What Is Your Definition of Rich?

J.D. had a thought-provoking post the other day at his blog, Get Rich Slowly.  He told the story of a friend asking him what is was like to be rich.  Well, J.D. doesn’t think of himself as rich, and the question got him to thinking about why he doesn’t feel rich.

The question of defining “rich” has even made its way into the presidential election with both candidates recently sharing their ideas on what level of income defined someone as rich.  I think they are both missing the point.  In my opinion, being rich has little to do with income, and more to do with quality of life.  I will share with you my definition of having a rich life, and I encourage you to share your definition in the comments.

I Have Enough Money to Meet My Family’s Basic Needs

When it comes down to it, the only things I really need to survive are food, shelter, utilities and transportation.  If I lived within walking or biking distance of my employer, and the places I need to shop for food, then transportation would be debatable.  I am fortunate to have these basic needs met.  Anything above and beyond this level of spending is really just luxuries.  If you don’t believe me, visit a homeless shelter in your town, or a foreign country with limit resources and an overcrowded population.  You will find a lot of people who are struggling to meet these basic needs.  In this regard, I am blessed.

I Have Enough Money to Indulge In a Few Wants

Above and beyond those basic needs, I also have a few wants, and so does my family.  We are fortunate to earn the resources to allow us to occasionally indulge in these wants.  It could be as basic as cable television or cell phone coverage, or as elaborate as surprising my daughter with Hannah Montana tickets last year (no, this was certainly not frugal, but like I say here often, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses!).   Because we can indulge in those occasional treats I certainly feel like I have a rich life.

I Can Afford to Give to Others

Our family has felt strongly about being in a better position to give to others.  In fact, it is one of the primary motivators behind our desire to be completely debt free.  Once we are on solid ground we will be able to give to others in a variety of ways.  One special idea we plan to incorporate into this year’s Christmas spending is to take $100 from our Christmas savings fund, visit a local diner on Christmas Eve, and leave the $100 as a tip to a hard-working waitress.  If someone if out working late on Christmas Eve you know they are working because they have to, not because they want to.  You never know whose life might be forever changed by this single, random act of kindness.  We plan to take the kids along this year and let them experience the true meaning of Christmas.  Because we are able to give to others, we have a rich life.

The Richness of Our Lives is Not Measured in Money or Things

I know, it sounds cliche, but we really try our best not to get caught up in the materialism of today.  We enjoy spending time with our kids, having frugal family fun nights, or just sitting down together and reading books.   It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.  In fact, we have found the simpler the better!  Ten years ago or so, I didn’t feel this way.  I remember sitting in a cubicle at my first professional job staring at a picture of an SUV I wanted to buy (and eventually did).  Now, I sit in my office and look at the pictures of my kids, and just outside my window I can see the beater I drive sitting in the company parking lot.  What a difference a decade makes!

To sum things up, my definition of being rich is having enough money to meet my family’s basic needs, a few of our wants, and to be able to give some away to others.

What is your definition of being rich?

Comments

  1. To me, being rich means not worrying about finances and doing something you’re passionate about for a living. In terms of the politics, I think it’s important to explain “rich” in terms of money, however. Where do you draw the line between someone who can pay more taxes and someone who shouldn’t pay more? I hear it a lot: why should I have to pay more? Because you can afford it, silly.

  2. @WC: Oh yeah, I agree some lines had to be drawn, politically, but I don’t like using the term “rich” to define those in upper-income brackets. I’ve known a few “rich” folks who were “broke” from a spiritual, life-fulfilling perspective.

  3. In America, we are all financially rich even with the “crisis” going on in our economy right now. We all have way more than we really need to survive. There is wealth everywhere! In fact, I dare say that we are spoiled. Most of us not only have our needs met, but enjoy many luxuries to boot. We live in multi-room homes, drive one or more cars, eat out often, carry cell phones, go on vacations, have computers at home and at work, and shower our children with toys and activities.

    Our “poverty” comes from over-indulging ourselves beyond our means. Why is it that we all want more than we already have? I’m guilty of this too. So, I’m not judging others. I’m simply bringing it up for discussion. Thoughts?

  4. My husband defines rich the same way you do. He periodically tells our kids that we are rich. If our basic needs are met and we can pretty much save for the things we want (within reason) we are rich. I’ve heard them tell other kids that we are rich. Let me just add that my husband is in the Army so by the worlds standards we are by no means rich, just don’t tell my kids. :)

  5. I read once that he can call himself rich who says “I have enough.” I was in Poland a few years ago and stayed with a young family who by their standards were well off. In that they had jobs (school teachers). They lived in a 3 room apartment with their young son. The sum total of that 9 year old’s toys and treasures could fit in my lap. The wife really wanted a car and she asked me if my family had one. I was almost ashamed to tell her we had two. That experience was one of many that have taught me that we Americans really do have a lot materially, but it doesn’t necessarily make us happy. This young Polish family with all their struggles were more content than many American families I know. We really need to appreciate what we have and that riches do indeed mean a lot more than our incomes or possessions.

