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Are you the 9.9%?
Old 05-28-2018, 08:50 AM   #1
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Are you the 9.9%?

A long read (and well worth the time, imho).

I'm posting this in the hope that it does not become political. Rather, that we can discuss how it impacts early retirement. I invite you to post about and discuss your own personal experiences rather than diverging to commenting about other social groups.

"In between the top 0.1 percent and the bottom 90 percent is a group that has been doing just fine. It has held on to its share of a growing pie decade after decade. And as a group, it owns substantially more wealth than do the other two combined."

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...ocracy/559130/

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Old 05-28-2018, 09:00 AM   #2
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Looks like we fall into the top 40%'tile of the 9.9%'ers.
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Old 05-28-2018, 09:35 AM   #3
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I wrestle with this. I'm in that 9.9% because Dad was the first in his family to go to college, and then put the five of us through college. I did the same thing for DS and am saving so that I can help with the grandchildren's college. (DS has a good job but DDIL is a SAHM and they have two children and are hoping for a third. That's a lot of tuition)

In making their education my second financial priority (the first is not outliving my savings), I know I'm improving their chances of ending up in the 9.9% as well- an advantage that kids from poor families, especially those for whom college is an alien idea, won't have. My grandchidren won't (I hope) come out of college burdened with such heavy loan debt that they'll never own a house. They're growing up with LBYM ethics.

BUT- I look at what I'm supporting/subsidizing. It's all over the place. Paying sticker prices for DS' private HS and university, meaning they can offer need-based aid to other kids. Being one of the- what is it?- 53% who pay taxes. Donating 15% of my AGI to charity last year. Buying products made in the USA when I can find them to support American jobs- they cost more but it's important to me.

It's a balancing act. I'm still going to take care of myself and my own first, but I try to be aware that it's a blessing.
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Old 05-28-2018, 09:51 AM   #4
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I fail to see how our hard work, refusing to get into trouble, and LBYM ethics (even when the "means" were barely enough to get by) constitute something "toxic," as the article's opening lines have it.
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Old 05-28-2018, 09:54 AM   #5
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:16 AM   #6
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From the first chart in the article, it shows from 1930 to 2010:
the near top 9.9% lost about 10%

the bottom 90% gained about 4%
the very top 0.1% stayed the same.


Seems to me the graph argues the opposite of the article, except the article cherry picks dates to make their arguments.


Basically since I am in the 9.9 % , I certainly realize I have lost 10% of the pie to the other groups, I hope the 90% each enjoy the extra 1% they grabbed from me.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:19 AM   #7
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I fail to see how our hard work, refusing to get into trouble, and LBYM ethics (even when the "means" were barely enough to get by) constitute something "toxic," as the article's opening lines have it.

I can't comment too specifically on the article, as they might be deemed p*l*t*c*l. I read the beginning, then skimmed as the general tone and theme didn't waver. I'll just say this - I agree with Amethyst. I do not feel guilty because of my lifetime of fiscally conservative ways, believing in working hard, and now enjoying the benefits of those philosophies. And I don't feel guilty for not feeling guilty.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:36 AM   #8
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I can't comment too specifically on the article, as they might be deemed p*l*t*c*l. I read the beginning, then skimmed as the general tone and theme didn't waver. I'll just say this - I agree with Amethyst. I do not feel guilty because of my lifetime of fiscally conservative ways, believing in working hard, and now enjoying the benefits of those philosophies. And I don't feel guilty for not feeling guilty.


I haven’t read the article but I agree with this whole-heartedly. I am not a fan of wealth redistribution. Worked too hard for what we have, and any inheritances we’ve received account for less than 5% of our total portfolio. DH & I both paid for our own undergrad education through jobs and scholarships, and my employer paid for my graduate degree. We were fortunate that our parents emphasized education and I’m grateful that my former employer paid for my MBA. No reason for us to feel guilty. I choose to donate to a charity that funds scholarships but not out of guilt.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:36 AM   #9
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I had almost posted this article when I first read it. I agree its a thought provoking treatise although I expect the number of people who will have their mindset significantly modified by it will be few.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:37 AM   #10
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I agree with some of the article's point of view. I don't see all good, or all bad, in Capitalism. Hopefully, we have enough legal and constitutional protections to keep the pendulum always moving back to a place where education and its benefits are accessible to all.
I tried to read the article when it first became available, and just now. Too difficult to read all that. I'll just review our investments for a minute, and feel good about our advantages, and how we made the best of many situations.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:38 AM   #11
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The article is pure liberal white guilt.

