What up Debt De$troyers! Today I have a killer guest post by my blogger buddy Mr. Groovy. As you know, there has been a lot of blame towards the 1% lately in the media. While this post’s view isn’t the popular opinion of a lot of Millennials, it’s an opinion that comes from wisdom and experience. Before you give in to your gut instinct to point fingers solely at the rich for our personal economic woes, at least give this premise and perspective on the 99 percent some thought! Enjoy 🙂 ~ M$M
We humans are very self-centered and tribal. And because of this, we have a hard time finding fault with ourselves and our fellow tribesmen. If something is wrong in our lives, it’s not because we screwed ourselves. Nor is it because one of our tribesmen screwed us. No, it’s because someone from another tribe screwed us.
Nowhere is this tendency to ignore self-sabotage and friendly fire more apparent than in the realm of income inequality. “We would be fine,” we assure ourselves, “if the dreaded 1 percent didn’t rig the system, deny us opportunity, export our jobs, and fleece the treasury.”
The 1 percenters, of course, aren’t angels. And I’m fully aware that they don’t give a rat’s a$$ about my well-being. But have they been largely, or even partially, responsible for the economic headwinds in my life?
To find out, I took fifteen minutes to catalogue the events and circumstances that frustrated my economic advancement. Here, then, is a quick stroll down misery lane.
- When I was in the sixth grade, fat Tommy Mullen stole my bike. And there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t prove it. And he was older, bigger, and stronger.
- My high school had the perfect environment for learning—competent and caring teachers, first-rate books and supplies, and a nerd-friendly atmosphere (no one was going to beat the crap out of you if you decided to use your brain). So what did I do with this wonderful opportunity? Squat. I had no stomach for work, so I did just enough to maintain a C average. I did do well enough on my SATs, though, to have a second-tier university take a chance on me. We’ll see how that gamble turned out in the next two bullets.
- My grades for my first semester at Buffalo University were three Cs, a D, and a withdrawal. I did much better in my second semester, managing to obtain a solid B average, but that didn’t stop me from getting expelled. You get completely blotto one night and smash a toilet in your dormitory and you can expect a stern rebuke. Fortunately for me, the school’s judicial system took pity on me and let me back in, providing I paid for the damage.
- When my junior year at Buffalo rolled around, I decided to major in sociology. Yes, I knew it was a lame major that had little value in the labor market, but I chose it anyway. Why? Partly because the girl I was in love with was a sociology major. But mostly because I was the same slacker I was in high school. I had no stomach for work.
- In the late 80s, I drove into Queens, NY, to watch a hockey game with a friend. When I returned to my car after the game, I found both windows on the driver’s side shot out, presumably by a BB gun.
- Not too long after the BB gun incident, a mechanic at Sears told me I had to replace my car’s drive shaft. The day after the alleged replacement, I left my house for work and found one end of my car’s drive shaft resting on the pavement. Not only had the mechanic failed to attach the drive shaft properly, he failed to install a new one.
- When I reached my thirtieth birthday, I had neither an emergency fund nor a retirement account. I did have a car loan and plenty of consumer debt, though.
- When I reached my fortieth birthday, I had neither an emergency fund nor a retirement account. I did have a car loan, plenty of consumer debt, and a mortgage, though.
- Within one month after moving to Charlotte, NC, I got a nice dose of southern inhospitality. Some brute smashed the passenger-side window of my Jeep and stole the radio.
Okay, that’s it for my tale of woe. Did you notice who was responsible for those economic setbacks? It wasn’t the 1 percent. That unscrupulous Sears mechanic who tried to rip me off was a 99 percenter. Fat Tommy Mullen, the BB gun vandal, and the radio thief were 99 percenters as well. And who forced me to be so utterly irresponsible with my education? It wasn’t George Soros and the Koch brothers. Likewise, who forced me to be a beer-swilling idiot who lived paycheck to paycheck and used debt to inflate his lifestyle? Hint: it wasn’t our most ostentatiously paid CEOs or hedge fund managers.
When it comes to assigning blame for the economic futility that characterized most of my life, here’s the unvarnished truth. First place goes to yours truly, by a wide margin. Second place goes to my fellow 99 percenters. And third place—a very, very distant third place, I may add—goes to the dreaded 1 percent.
You, of course, may scoff at the idea that the 1 percent had nothing to do with the economic storms in my life. And you’re welcome to that opinion. All I know is that once I got my financial act together—once I began to embrace the habits and strategies championed by the FI blogosphere (spend less than you earn, take advantage of your company’s 401(k) match, live modestly, stay out of debt, etc.)—the winter of my economic discontent was over. In fourteen years, I went from a financial basket case to a financial rock star on the cusp of early retirement. If the 1 percent really had it out for me, they’re not very formidable.
The ability to see faults in others while being blind to your own is something behavioral economists call blind spot bias. And we all, to one degree or another, suffer from it. This bias, in turn, is particularly troublesome when it comes to personal finance. So be on guard. You instinctively crave a scapegoat for any economic hardship you’re facing. And since this is an election year, there will be no shortage of politicians serving up the 1 percent as that scapegoat. You’ll be much more likely to conquer your financial demons, however, if you point the steely finger of indignation at yourself and your follow tribesmen.
Beware the 99 percent.
Mr. Groovy blogs at FreedomisGroovy.com about financial independence, saving, investing, education, and occasionally, government. Three years ago, he and his wife realized they could accelerate their path to retirement by tweaking their spending and saving habits. They plan to quit their jobs this year, after Mr. Groovy turns 55 in October.
Mr. Groovy has a master’s degree in public administration. He worked in local government for twenty years as a Highway Supervisor in New York. He hacked his way into learning database programming on the job, and is now a Program Manager for a company that does cost containment for Medicare and Medicaid.
What financial troubles have you had that were caused by yourself or the 99 percent? What do you think the 1 percent should take blame for? Please – no personal attacks and for the sake of everyone’s sanity here…no political debates!
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