  6. @Patsy: Funny you mention Poland…I had a good friend I worked with at my last employer who moved here from Poland when he was 20 years old. He brought with him a suitcase and $1,000 that he had scraped together for months. He worked at a convenience store, put himself through four years of school, got married, and got a job making $40k at a financial services firm. He brought his lunch every single day to work–a single baked potato (the same thing he had eaten for lunch nearly every day growing up). He told me one day he was almost embarrassed to tell his family back home how “rich” he was here. Certainly puts things in perspective.

  7. Great post. I totally agree… and I love the idea about the $100 tip. I believe that I’m always blessed when I’m a blessing to others. Thanks for sharing your thought! :)

    ~Tabitha~

  8. I must be of a different breed, because I define rich by the measurement of time.
    To me, regardless of the dollar amount, “Rich” means that I have enough cashflow to sustain my lifestyle without having to work a steady 9-5.

  9. It’s good to hear everyone’s definition of being rich. Personally, I would define it as being able to pursue your own desired path in life without having to worry about working a 9 to 5 for income, saving, worry about 401K payments, etc. I do agree that people can feel comfortable at whatever point they are in life but are you really comfortable and free when you still have to wake up in the morning, go to work and not be able to see your wife and kids until you come home after that irritating commute?

    On the other side, it has really griped my butt about how for some reason, the point of $250K is considered having too much. Places like L.A., S.F. and New York City almost require one to make that much to live decently. When housing in those areas costs $1mil plus, it can be astounding to figure out how much money is needed to live there. What I don’t understand is how someone can talk over and over about raising taxes on those making “a lot of money” and still expect that when you get into office that they will actually pay it. How many movie/music stars to we see get caught for tax evasion? How many more are not caught and still get away with it? How many people making that much money will actually keep it in this country where it can be taxed? Offshore accounts, banking in Canada and even Mexico will soon become the norm if a certain someone gets into office.

    On another similar note, how does one explain that raising taxes in a recession or “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression” is actually a good idea? Wouldn’t that just make the financial crisis worse as individuals would have less money to pour back into the market?

  10. My favorite quote on being rich comes from The Simpsons!

    Homer: Mr Burns, you’re the richest man in the world. You own EVERYTHING!

    Mr Burns: Ah yes, Homer, but I would give it all up for just a little bit more …

  11. If I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, clothes on my back and my health, I consider myself rich. Everything else is nice, don’t get me wrong, but what I own doesn’t make me rich – what and who I am does. Great post as usual FD.

  12. Great post ~ I am asking myself this question lately, in my quest for loving a simpler lifestyle. I pretty much agree with your definition – rich is having what we need, plus the ability to save for and purchase a few of the wants. My wants tends to be family vacations ~ we’ve been on many and often refer back to them for family memories. It’s the ability to spend time together exploring new places and meeting new people that I look forward to.

  13. Well.. Hubby and I are persuing our dream of owning a place we can live in with no mortgage. We’re willing to live in an old singlewide if that’s what it takes. After having experienced unemployment and having to sell our old house–we learned that rich means you have a roof over your head that nobody else holds papers on, and that you can live there in peace until you’re too old to be left alone.

  14. In terms of income and possesions, I have plenty to satisfy my needs and important wants(things that I enjoy doing). By the standards of much of the world I would be very wealthy.

    But, like many of the others here, I find that happiness and contentment are the real measures of richness. Doing better all the time on those.

  15. One thing that came up here is the idea that there is some income level where its ok to raise taxes. That’s one thing I really don’t agree with. You know folks who make very little money–get all their money back–sometimes they get more. If someone wants to work harder than the average person, run a business and invest etc–why should this person who works so hard have to pay a higher percent of taxes? I’m assuming they are already paying more since they make more–why hike the rate? That isn’t right. It just really isn’t right.
    folks should be able to ‘give’ according to their own conscience once they’ve paid their dues they should not be penalized for reaching higher.

    I think that idea brings a gutt level reaction in me that says–hey–that’s theivery. giving is supposed to be a willing thing.

  16. If you’re making more, you can afford to pay more taxes. Why do you need over $250k? If you live in NYC, then move out. If not, then that’s your problem and stop proclaiming, “I shouldn’t redistribute my own hard-earned cash.” Avaricious people.

    Anyways, I’m rich, even though my parents make less than $20K, because my college is paid for and I have food, shelter, clothes, and my family.

  17. If you’re making more you ARE paying more. What do you mean by ‘why do you need over 250k?’ Good heavens. There are places in America where you can’t even make ends meet on that. It is not an American idea to state that a person shouldn’t be able to earn more than he needs –according to someone else’s opinion. If you go about calling someone avaricious because they work harder and earn more–can’t they turn around and call you lazy? Why should avaricious people have to support sluggards?
    This isn’t right–I repeat it.

