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Wealth and Affluence


Any self-help guru would agree that how you think about money shapes your behavior with money. If you want to improve your financial situation, whether to get out of debt or to reach financial independence, your relationship with money is the first thing that must change.

If you believe you will never be able to climb out of poverty, it’s going to be much more difficult to achieve that goal. Of course, there is much more than goes into reaching your financial goals than just thinking about money differently. One can’t wish oneself out of debt, even by wishing intensely. The proper mindset is just the first step, but offers no guarantee of success.

Additionally, changing a mindset that’s been around for decades — or generations, even — doesn’t just change overnight. It’s a lot simpler to consider a changed mindset the key to achieving financial goals than it is to actually believe that everything you’ve been taught about money is wrong.

My current financial situation bears little resemblance to my life ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago. I’ve progressed through five different phases of my life — so far — as delineated by my approach to money. Each time I changed my mindset, my life improved and my financial situation became more stable, but it’s unclear which came first.

As I look back, I can identify these five phases.

Money mindset phase one: ignorance. As a kid and young adult, money played almost no role in my life decisions. I decided to study music education because I was passionate about teaching music, and I decided to go into nonprofit because I wanted to help even more young people in the arts. I never met any resistance from my parents, but I also didn’t think about whether a career in nonprofit was something I could handle without making incredible sacrifices.

Before long, living on my own after college, my finances were in shambles. But I ignored all my problems, including speeding tickets I couldn’t afford to pay. My life snowballed out of control, and even though I had started to realize I was in serious financial trouble with an increasing load of debt, my life culminated in losing my apartment, my job, my car, and my girlfriend all within the span of about a month.

Money mindset phase two: saving money and getting out of debt are worthy goals. This rock bottom led to my first major mindset change. Moving back in with my dad for a few months, I needed to get myself going in the right direction.

  • I left the world of education and nonprofit and found myself a temp job at a financial firm, accessible by public transportation, and began earning more money than in the nonprofit.
  • I began reading more about living below your means on the Motley Fool discussion boards.
  • I created a basic outline for a budget and started tracking my finances every day.
  • I started Consumerism Commentary to anonymous publish my financial progress and to keep myself accountable for my financial decisions.

I was finally saving for my future, investing for retirement, and focusing on better goals for myself. The mindset during this period was about making smart financial decisions and figuring out how to slowly build wealth over the long-term.

During this time, I also started focusing more on finding other ways to earn money. With a long history on the internet and having learned how to design and publish websites in 1994, I found ways to supplement my day-job income.

This would have been fine. Had I stayed in this position and mindset, I probably would be able to live comfortably, even if I would never have a sizable nest-egg, and even if I would never be able to live off my investments alone.

Money mindset phase three: I can build something of value. When I started Consumerism Commentary, I had all ready been blogging and operating websites for years. I had never considered the idea that websites could make money or be viable businesses on their own. The thought of being a “full-time blogger” would have seemed ridiculous at the time.

Before long, it became clear that there was a possibility of building a business out of all the time I was spending writing. Advertisers were interested in reaching the audience I had built, and these companies willing to pay for the privilege. Slowly, I started dabbling with advertising, while always maintaining some kind of ethical guidelines, so I wouldn’t feel too dirty at a time when very few people were earning money.

As the business progressed, I could see that there was a possibility that I wouldn’t have to rely on working forever in order to afford my living expenses. The business kept growing, and not only did I have cash flow, almost all of which was saved in bank and investing accounts, but I was building an asset that might have value to someone else, as well.

At no time throughout my life has money actually been a driving force behind how I live my life. I didn’t start writing online because I wanted to get rich. I didn’t want to sell my business (which I did in 2011) because I had dollar signs in my eyes. Being wealthy has never been a goal for me — but I’ve always liked the idea of never having to worry about whether I can afford something that I’d like to do.

Money mindset phase four: hold onto your assets. I’ve had a few bad experiences as a result of success. And part of this fourth phase still sticks with me today. During this period, as my cash flow from business revenue grew and I sold the business, I was concerned my assets could either disappear suddenly or they could dry up over time.

I did very little to change my lifestyle, and I was during this phase still trying to save as much as possible for the future. While I could have afforded it, I had no interest in buying fancy things or traveling the world. This is a scarcity mindset, but at this point in my life, I should have been past this.

I’m still not fully beyond money mindset phase four.

