Are you part of the 1%? How about the 10%? I don’t dwell on it. A person is a person, regardless of their money. Power within society correlates with money, but Gandhi proved that wasn’t an absolute. Extreme inequities aren’t healthy for a society, but a person’s personality and humanity is within their power. What I do dwell on, or at least notice, is how money drives lives. How much money is required to drive a life?
Back in April I posted a quick note about a popular video that describes wealth inequity in America. Subsequently there are videos about wealth inequity in the UK and the world. Wealth inequity is common and international.
As a fan of history, that’s not too much of a surprise. I’d like to see the same video for feudal times: peasants versus royalty. Maybe even before there was money there were inequities between the number of cattle owned by the chief versus his minions.
To me, it helps to put such abstractions into real terms. I’ll skip using the word billion because some people in Europe seem to think a billion means something other than what us Yanks think. $1,000,000,000 is a lot of money. Very few people have net worths in excess of that. Out of a population of about 7,189,420,000 (and it is changing all the time) there are only 1426 “billionaires”. (Okay I had to use the name because Forbes used the name.) They are the top 0.00002%. They live in a world so hard to comprehend that the best example I’ve seen is in yet another video. Pardon the language but he does a good job of making the point of how much is 1000 million.
Reality is the same for all of us. As a general rule, people want to live long and prosper. (Thank you Spock and Gene Roddenberry.) That means the basics of food, water, health, et al. The degree of comfort that goes with those necessities can cross the line to luxuries which can increase the total, but the necessities can be quite low. Ask any person who is frugal by choice or necessity.
I’ve seen some amazing examples of retirement plans. Complex formulae anticipating things that can’t be anticipated. Contingencies layered on redundancies. The requisite savings can be estimated in the millions. That’s getting close to 1% country, which makes the case that very few people will ever be able to retire. I know too many people who are certain that they’ll have to work until they die, the ultimate retirement.
We in the developed world are wealthy. My recent experience is evidence that chance can work against any plan (and the optimist in me has confidence in my financial recovery). I wasn’t in the 1%, but I was probably in the 6%. Even a frugal life wasn’t enough to withstand an economic implosion. But my experience inspires one scenario that is overly simplistic yet illustrative.
If at the height of my previous net worth I’d cashed out everything, didn’t reinvest any of it, and simply paid my bills and lived frugally, I’d have about 20 years of cash left. That’s without having to work seven days a week as I’ve been doing, and I wouldn’t have run into foreclosure. I also would’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities, but hindsight suggests “cash in the mattress” would’ve been a better choice.
The real answer is somewhere in the middle. (Here’s where I must put in a plug for the New Road Map Foundation and the Financial Integrity Program.) Cash in the mattress only looks good in retrospect. I looked forward to growing my wealth and enjoying comfortable frugality and significant innovation and philanthropy. Oh well, maybe next year.
To my many friends who are agonizing over retirement plans and who are checking every assumption and contingency, I at least suggest that you perform a simple calculation as a baseline. How much do you need to spend, and how long to you expect to be spending it? You may find that you already have more than enough, and that rather than worrying about stocks and hedge funds you can be enjoying more free time and maybe more philanthropy. Time is too precious and life is ever-passing. Don’t waste either if you’ve even got a chance at having enough money.
And if you are in the 1% or the 0.00002% and spending every day worrying about wealth and power, you have my sympathy.