Are you rich? No seriously, are you?
Go ahead and plug your annual income into this calculator, which will tell you what percentage of Americans you earn more money than each year. I’ll wait. (We could also have a whole separate conversation about the shape of the graph on that page, but that’s for another day.)
If you’re in the bottom 60%: 1) Congrats, you are not the person I’m yelling at in this post, and 2) Sorry capitalism is such a nightmare. You are valuable regardless of your income, and whatever you do or make is valuable regardless of what it is or whether you even get paid for it at all. (Unless you do something unambiguously ethically horrifying, in which case, please knock it off.)
If you’re in the top 40% – or if you’ve got family wealth to lean on: you’re rich.
I can hear you from here: You’re not saving up for retirement; the area where you live is expensive; there are things you want to buy you can’t; everyone you know has more money than you. I get it. I’m in that top 40% myself, and things don’t always feel easy. But also – can you imagine how you sound to the other 60%? The majority of the U.S. population? (Let’s not even get into how you compare to the global population.)
I am pretty sure that when Jesus talked about rich people having trouble getting into heaven, every rich person in a ten-mile radius promptly piped up, “Well actually Jesus, I’m not really rich, I’m just comfortable. That guy over there, he’s rich.”
If you can’t tell, this drives me bonkers. It’s about more than semantics. I’d argue that while having a lot of money isn’t in itself unethical, denying that you have a lot of money is. When you refuse to acknowledge your wealth, you’re also refusing to acknowledge the privilege that came with that wealth.
There is nothing ethically wrong with having privilege, of course. But being born on third base and acting like you hit a triple is wrong.
And you can’t have a healthy attitude about money if you’re in denial about how your wealth compares to others’. Put differently: If you’re not acknowledging your wealth, you’re not being a responsible or thoughtful steward of that wealth. If you’re not acknowledging you have extra money, you’re hoarding it all as if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.
And that’s a big problem, because this country’s wealth gap is one of its greatest evils. When you act as if you’re just as poor as the average person, you’re deliberately rejecting empathy with the actual average person. It’s an easy choice, but it simply isn’t right.
Admit that you’re rich. Feel gratitude for it. And maybe give some of that money away.