2 Rich, 2 Poor

This is a really interesting article. It’s a little heartbreaking, too.

To start, definitions:

The poverty line for a family of three is $20,090 a year. The median household income in America is $53,657. Politicians draw $250,000 as the line between the middle and upper classes. And the true starting point of real wealth remains a cool $1,000,000. We asked four more or less typical men, each of whom earns one of these incomes, to tell us about the lives they can afford. 

Crain’s looks at four separate guys who make $7.00 an hour (plus tips), $53,000 per year, $250,000 per year and $1 million a year.
Stuart Patience for Esquire

Obviously, the answer to their questions are interesting (otherwise, the story wouldn’t have been published, right?) and very thought-provoking.

Pay special attention to their answers on how much they feel they need to earn, how much they want to earn, how much they think they’ll earn in ten years and what their feelings on taxes are.

The two higher earning guys want a lot more money. Whether for selfish or benevolent reasons, they desire and expect to earn hundreds of thousands and millions more dollars.

The two lower-income people, though, one of which is at or below the federal poverty level for a family of three ($20,900 a year), don’t desire nearly as much money. But they do expect that they’ll be making much more in ten years than they are now: One, who is 48-years old, is currently making $53,000 and expects to be making $106,000 or more in ten years. The guy at $7.00 an hour hoped to earn three times his current rate.

The first guy is 48. Without any further context, I think it’s unlikely he’ll be making double his current income in ten years. The second guy is 25. Tripling his $7 an hour wage shouldn’t even be a goal — it should be a given (for him, currently). But that’s a reachable goal.

The millionaire is 35. The other high-earner, 41. Money makes money. They’ll probably make their goals, or damn close.

Their feelings on taxes, though, run contrary to popular belief: They support them. In fact, both noted that they’d learned to respect that they earn so much that they can pay them. (I’m certain they have financial planners helping. Including the millionaire who says he tracks everything very closely, which all but one do.)

The lower-earning guys were anti-tax. Even the one now explicitly (I say this in reference to food stamps and such; we all use some government services — like roads and law enforcement, etc.) using government benefits.

While the wealthier guys have and want more money and are more than likely to reach their income goals. The lower-income guys want less money but expect to make much more money in the future. In doing so, they likely believe that being rich would make one not want to pay taxes. However counterintuitive, it seems the opposite is true, at least in this instance.

This is where aspirational voting comes in. The lower-income guys (or those like them) will vote for Republicans and against their self-interest in the belief that their material conditions — and, by necessity, their income — will greatly increase within a decade, even if they’re already nearly 50-years old. It makes little mathematical sense.

Though they face quite different financial circumstances, all of them expressed high levels of happiness, which just goes to show that value comes from different places for different people.

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