Money mindset phase five: abundancy. Through a combination of luck and hard work for over a decade, I’m currently in a financial situation that I never thought would apply to me. Until this year, I’ve been reluctant to touch my investments, and at times I still think I’d rather work for a paycheck than dip into my nest egg to pay for my living expenses.

At some point, I just have to start enjoying my success rather than worrying about whether I’ve written enough articles for Consumerism Commentary each month. But this is hard for me. There is more I want to do, both here and with new projects. I want to keep working. I want to build another company. I’m not ready to retire, so I need to keep going in some form.

A friend of mine who married an heir of at least part of a significant family fortune in New Jersey, someone I’d known since starting at that temp job after I lost my nonprofit job, has been trying to get me to live fully in this fifth phase, but I’m just not there yet.

And perhaps one of the reasons I can’t do this is that I am still concerned about cash flow. Invested mostly in stock market index funds and bond index funds, my cash flow is much less significant than it was while I was building my business, even if it is much less risky.

I need to think about how I can set something up to create a stronger cash flow from my investments — and that’s the type of thinking that often leads people to real estate investments. I doubt I could ever create another website that generated as much revenue as this one did.

So real estate is something I’ll be keeping in mind, but I don’t know if I have the right mindset for it.

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I can think of two fairly recent instances in publishing that elucidate just how “the rich” or “the one percent” are different from everyone else, and we should all do ourselves a favor by studying their approach to money so we, too, can be monetarily wealthy.

Steve Siebold wrote a book, How Rich People Think, and the author was a guest of Tom Dziubek on the Consumerism Commentary Podcast a few years ago. Prior to recording the interview, the author sent a copy of the book for me to read and gather ideas for the podcast interviews. I no longer have the book; it was part of a significant collection of financial books I recently donated to a local library.

But as I remember, it was an easy read, filled with a contrasting generalizations about “rich people” and “average people.” Here’s one:

Average people think selfishness is a vice. Rich people think selfishness is a virtue.

Of course, this statement, as far as I’m able to see, is inaccurate, and that’s the most kind. Talk to your average upper-middle-class business person, and you will probably get the idea that they believe that their success is due to their self-centered focus, their drive for personal achievement, and their unwillingness to give freebies. They’re most likely to complain about welfare freeloaders and harbor misconceptions about poverty.

This starts to change once you get away from the people who like to talk about being rich, your millionaire entrepreneurs, business coaches, and people who are more focused on their personal image and brand than actually doing work, and you start looking at the actions of the historically wealthy. Selfishness still exists, certainly, but so does selflessness in many ways. Things look different when you stop listening to what the “rich” say about themselves and start reviewing what the wealthy actually do.

If How Rich People Think idolizes the attitudes of a select collection of wealthier individuals, The Rich and the Rest of Us, by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, looks at the rich in a different light. Jay Frosting and I chatted with Tavis Smiley for another episode of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast. This book doesn’t take rich people to task, per se, but follows a “poverty tour” by the authors in which they met people living in or close to poverty in cities across the United States, during which they found average people were not nearly as philosophically poor as painted by Siebold.

Yet, it still did paint a troublesome picture of those in power, who manipulated the “average people” through marketing, advertising, and even regular television programming, into spending money with credit cards to upgrade their own lives to match the lifestyles of those they see in the media. The authors offer this warning:

Every empire, especially shortsighted societies that catered to greedy and powerful rules and dictators at the expense of the poor, eventually crumbled.

Back in the other direction, CNN is the latest media outlet to erect a monument to the wealthy class. But this time, what we see is not too bad, nor is it as self-serving or chest-thumping as Siebold’s book. Here, we left behind your “everyday millionaires,” those millionaires next door who, let’s face it, aren’t rich in today’s terms: the small business owner, the entrepreneur with a side job, the business coach who earns his living from talking about earning his living.

Instead, we look at the historically richest Americans, where the unit of measurement is today’s dollars, so all wealthy men — not surprisingly, they’re all men — are competing on the same playing field. We put aside what they might have written about being wealthy, or any speeches they may have given on the topic, or any out-of-context quotations that mention the words “money” or “wealth,” and just look at what the records show.

And CNN was quick to point out that most of these men were not perfect. Some were morally troubled, some allegedly (or definitely) broke the law. But it turns out that if we look at these twenty richest Americans of all-time as a group, there are some trends that stick out.

