There is something I have been noticing lately on my financial journey. There’s definitely social inequality, and life isn’t just easier when you have money. Life is WAY easier. Unfairly easy. Covid has made this painfully obvious to me.
Today, we are going to go to a dark place. But after that darkness I’ll shed some light with an action plan, it is darkest just before dawn after all.
Why should you come with me to this dark place? Because you need to follow the light, to set some financial goals to get yourself some financial privilege.
So today I will go over:
- I admit I’m super privileged because I’m rich now
- How COVID makes this disparity painfully visible
- The upward spiral of being wealthy
- The downward spiral of being poor
- An action plan for bringing financial privilege into your life
I always thought social inequality supposed to get better
I always thought over the course of my life, society would slowly become a more just and happy place to live. But in reality everything I have seen change has been in the wrong direction. Take Covid for example. Almost ALL of the negative consequences are happening to poor people. They’re the ones losing jobs, having to make tough choices, and falling behind on their mortgage payments. Hell, debt collectors are having a field day!
It’s a virus! It should be the last thing to discriminate! (If you lost someone to Covid my heart goes out to you. Death is sad).
Even worse, it seems as though all these negative consequences are only accelerating for some people and it doesn’t look like it will be changing anytime soon. So I really recommend that you and everyone you care for gets themselves some financial privilege.
Sure. It might be hard, but being on the wrong side of this coin is just too painful.
Financial Privilege – I’m dripping with it
My wife tells me I’m playing with fire in a bad way by writing this article but I’ve seen the writing on the wall and I really am trying to help. I won’t dance around it. I have LOADS of privilege and just the fact that it is possible to say that is a bad thing. I know that.
I’m a caucasion male who speaks fluent english and grew up middle class** in North America.
**I don’t really know the grading system. We had 2 cars, a house, some vacations and university education (although post secondary education is much easier to achieve in Canada).
But seriously that’s not the half of it. I have money. I worked hard for it, but now that I have lots of money there are no doors that can stay closed. And the door that is the most outrageously open is the one that lets me make money. When you have made lots of money, not only do you know how to make lots of money, but opportunities just fall into your lap.
Even in Oceans 11, there was one team member whose sole purpose was to be the money guy. It’s true in real life too. Motivated people will share their earnings very handsomely if you fund them (like in venture capital). People who need loans will offer up, mind-boggling terms to borrow from you. It’s ridiculous.
Now that I’ve been at this for a while, my ability to make money feels broken.
Being wealthy makes your life too easy. Luckily for you, my life’s mission statement is to make at least 6000 people into millionaires directly from reading my blog. Why is this my goal? Well, then they get to join the wealthy privileged club and have an easier life.
Also read: How to become a millionaire in 5 years
Covid was the breaking point for social inequality
COVID has not impacted everyone in the same way. People who started this recession with their finances in good shape are cleaning up.
These financially privileged people are the ones who have most likely aggressively developed themselves and probably have still-steady jobs with incredible pay-rates. They then used that to save and invest at a much faster pace than those around them.
On the other hand there are also the unprivileged, who have not kept up with the rapidly changing job market and have basically no savings. For whatever reason, they probably see the writing on the wall from rapidly advancing technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning but can’t figure out how to fight it.
Financially privileged people were not impacted by the pandemic as much as the unprivileged, if at all. Although the pandemic that has laid bare major differences between this distinction in people, this did not happen overnight.
People who have privilege
People who are winning right now aren’t just aggressively saving and investing. They have also invested in themselves to build a career that will let them invest faster. To build such a career you have to focus on building a skill set that is in demand is the best paying, and is recession-proof and pandemic-proof!
The end goal is to eventually be able to just use your money to control your own life. You know… financial independence. Mortgage payments getting you down? Pay it off. Your job is a drag? You can quit and go soul searching or do less of it.
Upgrading your career and income is a good starting point because even the most specialized careers are going to be disrupted by technology.
Careers of the wealthy are thriving
Wealthy people have focused on building their stealth wealth long before COVID. They looked at their industries and professions wisely. Many, like myself, focused on high growth sectors and the new digital economy. Maybe even looking at the highest paying or highest growing occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and focused on being a part of those industries to realize their goals faster. The economy has been very good to these people lately.