One of my grandmothers was given away as a milkmaid because her family could not feed her. The other raised her 12 other siblings after her mother died in childbirth. My mother ( a nurse) and father (a teacher) fit the 9.9% definition (barely) because they worked hard and were frugal. I enlisted at 17 and then earned an engineering degree from a state school. With hard work, a bit of luck, my carefully selected (second) wife and I raised two wonderful children and we are at the 5% tally mark. All of us overcame some serious challenges and were lucky enough to avoid tragedy.

Do we owe others less fortunate anything more than the high taxes paid, community church service, charity and good leadership in our professions? Of course we do - and that is what makes a stronger society for our children.

Should we feel guilty about our parentage, education, spouse selection, profession and family values and good fortune because it erodes societal norms? Hell no!

Sheesh, done with my ranting.

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Old 05-28-2018, 10:40 AM   #12
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my family would take up residence at one of my grandparents’ country clubs in Chicago, Palm Beach, or Asheville, North Carolina. The breakfast buffets were magnificent, and Grandfather was a jovial host, always ready with a familiar story, rarely missing an opportunity for gentle instruction on proper club etiquette. At the age of 11 or 12, I gathered from him, between his puffs of cigar smoke, that we owed our weeks of plenty to Great-Grandfather, Colonel Robert W. Stewart, a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt who made his fortune as the chairman of Standard Oil of Indiana in the 1920s. I was also given to understand that, for reasons traceable to some ancient and incomprehensible dispute, the Rockefellers were the mortal enemies of our clan. Only much later in life did I learn that the stories about the Colonel and his tangles with titans fell far short of the truth.
Well we never went to fancy country clubs for the Holidays, and the Rockerfellers never knew we existed much less tangled with us. My grandparents were peasants and later members of the working blue-collar class. I never learned club etiquette. So..... I am definitely not one of these privileged people.

I just don't think much of the article. I realized there are problems in this country in regards to the distribution of wealth and how to move people from poverty and low-income to a more descent income, but I don't think he addresses that very well. Perhaps it makes him feel good to get this off his chest.

One thing I do know is that there is a huge demand for people in the trades and the jobs pay very well, often more than what people with a degree make. So, one fix might be to get government to stop obsessing over getting every student ready for college, and rather start teaching skills needed in the trades. And some basic personal finance education wouldn't hurt either.



The writer is one of the privileged by his own admission, so I hope he does the right thing and finds a way to help others who are less privileged. IMHO, this article does not help.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:41 AM   #13
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I fail to see how our hard work, refusing to get into trouble, and LBYM ethics (even when the "means" were barely enough to get by) constitute something "toxic," as the article's opening lines have it.
That's what I got out of it. The writer lumps me into a group with an arbitrary measure, then tells me I'm a toxic part of the problem because I'm in that group. I don't think so.

I don't see any real solutions given either. Apparently you shouldn't hire a nanny because you're taking away her chance to rise, even though she's free to not take the job and try for more. Since she chooses not to, you're actually providing a job, which I fail to see a problem with. There's a little bit about how lawyers, doctors and dentists set limits on who can enter the profession and how much people like paralegals, PAs, and hygienists can do, limiting their income and growth, but I doubt the average lawyer or doc has a say in those limits. We're already told it's the 0.1% that has the money to influence elections.

I may have glossed over some valid points but all I was seeing was numbers and guilt. I didn't grow up in the 9.9%. I grew up close enough to it that it wasn't an enormous feat to get there, but it did take work. I acknowledge that others can and have worked just as hard and not been able to get there from their position, but I'm not seeing from this article what I can do about it. I live in a nice community, but my zip code is far from gilded, and my property taxes goes towards county schools, and I don't see any of them that much above the others--no suburban school that's better than other schools because of extra funding, parental involvement, etc.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:42 AM   #14
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I'll provide a TL; DR:

If you are in the top 10% financially, you probably got that way through a series of fortunate, but unfair, accidents of nature, nurture, and demographics. But you smugly believe you got that way on your own merits.

