In defense of the rich

Madame X over at My Open Wallet posted an article about why The Rich are Still Rich citing excerpts from the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s an excerpt that she picked out from the article to put on her blog:

“I’m not giving to charity this year!” one hedge-fund analyst shouts into the phone, when I ask about Obama’s planned tax increases.

“When people ask me for money, I tell them, ‘If you want me to give you money, send a letter to my senator asking for my taxes to be lowered.’ I feel so much less generous right now.

If I have to adopt twenty poor families, I want a thank-you note and an update on their lives.

At least Sally Struthers gives you an update.”

Madame X called him a jerk. So did some other commenters.

The Cooking Accountant: What a jerk! He probably never donated to charities in the first place!

T’Pol: That guy cannot be human. Why can’t he accept that, now more people are in “true” need and so we should try to help even more?

Coupon Artist: I think it is ridiculous that people who lost a few million, but still have a few million, would complain about the losses at all. Once you have a certain threshold of money (say, a million or two) what difference does it make if it is cut by 1/3… you still have the money to buy everything you could need to buy or reasonably want to buy. At that point, having the biggest bank account purely becomes a matter of ego and nothing more. Sad.

Let’s get a couple of things cleared up:

  • Yes: I think having millions, even a third of your millions is still rich
  • Yes: I know of millionaire friends’ families
  • No: I am not a secret millionaire nor am I considered rich in the sense that I have millions and will never have to work another day in my life (I wish!)

But what I want to know… is why are we so up in their faces about them complaining about losing a third of their wealth?

Don’t they have a right to bitch too?

Or did we take away that right as a society the minute they hit a net worth of 1 million?

It’s almost like everyone is in agreement: Shut up about only have $60 million left. It’s still $60 million, and there are others in need of that money.

Well sure. That’s true.

$60 million is a lot of money. To those of us who don’t have it.

And to those of us who live on much smaller incomes. $60 million is a king’s ransom.

And there ARE tons of others in need of that money — but those people who need the money, didn’t work for that cash.

Why should people who have more money, be forced or required to donate for people who haven’t earned that money and why should these rich people be condemned for not donating?

(Man.. I can feel the bubbling of anger right now from everyone reading this post, but maybe it might help to tell you that I am a HUGE fan of this book called “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand.

No? Okay, keep reading.)

What’s so bad about rich folk anyway?

So we’re jealous. I’m jealous. Who isn’t? (if you aren’t rich)

But what’s so bad about them? They still spend money, and in a larger amount than us normal plebs can. A couple grand to them is not a big deal (maybe), but to me for example, it’s quite a bit of money and I do get a bit of anxiety over it once in a while.

And they pay their taxes.

If they pay their taxes instead of evading them, why are we harping on them?

They’re getting taxed for making more money and it isn’t anything but hard work and effort that got them and their families there.

Plus they’re getting taxed more, just for being rich. That kind of sucks.

Earning all that money and the government wants to take even more away from you and your hard work just because people and other companies (including the government) have made bad decisions and you have the money to pay for it.

It IS nice that they do have the money to pay taxes, and I’m sure they have a ton left over to cover everything else.. but no one, and I mean NO ONE likes being taxed.

You would hate it if you earned $10/hour and the government took $5 from your pay each hour in taxes. Well, that’s kind of the same principle, just multiplied by millions.

(And yes, it is still a lot of money overall… I agree)

If they also made their money legally instead of selling drugs or girls, they’re just fueling the economy by spending on research & development, investing in other ventures…

What we actually want is MORE rich people in society, not less, so why are we getting mad at them and trying to get them to get rid of their money so that they can come down to our level?

I’m sure they also do nice things for their family, and are happy to be able to send little Susie to a special private school — an education they may have never received as a child. They’re human beings too.

Think about the percentage that they have lost and compare it to your own wealth

They lost a third of their wealth. That means with someone who has $10,000 they have lost around $3300.

That’s a big chunk of change! And even larger, when you multiply it by millions.

Sure, it’s a lot of money. And they still have a ton of it left. $66 million left in the bank after $33 million was wiped out is no small number. But it’s still.. $33 million down the drain!

It would make anyone shake with fear that they could lose even more, and plummet even further and threaten their financial security.

$66 million to you and me is a LOT of money because we can only dream to save a couple of hundred bucks for 30+ years, at a certain interest rate, and hope to have a paltry million at the end of it.