Finance and Technology rule the day.
Top jobs lately are either in Technology (big data, artificial intelligence, information security) or Finance (stock market, raising capital, liquidity, investment banking and low interest rates). As of July 2020 there were more than 30 million people who were unemployed in America as the economy shrank at a rate of 32.9%.
Meanwhile, the five biggest tech companies earned a whopping $28.6 billion in quarterly profits. The major investment banks all saw their trading revenues surge. These are the industries privileged people either worked for, offered their business services to, or invested in.
Fruits of privileged labor – Just look at COVID
Once you have wisely chosen what industry, profession, and skills you want to dive into, you can enjoy the fruits of your financially privileged labor.
Let’s look at 2020 for example. For wealthy people, it’s as if COVID never happened. They are able to continue working from their home getting their high wages. Your employer won’t want you stressing over annual reviews and appraisals either, so no more of that! Can’t arrange day care for your children? That’s okay, you won’t have to return to the office until…forever!
I talk openly about my part-time post retirement work in tech. Know what’s happening now? Work-load has been increasing for us and all of our customers. Order sizes and revenue are increasing. We are hiring more full-time positions!
I worked hard to get that job but it’s too good compared to even what my own neighbors are going through. Really, if the news didn’t exist I would barely know there was a recession.
On the other side, Low income jobs have been devastated
As the financially privileged remain largely unaffected from COVID, low-income jobs have been destroyed. According to the Federal Reserve, “Fifty-five percent of adults with family income less than $40,000 said they were doing okay financially, versus 95 percent of adults with income greater than $100,000.” Most jobs lost during recessions don’t come back anyway because they don’t require any specialized skill. Mostly, these jobs are routine tasks that could easily be automated and performed by robots.
Unprivileged were vulnerable well before the pandemic
The unprivileged were already in no position to weather an emergency, let alone a pandemic. Most of them could not afford an unexpected $400 bill. Incomes of the unprivileged have barely even kept up with inflation for decades.
How did it get this bad? Look at what’s happening in our society. Everything is mobile. Your friends are online. You can study, work, exercise, and buy food and clothes all online. You don’t need retail stores or hundreds of customer service reps anymore.
But you do need 1 programmer to systematize all those orders on your website and app. You need 1 information security analyst so that your sites and apps don’t get hacked. Moving from hundreds of employees to 2 lets those 2 skilled workers make a pile of money.
Those skilled people are still off coding away replacing more jobs as you read this. It’s not going to turn around and that’s why having a bad job is horrible and getting worse.
Look at these industries: the lower the pay, the more vulnerable the job. Not having super skills is a bad place to be!
Tremendous wealth has been created by investing
Once you have invested in yourself and reaped its rewards, investing in assets will be 10x easier and 10x more profitable. The past six months offered one of the best opportunities to invest in the stock market in the past decade.
Know who got to take advantage of that? People with money!
The privileged took the opportunity this year and were handsomely rewarded with the best quarterly return since the Q1’1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average returned 17.8% from March through June.
Well before the mass layoffs, a health crisis, and a collapsing economy, wealthy people were always focused on building skills that paid them the highest pay rate, and using their money opportunistically.
Even ignoring the stock market altogether, real estate has shown similar results after the Great Recession when home builders really suffered. Even though demand for homes recovered over time, housing supply never did.
COVID has made housing supply worse as people take houses off the market to implement social distancing, pushing prices higher.
I for one have seen mostly increases to my real estate investments from all this. One of my houses rose over $100,000 in value! Here is a plot of my rental income this year.
I gave some little discounts when Covid first hit (I’m not that nice…I just wanted to make sure they paid) but I’ve still brought in over $60K of rent this year.
Almost every person who is heavily invested has been cleaning up lately and if you were to plot wealthy people’s bank accounts, I doubt you’d see any hint of a recession.
Social Inequality has been getting horrible for a long time and it’s not getting better
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, “labor’s share of national income—that is, the amount of GDP paid out in wages, salaries, and benefits—has been declining since the 1980s in a number of countries, and notably the United States.” Every recession reinforces this and makes it worse. According to the Aspen Institute, employers have historically gotten lean during recessions.
