If it was easy to be wealthy, then more people would be.
– Author Unknown –
Occupy Wall Street – As protests go, this one is quite different from the ones of my youth. It does not have one simple, focused demand like ‘End the War’ or ‘Ban the Bomb’, although ‘Redistribute Wealth’ might come close. The protesters claim to represent the 99% of the population that is being denied a chance at upward mobility by the 1% of the population that is extremely wealthy.
So, just who are the Top 1% in America? According to the 2010 US Federal Tax Data, they are the taxpayers who earned over $380,354 a year. They include people like the US President, cardiologists, lawyers, software engineers, college Presidents and football coaches, professional bloggers, journalists, TV personalities, company owners and executives, internet company founders, pro athletes, movie stars, etc. Apparently about 80% of these people weren’t born into rich families. They started out small, and worked their way up. (Here is an interesting story called How Do the Wealthy Get That Way, by Bert Whitehead)
How to Redistribute Wealth – The Car Guy and I are part of the 99%, but we aren’t protesting the wealth of the 1%. We know how hard it was to get where we are on the ladder, so can appreciate how much effort was required by that 80% of the 1% that are very wealthy . Many of them got to where they are by convincing the 99% to spend money on their product, and in our case, it is a hard sell. We subscribe to the philosophy that the best way for us to increase our wealth is to ‘Not Spend Money on Things that Make Other People Wealthy.’ I call it our ‘Cunning Plan’ and after 40 plus years of using the strategy, we are retired and living comfortably.
Our Cunning Plan started with the purchase of our first house. It was the smallest (about 900 sq ft), cheapest house available that was still within commuting distance of the city where The Car Guy’s job was. The house was about 20 years old and was only insulated with a few layers of cardboard. The furnace was unpredictable. But this was 1972 – the average size of a home was a bit less than 1000 square feet and we paid about $7000 less than the average cost of a house at that time. (Today, in both Canada and the US, the average size home is a bit over 2000 square feet. This might be part of the reason home costs have increased faster than income has!)
Of course, the housing market went through a few booms and busts, but we rode it out by buying cheaper homes, renovating and selling – 6 houses in all. Sweat equity – The Car Guy runs the power tools, I am the drywall, paint and cleaning crew!
The Car Guy’s Dad always said that you should save a little bit out of every pay check, and that was also part of our Cunning Plan. We combined Savings with ‘Living withing our Means’. We had no ‘Lines of Credit’ and no loans other than our mortgage. We paid off the credit cards in time to avoid paying interest fees. We also realized that the money we saved by not paying debt interest could be used for other things. (Did you know that in the US alone, Credit Card penalty fees and interest paid on unpaid balances amounts to $92 billion per year? I guess that is one of the reasons bankers are wealthy…)
Delayed Gratification – it wasn’t always easy, but it was how we made our plan work. That, and we didn’t spend much money on disposable items – the products that make millions for corporations, but don’t provide a return on personal investment. In the US, the annual expenditures for some of these products are:
1. Movies, Major League Sports, videos, music, TV, electronics: $228 billion a year
2. Fast Foods, coffee shops, weight loss products, alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, addiction health care: $635 billion per year
3. Beauty Products: $98.1 billion per year
4. Lottery tickets: $58 billion
5. Soft drinks: $11.7 billion
Some inventive soul created the following poster, which points out that people don’t think about how they support the very thing they protest.
Perhaps ‘Occupy Wall Street’ will help the 99% to understand they are both the problem and the solution.