A story on bloomberg.com is headlined “Wall Street Bonus Withdrawal Means Trading Aspen for Coupons.” It starts out with the story of an upset Wall Street banker who is not getting the big bonuses he is used to, and consequently whines about how difficult it is to live on only $350,000 a year.
A story on bloomberg.com is headlined “Wall Street Bonus Withdrawal Means Trading Aspen for Coupons.”
It starts out with the story of an upset Wall Street banker who is not getting the big bonuses he is used to, and consequently whines about how difficult it is to live on only $350,000 a year. (The story is at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-29/wall-street-bonus-withdrawal-means-trading-aspen-for-cheap-chex.html)
A partner in an accounting firm is quoted as saying, “People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress.” Apparently he believes his angst at possibly having to remove his children from their pricey private school equates with people wondering how they will feed their children.
But it doesn’t.
Yes, money is relative. We get that any big income drop, for anybody, is distressing.
But there’s actually more to think about here.
After I finished laughing, it occurred to me — not for the first time — that most of us travel in terribly small, defined circles.
If we are well-off, it’s likely that our friends, co-workers, neighbors and relatives are also well-off.
The same thing goes for the poor, or the middle-class.
That can easily lead us to make natural assumptions about others that just aren’t true.
I’ve suggested before that to get a truer picture of what your fellow citizens are like, the best place to visit is the DMV. Everybody who drives has to go there. It’s not a 100 percent perfect sampling, but it’s the closest I know of.
I had a birthday last month and needed to renew my license. Looking around, you can get a fairly good idea of the socioeconomic position of those around you. You will not just see your “own people” there.
I do believe that if everyone — rich or poor — could count in their circle of closest friends a few people from throughout the financial spectrum, we’d all better understand each other.
Those of us who have had the experience of living in more than one financial bracket at different times of our lives know that more money might not make you happier, but it certainly does make life easier.
And if you know your friend is having trouble paying her $500-a-month rent, you don’t complain to her that you’re not sure you can afford to remodel your bathroom the way you’d like. Likewise, your wealthier friend doesn’t complain to you that he might have to rent a slightly less grand beach house for his family’s summer vacation this year.
If those Wall Street bankers had a few not-so-rich friends, they’d stop complaining and start counting their blessings.
If they only knew it, many people living on a small fraction of their salaries work just as long of hours and have just as much stress. Plenty have spent just as many years on their educations, too.
The only difference is that the Wall Street bankers can come home to a nice house that someone else has cleaned, can afford dinner out every night and can take lavish vacations every year.
The rest of the population comes home after a stressful day, puts in a load of laundry, starts dinner, and wonders about the possibility of coming up with the money for an inexpensive camping trip.
When our leaders — from federal officials down to local government board members who set property tax rates and such — only think about their own economic circle, that’s not ideal.
If your only familiarity with poor people comes from TV, you think people who work in coffee shops can afford nice apartments and designer clothes. Which, actually, isn’t true.
I realize I have expressed sympathy for every rung on the socioeconomic ladder except for the uber-rich, maybe because I have friends on every rung of the ladder except that one.
I guess I need to get to know some ultra-wealthy folks. So if any really rich folks out there want to rent an expensive beach house for my family this summer, and pay for our plane fare to get there, I will do my best to get to know you and your concerns a little better.
Michelle Teheux may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.