  18. If your parents make less than 20K, I wonder how your college is paid for and your family has enough food to eat. The thought would also spring to mind as to why they only make less than 20K per year. Welfare recipients along with food stamp supplements get about $14.5K-$22K in compensation depending on the number of children there are (in Louisiana). I know plenty of people who don’t have more than a high school education and are hard working who make twice that per year (sometimes more).

    Gee, why would anyone need to make money? God forbid if they make more money than they possibly need! The only reason that there is cheap housing and used cars and even inexpensive food and clothing is because of PEOPLE WHO MAKE MORE MONEY THAN YOU! Oh no! Truly a new concept to think that what you have may have been brought about by people who want to make profit. That’s the only reason as to why we have basic housing, utilities, transportation and food for pretty much every single American out there. It is due to people who want to have success in their lives and as a by-product make life for the rest of us richer and easier. Do you think that electricity was a government invention? No, Thomas Edison wanted to make a buck. Henry Ford wanted to make a car that everyone could afford, but he still needed to make a profit to stay in business. Gee, what a crook. It’s a shame that people take so much for granted that they don’t realize that they are basically standing, living and working on the shoulders of giants who all wanted to turn a profit.

    Why is it basically a bad thing to disproportionately take from those who succeed? Because it will cause people to be afraid of success and therefore stifle innovation and progress.

  19. Every once in a while I have to marvel at the extent to which people will bite the hand that feeds them.

    One of my tenants, who rents a room from me, was viciously slandering some people he saw exiting a political rally where he’d shown up to boo and protest. The tone in his voice was contemptuous, and he had nothing positive to say about “rich” people “with jobs”. Yet he himself hasn’t held down a job for years. Nor is he willing to fill out application forms or to work at any of the neighborhood businesses that are hiring. At age 59, he’s worked full-time for only eight years, so he’s not eligible for Social Security when he reaches retirement age. He relied on his now ex-wife to support him the rest of the time (and no, he wasn’t a full-time homemaker: he still doesn’t know how to cook). He gets by on disability payments, although he’s able-bodied enough to play baseball every year, go drinking with his buddies once or twice a week, get into political arguments, drive, and watch TV or surf the Internet from his cable modem for eight to ten hours a day. (I know this because I personally see him do it: he lives in my house.) He’s told me flat-out that he doesn’t like working, that he’s never worked a single hour of overtime or accepted education or training, and that he’s never held down a job for longer than a year because he always loses his temper.

    What he doesn’t seem to realize (and which he’d blame on his nonexistent disability if he did) is that every cent of his income comes from the pockets of people more productive than him. The food stamps that allow him to spend more than double what I do on food, such that he can afford pre-made meals, meat every day, and alcohol once to twice a week (all of which are out of my reach) come from the tax dollars of the people he hates.

    He wants socialized medicine so that everyone, especially “the rich” can experience the same level of horrid care no matter how hard they work to ensure something better for themselves and their families.

    In his life, he gets the result of sitting on his butt for more than fifty years: no savings, no house (his ex-wife threw him out), and minimal services. He wants for the people who work sixty hours a week to experience the same mediocrity in their lives, except that they should continue to work themselves to death in order to support him, because he refuses to support himself.

  20. I just wanted to say that your idea about leaving the $100.00 tip for a waiter/waitress brought tears to my eyes. What a thoughtful, generous gift, that I’m sure your children will remember for a lifetime.

  21. I find that most Americans have a rather skewed idea of wants vs. needs. I will go through the needs which are named, as a touching off point for my discussion of what it means to be rich.

    Food: a need, obviously, but something like 80% of Americans are overweight (by definition, having more than is needed). You can eat healthily for a dollar or two a day (think beans & rice), anything more than that and it is a luxury. If you are spending $100/month on groceries, or you’re eating out occasionally, and/or eat farm-fresh, free-range, organic, etc., then you are rich.

    Shelter: a need, but if you are living in a three-bedroom, 2,000 square foot, airconditioned palace with an island kitchen, you have gone soundly into luxury territory. The global standard for a family of 4 is something like a 250 square foot, 2 room dwelling w/o indoor plumbing, made of cinder blocks with a concrete floor and a tin roof – and a billion or two people have much less than that. Even Western Europe & Japan have far smaller dwellings than in America. If you live in any sort of dwelling approaching that of average America, then you are rich.

    Transportation: a need, I guess, but please don’t confuse with ownership of a personal vehicle (reserved for the world’s uber-rich). The overwhelming vast majority of our brothers and sisters on the planet use public transportation, and most sparingly. I don’t care if you have an old beater, or a shining new BMW straight off the lot; simply being able to fuel and maintain the thing means you are rich. Last month I visited a country in Asia where most people didn’t have SHOES, and they still managed to get around. Think about it.

    Utilities: A billion or two live without electricity, and even more without indoor plumbing, so is this really a need? The global median for electricity is maybe two bare light bulbs, cell phone charger, and a small TV set. If you have indoor hot water, A/C, a few power strips connecting all sorts of gadgets, an electric toothbrush, computer, then you are rich!

