Investment U – and its parent The Oxford Club – is dedicated to making readers’ lives richer by bringing them financial security.
The starting point, however, is recognizing how rich you already are.
You are currently a one-percenter, for example.
What’s that? You say you’d like to make a small wager?
According to the Global Rich List, a website dedicated to worldwide awareness of income disparities, you need an annual income of just $32,400 to make the global top 1%.
Even if you are an elementary school teacher or a trash handler – garbage collectors earned a median salary of $35,270 in 2016 – you’re a winner.
In terms of our bet, however, you’re almost certainly a loser.
(Feel free to send your lost wager to the Red Cross. And don’t forget to claim the tax deduction.)
Some will concede they’re global one-percenters but insist that they’re not American one-percenters.
Congratulations! By living in the richest country in the world during the most affluent period in history and comparing yourself to those with more – particularly the ultra-rich like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey – you can imagine you’re still not all that well-off.
It’s not much fun really, but this is a game almost anyone can play. Heck, even Donald Trump could grouse that he’s worth a whopping $119 billion less than Jeff Bezos.
Rather than envying the richest men and women alive, however, try comparing your lot to the typical American of the past, as well as some of the wealthiest Americans who ever lived. (Folks like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan, for instance.)
Let’s start with ordinary Americans.
Your ancestors just a couple generations removed would view your life today as the realization of some utopia.
Unlimited food at affordable prices… plagues that killed millions – polio, smallpox, measles, rickets – all but eradicated… cancer, heart disease and stroke incidence in decline… the advent of instantaneous global communication and same-day travel to distant cities… mass homeownership with central heat and air and limitless modern conveniences… senior citizens cared for financially and medically, ending the fear of impoverished old age.
Your ancestors’ lives were harder in almost every respect. Kids often died during childbirth – or in their first five years.
That’s one reason the average American life span in 1900 was just 47 years.
Most men were employed – or simply survived – doing backbreaking work in farming, construction, mining or heavy industry.
Women typically spent up to 50 hours a week cooking, cleaning, sweeping, and washing pots, pans, dishes and clothes – by hand – for the whole family.
This was before the advent of ubiquitous labor-savers like the microwave, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, coffee maker, and washer and dryer.
Life was arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries: the poor.
And poverty wasn’t just widespread. It was the norm.
But innovation – combined with capital markets – created not just higher living standards and longer life spans but unprecedented convenience.
Convenience is the great liberator. Historically, only the very rich had the leisure to pursue learning, hobbies or whatever else truly mattered to them.
But convenience has made this kind of leisure widespread. And last month, the Federal Reserve announced that the average American workweek is down to just 34.3 hours.
(Sure, you may still feel busy rushing to social engagements, surfing the web or binge-watching the latest Netflix series. But those are choices.)
It may sound insensitive or politically incorrect, but even our poor are rich.
For example, the average American living below the poverty line today lives in larger accommodations than the average European. (Not the average poor European… the average European.)
Historically, the poor have struggled to get enough calories to survive.
Today, we have the opposite problem: too many empty calories. Unhealthy food choices have led to obesity – often morbid obesity – among the poor. This shortens lives by contributing to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
The average person living below the poverty level in the U.S. today has a phone, a toilet, a television, running water, air conditioning and a car.
Go back 150 years, and Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt and Carnegie could not have dreamed of such wealth.
I’m not suggesting that the poor don’t suffer in this country. But their poverty is a far cry from the extreme deprivation of the past – or from what we see in some third-world nations today.
Compare yourself with 7 billion others around the world today – or virtually all Americans of the past – and it quickly puts things in perspective.
Yes, our goal at Investment U is to make you financially richer. But start by recognizing your great good fortune today.
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