Most people on this list owned major businesses. Even the only one individual of twenty who inherited all his wealth was a business owner. But these weren’t proprietors of the local automobile repair shop. These weren’t the electricians who start their own businesses and stay there, like your millionaire next door. These are business owners who were involved with the highest technology of the day, whether that may be shipping, railroads, or computers. Not only that, but these were owners of businesses that innovated their technology and changed the world. William Gates III changed personal computing forever. He now changes the world through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Marshall Field revolutionized retail shopping. Samuel Walton revolutionized it again. Henry Ford revolutionized personal transportation, and he did so by paying his employees double the competition’s rates. Russell Sage revolutionized Wall Street, and unlike the “greedy traders” we see in literature like The Wolf of Wall Street, he gave away most of his fortune.

Some people on this list owned real estate. Stephen Van Rensselaer was in a position since his birth to come into ownership of over a million acres of land in the New World, bestowing vast wealth on him as real estate in the United States proved to be a good “investment.” Land grant recipients didn’t even have to earn that wealth! But like the technologists and major land owners, he gave back to society by funding what in the 20th and 21st centuries would be public works projects.

But don’t get the idea that real estate today is the same as it was in the 17th century.

Most people on this list have changed the world. Everyone changes the world in some way. Every reader makes a difference in the lives of their families, every blogger makes a difference in the lives of their readers, every business owner makes a difference in the lives of their employees. But those who endeavor to change the world in some marketable way — and succeed — find their way to lists like this one presented by CNN.

If you want to learn something about living your life the way rich people do in order to attract wealth into your life, don’t bother with the self-help literature. Don’t look for motivational books. Skip studying the small-time entrepreneur (like myself). Rather than buying courses and attending seminars about how to get rich, start looking at the actions of those who most inspire you. Discover how to change the world like the wealthiest Americans in history, and try to remain humble like most of them, and you’re on the right track.

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No, I’m not attempting to start a class warfare riot. As the title of this article states, recent studies have shown beyond any doubt how wealth or a feeling of wealth leads people to behave in a more self-interested manner.

Paul K. Piff, a social psychologist post-doctoral scholar in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, led this research and shared his findings in a recent TED Talk, which you can view below. If you’re not reading this article on Consumerism Commentary, you can watch the video here or at the TED website.

In one of the experiments, the researchers created a rigged two-player game of Monopoly for one hundred pairs of subjects. By virtue of a coin toss, one subject in each pair was chosen to play by an advantaged set of rules, while the other would play by the standard set of rules. These are the privileges afforded the advantaged player by design:

  • The advantaged player begins the game with twice as much money.
  • The advantaged player collects twice as much bonus money for passing “go.”
  • The advantaged player rolls two dice rather than one, as the disadvantaged player rolls.

With hidden cameras, researchers were able to observe the attitudes of the players. The rich players smacked their playing pieces around the board aggressively, consumed more snacks, and celebrated their successes. The aggressive behavior wasn’t limited to their relationship to inanimate objects; the advantaged players acted ruder towards their competitors. One of my favorite quotes from the recorded gamin sessions came from a rich player: “I’m pretty much untouchable at this point.”

The games were limited to only fifteen minutes. Unlike non-rigged Monopoly sessions, these games wouldn’t have lasted much longer than fifteen minutes anyway. When the games were over, the researchers asked the rich players to reflect on their success. The winners attributed success to their skill, completely ignoring the fact that the game was obviously rigged. Their success was, in their opinion, due to the choices they made in buying properties.

Had the coin flip at the outset of the game produced the opposite result, this game-playing skill would have gotten these winners nowhere. Had they started out with half the wealth of their opponents as measured in Monopoly money and were forced to move around the board slowly, they would be in the losing position — most likely blaming the situation on their environment, not their supposed lack of skill.

The video includes additional demonstrations that show how an increase in wealth correlated to decreases in compassion, empathy, and even willingness to obey the law. At the same time, the increase in wealth is correlated to increases in selfishness and narcissism.

From Scientific American’s report on the study:

But why would wealth and status decrease our feelings of compassion for others? After all, it seems more likely that having few resources would lead to selfishness. Piff and his colleagues suspect that the answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused.

Will taking on those personality traits and attitudes associated with wealth help to bring about financial success? If you start acting greedy, will you be more likely to grow your wealth? Many authors have suggested thinking like one is wealthy in order to become financially successful. When wealth is revered as a goal, those who have achieved it are revered as well. And they’re more than happy to share their insights with the rest of the “average” world listening. You’ll rarely hear any expert advice from the wealthy that touches on luck, circumstance, or privilege; the key to wealth lies in hard work, perseverance, and making smart decisions.

