Affluenza Concerns

Posted by: VR00

Affluenza Concerns - 05/23/14 11:31 AM

Hopefully someone can offer some advice. My DD7 comes back from school asking if we are rich. Apparently there was some kids discussion in school. My automatic answer was no we are middle-class. But she retorted how come we own a XYZ (XYZ being a clear marker) if we are not rich.

I am not sure how to handle this discussion. Can anyone offer a perspective.
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/23/14 11:40 AM

I treat all discussions like this (where there is no objective sort of "truth" as far as I can tell) as ones where context is the more critical thing to provide.

So provide context-- what does "poverty" mean? Who is "poor" and what does subsistence level mean in various places? Is your community diverse in S/E terms? If so, examples should be abundant, and if not, that is in and of itself a major point for discussion.
Posted by: ashley

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/23/14 12:00 PM

We have had these talks from age 4 onwards when DS started to understand what being rich and poor means. He is severely affected by the thought of homeless children, hungry children, homeless adults and poor people. He once told me that he hates billionaires because they like to amass all that money for themselves and they don't share! Needless to say, we have had many discussions on capitalism, free market economies, socialism, communism etc. I have pointed out the contributions of philathropic billionaires who have taken up causes that governments could not fix.

I always say that being rich and poor are relative. Our family has enough to eat and live on compared to billions of other families (especially in the third world) - to them, we look very rich. I also tell him that I consider our family not rich compared to people with millions and billions of dollars in assets. I tell him that we belong to a salaried class of people who depend on their paycheck and the hours we spend for the employer for the money we make. He comes back and asks how we could afford a house, an xyz brand of car, school fees, extracurriculars and good quality food - I resort to humor and tell him that those are the reasons we are not rich - we spend all our money on those things with nothing more left in the bank smile
Posted by: notnafnaf

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/23/14 12:35 PM

This topic is of interest to me... although right now, the concern we are facing from DS is whether we would run out of money to be able to keep the family intact. But I do expect that he becomes more aware of the immediate world around him, that he may become more aware of rich vs poor and what that means, so it is interesting to me to see how others handle that.

DS3 started to ask us earlier this year - after we read a story of 3 little pigs, where it mentioned that the reason that the 3 little pigs were sent to make their way in the world because the sow had no money to keep them - whether we had enough money to keep him and his sister with us and what would happen if we did not have enough money one day...
Posted by: ljoy

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/23/14 01:25 PM

I was highly impressed by this picture book, which turns the concept of rich and poor around. The child in the book is from a family where the parents have decided they value certain immaterial things over money. It might have a place in a discussion of wealth and 'being rich'.

The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
Posted by: 22B

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/23/14 01:28 PM

Here's a webpage to convert household income to a percentile (2012 numbers).
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/15/business/one-percent-map.html?ref=business&_r=0
Posted by: bluemagic

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/23/14 02:04 PM

Originally Posted By: 22B
Here's a webpage to covert household income to a percentile (2012 numbers).
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/15/business/one-percent-map.html?ref=business&_r=0
That is nifty. I was going to respond that it depends on where you live. But this does take that into account.
Posted by: VR00

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/24/14 08:33 PM

I like the line reasoning articulating that we need to work hard for the living and that is why we can afford the things and not much more. Hopefully will help keep them grounded.

BTW the wealth percentile seems quite besides the point. :-) we are trying to argue our way down not up!
Posted by: 22B

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/24/14 08:56 PM

Originally Posted By: VR00
I like the line reasoning articulating that we need to work hard for the living and that is why we can afford the things and not much more. Hopefully will help keep them grounded.

BTW the wealth percentile seems quite besides the point. :-) we are trying to argue our way down not up!


So your percentile is high? It sounds like you are rich! grin
Posted by: JonLaw

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/24/14 09:29 PM

Originally Posted By: VR00
Hopefully someone can offer some advice. My DD7 comes back from school asking if we are rich. Apparently there was some kids discussion in school. My automatic answer was no we are middle-class. But she retorted how come we own a XYZ (XYZ being a clear marker) if we are not rich.

I am not sure how to handle this discussion. Can anyone offer a perspective.


You are rich!

Embrace your wealth and have your daughter embrace the power that comes from being to the manor born!

Also, provide instruction on the appropriate social requirements of noblesse oblige.
Posted by: 22B

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/24/14 09:46 PM

Originally Posted By: VR00
But she retorted how come we own a XYZ (XYZ being a clear marker) if we are not rich.


