Pearls of Wisdom: Wealth and Income Are Not The Same Thing

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We hear a lot of talk about pay: how much CEOs earn, how little waiters get, etc. While an important indicator, wages do not fully address the real inequality in our nation.

There is an inequality that goes beyond measure of pay. Some of us are extraordinarily wealthy while others have to live on what they earn from their jobs. Take me, for instance. I don’t make a lot of money, but I don’t need to. I have enough money to live very well.

Even someone like Donald Trump is one of the wealthiest people in New York, but is barely in the top 1% for income. He said that his wealth is worth over 8.9 billion dollars, but reports suggest that his income is less than $500,000 per year. He might be lying about either or both of those things, but I will take his statement at face value. The fact remains that although Trump is not breaking any records on income, when based on wealth, the inequality gap between him and the average American is enormous.

Let’s look at the real problem then- what constitutes wealth versus income.

Take a look at the New York Times The Tale of Two Schools.

I have two sons. They each graduated from fine universities. Neither one has any student loans, or any other financial obligations for that matter. They can invest both time and money into their long term career goals, without having to worry about making money. God willing, I will someday have grandchildren, and they will also be able to enjoy similar extraordinary advantages.

What about the kids in the other side of those pictures? The ones who are not in a similar situation as my children. Let’s assume that by all measures they are just as good of humans. But they have to struggle for things that some Americans just take for granted, and many will not succeed no matter how much they work.

  • They can’t worry about next semester’s classes, they have to take time off to work to earn money for next semester’s tuition first;
  • They can’t worry about their long term career goals, they have to make money to pay their student loan payments;
  • They think that the system is unfairly rigged against them. And they are right.

Many people have looked at this idea of inequality based on wealth. An HBO documentary, A Class Divide, highlighted inequality through the generations.  As a whole, we understand that root of the issue is that wealth inequality persists for generations.

The difference between my children and the children who are finding life more challenging is not their income; neither one of my children has a high income. The difference is that they don’t need to get jobs to make money to live on and/or pay off student loans. They are both able to invest their time and resources in their long term careers – which might end up making them more money in the long term.

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