Thursday, December 16, 2010

What is Rich?

What defines rich?

As a scientifically trained person I think using numbers. I define things by numbers. I answer questions by using numbers. Here is my attempt to answer this question with numbers. Here we go...

Let us start with monetary value. For the sake of my simplicity we will use the United States Dollar. Does being a millionaire mean you are rich? There were 10 million millionaires in the world in 2008. The same article suggests that there were then 103,320 people worth more than $30 million. Does having over 30 million mean you are rich? Yes. If they do not qualify as rich who does? The same goes for the other 9.9 million regular millionaires. A million dollars is not nearly what it used to be. Many people have that much when they set out to retire, yet out of more than 6 billion people in the world only 10 million have that kind of money. When you can buy a Ferrari, a Lambourgini, and an Austin Martin the same day you are rich. 

If a million dollars makes you rich, how much less makes you rich?

Next, we will look at percentages. Starting with the millionaires, 10 million out of 6.7 billion means you would be in the richest .15% of the world's population. That is one rich person and 669 not so rich people. That is an incredibly exclusive club. Surely being rich is not as exclusive as one out of 670 people. What about the richest one percent of the world?

In 2000 the richest 1% owned 40% of the wealth. The same study says that in that year $500,000 was needed to belong to the richest 1% of the world and $61,000 to belong to the richest 10%. If you just want to beat the Jones' and get into the top 50% that requires $2,200 in assets. 

$2,200. 

Math is incredibly good at breaking down arguments into yes and no, true or false, and right or wrong. In this case let me define people as either rich or poor. Thumbs up or thumbs down. On or off. 0 or 1. The Haves and the Have Nots. With half of the world population on each side that line, at least in the year 2000 broke at $2,200. 

What about the middle class? Well, it's a great ideal and a huge component of modern societies, but how do you define it? The middle 50% or the middle 80%? That I do know know, but for my argument I am suggesting that a person is either rich or poor.

I need only look around my room to know that I am very rich. (Sure assets minus liabilities mean I have a negative net worth, but my assets are certainly in the thousands of dollars.) It's humbling.

I feel guilty just saying that I am rich. People are starving and I own $800 just in mountaineering boots. What makes me worthy of being rich compared to billions of others? I hope I help.

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