Does Money Make You Insensitive?
Many of you may have listened to Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast with Suze Orman where Orman completely destroys the idea of FIRE (Financial Independent Retire Early). I was utterly speechless at the comments that she made.
Orman speaks of the money she has, her private island, her prior 5 houses and 5 cars, and the tens of millions (or more) that she has made over her lifetime. She thinks retirement requires millions of dollars, and that $80 thousand a year is not enough to live on.
She goes so far as to talk about extremes, like what if a pole goes through the front of your windshield and you are disabled? She also thinks parents should pay for private school and post-secondary education for children.
When did people with money forget what it’s like to not have money?
What Orman did not realize was that she was so opinionated, she made listeners like me absolutely sick. From the idea that lower income earners can never dream of FIRE, and that FIRE will break our economy, it was demoralizing.
Orman is not the only one who forgets what it’s like to not have a 6-figure income. My background of working for professionals reminds me of the differences between the haves and the have nots.
Does Privilege Breed Insensitivity?
Some people find it encouraging to see others who have amassed a large income, but there are others who simply did not have the means to attend a post-secondary education institution for the extra years it takes to become a doctor, lawyer, or other professional designation. What bothers me the most is when the assistant/employee/lower-wage earner is clearly an important and necessary part of the foundation of a high wage earner’s enterprise, and yet they are treated as unnecessary, and paid either under a living wage or just at a living wage.
I want to ask them, was there a time when you did not know how you were going to pay rent? Did you ever have to decide between going on a vacation or investing in your retirement? Did you ever stop to think that your employees do not have the same options as you in life? And yet, without them, you would not be as successful as you are today.
I spoke about the inequalities in my minimum wage post, and still wonder what it will take for people like Orman to realize that the options for her and the options for the rest of us will never be the same.
Some of us will be fortunate, and may have a successful career, minimal health issues, and be able to plan for retirement. Some of us will always be playing catch up; hoping we can work long enough to save for retirement. But for those who are extremely wealthy, why do you forget the struggles? Why do you discount the privilege?
While I am not saying that those who are wealthy beyond their needs should give handouts to others, I am really hoping that they consider paving the way for some others to find opportunities. Many wealthy people use charitable donations to minimize taxes, but when was the last time they stepped out of their private island comfort zone and gave a hand up? Got their hands dirty, and blessed people who work hard and may never have enough to travel their continent, never mind the world?
Callout to the Wealthy
This is a callout to all those who have had tremendous success. Please reach out to someone and help them on their way. People like Orman need to stop putting others down for not having as much as she was blessed with, and she is not a matriarch or model for the rest of us. She is someone who has been fortunate and forgets that our life doesn’t need to be 45 years of steady work in the event of a tragic accident or dire straits.
The FIRE movement will still pay taxes, and will open up other jobs that may not otherwise be available. It’s all about options, and when people like Orman tell you that it’s stupid to desire the freedom of options, and that her words are “truths”, she forgets that there may be other paths, and other roads which can lead to the same place.
Are you pro FIRE or do you think Orman is right that it’s a slippery slide to the end? Do you think privileged folk forget the rest of us? I’d like to hear from you.
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