Those great attributes for attaining success don’t work for people who are living in poverty, but they sell a lot of books.

There is virtue in taking responsibility and blame for your circumstances, whether those circumstances are positive or negative. It helps you identify aspects in your life than you can change to improve your situation. There’s a tradition of blaming bad situations on external forces — the economy, your employer, your parents’ skills — while taking responsibility for good situations, just like the research subjects did in the Monopoly experiment. It takes objective analysis to separate yourself from the situation and truly evaluate the forces that played a role in any particular situation.

Taking responsibility for the good and assigning blame for the bad is a variation of a defense mechanism. If good situations are a result of our choices, they can be repeated, and success will continue despite of the world around us. If bad situations are someone else’s fault, there is nothing inherently wrong with us; given the right opportunity, we will succeed, too.

Not every financially independent person displays these negative personality traits, and not every wealthy person cares little about the world around him or her. You can see that in highly-publicized examples of wealthy individuals making selfless choices.

  • Bill Gates, the privileged founder of Microsoft, formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle many societal problems around the world.
  • Warren Buffett, along with the aforementioned Gates, launched the Giving Pledge in 2010, encouraging some of the world’s richest individuals to give away their wealth to charity.
  • Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook donated $1 billion last year, 5% of his total net worth.

Lest the reader believe that this research and other studies by this author pertaining to social class are too critical of the wealthy, Piff does point out when the attitudes of the rich have positive outcomes for them, and for those who adopt the same principles. The wealthy believe, due to their control over their situations, that the quality of their health is in their control. They go to more appointments with doctors and take advantage of preventative medicine, while others who believe they have little control over their health end up in emergency rooms for problems that could have been prevented.

This is a stratification based on wealth, but also based on access to medical professionals and trust of the health industry. The realization that we can control many aspects of our lives results in better health, but also increased wealth — relatively.

The word entitlement is usually used in American society when talking about welfare benefits or other governmental assistance for the poor. It’s often used in a pejorative sense, implying that those who receive these benefits don’t deserve them because they lack the motivation to improve their situation. There is also the implication that wealth redistribution (in that particular direction) is bad for society because it encourages complacency. What the studies about attitudes of the wealthy and the average show is that those with power and money consider themselves entitled.

With a high level of self-efficacy, the wealthy believe they earned their success through hard work. They perceive the poor through that lens, as if that difficult situation is a matter of level of effort, while the poor look through their own lens of opportunity, seeing the wealthy as have been provided advantages by society.

It’s difficult to take a large step back and look at the progression of my life as if I were an outside observer trying to understand an individual. I maintained a low sense of self-efficacy for a while, and a former boss of mine continued to chastise me for it. I wasn’t disadvantaged — in fact, I had a relatively advantaged background, able to explore my passions without completely devastating my finances — but I was not very well-positioned to handle the small amount of money I was earning with great decisions. I was making the most of a bad situation, which could have been much better if I had made a few better choices. I thought I’d be able to pursue a degree in education and a job in non-profit, but I didn’t have the financial grounding to make that possible.

After a few difficult life lessons from experience, I opened my eyes a little bit more and started taking control of my situation. Again, I wasn’t living in poverty. I was smart and marketable to employers. Things were going to get better for me once I put the effort in, but these advantages aren’t available to everyone. The question is whether my approach towards other people has changed in the years following as I drew closer to financial independence. I’d like to think that it hasn’t, but I’m sure I’m not immune to the subconscious changes.

Watch the video above to see how the feeling of wealth can affect an individual’s attitude towards another person. Have you seen evidence of wealth being correlated to meanness? Is selfishness an essential personality trait for attaining wealth?

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Financial self-help gurus, professional financial advisers, and bloggers who write about personal finance as a hobby or a job all tend to agree on a few basic tenets. One of these is that saving today can generate more financial freedom in the future. Financial freedom is important because it allows you to pursue activities you’d most like to pursue, whether that involves spending or giving, without barriers related to money.

There are many variations on this theme of delayed result. Some writers and advisers propose extreme savings today to reach financial independence as fast as possible, while others propose gradual but persistent savings with the goal of being self-funded by the time retirement age arrives. Some offer advice on investments, entrepreneurship, or building real estate empires as methods of enhancing progress towards the goal of financial independence.

All advice, but especially the advice that’s presented without any knowledge of each specific reader or listener, is based on a number of assumptions. For instance, financial planners want college graduates entering the work force this year to immediately begin investing a portion of their incomes in retirement plans like 401(k) plans and Roth IRAs. This isn’t necessarily bad advice, but it’s based on the assumption that not only is any particular student going to live to retirement age, but also the assumption that the retiree will continue to live a number of years in retirement to make use of those saved funds.