    The best way to appreciate how luxurious everyday life is in America is to travel to a third world country. Upon returning, you will see you ridiculously rich life is here simply by looking outside and seeing how extravagantly and perfectly built the roads are, or by simply walking into your regularly neighborhood grocery store and seeing the sinful variety and quantity of food which you is yours for a small amount. None of this is typical living for human beings.

    I now return you all to your regularly scheduled Supersized American lifestyle …

  22. Wow, this sure got political quick. I’d like to add for those naysayers about raising taxes on the $250Kers and how you don’t want to support those non-working lazy bums unwilling to get a job, that for every one of those types, there’s at least one (likely more) honest person who would make good use of an opportunity presented them. My mom is one. When she divorced, she had two young kids and $2000, no job and no place to live. She worked it out, and was able to do it with public assistance. She got off it as soon as she could. If that help hadn’t been there for her, who knows what would have happened to us.

    Second, I happen to fall into the crowd whose taxes will go up if a certain someone is elected. You know what? I don’t mind having my taxes raised. It not only helps out those a little more in need, but it pays for our roads, schools, parks, emergency services.

    I find it astonishing that people complain about the possibility of raising taxes on the rich. We support them: We buy their cars, we watch their movies, we (not me) buy their clothes, their food, and many of their products. While I commend those who’ve made it on their hard work and innovation, I also commend the people who work hard to make our country go: garbage collectors, servers, emergency service providers, and many more. Are you telling me, that someone who earns 2-3 or more times those people cannot or are unwilling to pay a little more in taxes to support the people that in turn support them? Don’t lump me in with that crowd.

    And the notion of depending on the rich people’s charity…please! While I was working my way up, no rich person ever came up to me and said, let me assist you in paying for your college education, or let me give some money to your mother so she can afford to let you be on the swim team. This idea of relying on “gifts” from the rich is ludicrous. The fact that people are complaining about their taxes being raised proves they will never gift their money freely – I suppose they could write it off, in which case they’re benefiting from something they’re supposed to be altruistic about. Right.

    Sorry, FG, I was going to tell you why I feel rich, but, this issue really put a burr in my backside.

  23. Being rich, by definition, means having an abundance of material wealth. To define what is “an abundance” is relative. To other countries, yes even the poorest among us is quite rich. Within our own country, we can see the stratification of material wealth that occurs. If it were not for the Renaissance and later the Industrial Revolution, we (US, Europe, Japan, etc.) would not be “rich nations”. We would still be living in some stone and wood houses in the middle of farmyards. To bring in a little perspective, if it were not for industrious people trying to make a buck, those cinderblocks and copper wire used to make those “poor” people’s lives a little better would not even exist.

    Let’s make it a little bit simpler here: THERE WILL ALWAYS BE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS. It has always been the case since the beginning of time. Some previous human had a knack for making sharp rocks and may have gotten items in return. Some “poor” man had two sharp rocks and the more abitious man had ten sharp rocks. He traded those sharp rocks for clothing and so he had more clothing than someone else. There you have it, the beginning of the class struggle. It has always existed and it will always exist. The problem comes in when people use force to get what they want or what they don’t have. These days that force is called the government.

    Let me tell you all a little story; When I was 16, my father became disabled. He had worked at a government job for 17 years by that time. He was able to take disability retirement but at an extremely reduced pay. My three siblings and I along with both parents had to live on about $15K per year. This was with one car and a modest house (about 1150sqft). Suffice it to say, we did need assistance to make it. We qualified for food stamps to the tune of about $380 per month. Every three months my mother (as embarrased as she was) had to go down to the gov. assistance office and renew her application for food stamps. It did help a lot as it covered pretty much the entire food budget. Now during my senior year I decide that I’d like to have an actual cap and gown for my graduation in the spring. I apply for and get a job at a chain grocery store that winter. No problem. I get to help bring the groceries out for the “poor people” who get almost $800 a month in food stamps. I get to load those groceries into their $25K SUV. Nice, very nice. Now, that spring I turn 18. All of a sudden the food stamp office considers me a “contributing member of the household” and adds my income to the household’s income and cuts our food stamp allocation by the amount I earned in the previous month (about 200 bucks). Hmmm. That’s a really good way to do math there. Let’s take one dollar of non-taxable assistance money and replace it with one dollar of money that I earn and still have to pay sales tax on (7.5% at the time). So I ask, “where’s the incentive for me to hold a job?” The bottom line is that THERE IS NO INCENTIVE. Therefore I had to quit my job so that my family could continue to collect all the food stamps we were eligible for. Since I was in school I did not have to contribute to the household budget. This question can be asked all the way down the line. Where is the incentive to getting off of the government entitlement programs? The answer is that there isn’t one. These programs are no longer about assistance. It has become a financial easy chair for those who don’t want to work. It even catches those who may want to work, but cannot because the system punishes them disproportionately.

