Why Do People Like To Reveal Their Income?

The Grapes of Wrath In NapaIt hit me the other day that none of the people I know in the top 1% have ever revealed their incomes to me. I’ve got a good idea of how much they make and what their assets look like. But beyond some vagaries, details have never been disclosed. Contrast a top income earner’s desire for privacy to those who make less than $380,000 a year and income revelation is much more common.

In the post, “Never Tell Anybody Your Income” I highlight all the downsides of revelation. Most agree, but some don’t because they say it “inspires others” or simply don’t care. There may be some sort of inspiration involved, but what about those who get inspired to rob you for having more? It’s dangerous to hover outside of the middle class in today’s society. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, the wealthy Chinese were often flogged and publicly ridiculed.

If you read The Millionaire Next Door by Dr. Stanley, you will see the constant theme of being discreet with one’s wealth – drive old cars, wear discount clothing, live in a modest house and so forth. At the same time, it’s no fun being so parsimonious that you miss out on all the spoils of wealth. The large majority of surveyed participants are also older than the median American age of 35. Such millionaires spent their lifetimes building wealth. They aren’t about to have some stranger or the government try and take it away.

There are two main goals for this post. The first goal is to better understand why some people enjoy talking about their incomes. The second goal is to find a balance on this site for my own income revelations to be used as examples in future posts. It’s much more useful to see actual figures in an example rather than talk in percentages. At the same time, I don’t want to come across sounding like an arrogant bastard.


Is Not Wanting To Be Rich Selfish? Ways To Help Others If You No Longer Seek Or Have Wealth

After working for 10 consecutive years post college, I no longer wanted to be rich. Instead, I wanted to be free and went John Galt in an attempt to unplug from the Matrix. It took three more years of planning but I finally managed to escape, or so I hope.

There’s just one nagging feeling of guilt that is weighing me down ever since I finished my 2012 taxes. The guilt is that I will no longer be able to comfortably afford to donate as much to charitable causes. What do I say to an organization who has come to expect a $2,000 check every winter now that I can no longer afford to do so? Sorry?

Am I supposed to simply block out all the stories of hope such donations provides to foster children? I don’t know. I always think back to 1989 when I went on vacation with my parents to the west shores of Malaysia. We visited a temple famous for its ancient relics. I was warned not to give anything to the begging mothers and children who eyed us as we stepped through the gates. I couldn’t help myself so I gave one child one ringgit. As soon as I did, I was mobbed and had to be rescued. At age 12 I wanted to become rich so I could give everyone enough ringgits so nobody would ever have to fight over money again.

Ever since the financial crisis began at the end of 2008, the world has gleefully bashed the rich for our many financial problems. You couldn’t read a newspaper or watch a TV clip without witnessing blame being assigned to a “greedy 1%er” for someone else’s decision to buy a home, a car, or an expensive education they could not afford.

When things are going swell, it’s OK for rich people to make money so long as we are also making money. When things turn south, it becomes intolerable for the rich to stay rich while we lose our shirts. It’s ironic because during the depths of financial chaos, I was $8.5 billion dollars closer to Warren Buffett’s net worth given that’s how much he lost. Long live the middle class!

Over the past four years I hope many of you have come to the conclusion that most rich people are not evil. Most start off middle class and work very hard to get to where they are. Sure, some are extremely lucky, however, many created their own luck through risk taking. The top 10% of income earners pay 70% of all federal income taxes. Some are so rich that on top of all the taxes they pay, they even start independent foundations or grants in higher education to help everyday people get ahead.


My Poorest Friend Is One Of The Richest People I Know

Tennis Serve At Tiburon ChallengerIt doesn’t matter what time of day I contact Jaabir to play tennis, he’s always available. Jaabir is a certifiable tennis junkie and I love him for it. It’s easy to go a little stir crazy working from home. Over the past eight months since I left corporate America, Jaabir has proven to be a wonderful outlet in the often lonely world of entrepreneurship.

