The One Percent

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The One Percent

There's been a lot of talk in politics over the last two years about the "one percent" and the "one percenters". Usually it's a negative connotation. Today I'm going to forget about the political side of the discussion and focus on the financial side, which to me is much more interesting.

First off, "one percent" doesn't really mean anything. What does it really mean if someone is in the "one percent"?

Essentially, if you make more than about $344,000 a year or if your personal net worth is over $8.2 million, then congratulations, you're in the one percent.

Wow. That's a lot of money. I don't think most people realize this. That means if you make under $344,000 a year and you're worth less than $8.2 million, you're in the bottom 99% just like the rest of us poor schlubs. Somehow I think those protesters last year wouldn't consider you a "99%er" if you made, say, $250,000 a year. But again, I'm trying to avoid the political side of this (as difficult as that is).

An interesting side note is that if you make over $154,000 a year, you're in the top 5%, and if you make over $112,000, you're in the top 10%.  Amazingly, if you make just $66,000 a year, you're in the top 25%! It's a little depressing to think that 75% of the American population makes less than $66,000 a year. Inflation being what it is, $66,000 is not very much money. If you lived in the typical American city and had a kid or two, at $66,000 you'd be really, really strapped. Again, wow.

What kinds of jobs, businesses, or careers are most likely to get you into that 1%, $344,000 a year range? Glad you asked! There's a very cool chart the New York Times did located right here that illustrates this beautifully. Take a look. It's very illuminating.

Some of the jobs on there are the obvious ones, like managers, lawyers, doctors, and executives. Accountants and auditors are also clearly prominent. Industries such as banking and insurance are strongly represented. No surprise there. Sales is also strongly represented, and most people forget that being a commissioned salesperson is one of the fastest ways to get to very high income levels. If I didn't own my own business, I'd be in commission sales.

You'll also see some very weird stuff in there. Like secretaries. Secretaries? How many secretaries do you know that make over $344,000 a year? If you know any, could you give them my number and tell them I'm not married? And that I love them? Thanks.

Another huge category is teachers. Teachers? Really? Teachers? All this stuff I keep hearing about teachers not getting paid enough, and here they are, one of the biggest categories of the one percent! Hmmmmm. Looks like I'd better have a chat with my daughter's school. I had a feeling my property taxes seemed a little high...

Then we have retail sales clerks. Huh? That cute checkout girl at Target is making $344,000 a year? I had no idea. Hey, forget the secretary. I'll take that multimillionaire Target checkout girl. On her smoke break she could go buy me that new Lamborghini.

My point here is when you actually dig into something to look at the real numbers involved, you might be very surprised at what you find. $344,000 a year is lot of money, but it may not be as far beyond your reach as you might have once thought.

This article was originally published on September 18, 2012
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