    One of my biggest problems is that many of us already fall into the 15% and up tax brackets and pay our taxes all the time but yet the government cannot control its spending with what it already takes. Why does anyone in their right mind think that increasing taxes will actually get anything done at all, let alone in the right direction? If they cannot manage what they have, the will not learn to manage with more. Why pay more to find out the hard way what we already know?

  24. you know something if they lowered all our taxes we could all make more of ourselves–those willing to. The thing is ‘rich’ may be a state of mind in someways. sure you can do without plenty-but how many of us even really own our own house? I would never limit our income to just what we need. The limit will come soon enough as it is almost certain we’ll all be out of work at some point. Other than congressmen–how many folks in America keep a job 30 years anymore?

  25. DavidK, you say:

    “One of my biggest problems is that many of us already fall into the 15% and up tax brackets and pay our taxes all the time but yet the government cannot control its spending with what it already takes.”

    I agree with you up to a point here. The problem is the government has been conned into paying for all these special interests, subsidies to big corporations and unwarranted wars. Never mind the fact that we support multiple countries before helping ours. IMHO, we need to reduce those costs and focus on the people here.

    “Why does anyone in their right mind think that increasing taxes will actually get anything done at all, let alone in the right direction? If they cannot manage what they have, the will not learn to manage with more. Why pay more to find out the hard way what we already know?”

    Well, unfortunately, the money has been grossly mismanaged under the current administration, and there will probably always be a level of mismanagement no matter how good the intentions are. But someone has to pay for the deficit and all the spending. Do we pass it on to our kids or deal with it now? Assuming the current state of affairs will continue under the person who wants to raise taxes vs. the one who supposedly does not, is not very logical thinking. We know what we’ve had, why continue it? Why not want a change?

    As for your personal story, I can see it from both the gov’t point of view and yours. Unfortunately, because there are enough bad apples to take advantage of the system, it ends up screwing those with good intentions (like yourself). But to persecute the people who really need it, by taking it away completely, because of some who take advantage isn’t fair. The system needs to be revised to better catch those taking advantage (you can throw my sister-in-law into that bunch). So I’m hearing you and feeling you, but I disagree with you.

    When I was growing up, my family was in a similar financial situation as you, comparatively, but we lived in an apt. You know what? People in our neighborhood thought we were rich. Why? Because my mom was able to buy fruits and vegetables. They didn’t recognize that she didn’t buy cigarettes, alcohol or go out much, if at all. Being rich truly is a matter of perspective – the grass is always greener on the other side, until you’ve lived it. But, IMHO, why not have the willingness to lend a helping hand to those who need it? Even you said it was of help to your family – why deny others the same help now that you’ve been able to break the cycle, so to speak?

  26. To have a small good roof over my head and enough food to eat. To be debt free and frugal enough that I don’t have to work if I didn’t choose to (parttime).

    Mostly, To have my health, and time and energy enough to enjoy my grandchildren :)

  27. Good, I thought the comments would bring a response and I was not disappointed.

    I’ll go through your thoughts with you:

    Yes, I agree that we need to spend more at home rather than helping other countries that would rather spend our own money pushing their agendas, slighting our fighting men and women and trying to hold down their own countrymen (as is the case with much of northern Africa who we help quite a bit). As far as the unwarranted war comment goes, I will remind EVERYONE that the Senate majority voted, the House of Representatives majority voted and the President passed the act declaring war on Iraq. It wasn’t just some guy with an agenda. There were many, many people in agreement for this thing to happen. And it wasn’t just Republican people. Everyone had a hand in what we are in now. To point the finger now is just hypocritical. (I would also like to say that for all the criticizing that has been done, less US soldiers have died in Iraq than US citizens died in the towers and surrounding area during 9-11. Just something to think about.)

    To say that the budget (our taxes) have been grossly mismanaged is to really be narrow-minded about what has been going on. There has been a deficit in this nation’s spending pretty much non-stop for the last 65 years. 10 Trillion in debt didn’t just appear in the last 7 years. Many many Dems and Reps had their fingers in that pie. It has not changed and will not change with some huffed-up Harvard professor who thinks he has all the answers. I don’t think that a war veteran will do enough to shake things up either. There’s just too much weight behind the Congress and the pre-established budgets to really have major change at this point. Did everyone already forget that we had all gotten a tax refund this past spring? What about the fact that the 700b bailout has seen the market drop even further? This should be evidence to the fact that no one can really know how all this stuff works. We just have to take the best guess and hope the whole ship doesn’t sink. I’d rather take slightly conservative guesses as opposed to wildly taxing and spending ourselves into oblivion.

    One point of my story is that gov. assistance is appropriate and can be a good thing. But it’s just that — ASSISTANCE. Not LIFETIME SUPPORT. Since that time, I’ve determined that the assistance system is broken. It sucks people in and doesn’t really give them the chance to get out. A limited time period or a 1:2 ratio of income to assistance money or something like that needs to be done to take the system and change it so that people don’t just take and take their whole lives and can actually contribute once in a while. When someone is given something, they do not appreciate it as they would when they had to work for it. I would say we are on the same page there, and seem to agree that the system is needed but needs revising.