Furthermore, if you are only in the top 9.9%, you probably worship the people in the top .1% and eagerly do their bidding, while denying opportunities to everyone in the lower 90%. You look down on them without even knowing you are doing it.

But there will be a comeuppance! The top .1% are looking for ways to screw you, too! Meanwhile, the lower 90% will...well, it's not exactly clear what they will do, but you probably won't like it.


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Old 05-28-2018, 10:42 AM   #15
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The article is pure liberal white guilt.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:51 AM   #16
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I don't fit the 9.9% mold as presented in the Atlantic article. But I remember having one fundamental assumption about my potential for upward mobility when I was young: it was that anybody who was reasonably intelligent could go to college without taking on a significant financial burden. I don't see that as something this year's high school graduates can assume.

That diploma is a big step toward affluence. It isn't absolutely necessary -- I know entrepreneurs and skilled tradesmen who have done well -- but it sure helps.

Of course, the other side of the equation is preserving capital. My parents didn't have a lot when I was growing up, and they nursed their nickels. They were not sophisticated investors but they knew how to scrimp, and they retired in relative comfort (DD's Postal Service pension was a big help). I still feel a little pang when I spend more than $100 on something. In my mind's eye I can see my long-departed DM wagging her finger at me.

I think a lot of people on this board followed DD's track -- get into the public sector for the retirement bennies. A poll on that would be interesting.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:52 AM   #17
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Oh, yes, I read this a while back. The only ER impact that I can think of is, if you're spending megabucks to live in the "right" zip code, hiring nannies & college application consultants & paying for pricey private schools & colleges, that's less $ to save for ER. Hopefully the result is your kids do well, & they can help pay for a nice retirement home for you.

I have no personal story to contribute as I was not blessed with children, & went to college in an era where it was substantially less competitive. Got into Texas by sending them my SAT score & filling out - by penciling in bubbles - a 1 page front & back form. No essay, no interview.

If someone feels guilty about their privilege, they are free to donate as they see fit. Whether to the less fortunate, &/or to politicians they think will make policy changes that will help. Nobody is forcing anybody to spend on pricey educations, nannies, etc. - if you think it's wrong, don't do it. If that's what you choose to spend your money on, and it makes you feel better to feel guilty & bemoan the way the system works, you're free to do that too.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:54 AM   #18
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The article had an oink and a tail at the end.
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Old 05-28-2018, 10:57 AM   #19
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Furthermore, if you are only in the top 9.9%, you probably worship the people in the top .1% and eagerly do their bidding....
I really disagree with that part of the article. I don't "worship" the ultra-rich and would not have wanted to do whatever it took them to get there (at least the ones who didn't inherit it)- whether it was years of 80-hour work weeks to make partner, building a business, or exploiting the huddled masses. Nor do I want a private plane or a house with 20 bathrooms. If I had more wealth, I'd probably split it between charity and leaving a bigger legacy.
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Old 05-28-2018, 11:07 AM   #20
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Like anything, there are bound to be exceptions and this is grain o salt, 80/20 stuff. But some things rang true to me:

Social/income/wealth mobility is not today the same as it was 50 years ago. Moving up the rungs happens less now than it did in the past. The article also implies that moving down - from the top 10 - is less likely due to the system in place. YMMV.

College costs in real dollars are about 3x what they were when most of us went to school. Combined with larger percentage of HS students applying to schools, it's harder to get into the "good" ones, and even less-good ones now reject at a higher rate than in years past.

Getting a "good" job without a degree - today - is harder than it was 30,40,50 years ago.

I don't let articles tell me how I should feel. I know for myself what it took, and where I benefited from my starting position. But if I was 20 today.. would I get that nice salaried starting position in a Fortune500 co with no degree? I doubt it.
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