Finance, Happiness

My Experience Being a Member of the Wealthy Elite

So get this, I just found out I’m actually a part of the richest 1%.

And honestly it doesn’t really feel like it. I ride my bike home to my tiny apartment while countless BMW’s and Audi’s cruise by. I pass sky-high penthouses and massive seaside homes that have more square footage in bathrooms than I have in my entire living space.

But yesterday when I stumbled across the website GlobalRichList.com, it confirmed my elite status. The site told me to punch in my salary, and it immediately spat out where I sit in terms of global wealth. Here’s what it said:

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Say what!? This is insane! My annual entry-level professional salary of $60,000 didn’t even just sneak me in to the 1%, I’m way up there. It essentially means that I won the lottery of life. And that’s crazy because I never win anything.

Laura Lee, author of Broke is Beautiful, puts it further in to perspective:

“If you have a toilet to flush, you’re doing better than 1 billion people on earth. That’s how many people don’t have access to a sanitary system where they live. By contrast, 95 percent of new US homes 2 or more bathrooms. If you make $10,787 a year, the U.S. poverty line for an individual, you’re in the top 13 percent of wealth in the world. If you make $43,460 USD, you’re in the top 2.2% richest people on earth.”

She went on to mention a few more alarming figures:

  • Think you’re not making enough? Half the people on the planet make less than $2 a day.
  • Can’t buy a house? 1.1 billion people have inadequate housing or no house at all. The same number of people have inadequate access to water.
  • Don’t get out to restaurants as much as you’d like? 840 million people are malnourished and 6 million children die each year from hunger.
  • The battery on your phone dying too quickly? A third of the global population doesn’t have access to electricity.
  • Paying too much for a doctor’s visit? Consider that there’s an estimated 12,600 deaths from diarrhea in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

I hope you don’t take this as me giving you a massive guilt-tripping. I hope it simply tweaks your perspective in your day-to-day experience and adds gratitude for how good those of us lucky to have jobs in developed countries have it, relatively speaking.

The question I’m asking myself is, what can I do to help those not in that 1% be even a fraction closer to living the quality of life I do?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I have an obligation to give back. I suddenly feel like Superman who just uses his laser-eye sight to heat up pizza pops and his super-human strength to show off to girls, rather than help those in need. (On a separate note that would make for a hilarious movie spin-off)

I don’t want to squander the gift of wealth that has been given to me.

Then, as if a sign from the heaven’s above, my online financial hero Mr. Money Mustache outlined in detail his decision to donate $100,000 to a selection of charities. He realized that he’s already living a life in which he is perfectly content, so the surplus money in his savings account would be much more effective helping others in need, as opposed to chasing more frivolous consumption.

The site GivingWhatWeCan.org talks about giving 10% of your salary. Could I get on board with this? Is it terribly sad that the prospect of giving away this kind of cash is terrifying? I mean, it’s not unreasonable to hesitate: I have future children that need money for college and emergency savings, but is there room in my lifestyle to cut some stuff to make room for more giving?

The other hesitations which I share with the rest of us well-to-do’s out there, are:

“My donation is just a drop in the bucket, so doesn’t make much of a difference”

or “it just puts a band-aid on the problem rather than providing sustaining solutions”

or “foreign aid organization might not use my money effectively. There could be corruption, who knows?”

And lastly, unlike buying an item from the store, when we donate our money it simply disappears. We can simply hope it will make some kind of difference. We don’t get that surge of dopamine that comes from walking out of a store with that flashy new sweater, so it’s a tough sell. I get it.

Fortunately, the authors at Giving What We Can wrote a great blog post busting these myths and all but eliminating my giving-worries.

So I’m going to test the impact of increased giving in my life. In my next post I’ll outline my plan for 2017: Project Maximum Altruism. It won’t just include monetary donations, but also simple actions like having to always buy the stranger behind you their coffee. From what research I’ve read, those small gestures can create a profound increase in our happiness.

Until next week!

5 comments

    Going out for coffee? That’s a big MMM no-no.
    Just kidding. Great post. I read MMM’s donation post and was really inspired. The thought of donating money is one that frequently pops into my head… Then like you, and most people, I start worrying about the future. Renos? Future kids? Retirement? Being as financially independent would certainly make it easier (atleast, that’s what I tell myself).

    I’m gonna take a look at those resources you mentioned. Once again, you have me very intrigued.

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