Assumptions like these are based on averages, and science has shown that actuarial tables, which predict the chance of any individual dying within the next year, are useful for these predictions. As a 37-year old male, I have a 0.1807% chance of dying in the next twelve months, and I can expect to live another 41 years. In reality, I may live longer or shorter, but on average men my age will live to 78. This is based on the IRS’s actuarial table.

For the most part, that’s the best advice-givers can offer: assume that everyone’s experience will fall close to average. Generic advice will be best for most people. And even many advice recipients who don’t consider themselves “average” will end up close enough.

Whether I live another 41 years or not, money is only useful when used. When I die, I can leave any remaining wealth to descendants or to causes I believe are worthy, but until then, I want to live my life. And I want to do a better job of that than I have so far. I’m looking for a balance between my present and future that’s a little more biased towards the present than the future than it has been.

Here’s how I plan to re-evaluate my balance.

Spend more, while still maintaining financial solvency. One of the most common pieces of financial advice is to spend less than you earn. I first encountered this phrasing of the concept over a decade ago when I was learning about money management primarily by reading message boards, particularly the “Living Below Your Means” message board on The Motley Fool.

It’s hard to find fault with the concept of spending less than you earn. Some writers have even called it the only thing you need to know about managing your money. It prevents you from borrowing money from other people or businesses like high-interest credit cards, and not having to pay interest keeps more money in your pocket. Interest you pay eats away at your ability to reach the point of financial independence and delays your life-long goals further.

While I was building my business, I managed to spend less than I earn, and when the business was earning its most profits in 2011, I couldn’t even imagine spending that much. Eventually, I sold the business, and I recognize that it’s unlikely I’ll ever personally earn that much income again.

My retirement is probably safe at this point, but my income from working is the lowest it’s been in five years. It’s not a desperate situation because I saved a good portion of what I’ve earned, but it does point out how I let my lifestyle creep slightly higher when I was earning more money. I’m still spending less than I’m earning overall when I include income from investments, but the numbers are more volatile and some months, because I actually don’t see reinvested income from investments, my cash balances dwindle.

I’d like to say I’m spending that money wisely, enjoying experiences for myself that improve the quality of my life, but I’m not sure that’s always the case.

The reason I feel comfortable thinking about the present is because I’ve already taken care of my future. Even if an emergency situation exists later in my life, I should be able to manage while maintaining a good amount of my net worth. It’s time to start thinking about the present. But it’s worthwhile to remember that, regardless of your financial situation, life is only lived “today.” You have to make the most of your time because, although actuarial tables may tell you one thing about how much time you have left, you never know what your personal lifespan will be.

This is not an excuse to be reckless, but it is a reminder that personal finance is about more than putting all of your income away for the future.

Plan for the future but live in the moment. Once you’ve planned for the future, you’re in a better position to be concerned about making the most out of every day, but you can live in the moment without sacrificing your future. While you’re accumulating wealth to meet your long-term goals, enjoy life frugally. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. But as your future becomes more secure, you can safely begin shifting your spending towards the present. Find a balance that doesn’t leave you in the cold later, but allows you to make the most of your saving efforts while you still can.

How do you balance your future needs with the idea that you are only alive today?

Photo: Flickr/Cooperweb

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Money Systems That Lead to Success: Always Ask Questions

by Luke Landes
Always Ask Questions

Last Thursday, I drove to the place that was my home for four formative years of my life, my undergraduate university. I’ve written before about how the degree and overall course of study during college isn’t directly related to what I do today. Nevertheless, I still feel strongly about the importance of music and arts ... Continue reading this article…

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A Video About Quantum Leaps in Finance

by Luke Landes

This past weekend (including a few adjacent days) I attended the third Financial Blogger Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I wrote about the experience in detail on my personal website, so check that out for a full report on the conference. Some of the highlights relevant to Consumerism Commentary include winning the Lifetime Achievement Plutus ... Continue reading this article…

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Real Financial Progress Requires Quantum Jumps

by Luke Landes
Quantum leap

I don’t completely agree with the “get rich slowly” theory. I accept the fundamental advice, like paying yourself first, making conscious decisions about big financial decisions as well as the full series of small financial decisions, and setting long-term goals, but there is a fundamental flaw with taking this theory as the sole approach to ... Continue reading this article…