During the last recession 30% of people who said they were temporarily laid off did not get their job back. This is because work of laid off workers is pushed onto those still employed and other jobs considered routine that don’t involve decision-making get automated.
While this has happened the stock market began its longest bull run in history, even further reinforcing a split in the world of the financially privileged and unprivileged. Hell, tons of people hit early retirement (myself included) near the end of that bull run.
I had about $1.5M at that point and I think that’s a kick in the teeth if I ever saw one. Some people are just getting back on their feet post-recession while others have amassed so much money they don’t even need to bother showing up to work.
So, the world sucks. How do you use this information?
After reading this you should feel rather ill if you’re not already highly-skilled or financially privileged. And that’s good, because I need you to get motivated. As I mentioned, things are not about to get better.
Sure, you should fight politically for what you believe in and maybe break down some barriers.*** But the most reliable way to break your current barriers is to take matters into your own hands and move yourself to the better side of social inequality. Yeah it will be harder for some than others but if you don’t start now, it will only be harder later.
***I’m not a democrat or a republican, I’m a Canadian. You’re all nuts to me!
Use this horrible, infuriating situation as motivation and power yourself to riches. Motivation is the real first step to gaining financially and you might as well use social inequality to power yourself over there.
I can’t stress this enough. (And write about this a lot.) Motivation is always step number one.
If you ever feel like watching Netflix instead of learning, if you ever feel like spending $20 on take-out instead of saving it, if you ever feel like zoning out and reading depressing news instead of upgrading your resume and applying for a better job – remember what motivates you!
Get a better job with better pay
People always ask me what they should be investing in. Start by investing in yourself.
Learn a specific skill that will increase your hourly pay rate. You’re an office assistant? Take an accounting course and in a few months’ time you have the skill set to be their accountant. You’re doing call center customer support? Get some training on a programming language and you can make a move into Technical Support.
Don’t let a pandemic stop you!
- Ask your boss if there are any skills you can focus on now that will help advance you (and if they can pay for it too!)
- Keep your eyes open for ways to move up in your existing career – and then to a more lucrative profession – and then to a better-paying company.
- Stay curious about concepts you know nothing about. Most people don’t get into investing, real estate, or business because they don’t know where to start. So invest time in learning.
- Same thing goes for professions. Twenty years ago, studying “arts” was financial suicide for most people. Now, being a writer or a web designer can bring in higher pay than being a college professor. Can you invest in any hidden talents?
- Are there any “hobbies” you can get into that will reward you on the side? If you take up tinkering with old cars – you’re just taking on more expenses, but if you take up reno-ing homes – you can convert your home into a quad and basically live for free.
Save and invest
Once you get skills that people will fight over and you’ve upgraded your income – don’t upgrade your lifestyle! Save money like your life depends on it (because it kind of does) and invest those savings!
I don’t really care what you put your money into, as long as you keep your eye and your motivation on getting to the financially privileged side of life.
For now, just remember that increasing your income and saving is more important than investing. (And when you’re ready to invest, I have a how-to guide tailored to your current wealth level.)
If you’re really stuck ask for help (from me!)
I know some people will have a hard time motivating thier way out of a bad situation. Some people will have problems seeing a solution too since thier situation feels unique.
Well, once you’re an expert a something you start to see patterns in ‘unique’ situations and since I do really want to help with your economic inequality I will do something I’ve never done before. For me, Mr time-obsessed this is the ultimate commitment.
I’ll offer my time.
If you send me an email (through the mailing list). I will look it over and give you some advice (just for the people who have big issues they can’t navigate please)
If you take me up on my offer you need to send 2 months of:
- Categorized expenses
- Changes in bank/investment balances
- So that I can see how your situation is changing and have useful thoughts.
TL;DR – social inequality
I know this was painful and I know I talk lightly about financial privilege but if you aren’t working towards getting on the easier side of life it seems like you are increasingly being swept away. And I do hope to see you on the FIRE escape.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.Chinese Proverb