Woke up one morning a few years back, to discover that *I* was the 2%. As a lazy dude who studied both philosophy and art as a student years ago, and doesn’t really get into the whole corporate job scene – how could such a calamity befall me?
Here’s how, starting with a little history, which, like all real history, is a little peculiar:
I am the 7th of 9 children. My father was a welder, sheet metal fabrication dude, shop foreman who, at the age of 45, when I was 5, decided to start his own sheet metal business. Before then, and for the next 7 years, our family had little extra cash – 8 or 9 of us in a typical ’50s tract house. Mom and Dad lived through the Depression, so they coped well – we never went hungry, Mom made clothes for us, the usual. (Prior to my birth, the family raised its own chickens and rabbits for food – kinda glad I missed that.)
Then, around 1970, Dad’s business started yielding some decent cash – we moved to a bigger house, actually bought a couple *new* cars, took 1 week vacations to nice places. Eventually, Dad had to sell his business after a massive heart attack at age 59 almost killed him, but by then, he’d actually made enough money to retire to a nice neighborhood and live comfortably for the remaining 29 years of his life.
What this means for me – I had a somewhat schizophrenic childhood, in that, for years, getting as much as a dollar out of my parents for anything non essential was unlikely, and we worked in the neighborhood and scrounged coke bottles for money. Then, when I was ready to go to college, Mom and Dad just wrote a check – totally weird, when you think about it.
So, off to college, where I study classics – the Great Books – then do a couple years volunteer work for the Church, then a year of art school, then – whoa. I’m now 27, and, other than working for my dad at his shop, have never really had a ‘real’ job – lots of odd jobs and grunt labor stuff, nothing ‘professional’. And, I want to get married to my beloved (that’s worked out well – 5 kids and 25 years later, we’re more in love than ever).
So, I return to my parent’s house, get a job at an insurance company, move, get another job at another insurance company, get married – and panic. Saying I don’t fit in an insurance company environment is like saying water doesn’t burn well. In (over)reaction, I get an MBA at the local state college, mostly at night. This takes 7 years – did I mention I’m disorganized and lazy?
During this time, we have 3 children, my beloved wife eventually stays at home (working harder at a more important job than I’ll ever have), and we have a household income at or below the median for our area, while having a household size larger than the median. In other words, NOT RICH.
Then, a funny thing happened. Got my MBA – at 38 – and landed a job with a peculiar little company that could actually use a goodly number of my talents – at a pay cut from what I was making. took the chance and the job, worked my way ‘up’, and – woke up, at around the age of 45 to discover I was in the 5%. Then, things got better.
The weird thing – because i spent the first couple decades of my working life at jobs that did not pay too well and with a growing family, we accumulated very little wealth. Our vacations got nicer, our house got bigger – but, with kids hitting college age, it’s not like I’m rolling around on the floor in piles of cash.
I know I’m lucky (blessed), I know we’ve got more than most people, and I know I have, therefore, an obligation to be generous and to fear God’s justice. would I say any of these stupid things? (NSFW) I sure hope not. And, as a rich guy, at least according to what most people think of as rich, I don’t mind paying income taxes. What I do mind is being lumped in, somehow, with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and the Walton family – I still have to get up and go to work in the morning, my family would be screwed if I lost my job. Those folks employ people who look after the people who look after their money, and hardly care about income – taxable income, after all, is for the little people.
But you can read more about that under the category moneymoneymoneymoney.