Some people who own a XYZ aren't rich. They're just up their eyeballs in debt.
Posted by: AvoCado

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 12:33 AM

We just say, yeah, we are pretty rich. Does it matter if you are? Why necessarily argue your way down?
I do however emphasize that while we're lucky/hardworking/talented, that gives us a responsibility to help others, which is why we volunteer and donate money and items.
Posted by: cammom

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 06:23 AM

I tell DS that we're not rich, but we're comfortable. If he enjoys our comfortable lifestyle, he will need to work hard like his parents and get a good job some day.
Posted by: AvoCado

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 03:15 PM

Work smarter, not harder! smile Do what you love is what I always tell my kids - work because you love it, not because you're trying to be rich. I can't imagine being 8 and studying hard at school because I'm concerned about my income at 40.
If we'd listened to our parents, DH and I would be an accountant and a pharmacy assistant respectively. And we'd probably we poorer because we'd suck at those jobs! We're both in creative industries. Honestly, pharmacy assistant. The EXACT opposite of everything I'm good at (rolling eyes at oblivious parents)
Posted by: ruazkaz

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 04:29 PM

Don't knock being an accountant. I never loved it but became one and was able to retire at six years ago at 40...

I agree you should not do something you hate but not sure I think kids should be told to do what they love if it is unlikely to pay their bills.
Posted by: AvoCado

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 05:03 PM

No, not knocking it, but it's not what DH would have liked or been good at. But still don't think I'd tell my kids to do anything other than what they love smile You can't pay bills struggling in a miserable job you're no good at. My goals for them and us would be to be happy in our work, not to aim to retire by 40. Which does sound nice though! - what are you doing in your retirement?
Posted by: Dandy

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 08:24 PM

Our kids have an interesting perspective. As we have many extended family members still living in a third-world country, our kids consider themselves wealthy beyond all measure (we're probably upper-middle-class-ish).

For some families around the dinner table, "Clean your plate, there are starving kids in ..." is often just a trite reminder not to waste food. In our house, we know some of those struggling by name.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 08:50 PM

I think it's easy to get bogged down in the financial considerations of wealth without taking stock of intangible assets. I'd mention those, too.

As a SAHM, I get to experience all of my son's milestones first-hand. I'm there to shape his character, support him, know him intimately, and enjoy little moments that will never repeat themselves, which would go unnoticed by someone else. That's my treasure, and I have a huge stockpile. Even better, this treasure exhibits increasing marginal utility! (I jest, but almost not quite.)I wouldn't trade the utility DS and I derive from my being at home for many multiples of my opportunity cost, which itself is high. Isn't that a flavour of being rich?

The loss of my income was a significant hit to us financially, but it was a conscious choice and we live comfortably on my husband's professional income. We don't own a car, we don't take vacations, and we live in a small urban loft instead of a large single family home. Instead, we invest heavily in human capital--our own and DS'--and spend a LOT of time together making memories because those are our priorities.

We are human capital and relationship rich. I wouldn't have it any other way but, had DH and I not been high income earners independently, our chosen lifestyle would have been infeasible in our high cost of living city and given our student debts.

We aren't in the 1%, where we'd be if I was in the labour market, but then again I value my son more than a Maserati or a beach house. So am I richer than the 1% because my psychic consumption set expands as compared to my working consumption set, even though I'm well below that percentile financially? I'd say absolutely. Your utility curve might differ.
Posted by: Ivy

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/25/14 11:49 PM

Portia, I think you have the right idea. We also discuss how different jobs mean you might have to live in different parts of the country. DH and I require at least a medium-sized city for our work. Living in the country requires different career choices.

As for talking the level "down," I'm not sure that's the direction I'd go. After all, each and every one of us are in the 1% -- even the .1% -- when compared with the rest of the globe. An awareness of the differences in how people live and what they have can be very useful. But in the end "rich" isn't a word with much concrete meaning. I'd say we are very fortunate to have what we do and that it's pointless to compare against someone else.

I have a friend who, with her DH, bought a boat and sailed the oceans for 6 months while homeschooling their three kids. To me this sounds inconceivably lavish... but they were anything but rich at the time. It was just a series of choices and tradeoffs they made.
Posted by: ColinsMum

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/26/14 04:16 AM

My parents brought me up on "do what you love" and I do enjoy what I do, but honestly, I sometimes wonder whether I might have enjoyed the much better paying career I once seriously considered (was offered a position in, turned it down to do a PhD) as much. And while in early adulthood I didn't care about money at all, now it would be nice to feel we could send DS to any school without worrying about the fees at all. I will be making sure my DS knows about all these feelings when the time is riper!
Posted by: ultramarina

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 08:51 AM

Quote:
We discuss how job pay rates are tied to unique or unusual skills.


