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.