    I am not saying that I don’t want to pay my part — I pay taxes already. But when the gov. can’t control their spending and still want more, then I have a problem with it. Would you continue to give your sister money after she spent it all at a casino and then can’t pay for gas? At some point you have to start saying “no” or else you won’t have anything left to give. You’d be left asking for help and someone else would have all your money.

    By the way, FD, I wouldn’t say that I feel rich. Rather I feel mostly satisfied and comfortable with my current position in life. That said, I’m not sure what it would take for me to really “feel rich”. Like J.D., I just don’t know if I would ever think of myself that way.

  28. @FrugalBachelor,

    There isn’t much point comparing house sizes in Europe and Japan to those in America since the land masses are so different. You could fit all of Europe and Japan into the space that the 50 US states take up. With room to spare. To say that we have a little room to move is putting it lightly. We also don’t have anywhere near the population of Europe and Japan combined. So, yes, our houses are a little bigger. It’s also kind of a small reason as to why our gasoline prices are a bit lower as well. On average, we have to drive a good bit further to get to the shops, to work, and to visit our families. So since we have space to spread out, our houses are a good bit bigger. We also pay a bit (read: a lot) less per square foot in most areas than they do for their houses in Europe and Japan.

    To agree with some of what you said, yes, many Americans confuse “needs” with “wants”. Saying “I need a cell phone” is just a load of rubbish. On the other hand the need to have shelter, food and clothing are actual needs. Though, this does not include stuffing your face with McD’s 4 times a day. If only we could get the average American to understand, they’d probably be pretty happy with what they have.

  29. DavidK – regarding the war in Iraq, of course I blame those who approved it, democrats and republicans alike. But it doesn’t change the fact that it was unwarranted. Whether it was the agenda of just “some guy” is debatable. To state that less soldiers have died in the Iraq war than in 9/11 is insulting to those who’ve died, on all sides, and to somehow imply that we’ve yet to reach some quota on American deaths justifies sending our troops to fight an unnecessary war is inappropriate at best. I hope that is not your implication, because I’m curious as to what it is to think about? Death is death, and should be avoided if possible. That’s my thinking.

    As for the deficit, yes, there has been one over the last 65 years. However, at times, it’s been on the decline (From Truman through Carter and again under Clinton) and at times on the rise (under Reagan, Bush and Bush). But it’s at its highest in 55 years, right now. To say that it has not changed and will not change under a certain person is lacking in knowledge. It’s clear that opportunities to keep the deficit on the decline have been squandered in recent history. I’m ready for that to change again.

    So let me ask you: Under Obama’s plan (we can name names, can’t we, instead of “he who shall not be named”), you stand to gain a tax break up to 3 times that under McCain. Why are you advocating that the rich shouldn’t have their taxes raised while yours would be cut? Are you not deserving? Sounds to me like you are. Why the die-hard conservative defense?

  30. @Maha, apparently you cannot see reason no matter the instance or cost. I will only leave you with these thoughts.

    I only pointed out the death toll in the war to let everyone take note that modern wars are far less full of murder than past engagements. This does not condone all the actions taken. To say that it was unwarranted is to basically deny that Hussein wasn’t an insane madman who murdered his own countrymen by the thousands every year. He killed them because they were trying to exercise some of their basic rights which we take for granted in this country. The right for you and I to say what we want when we want to. The right to assembly. The right to representation. They were killed for it by an increasingly psychotic dictator. Let’s not even get into the prisons and torture sustained by those who were not killed. Our nation has stepped in to prevent genocide before (many times in Africa), so in this instance, we stepped in again. Whatever the initial reasons where, we cannot just undo what has happened. We also cannot just walk away at a time like this. Unfortunately, the radical members of the Iraqi nation are not so keen on us sticking around and not letting them force another dictator into power. (Keep in mind that in that nation, you would not be able to speak your mind as you are doing here — especially as a woman.) I still say that to point fingers now is hypocritical. When we all saw the towers fall, we knew someone had to pay for it. Our actions in Afghanistan led to more intelligence being gathered in the Middle East and it turned out much training and financing was taking place out of Iraq. It seemed like a good decision at the time and we have paid a price for it. Keep in mind, we pay a price for everything we do. Inaction could have resulted in things being even worse now. No one can say.

    Apparently, you are giving more credit to the Democratic presidents than is due. Though Clinton did pass a more conservative budget early in his presidency, that was basically blown to bits by all the subsidies and entitlement programs that came along behind it. I will reiterate — at almost no point has the nation’s deficit gone down. Though I will grant that at times the rate at which the debt has grown has decreased, at almost no point was any money ever paid back. I still say that to point the finger at the last 7 years is quite narrow-minded.