You might think Jaabir has a tremendous amount of wealth to not have to work for the past three years. Skeptics might assume a rich spouse, government assistance, an inheritance, or a lottery win to provide him so much freedom. I can assure you that Jaabir is neither a self-made millionaire nor is he good looking enough to have a sugar plum. Jaabir simply found happiness by not requiring much at all.

Will Marrying Someone With Bad Credit Hurt My Credit Score?

Bitten Chocolate

Love is love. Ever since I was a wily teenager, I’ve had the romantic notion of being with a woman I care about no matter what her financial circumstance. My father used to subtly encourage me to meet some of his friend’s daughters who so happen to come from wealthier backgrounds. They were never my type unfortunately. Only until I reached college did I realize he was trying to play match maker to ensure my financial well-being.

I remember bringing one girl home to “hang out” at the age of 13. When my parents found out she was raised by a single father, I could sense my parent’s lack of enthusiasm. Or maybe they just didn’t like what we were up while they were still at work! My parents didn’t say anything mean, they just weren’t supportive of my latest fling. They encouraged me to stop messing around and start studying instead.

I also recall talking to my parents at the age of 14 about dating a real life princess. Her name was Tengku Zarina and I was smitten. Zarina was of Malaysian royalty and my parents were fascinated by the potential. Unfortunately, my pursuance failed since she was two years my senior. Girls hate younger boys, which is why single men love growing old. If you’ve wondered why men tend to only date younger women, now you know it’s all the woman’s fault!


The SFJAZZ Center Opening Is A Celebration Of Diversity


Josh Redman & Joe Lovano

This place is yours now,” began Bill Cosby, MC of the SFJazz Center’s long-awaited grand opening. I couldn’t agree more Bill as I looked around the 700-seat auditorium to see everyone from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to your everyday jazz lover cheer.

The one thing I cherish about San Francisco is its diversity. According to the 2010 United States Census, the ethnic makeup and population consists of: 48.5% Whites, 33.3% Asians, 15.1% Hispanics, 6.1% African Americans, 0.5% Native Americans, 0.4% Pacific Islanders, 6.6% from other races, and 4.7% from two or more races. Only New York City and Honolulu can rival such a mix.

With diversity comes acceptance of various cultures. With diversity comes tolerance of religion and sexuality. With diversity comes the strong fight for equality every single day. I wouldn’t have it any other way. In another 118 years, I’m sure all of America will look like San Francisco. If I’m wrong, you’ll just have to let me know.

The SFJazz Center in Hayes Valley is a product of a $64 million fund raising effort led by my friend Robert Mailer Anderson. Without Robert’s leadership and the collective will and generosity from donors, America’s first stand-alone jazz center would not exist today. The 35,000-foot space took over two years to build and is equipped with a digital lab and education center along with its 700 person capacity. There is truly no bad seat in the house.


Dealing With Money Envy: Keeping The Joneses At Bay

Toyota 4Runner 2013 LimitedAs I was taking in the trash bins this morning, I noticed my neighbor pull out of his garage in a brand new, $48,000 Toyota 4Runner Limited Edition SUV. Before now, all I saw was a crappy 1996 Honda Civic with dings everywhere come and go.

The 4Runner has a special place in my heart because it was the car I most longed for in high school. All the rich kids had the Toyota 4Runner, and I had a bike. Shitake fudge mushroom! With a nice 4Runner, it was easier to get the girls, which was frankly my #1 priority in high school besides getting good grades of course!

So instead of relying on an expensive SUV to impress the ladies, I had to work on developing my personality, humor, charisma, leadership and fitness instead. Seriously, what a drag! Having money is so much easier, but it might leave us delusional and depressed when we realize all that we’ve gotten wasn’t because of who we are.


