Recently, a Facebook meme was running around of a dog riding a turtle's back. I likened it to Bernie Sanders' America, where the freeloaders ride the working man.
Of course, someone decided the freeloaders were the top 1%.
I asked, at what percentage do people stop being freeloaders to the Sanders supporters. Is it acceptable to be in the top 10% of American earners? The top 20%? Seriously, where is the line so the Sanders proletariat will not come and trash your home and demand your earnings be redistributed to them (ostensibly)?
(In case you're wondering, CNN has a handy chart here so you can place yourself on the graph).
This got me thinking. I know we're not in the top 1%, but, where is my family on the continuum (answer, between 10 and 20%) and how did we get there, and how do I feel about it.
So, here's our story. I am not ashamed that we're not in the 1%, nor do I have any aspirations to be, and maybe that explains better than anything else ever could why we are not.
We are, however, in the top 20% and that's not a bad place to be. It allows my famuly, and most American families to live comfortably, put kids through college, and have lots of other fine choices. You never go hungry, you can afford premium cable AND Netflix, and you can send your kids to private schools if you wish. That may take some sacrifice (back to basic cable!) for some families, but, the choice is there. The top 20%, yes, is a good place to be.
It's not without its drawbacks. I am sure many families, like mine, worry abotu what happens if the primary breadwinner has something happen. A layoff, an injury, an illness that precludes working anymore. I expect many in this category don't have a great deal of non-retirement savings, or if they do, that it would stretch the one to two years that most financial advisors recommend. In that way, even people in the top 20% are somewhat at risk of financial calamity.
Still, I'd rather be here, financially, then the bottom 20%. Those in the top 20% are making about 5x what those in the bottom are. Whether it buys happiness, I don't think so. Just some security.
For those Sanderites who might think I got here on the backs of the "working man," let me explain that my family did this by having 2 breadwinners for most of the time, and for myself, I have worked 2 jobs for 30 years. Sadly, one of those is forcing me to retire next year. So, we'll be losing that income source, which is sad. Still, in my full time job, I have worked 9, 10, 11 hour days for 25 years, with some shift work in there early on. I've always enjoyed what I do, but in my industry, it's a somewhat tumultuous time, so, security has been a little wanting for the last 10 years or so. Still, we've thrived.
What would it take to get into that top 1%. Well, if there are willing working men for me to climb over, I have yet to spot them. Maybe the Sanders crowd can point me to those people. They make it seem like it's so easy to get into the top 1%, you just need some wiling dupes to hand you their money...or something.
I've worked in Corporate America for 25 years now, and I know some of the executives are in that top 1% (>$430k/year). I'll agree that these people don't always seem like the greatest leaders to me, but they have done things and been willing to do things, that I have not, and even though I'm pretty arrogant, I am willing to admit they are probably smarter than me. But, I'll tell you one thing I know they are more than me - willing to take risks. When we talk about the super rich in this group, the Bill Gates', the Zuckerbergs, Elon Musk, Warran Buffet, etc, what they all share is a willingness to bet everything on an idea, on their faith in their own ability. It is a rare quality and it is something that sets the 1% apart from the rest of us. Many of us down here in the top 10-20% possess all the same intellect, much the same schooling, and even the same hopes and dreams, but what we aren't willing to do is risk it all.
Many of these people fail, and spectacularly, but they try again, and in their success, they don't step on working people, they lend them a hand, by creating successful businesses that enable the working guy to earn enough money, to go to school, to learn, to put themselves in a position to risk it all, and join them.
So, I'm sick and tired of hearing about the top 1% and income inequality.
Instead of being envious of people willing to take risks, why don't you try joining them, or benefitting directly from them, instead of stealing from them,