    I just don’t believe that though Obama states that we will have reduced taxes, that situation will actually come into effect. SOMEONE has to pay for the socialized health care system. SOMEONE has to pay for all the foreign aid he is proposing. Why shouldn’t it be all of us? Whether it is us or the companies we work for, basically of us get it in the end. For all of the talk that has gone on, I just cannot believe much of it. Let’s put it this way — taxes were raised twice during Clinton’s administration. They have not been raised during Bush’s administration. In fact, we’ve had increased child tax credits, increased personal tax exemption and a stay on the inheritance tax increases. Now before you go and get all huffy about that, I’m not saying that Reps are better than Dems but that actions speak louder than words. I will not believe what a man says before he gets into office. I do believe what he does when he gets there. The view is MUCH different from the top and every single President has had to make decisions that were difficult and maybe even hypocritical.

    Let’s just agree to disagree and leave it at that.

  31. “Rich” is definitely a state of mind. And as one of those people that made over $250K for many years AND lived in one of the most high-cost areas in the nation (San Francisco Bay Area), I’m here to tell you that it’s a fallacy that we can “barely make it on that.” Oh brother!

    (And for most of my career, my income tax rate was as high or higher than is proposed by Obama). Even with all those taxes, and all that high cost of living I retired at 44.

    It’s all about choices and state of mind. I have no more income coming in from a job and I’ll tell you, I sure feel rich!

  32. Davidk, yes, we can agree to disagree, but you have not presented good enough arguments for me to understand your point of view in why you’re so pro-McCain on this tax issue. So my ability to understand reason is not at fault. I’ve never understood people who will vote against themselves. I have a dear friend who thinks like you do – her family income is significantly less than ours, yet she’ll never vote in a way that would truly be of benefit to her, yet her family growing up benefited from government programs, more so than my family (they also took great advantage of the assistance). I feel as though people like you should be given exactly what you ask for: no (or limited) government, no (or limited) taxes and wars at every opportunity – right or wrong. It would be you that would be most harmed, but then you would continue blaming the govt for your woes anyway. You want all the benefits that a govt can offer, but without an actual government. It’s such a contradiction, it boggles the mind.

    As for the war in Iraq, you say: “To say that it was unwarranted is to basically deny that Hussein wasn’t an insane madman who murdered his own countrymen by the thousands every year.” No, it is not to deny Hussein wasn’t a madman. It is to say it’s unwarranted because of the reason: weapons of mass destruction. Bush lied to this country. Hate to tell you, but anyone with half a brain could have foreseen what was to come in that country. To say the war “liberated” the people and gave them “freedom” is a crock. It was always about the oil. Whatever reason might have come up later to justify the war, it’s still a lie. The people of the country are worse off now than before. How many innocent Iraqi people have died as a result of the war? Their health is in shambles, many people have had to leave. If you think their prospects have suddenly improved now that Hussein is dead, you’re sadly mistaken. That country has been decimated for no reason. They did not ask for this war.

    I stand by my argument about the number of soldier’s lives lost in other altercations: It’s irrelevant as a justification for this war.

    Your statement: “I will not believe what a man says before he gets into office.” Then I recommend you don’t vote, because by your argument, how can you vote for McCain?

  33. Sorry Maha but somehow you are reading more into my comments than just the words before you. Never have I said that I do not want government or the benefits that come from it — I’ve simply said that they can do with what they have already. Limited government is a good thing in my mind. We don’t need more of it.

    I have also never stated who I would vote for or if I would even vote at all. Thanks for letting me know how you read between the lines — it has let me know that you see what you want to see.

    I am done. Please continue to assume whatever you want.

  34. After spending a week in Belle Glade, Florida a few years ago, I felt rich. You don’t have to go to a third world country to see cinderblock apartments with no running water.

    If you’re ever in the area (it’s about 40 miles east of West Palm Beach), I highly recommend you drive through Belle Glade. It really puts things in perspective.

    As for what’s rich, let’s just do some simple math. Assume someone makes an average of $40,000 over a 43-year career (ages 22-65). That person will make $1,720,000 total. The question is what will that person spend it on, and how much of it will be left at age 65. One who saves a lot of it, invests wisely, and retires a multimillionaire is considered rich. One who buys an expensive house and carries a mortgage for 30 years and gets new cars every 3 years and vacations regularly in south Florida probably won’t be considered rich at 65 because there won’t be a whole lot of that $1.7 mil left.

  35. DavidK, you seem to have started this thread with an interest in getting comments (your words). I took the bait. It has been an interesting discussion, but to suggest I’m reading more to what you say than there is is not true. I’m taking what you’re giving and responding in kind. The first paragraph in your most recent comment confirms my “assumptions” are on track. Furthermore, I would be very hard pressed to believe that you were planning to vote for Obama, based on everything you’ve said, so I don’t think concluding that you’d vote for McCain is out of the ball park. Also, why would I believe that anyone who brings up Obama’s tax plan has no intention of voting? What’s the point? So yes, I’ll admit I assumed you’d vote (if truth be told, I kind of take it for granted that people will do so). Lastly, I think you missed an opportunity to educate me as to why you’re conservative against Obama’s tax plan even though it’ll likely benefit you. I asked because I’m truly curious. Just because I’ll vote one way does not make me disinterested in why people vote another way. I think to understand oneself, it’s important to understand others. Not that you have to agree with the other perspective. In any case, I do hope you’ll vote…as it’s been said in various ways, it’s our greatest power as a people.