$66 million would be a dream.. on our lifestyle and budget. But they are on a whole other level.

$2 million to me at the end of retirement for example, may be a king’s ransom for someone else who can only dream to have $100,000 at the end of their own retirement.

And I respect that, as well as the millionaires who have made their cash to get them to where they are today, as they clearly respect their money as well.

They have a higher lifestyle to maintain that they’re used to

As you get richer (or so my brother Mr. Jones says), you tend to spend more as a result. You upgrade your car. You move to a bigger house. You take nicer vacations and don’t stay in Motel 6’s any longer.

It’s clear that not many of us as a collective whole out there know how to get more money and stay within our lifestyle means, and the PF blogsphere we all swim right now is pretty small.

I don’t know about you, but it sure is a hell of a struggle for me not to want to spend more money when I earn more money.

The rich send their kids to more expensive schools, eat more expensive foods, take expensive vacations.. and so on. They just have a more luxurious lifestyle that they’ve gotten used to.

Wouldn’t you at least do the same or think about doing it?

Yes, they COULD scale down their lifestyle, save more money, bla bla bla.. but if you had billions, even millions – would you?

Would you live in a $100,000 home and stay there forever?

Would you eat out of cans and try and keep your grocery budget to under $500 a month for your family?

Would you drive a real lemon that keeps breaking down on the highway every couple of miles?

Note: I’m not talking about people like Warren Buffett or others who live a truly frugal lifestyle in the sense that the guy still stays in and owns his very first home he bought!

Or even those millionaires next door who became self-made millionaires (Read: The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley & Danko).

I’m talking about what the majority of the population want — a better lifestyle. I’m pretty lucky as is to be able to afford to buy organic food and really good cuts of meat. But I know people out there cannot afford it, but would love to eat what we do.

Heck, our grocery/household stuff budget at a minimum is $600/month!

And this is after we’ve cut out stuff like paper towels, dishwashing detergent, any soap but organic/simple soap, no shampoo… etc.

We just happen to like eating fruit that tastes like real fruit, tomatoes that look like real tomatoes (heirloom ones that look really funky and twisted are our favourites), and we’re willing to pay that premium on it.

But that’s because we can afford it and we really treasure eating good food every day. If we couldn’t, we simply wouldn’t buy that kind of food any longer.

And are we so different from the millionaires (aside from that whole.. you know, money thing), to want a better, more comfortable life?

How about my brother for example who has a cleaning lady every 2 weeks so that they don’t need to clean? And eats out every single day because my sister in law doesn’t like to cook? Or that they send out their laundry to be fluffed and folded?

We all want an easier life, and if you have money don’t tell me you wouldn’t think about getting a cleaning service. Of course, there are exceptions like I said, but they’re few and far between (it’s a disease I think, to die a millionaire but have lived like a hobo).

The more risk you take, the greater the reward or fall you take

Most millionaires worked hard for their money and/or their families have in some way. You don’t just become a millionaire over night without some smarts, a lot of luck and persistence.

These millionaires took the risk, maybe started their own business or put their entire life’s energy into their work. They took on a lot of risk (90% of all businesses fail within the first year), and they knew they could fall off the cliff, or climb to the highest mountains.

And they just happened to make it. But many others didn’t succeed doing the same thing. They were the lucky ones.

They donate in a higher percentage/amount as well

They donate tens of thousands, of millions of dollars to charities.

In that excerpt above, if they’re not donating this year so what? Doesn’t what they donated before count for anything?

What I hear in that guy’s voice is not that he’s being jerk. He’s worried and panicked about the market, about losing the money he’s worked hard for and he doesn’t feel comfortable giving away what he did last year, because the market could drop AGAIN and he could lose even more money and would not be able to make his bills for his home or business.

That’s true that millionaires donate a smaller percentage of their income than those who don’t have millions. But the absolute $ amount they donate is much higher than I could ever imagine having the spare cash to donate.

They donate a million. Let’s say it’s 1% of what they earned this year.

For me to think about even donating even one million that means a lot of saving and hoping that my money earns at least 8% interest or more.

Of course, I am restrained by how much I earn to not be able to donate a million dollars every year, but it’s kind of like they’re doing the donating for other people who really cannot donate because they’re tight on their budget, or someone lost their job.

Oh, and by the way, most self-made millionaires? They don’t donate to charity either.

At least, not from what I gathered from reading The Millionaire Next Door.

