ON INCOME

Posted in Quick Hits on February 2nd, 2015 by Ed

Here's a map of how much money one would need to earn per year in every state to be part of "The 1%". Frankly most of the figures are a little lower than I expected; I'd have guessed that seven-figure incomes were necessary to reach the top of the economic heap. That the real amount is lower probably speaks more to how little most of us earn than how much the elite earn.

I'm not a person who spends a lot of time thinking about money. Were I, I would not have chosen a profession in which the income ceiling is not only relatively low but also well understood to be low by everyone who gets into the field. Nobody becomes an educator and is then shocked to discover that he or she is not earning a quarter-million dollars per year to teach middle schoolers or college freshmen. I don't earn a ton of money but I already feel like I have more than enough. I'm sure I would feel differently if I had a spouse, children, starving orphans, or pets to support or if I didn't live in an area where cost of living is about as low as it can go in this country.

It's a strange thought exercise, then, to imagine myself earning the kind of numbers you see on this map. If I was earning $450,000 per year, what the hell would I even do with it? There really isn't much one can spend "going out" here. I suppose I would go on three vacations per year instead of one or two. Other than that, I'd be spending money just to spend it. A bigger house that I don't really have any use for and an even more ridiculous car. Maybe some new clothes I probably wouldn't wear anyway. Pay off the rest of my student loans and commercial debt, neither of which are enormous. Other than that, I'd just end up hoarding money that I might not live long enough to spend in retirement.

Research on perceptions of wealth indicate that people think of "rich" as anyone who makes about 50% more than they do. Maybe without realizing it I've mastered the art of feeling rich on my existing income, or maybe I'm a particularly cheap date. Now taking suggestions for expensive and wasteful habits I can develop.