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5 Tips for Protecting Your Windfalls

by Luke Landes
George Oscar Bluth

In the fourth season of Arrested Development, the audience discovers the troubled Bluth family received a government stimulus bailout during the recession. Rather than using the “stimmy” to fix their troubling real estate family business operation, they used the money to buy 4,000 acres of worthless land in — well, I won’t spoil it. There’s ... Continue reading this article…

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6 Tips for Using New Disposable Income

by Luke Landes
Tiara

Recently, an Ask Metafilter reader announced he is earning enough money to feel rich, with disposable income for the first time in his life. He probably meant discretionary income. If you want to get technical, to have disposable income is everything you earn minus required tax payments. Everyone has disposable income. Discretionary income, however, is ... Continue reading this article…

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The Poverty Rate Remained Flat Last Year

by Luke Landes

In 2011, the percentage of Americans living in poverty declined from 15.1 percent to 15.0 percent according to the census figures released within the last few days. According to the Census Bureau, this is not a statistically significant change, meaning the number of Americans in poverty, 46.2 million, is roughly the same as in 2010. ... Continue reading this article…

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You Can’t Take It With You

by Luke Landes
Beach

According to a recent study by the National Bureau for Economic Research, 46.1 percent of retirees die with a net worth of less than $10,000. There are two ways to achieve this outcome. The first is for those with a comfortable level of wealth in retirement. Wealth does an individual no good after he or ... Continue reading this article…

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Should Rich Families Leave Their Wealth to Their Children?

by Luke Landes
Cash

One of the great promises of the United States of America is economic mobility. In the Land of Opportunity, in theory, you can design your life’s economic fate. Immigrants from Europe looked forward to leaving economic and religious oppression in their past, as they came to the land that is or would become the United ... Continue reading this article…

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Family Net Worth Down Significantly After Recession

by Luke Landes
Family Net Worth

The Federal Reserve’s survey of family finances in 2010, released recently, provides a picture of how devastating the recession has been to families’ financial conditions. Family income and net worth both declined from 2007 to 2010 across all slices of demographics, but the decline in net worth was much sharper. The Federal Reserve’s report on ... Continue reading this article…

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One Million Dollars Isn’t What It Used to Be

by Luke Landes
Scrooge McDuck

There was a time the word “millionaire” carried cachet. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was first used in French in the early eighteenth century and in English nearly a century later. Regardless of your station in French society in 1719, you would recognize a net worth of one million livres being notable. ... Continue reading this article…

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Get to Work If You Want to Be Rich

by Luke Landes
Movie marquee

How much time do you spend in front of the television, socializing with friends, or watching movies? I freely admit that I spend too much time watching television. There are certain television programs that entertain me, and particularly during stressful times in my life, I need some type of outlet that makes me laugh, raising ... Continue reading this article…

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The Rich and the Rest of Us

by Luke Landes
Cornel West and Tavis Smiley

Dr. Cornel West is a Princeton University professor and author. Tavis Smiley is a television and radio talk show host and author as well. The two have known each other for a long time, and last year they toured the country to hear from citizens and talk about the issue of poverty in America. After ... Continue reading this article…

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Most Wealthy Individuals Earned, Not Inherited, Their Wealth

by Luke Landes

When I first read The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, it didn’t inspire me. It’s not that I disagreed with the authors, but I found the book uninteresting. It was one of the first financial books I read after beginning Consumerism Commentary, and it came highly recommended from readers here and ... Continue reading this article…

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Millennials Want to Be Rich More Than Anything

by Luke Landes
Dollar

Since 1966, the Higher Education Research Institute has been conducting a study of first-year college students to determine personal goals and values. This collection of data has offered research a chance to see how priorities change over the years, and there are striking generational differences in the results. Recent research at San Diego State University ... Continue reading this article…

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How Rich Are the Presidential Candidates?

by Luke Landes
Mitt Romney

When politicians are campaigning, some try to reinforce the idea that they are similar to most Americans. Candidates for President of the United States try to avoid being labeled as elitist, because some sort of connection and kinship with their constituency is important for winning the favor of voters who aren’t already entrenched with a ... Continue reading this article…

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Wealth Gap: Young Vs. Old

by Luke Landes
First Base

The wealth gap is growing, and if the Occupy Wall Street and its satellite protests are any indication, those not within the top one percent of income earners are not happy with their circumstances or the policies that help foster the wealth of those at the top. It’s been called class warfare, but there are ... Continue reading this article…

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