Economics: Do You Know Where You Sit?
I’m a curious human. I also care deeply about creating a world that works for all.
And I find one of my roles is to compassionately disrupt the status quo.
Hold onto your hats.
I don’t talk about my finances with many people. How about you? I mean--I do have a few friends who I have shared my joys, fears, concerns, and my privilege with. But not many.
It’s not a polite topic. Similar to politics and religion it’s been off the table.
Not sure if other than bragging rights it’s ever been on the table. And I could be wrong about that.
So I have been curious and a bit frustrated about wealth and wages, and who has what and why. And where do I sit in the realm of finance? And where do the people who serve me sit?
I want to own where I am and give what I can. I want to be a better “sharer” and “carer”, I want to understand my own fears and lack mentality around not having enough. Or finding the “just right place”. Enoughness all the way around.
To be crystal clear as long as I’ve been alive I’ve had enough. I’ve always had shelter, heat, food, water, clothing, love, care and many more privileges and unearned advantages.
Before I did the research I didn’t know where I stood and I didn’t know what the top 10% made, or how much wealth they have.
So I began to explore and found a range of data.
I started doing a straw poll asking nears and dears, and occasionally complete strangers if they knew where they fit in the economic ranking of the U.S.
I’ve asked over 40 people ranging in age from 23 to 80.
Not one person said -- I know where I stand right now.
Like me, they were living in the dark.
So drum roll please!
Here’s what I found in my searching--and just know this is what I’ll call “ballpark correct”. I’ve perused google and read articles up the wazoo. I am not an economics wiz kid. And these numbers don’t account for how many in your family, location, debt etc. That’s a whole nother slice of the pie.
And a ballpark is better than leaving it out in left field to be ignored. So here goes.
If your yearly earnings are somewhere between $115-170,000 or more you are in the top 10% of Americans (never mind where that puts you in the world economic status).
And/or if you have over one million dollars in assets/wealth (property, stocks, bonds, retirement funds etc).
Yup that’s all it takes to get you there. Or holy moly that is a shitload of money. Depending on where you fall of course.
Many of the people I’ve spoken to were surprised. Stirred up about where they sit. Some astounded that they are in the top 10 or 20%. Because they aren’t sure they have enough, they are worried about their finances. And of course for some of them it's a reality to still be worried, and for others...not so much.
Most of us have unearned advantages and unearned disadvantages. It’s not an either/or sum game...and there is also a pervasive lack mentality many of us live with. The “no matter how much I have” I need more.
And I don’t generally think comparing ourselves to others is helpful but I find I am changing my mind, around some subjects. If you are part of the top 20% you need to know that. (even if you have a ton of debt, you have more earning potential than most all who fall in the bottom 20%)
And I need to feel, sense and imagine how it might be to be at the bottom. To know it in my bones. Change happens for me when I know it all those ways.
If you are in the top 10% it is pretty likely that you have many unearned advantages. And yes it’s also likely you have some unearned disadvantages, most of us do. If you’d like to check out some articles that help you understand about unearned advantages and disadvantages click HERE and HERE
The biggest unearned disadvantage I have is that I was born a girl. My unearned advantages is a lengthy list.
If you are in the top 10% it could be very insightful work for you to compare how you live to someone in the bottom 10%. Very enlightening. You have 9X more than they do. They make less that $10,000 per year.
And this is not because they aren’t working hard enough.
They are most likely working as hard as you are.
Meritocracy mindset has got to go.
So who are the people in the lowest 10%. Are they people who pump my gas? Your daycare providers? My cashiers and waitstaff? The greeters at Walmart? The Amazon packers?
How do I get to know them? Not as the people who serve me but as people who have wants, needs, desires, families, pain and joy just like I do.
So many of us are economically segregated that it’s possible, like me, you have a few or no meaningful contact with someone on the other end of the scale.
We need to wake up to what we have, we need to question the great gap in our economics and how we are a part of the problem. And YES we can be part of creative solutions for all.
I’m working to cross that bridge in my own life. To have time and relationships outside of my economic bracket, to dive deep into my unearned advantages and disadvantages. To see this as a doorway to freedom and ultimately profound cultural change.
And yes--I imagine some of you are saying what about the 1%, they are the real problem.(and hopefully our next round of elected officials will tax them differently) Here’s the deal though, there are 9% more of us in the top 10% that can affect powerful change.
That means Many more who can speak out, who can share differently, who can support elected officials who want to create more equity.
Who can use our creativity, and ingenuity, and our caring hearts to change things in our own communities.
If you are part of the top 10% take stock, look around you, engage in meaningful conversations with people outside your tribe, maybe outside your comfort zone.
Put yourself in their shoes. Take a minute or two right now:
Imagine what your stress level might be if you didn’t have more food than you need in your cupboards.
Imagine your checkbook not matching the bills you owe.
Imagine if you went the last week of every month without any money just waiting for the next check.
Imagine working a job where you are invisible.
Imagine not being able to take a day off when you are sick.
Imagine it all.
What would you want people like us to do? How would you want things to change? What would you ask for?
We’ve had a social ban on talking about wealth just like we do on politics and religion and look where it’s gotten us. At least begin to talk about money/lack/wealth with your peers. Start a conversation.
Below are a bunch of articles you can check out about these topics if I’ve peaked your interest.
Pass this on to someone if you think it might make them a titch uncomfortable and also willing to ponder this topic.
Let’s stretch people!
Here’s to compassionately disrupting.
Thank you for reading. And being and doing whatever it is that lights you up to help create a world that works for all.
Favorite TED talk this month. A 12 minute listen!
P.S. Our next public Stoke Your Woke Community Event will be in October at the Deschutes Public Library. Details coming out soon.
P.S.S. We are working on developing a podcast to explore these questions out-loud with you! We'll keep you posted on that as well.
And last but not least we have developed a facilitation training guide. If you'd like to be trained to host a group in your living-room or at your place of work, give us a holler.