Overcoming The Price Hurdle To Find Value And Succeed

Priceless Crowns At Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

We all know that it takes money to make money. If you want $10,000 a year in passive interest income at a rate of 2%, you’ll need $500,000 in capital to get there. If you’ve only got $25,000 in capital, well then here’s $500 a year, just enough to buy yourself a round-trip ticket to Hawaii. Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound too bad!

I’ve been highly anticipating the response to my introductory $980 Get On The Map (GOTM) service where I help bloggers and small businesses get noticed on the web. There’s a lot of art behind the science of pricing. Price too low, and you might be signaling an inferior product or fend off too much demand. Price too high, and you might not get any clients. Finding the intersection between marginal utility and marginal cost is a journey that changes over time.

Going about pricing a product out of the necessity of money vs. the necessity for fulfillment is quite different. I get fulfillment out of helping others by providing more value than the price I charge. That’s what keeps me excited. If I had to sell something to put nutritious McDouble cheeseburgers on the table for five children everyday, I’d feel the heat, underprice and likely provide poor value.


Learning From The World’s Happiest People

Our tour guide in Stockholm was not Swedish, but Albanian. She stood 5 feet 1 inch tall thanks to three inch heels. As we walked towards Old Town to see the Royal Palace, I often wondered whether she had ever twisted her ankles traversing the uneven cobble stone roads.

Bianca told us she’s a full-time lawyer who enjoys playing tour guide on the weekends as a part-time job. She’s been studying for six years and is getting a second Masters degree in international law. When I asked her how much tuition costs in Sweden, she surprisingly mentioned, “Free!

All citizens and EU residents have free tuition if they want to study university here in Stockholm, Sweden,” Bianca went on to say.

I can’t verify the veracity of her statement, however, with law school tuition commonly over $35,000 a year in the US, Bianca clearly has a good deal!

I love everything about Stockholm! We have 1/3rd parks, 1/3rd water, and 1/3rd land. The government cares about us and you don’t have to work very hard to live a good life. Back home in Albania, the average person only makes 300-350 Euros a month ($390-$450 dollars),” Bianca explained.

I asked Bianca about the local tax rates. She didn’t know for sure, but said she pays about a 32% income tax through the Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) employer witholding system. She also pays a 25% VAT tax (consumption tax) on all goods. I was expecting Bianca to highlight a much higher income tax rate since 32% is similar to my effective tax rate, so I was surprised. But then again, our income levels are drastically different as you will discover below.


Does Income Inequality Matter If There Is Social Equality?

Over the past 30 years, only the top 20% of household incomes have shown any relative progress according to the charts below. You will know from my top income earners chart that the income level for the top 20% is roughly $80,000 a year and higher.

What’s most apparent is how well the top 1% have done. The chart below has the top 1% of income earners at roughly $1.8 million in 2007. This gels differently with the IRS study that puts the top 1% income level closer to $380,000. However, the point is that the top 1% has seen a doubling of their incomes in the past 20 years, while the rest have barely budged.



Definitions Of A Middle Class Income: Do You Consider Yourself Middle Class?

Middle Class Neighborhood

I have a theory the majority of us, no matter how little or how much we make, consider ourselves part of the middle class. When I worked at McDonald’s for $4 an hour, I was dirt poor, but considered myself middle class because both my parents had jobs and I had a bicycle and a cozy home to come home to.

When I finally graduated from The College Of William & Mary and started making more money, I felt poor because all I did was work in expensive New York City! For example, I shared a studio with a high school classmate for $2,100 a month and that was in 1999. It was only until I moved to San Francisco did I feel I was part of the middle class again. Money was more plentiful, a starter home “only” cost about $1,100,000, and I had more free time to explore.

I’ve experienced all three classes to varying degrees and I believe there are wonderful merits to each of them. From the poor Haitian immigrant who goes to college and becomes the first black female mayor in Utah, to the billionaire investor who gives 99% of his net worth to charity, everyone tends to come to center. My favorite class is the middle class. But first, we must define what middle class means.