  36. Seems to have been an almost private conversation going on up there, but I felt a need to jump in…

    Just because a tax plan would benefit me does not mean it is a good plan. I believe it is inherently wrong for the USA…and what we should be voting for is for the good of the nation, not necessarily our little portion of the nation… therefore, I would not vote for that tax plan.

    Just because someone makes more money does not mean they should be taxed more. They do not receive more in benefits for their money, now do they? Over Taxing those who make more, and provide jobs in the process, is counter-productive. Keep taxing, and they will withdraw their jobs and benefits and go somewhere where they will not be taxed so high. Yes, they really will!

    This happens. Why do you think I chose to earn so little now? Because I was tired to death of being taxed so high on my income… and here in Oregon we also get a state tax on income…and on our federal taxes we are not even allowed to deduct all the state taxes we have to pay, which is an unfair burden as we get taxed on money we never ever see.

    I used to be an employer… two separate businesses…. it’s just not worth getting taxed to death and receiving no benefits for it. Now I work for someone else, draw my minimum pay, and feel better because I do NOT pay much at all in taxes which go to sometimes support those who will not work. They reap the benefits of my labor?… nope…as little as possible anymore. I’m tired of being used for my tax money. Another benefit of being debt free…. I don’t need much to live on and I don’t pay much in taxes…. my form of protest. (Back to topic – that’s my definition of rich… being able to not have to earn so much money anymore! )

    Now, what would happen if a lot more people who are tired of paying more than their fair share of taxes decided to do the same thing I did? There would be a large decrease in jobs. That’s why I will not vote for less taxes for myself if it means that those making more money are given a larger unfair burden. It’s not about me… it’s about good of the nation, one that needs to become healthy again.

  37. Marci, I agree with you. I just voted absentee and voted against all state and local tax increases. I also voted against retaining all judges. I feel that government at all levels is there to serve itself and keep growing larger. I protest voted for the second national election in a row for the presidental pick. Picked neither major party because it doesn’t matter who is chosen, the big business always wins at the expense of the taxpayer. One way to fix things is to nationalize the federal reserve system by the Federal government being able to issue money without interest loans to bankers. But that will never happen.

  38. I let the one go about how someone would choose to make LESS money just to avoid paying taxes on some of the additional income (?????) But nationalize the FED???? Now there’s a way to combat big government?????

    What is happening to common sense?

  39. @Retired Syd – As you said, “It’s all about choices and state of mind.”

    Being debt-free and having plenty saved for retirement, I have more than enough and do not need/want the extra money :)

    My life is much simpler and less stressed this way. I’m happy and content. Who could ask for more?

  40. Marci:

    You’re right about all of that, of course. I feel the exact same way. You have figured out what is enough for you and what makes you happy spending your time doing. That alone makes you “richer” than most.

  41. My definition of rich is the Walton family members (of Walmart fame) who are worth over 22 billion each. Also Lee Scott of Walmart Corporation who lately has managed to get around 22 million in compensation.
    My definition of poor is those who made the above rich by working for poverty wages at Walmart.

  42. I would say the other Walton family was the richer one – you know, the ones on Walton’s Mountain on TV years ago? They had their homestead and their family altogether and would able to take care of themselves up there on that mountain. Self sufficiency is my idea of rich – again – just having ‘enough’ makes me feel rich!

  43. I am comfortable, but I worry about inflation’s effect on my fixed income and net worth.

    Back in the 1970s we had essentially a decade’s worth of inflationary recession (1973-1981).

    Back then, $15k/year was a fine income.

    Not so much any more.

    There is no way current stimulus programs and future campaign promises can be paid for out of tax increases,

    Huge amounts of monetization will be needed.

    Expect “stagflation” to return with a vengence.

  44. Rich is being able to cover the costs of my needs like housing, food, etc. and the ability to look at my face in the mirror in the morning and know I didn’t get my money by screwing the public.

  45. I learned some things from my mother about saving money, but sometimes I let my friends get the best of me . They are always broke , but not me . I have a mortgage that is about half of what it costs to rent in my city ( AND THAT INCLUDES CONDO FEES! ). Anyway, I usually always have money except when I go out and get drunk with my friends . Then it’s me who picks up the tab because they lose track of how much they drink . There goes two weeks of groceries. Thanks guys.

    No wonder why they are such deadbeats , and they never pay me back. I’ll stay home next time and do something more productive like renovating my place and getting a six pack from the local liquor store . Bars are just a lame meet market anyway , unless there’s a good band playing.

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