Welllll...maybe.

My DH has some very unique scientific skills that required years of study and some unusual ability. Unfortunately, the world does not pay people well for these skills.

I could certainly come up with other examples...
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 09:02 AM

Yes, SOME unique skills are much more highly compensated than others.
Posted by: Dude

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 09:12 AM

Skills are just as prone to nonsensical pricing as anything else in the market, because the market is people, and people are often irrational.
Posted by: Tallulah

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 09:39 AM

I don't think anyone could argue that lawyering and banking are unique skills, but they're [SPAM] highly compensated.

Originally Posted By: 22B
Originally Posted By: VR00
But she retorted how come we own a XYZ (XYZ being a clear marker) if we are not rich.


Some people who own a XYZ aren't rich. They're just up their eyeballs in debt.


Possibly true, but I don't teach my children to make that assumption. Instead we talk about values and choices and priorities. If my priority was to own a private plane I would make that happen, probably by doing a job I don't enjoy (everything I like pays peanuts) and sacrificing other things. The comparison in child terms can be as simple as having a cheap bike and a scooter or a really nice bike. Or hours of a parent away from home, ie: if we wanted to have xyz, Daddy would have to stay at work for an extra hour every day (spurious, because he's not hourly, but helps then understand the tradeoffs in spending).
Posted by: Thomas Percy

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 10:40 AM

I do think we have to be careful about teaching our children to only pursue what they love. I was deeply influenced by such thinking as a child. You know, the kind of quotes such as "I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun." One danger is that sometimes what they love is not practical. Another danger is that no matter how much you love something it is hard to maintain that love if you have to do it professionally.

I was practical enough to get into a profession that provides a good life style. I cannot say that my job don't feel like work. Assuming working as a highly educated individual, all of our work has certain consumption value, but with exception of the truly few lucky ones, we are working for a paycheck to provide for our kids and family in our lifestyle. I think most of us wouldn't stay in our profession on a full time basis if we are independently wealthy. I know I won't. I hope my child will know that it is noble to put in a day's work to support himself and his family. Of course, I hope he chooses wisely and find something he is good at and enjoys most of the time. But I hope he does not have the kind of disappointment that I had when I was younger for not being able to love working as much as other leisure activities.
Posted by: cmguy

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 11:09 AM

http://o.seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2020645607_bizburns14xml.html

A helpful 4 question "wealth test":

4) You are at a cocktail party and a stranger asks, “What do you do?”

[if you are wealthy] The only acceptable answer here is to remember your Jane Austen. Give the stranger your best disdainful Darcy look and say, “In the event of what?”
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 11:44 AM

grin LOVE that.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 11:52 AM

Originally Posted By: tallulah
I don't think anyone could argue that lawyering and banking are unique skills, but they're [SPAM] highly compensated.


I'll bite. Good, effective, knowledgeable lawyers and bankers are unique and can create substantial economic value. It takes a lot of skill, experience, dedication, and interpersonal skills to turn one of those professions into a successful, long-term career, especially at the international level. Just like with any knowledge-based industry, people at the forefront have to be innovators and effective leaders, and those skills certainly aren't abundant when you've already whittled down the field to folks who:

A) Have (a) relevant degree(s) and knowledge (CAUTION: credentials =/= knowledge!)
B) Are socially adept, particularly in environments filled with hostile personalities
C) Are willing to work 90+ hour weeks for the rest of their lives
D) Like what they do

As with anything in life, you get what you pay for. Firms take a gamble that they won't choose a lemon and have to pay well to attract real talent. There are a lot of lousy bankers and lawyers out there masquerading as good ones, which colours the perception of the professions.

Now, you won't hear me saying that other professions--like scientific researchers, roboticists, or educators-- who are paid less are somehow less noble. We just live with the reality that markets can only effectively compensate what they value and aren't myopic enough to fail to observe/ foresee. (And that's assuming some benevolent government dictator hasn't made a dog's breakfast of market dynamics already, which further muddies market foresight.)