When asked if they wanted to keep the crisp, $1 bill in their pocket or donate it to their favourite charity, they mostly replied: I am my favourite charity, and pocketed the money.

And these are regular people, like you and me, who are self-made millionaires, who scrimped, saved and lived under their means to get to where they were today, while their wives still clipped coupons at the dinner table.

It’s not a requirement to donate if you are rich, but it’s a nice gesture if they do

Even if you earned $100,000 a year net, and someone (who may or may not donate regularly) told you that you were a big fat JERK for not donating money this year when you’ve previously donated before, you’d get pretty pissed off.

I mean, what happened to all the money you donated the years before? Does it all mean nothing?

And if this person gets mad at you for not donating this year because you lost a LOT of money, then THEY are the jerk in my opinion.

Or even if you earned millions, and just this ONE YEAR you wanted to not donate, or donate less than you did before.

If people started calling you an asshole, a jerk for not donating the same amount as before, I’d get pretty offended.

It is NOT required for ANYONE to donate the money that they’ve worked hard for.

It is a nice and generous gesture, and not one that should be expected by anyone, or required by anyone to give least of all the hypocrites who don’t even donate a single penny to any charity, but have the balls to berate richer people for not doing it.

It sounds all kind of Commie to me, actually.

What gets me, is that these hypocrites, when you ask them how much of THEIR income they donated to charities this year, they (if they’re telling the truth), say that they didn’t donate anything… because they’re in debt, they’re poor, they don’t have the cash.

Fine, but shut up and stop looking the gift horse in the mouth.

Generally, people in debt put themselves there. There are rare exceptions and extenuating circumstances of course, but most people just spent their way into a hole.

All I hear in these comments about how millionaires are being assholes for not donating this year, is jealousy – jealous that these millionaires have money to be able to donate to charity and still live a posh life.

And instead of getting pissed off at them, maybe we should give them a break because when they do recover their wealth, with the kind of backlash they’re getting from the public they may just decide never to donate again because people are just such greedy whiners.

What’s so wrong with wanting something for your money?

That guy screamed into the phone (the article’s words, not mine, which makes me suspicious about the tone of the whole thing), that he wanted an update and a thank you note from the 20 poor families he’s adopting this year.

“If I have to adopt twenty poor families, I want a thank-you note and an update on their lives.”

And so what?

What’s so wrong with wanting a thank you note and an update from the people you are helping? It’s almost FREE just to sit down and pen a letter or a thank you note to someone who gave you money so you could eat this year.

He’s not asking for the money back — the money he worked hard to earn, the money he risked a lot on the line to earn. He could have ended up destitute in the food bank, himself, had he made the wrong choices and other bad decisions in life.

It’s just politeness.

Sure, maybe it just came out wrong and was skillfully manipulated in the article to make it sound like he was being a jerk (maybe he is one, in real life, I don’t know)… but if I gave money to a charity or even just helped anyone in general, I’d like a thank you note.

Even just a thank you email is nice.

Or are we just letting the fact that he’s a millionaire cloud our better judgment?

It’s also nice if you could send an update on your life to the person who donated the money. That’s why people donate by the way.. it’s why I donate money. I feel good because I hear back from the people I gave money to and it really makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

So what’s so wrong with him wanting an update on their lives? He wants to feel that warm fuzzy feeling too. They’re not freaking robots, they’re humans.


I’m not trying to say that having $66 million or only 2/3 of your wealth left in the millions is a BAD situation to be in by any means. It’s not awful, they’re not starving, and maybe they had to cut back from first class to economy.

Or maybe they couldn’t stay at the Four Seasons this vacation. Whatever makes them unhappy.

It’s not like they’re suffering in the sense that they cannot put food on the table or their electric bills are getting cut off… but all I’m saying is that maybe people should just give them a break too.

Just because they have millions in the bank, and we’re green with envy, doesn’t mean we should get so jealous that we want to take them down and make them pay for being rich and lucky to have what they have.

It’s almost like society will only be satisfied if these millionaires feel financial pain to the point of destitution so they can go: SEE? Having $60 million wasn’t so bad now, was it.. BITCH? Who’s in the food line now with the rest of us?

That’s kind of sick to wish that kind of pain and stress on someone else, and we should be seeing the positive that they still have the money to spend in the economy without going into debt and causing more strain on the country.

So… are we still hating on the millionaires? Tell me why!
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About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.