15 Mar Is Financial Independence just for the privileged?
There’s one section of the new edition of Your Money or Your Life that was taken out by my editor that now seems so relevant to me: the effect of race, class and gender on our financial prospects. Mind you, people from a hotel maid to global leaders have used the program for their own financial liberation, but the current crop of people on the FI path now confirms what we saw 25 years ago: the program fits educated left brain people to a T.
In recent years the dark sides of our nation’s way of doing business are surfacing in waves: Black Lives Matter exposing a kind of new Jim Crow, the sexual abuses in schools, workplaces, professions, spiritual centers drawing women out of silence, the Paradise Papers pulling away the Wizard of Oz curtain on how much corporations, educational institutions and wealthy people steal from public coffers through offshore banking and on and on.
Justice is up for us as a society, so this section on how justice impacts the FI path seems relevant to share:
The Starting Line
Missing from the above examples (of people who’ve made it) is any mention of race, class or gender. Life in the industrialized world is not an equal opportunity employer. In comparison to other industrialized nations with strong social safety nets, providing free education, day care and health care, the United States, according to the World Bank as well as the Economic Policy Institute, is almost at the bottom of the list. The logic of money has confused us into thinking that if something is not monetized it’s not worth anything, so people disadvantaged by prejudice and history or youthful folly are handicapped. This does not mean everyone in each category is hobbled or advantaged. It means that still in the USA, race, class and gender matter.
Think of it like runners on a track.
White men with well-off parents and prestigious degrees likely have their toes on the starting line of professional lives. They can spring forward when the starting gun booms.
White kids with poor parents may not have their pick of schools or their pick of jobs. Their starting line is behind the thoroughly advantaged. They have to run faster to gain ground – and many do.
White kids who skip college might come from behind and end up streaking past those with privilege, but many don’t.
Women have struggled to enter every male-dominated profession, but their starting gate is still behind men’s. US government statistics reveal that a woman earns only 79% of what a man earns, which, by retirement age, means they end up with 44% less retirement income[i].
For people of color, the starting line is still further back, even with all the gains in the last 50 years. Add growing up on public assistance in the failing neighborhoods of this country and it’s a miracle if you even choose to compete. Pew [ii]research reveals that blacks earn 75% of whites and Hispanics even less.
With the policies that built our middle class now well on their way to losing their teeth, with the promise of “freedom” a shrewd way for the government to abandon its important role of assuring shared prosperity, YOYO rules.
Leo ChenPosted at 16:02h, 03 April
They say that cream rises to the top and generally speaking I’ve found that to be true. But life isn’t linear and it’s definitely much more complex. Plus if you believe that you’re so damned smart, then you should challenge yourself to become an employer vs. being an employee.
My point is that regardless of the circumstance that you or I was born into, regardless of the hand of cards that was dealt to each of us, the purpose of the game is to play your hand to the best of your ability. And know that after you’re dealt that hand, you will be dealt another hand and another.
Somewhere along the line, it may dawn upon you that we’re all in a kind of classroom or school. And we’re asked to learn/discover why we’re here. How we answer that important question will affect how we decide to spend/invest our time here.
Joanne SydelmanPosted at 12:26h, 02 May
I agree that those of us who went to college, worked our whole life, where raised in middle class in the 60’s realized that the rules of the game changed sometime in the 1980’s. Greed and devised schemes allowed by Congress prevailed. I believed that goodness wins over evil and in the end we have to live in a decent way.
James HazelwoodPosted at 11:11h, 15 May
This is such a valuable blog post. I wish your editor had left the chapter in the book. It’s just true. I have tremendous advantages as a tall white man born into a family that valued education. All of those aspects of my life give me a step ahead, yes even being tall. (Tall people have statistically earned more as an example)
A black person has to prove themselves three or four times more valuable in order to achieve the same levels that I have. I know many white people, who are friends of mine, just don’t see it this way. But it’s true.
Chris TaftPosted at 02:06h, 24 May
Obviously some have advantages that others do not. While it may not be possible for all of us to reach financial independence in our 30s, the techniques and ideas may be the difference between surviving a spate of bad luck or going broke. For others it may mean the difference between retiring at 65 or not retiring at all. When I found myself divorced with a toddler, a job that barely paid the bills, in my mid 30s, books and articles on frugality, money management and financial independence gave me a sense of control of my life. I retired at 61, slightly early retirement, a lot later than many fire folks, but way better than I would have expected at that low point.
cleoPosted at 13:01h, 03 October
Thank you for writing this Vicki!