The reasons bankers and lawyers are paid well relative to their value creation are liquidity and measurability. Their output is money, which has immediately and universally recognizable value and doesn't need to be converted through a subjective utility function. The second you enter the realm of heterogeneous subjective valuations, uncertainty, myopia, and different intertemporal discounting factors, prices won't reflect the intrinsic value of the activity. Try rallying the same consensus around the discovery of an exoplanet or a new dinosaur fossil. Humans are terrible...with a capital T!... at valuing the future and placing estimates on improbable events.

So, to the point of the thread, hopefully our children will choose a set of career paths (deliberately plural) that they at least enjoy, because most of us will be underpaid relative to the intrinsic value of our work at almost anything we do. At the heart of this, IMO, is building a diverse skill set that blends personally gratifying and technical abilities.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 11:55 AM

Originally Posted By: cmguy
http://o.seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2020645607_bizburns14xml.html

A helpful 4 question "wealth test":

4) You are at a cocktail party and a stranger asks, “What do you do?”

[if you are wealthy] The only acceptable answer here is to remember your Jane Austen. Give the stranger your best disdainful Darcy look and say, “In the event of what?”


Put that on a t-shirt! smile (Says the woman who has bought her husband shirts with jokes about Schrodinger's Cat and thorium.)
Posted by: Bostonian

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 12:05 PM

Originally Posted By: aquinas
Originally Posted By: tallulah
I don't think anyone could argue that lawyering and banking are unique skills, but they're [SPAM] highly compensated.


I'll bite. Good, effective, knowledgeable lawyers and bankers are unique and can create substantial economic value. It takes a lot of skill, experience, dedication, and interpersonal skills to turn one of those professions into a successful, long-term career, especially at the international level. Just like with any knowledge-based industry, people at the forefront have to be innovators and effective leaders, and those skills certainly aren't abundant when you've already whittled down the field to folks who:

A) Have (a) relevant degree(s) and knowledge (CAUTION: credentials =/= knowledge!)
B) Are socially adept, particularly in environments filled with hostile personalities
C) Are willing to work 90+ hour weeks for the rest of their lives

I agree with most of what aquinas wrote about law and finance, but one reason to work long hours in these fields in your 20s and 30s is to be able to retire or at least downshift in your 40s. Also, the hours of traders (as opposed to bankers) are usually not that long in my experience. Shortly after the markets close, they go home.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 12:21 PM

Originally Posted By: Bostonian
Originally Posted By: aquinas
Originally Posted By: tallulah
I don't think anyone could argue that lawyering and banking are unique skills, but they're [SPAM] highly compensated.


I'll bite. Good, effective, knowledgeable lawyers and bankers are unique and can create substantial economic value. It takes a lot of skill, experience, dedication, and interpersonal skills to turn one of those professions into a successful, long-term career, especially at the international level. Just like with any knowledge-based industry, people at the forefront have to be innovators and effective leaders, and those skills certainly aren't abundant when you've already whittled down the field to folks who:

A) Have (a) relevant degree(s) and knowledge (CAUTION: credentials =/= knowledge!)
B) Are socially adept, particularly in environments filled with hostile personalities
C) Are willing to work 90+ hour weeks for the rest of their lives

I agree with most of what aquinas wrote about law and finance, but one reason to work long hours in these fields in your 20s and 30s is to be able to retire or at least downshift in your 40s. Also, the hours of traders (as opposed to bankers) are usually not that long in my experience. Shortly after the markets close, they go home.


The hours can still be brutal into your 40s and beyond, you just get more control over when you work your (now) 70-80+ hours. But I agree.
Posted by: Ametrine

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 05/27/14 01:13 PM

I once heard someone from the so-called elite upper class refer to people who aren't able to live to a high standard without working as "self-feeders".

We are poor if held to that criteria.

DS has asked if we are rich and I've explained where we stand in the United States, both in this century and as compared to centuries past. Then we went on to talk about where we stand as compared to the billions on the planet today.

It opened up some interesting conversation about the worth of wealth in a person's life. He realized that a person can have monetary wealth yet be poor.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Affluenza Concerns - 03/03/21 07:25 AM

ljoy, here is a video of the book you recommended, The Table Where Rich People Sit, being read aloud:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1xQIpupbXM
"The Table Where Rich People Sit"
written by Byrd Baylor
illustrated by Peter Parnall
copyright 1994
posted to the YouTube channel of Sol Stories
on May 4, 2020

Amazon link - https://www.amazon.com/Table-Where-People-Aladdin-Picture/dp/0689820089