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Down to Earth Ellyn Schoen sees obscene displays of wealth every day as founder of Baby J Catering, a New York City catering company that serves wealthy clients in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Greenwich, Connecticut.

By Chris Penttila

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In Manhattan, she sees corporate jets and personal drivers as two coveted status symbols, and she detects an intense social-climbing phenomenon underway among the city's twenty- and thirtysomethings. It's a topic Schoen, 45, discusses regularly with friends and colleagues. "Now it's like everybody has money. Where does it come from? And they're [getting] younger and younger," she says.

In places from Silicon Valley to New York City, the race is on to acquire even better material symbols of success, whether it's a home in an exclusive ZIP code, a Cessna or a private school education for the kids. "It's an addiction to conspicuous consumption. You see, you want," says Debra Condren, founder and president of Manhattan Business Coaching and author of Ambitchous.

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