There is no better way to stay on budget than to lose the ability to spend money. Our credit card was hacked, and the banks were closed one day last week, so we had no real ability to spend money which was awesome for the budget. While I was home not spending money, I came across the most interesting article on yahoo!.
For those of you who have a yahoo! account know, there are lots of little news stories on the page where you sign into your email account. Normally, they focus on Kardashians and money tips that aren't helpful, but one got my attention. The headline was something like how much money do you need to be rich. Of course, that was click worthy.
The premise of the article was a gallup poll asking people how much income the minimum for rich is. (We're going to ignore the obvious point that the VAST majority of Americans are far richer than the VAST majority of the rest of the world. We all agree on that, right?) Their poll blew my mind.
**I will say in preface that I wonder how "rich" is defined. I consider it needs met, wants met, giving goals met, investments met, and money left to burn. How do you define rich?**
First up, the obvious results. 15% of respondents believe that income of a $1 million or more is rich. This is kind of the expected answer. For many "rich" is a pipedream concept, and $1 million is the pipedream number. It's why game shows are called "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?".
More surprisingly, 18% of those interviewed said a number under $60,000 would be considered rich. That number strikes me as low. I know living comfortably on less than the $60K is achievable, but rich? That tells me that there are lots of Americans who are having trouble making ends meet.
Some of those people live beyond their means because they make bad choices or lack the knowledge to do better. Some of them have suffered unavoidable debts that they are trying to from. Some of them simply can't find work, and any income seems like great wealth after months of job hunting. It also tells me that there is some sense of reality.
In our country in the 21st century, there is not going to be a game show called "Who Wants to Be $60K richer?". No one would turn down that amount, but the show wouldn't have the same impact because the number isn't out there enough. Maybe $60,000 is the attainable rich?
Even more surprising to me is where the majority of poll recipients fell. 41% of those interviewed put the "rich" income between $100,000-$300,000. And according to Tax Center research quoted in the article, people making that amount of money would make more than about 85% of Americans. ($250K is in the 96th percentile.) I was so pleased to see that amount listed as the wealth amount. Why? Because those are actually incomes.
It says that the stereotypical lawyer and doctor salaries still are considered "big money." When I was a little kid, I thought doctors were very rich. In the mid-90s when my friends and I were choosing careers and colleges, we commented that those who were going to be lawyers and doctors were going to have so much money. (especially compared to those of us majoring in education!) We don't have to have the careers of Oprah, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, or Kobe Bryant to be rich.
I find it amazing, almost a little unbelievable, that a society drowning in reality television about the other half still chooses attainable professional incomes to be "rich." We don't have to be born a Hilton or a Kardashian to be rich. I am comforted and relieved to know that.
The most surprising moment in the article actually appeared in the comments. (The fact that there was wisdom in any comment from a yahoo! article is surprising in itself!) One commenter said something akin to "unless you manage your money well, you'll be poor regardless of your income." Wise stewardship makes a lot less than "rich" go a lot farther!
The one question, that the poll didn't ask, is whether or not people want to be rich. Whether or not that is to be desired. I have a feeling, and maybe I'm just being skeptical, that the answer to that poll would not bring me comfort or relief. The Bible says in Proverbs not to (over) work to be rich. And I Timothy says the "love of money is the root of all sorts of evil" (NASB) Rich isn't want I'm looking for.
As we come into Christmas, I can't help but think about that Baby born 20 centuries ago. I have no idea what the per capita income was at that time. I don't know how the other half lived, or what the discrepancy between rich and poor was. What I know is this: the Creator of the Universe, who blesses us out of His great riches, chose to take a position of meekness (material and elsewise) to regain relationship with humanity. Regardless where you fall on the rich scale, that gift is free. And eternally priceless.