ranch Road, Stanley, N.M., $17,246,208; 358 El Brillo Way, Palm Beach, Fla., $12,380,209; 22 Avenue Foch, Paris, France, $8,672,823; Great St. James Island in the Virgin Islands, $22,498,600, and Little St. James Island, also there, $63,874,223. That is over $180.5 million in real estate, AT HIS ESTIMATED VALUES, and we know that others have valued his Manhattan mansion at $77 million, $21 million more than his value.

Stereotypically, when it comes to billionaires, I think what comes to mind for most of us is multiple homes, car collections, artwork, planes, yachts, and names on buildings, and my research bears that out. It is also important to note, however, that they are often very philanthropic, and the businesses many of them are involved with generate jobs and help the economy.

If you watch CNBC’s prime-time series, “The Filthy Rich Guide,” you may already know about some of the outrageous spending, or, for fun, you can spend a few moments and read some pieces on businessinsider.com and quora.com, like I did.

Businessinsider.com put all of this in perspective. Billionaires typically can afford to spend $80 million a year, while the average American makes less than $60,000 a year, and for Jeff Bezos, who is worth $156 billion, (before the divorce), spending $80,000 is similar to the average American spending $1.

Consider these: 1. A Hong Kong jeweler’s $3.5 million bathroommmade entirely of gold and precious jewels, including a 24-carat gold toilet. 2. A Swiss socialite’s $4 million cosmetic plastic surgery over a decade. 3. An Indian magnate’s $1 billion residence, the most expensive in the world. It is a 27-story
400,000-square-foot skyscraper. 4. A Russian lawyer’s $3.9 million violin, made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, more prized than a Stradivari.

Not outrageous enough? Consider these: 5. A Liechtenstein Prince’s $36 million 18th-century Florentine cabinet adorned with precious stones. 6. An Australian businessman’s between $425 and $567 million exact replica of the Titanic. 7. A Mexican telecom tycoon’s $800 million art museum to showcase his collection. 8. A $300 million Hawaiian Island.

Finally, here is one that I didn’t see coming — a second passport. Apparently, it is a status symbol among the rich, and there are some countries where you can simply buy citizenship. These countries include Malta, about $1 million; Cyprus, about $2.3 million and Austria, $23.7 million.

On some different subjects, here are a few things that have popped up on my radar this week.

First, they are already advertising back-to-school specials. Some of the younger children in our area only got out of school less than three weeks before I was hit with my first advertisement. Maybe they should just have year-round “school specials."

Second, this may come as a total surprise to many of you, but some of the “blue states” (not my words, those of much of the media) have now sued the IRS for its new regulations disallowing the “workarounds” they legislated to get around the recent $10,000 cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes, which includes local property taxes. As we have discussed in prior columns, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut passed legislation that permitted local
municipalities to establish charitable funds to pay for local services, and then offer property tax credits, so homeowners could donate to them and get a charitable deduction equal to all or a portion of their otherwise non-deductible property taxes. Sounds pretty creative, right, and it definitely may make sense to you, if you live in one of these states. So these three States have filed suit in Federal Court in the Southern District of New York. I checked, but Las Vegas hasn’t yet issued any odds on the potential success of this lawsuit. Stay tuned!

Third, speaking of schools and property taxes, local school taxes will be coming out soon, with full payment due by the end of September. I am sure you know this by now, if it applies to you, but, as a reminder, if your 2017 adjusted gross income exceeded $250,000, you will now longer receive an STAR (School Tax Relief) exemption, which provides a direct reduction on your tax bill, but you will receive a check for that exemption amount, hopefully before your tax bill is due. So if this applies to you, check your bill and your mail.

Also, as a reminder, the Enhanced STAR Program provides an increased benefit for the primary residences of senior citizens (age 65 and older) with qualifying incomes of $86,000 or less. The benefit is based upon the first $65,500 of the full assessed value of the primary residence. Now you need to apply, only once, with your local assessor with income verification.

Fourth, as I have often expressed, I am not very knowledgeable or sophisticated when it comes to investing and the stock market. As a result, I have never understood why, when interest rates go down, the stock market often goes up. It has always seemed to me to be counter-intuitive, since decreasing interest rates, in non-extraordinary times, generally indicates a concern that the economy is slowing, which is not good in general for most companies. I know that is a very simplistic and possibly incorrect statement.

It turns out that at least part of the reason could be the TINA Market phenomenon. It stands for There Is No Alternative, which simply means that because lower interest rates make returns on government bonds less appealing, investors look for better returns in the stock market.

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo.