Back on April 20, 2012, I had just negotiated a severance from my banking job. My next thoughts were one whether to start a family. So I had a thought: Is the top 1% better than the 99% at raising a family? Let's discuss!
The Top 1% And Raising A Family
I stumbled across a very crafty Twitter feed called “GS Elevator Gossip” @GSElevator the other day. The idea behind the Twitter feed is to share with the public random elevator gossip from one of the most hallowed, and vilified investment banks in the world.
Given the average compensation for Goldman Sachs employees runs around $300,000-$500,000 a year, it's safe to say that Goldman Sachs has its fair share of 1 percenters.
Some of the Tweets are quite witty. And others are downright offensive. The key to all good snark is to be witty, a little offensive, and contain a good dose of truth. One of the Tweets that piqued my interest is this one:
“I'm in the top 1% because I want the best for my family. What does that say about the 99%?”
ZING! Let's discuss the merits of this statement, shall we? I'm assuming that most parents in the 99% won't be in agreement with the statement. We'll also touch upon why the 99% is better than the top 1% as well.
Arguing Why The Top 1% Is Better At Raising A Family
Logic would say that if you want what's best for your family, you are going to be the most loving parent who makes enough money to provide everything in the world for your family. From piano and soccer lessons, to study abroad trips, to $1,500 SAT prep courses, to full-tuition paid for at any college of choice, the best parents should arguably be able to provide anything for their kids.
To let your family worry about their finances is an unnecessary burden. It may cause your daughter to have to work multiple part-time jobs during high school just to pay for college.
Given that she's working so much, she's at a competitive disadvantage vs. her peers who get to study 20 hours more a week to get straight A's. As a result, your daughter goes to a mediocre school, and ends up with a mediocre job for the rest of her life.
If you aren't rich, you might only be able to afford an average house in a relatively dangerous part of town. As a result, you subject your kids to negative influences that may corrupt their minds. Why do you think there is so much urban violence in cities such as Oakland, Detroit and Philadelphia?
Even here in expensive San Francisco, where public schools are free, parents with money don't dare send their kids to the school several blocks away, and would rather spend $20,000 a year on private school. What a shame. See: How To Get Into An Elite Private Grade School Or Preschool
Let's say you have the most loving husband. He is the best homemaker on the planet with food on the table every night. The house is always clean and the laundry is always folded. The kids are always dropped off and picked up at school. Finally, he rocks your world whenever you want.
If you are poor, you can't treat him to anything super special because your finances won't allow it. But if you are rich, you could one day surprise him with a guys trip to Hawaii or a Porsche 911 Turbo just because you love him so much. Aren't you a better wife because you have the financial means to reward your spouse for a job well done?
Why Not Shoot To Make A Lot Of Money As Well?
Given that you agree it's better to be able to provide everything for your family rather than not, why doesn't everybody strive to be in the Top 1%? We can earn a top 1% income of roughly $500,000 in 2021+ or achieve a top 1% net worth by age as well.
If we truly want what's best for our family, shouldn't we stop being foolish with our money by spending on things we can't afford? Shouldn't we get good grades in high school so we can get into good colleges so we can have the optionality of getting better paying jobs?
If we truly want what's best for those we care most dearly about, why don't we just try harder? Whatever it is that we do to make a living, shouldn't we do our absolute best for our family?
We all know that good grades + hard work + good communication skills + team work = success.
Why The 99% Is Better Than The Top 1% At Raising A Family
On the flip side of the argument, one can easily argue that the 99% are much better than the 1%. The 99% are by definition, most of us. We are what makes up our great country!
* In any election, the 99% will always beat the 1%.
* The 99% combined pay more taxes than the 1%.
* The 99% produce more of our country's servicemen and war heroes than the 1%.
* The 99% built America to what it is today.
* The 99% likely has more time than the 1% to spend quality time with the family.
* The 99% can't spoil their children as easily as the 1%, thereby producing more thankful people.
* Without the 99%, there wouldn't be such a thing as the 1%.
Be In The Top 1% In Something, Anything For A Better Life
The Cost Of Raising Many Children Is Not Just About The Money
45 thoughts on “Is The Top 1% Better Than The 99% At Raising A Family?”
Sam, I don’t know if I can consider myself in 1% just on my work income, but combined business and work income certainly qualifies me. With that said, I see merit in your statement. My wife and I have provided best private education for my daughters. They have lived in one of the best areas in the northern Atlanta suburb, and due to the environment, they have made friendship with boys and girls from the rich upper class families. Just yesterday, my daughter told me that her room mate’s father is on the board of the Brown University. My daughter is presidential scholar at NYU. She is exploring an option to attend Brown and then Harvard. I can attest that having more money at your disposal certainly helps raising kids.
Thanks for the insights. With money comes connections as you prove. It’s not that the rich don’t want to hang out with the poor. It’s just that they only have so much time, and are making friends with people in their same economic and intellectual surroundings. It’s just the way it is.
Of course, any parent would want to offer their kids resources of the 1%. The ability to go to a top school with tuition paid, or taking on loans at a low cost college….wouldn’t anyone choose the first option!
However, neither group is better by virtue of their membership in the 1% or 99%. I don’t think the ability or willingness to make a lot of money makes somebody better or worse at raising a family. There are too many other very important variables in that subjective assessment to make a blanket statement.
So while money is great, it does not automatically reflect the ability to be a better or worse parent.
I think the 99% is better than the 1%. I remember a famous quote :
“In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.”
Just imagine if your parents were Yale alumni, and they donated $50 million to the library under your name. More than likely, you will be getting in, no matter what your grades, and be given a chance to hob knob with other very well endowed folks with connections. You could probably get a direct in at that hedge fund job you’ve always wanted.
Raising a family is not just about having enough money….if it was then it’d be a joyless task!
It’s not about living in the best house in the best neighbourhood with a white, picket fence and roses around the door!
Parenting is about the correct distribution of love, intelligence and time. Children don’t need as much money as they do love. It’s good for children to experience a few hardships…..challenges maketh the man and woman! I wouldn’t want my children to have a life of financial ease as they wouldn’t learn values and appreciate what is provided for them.
I grew up underprivileged; my parents couldn’t afford alot and there were 4 of us close in ages. My parents couldn’t pay for music or extra sports lessons and none of us went to college. Do I feel disadvantaged today? No…because I know that my parents passed on to me a greater wisdom about making life rich…without any money.
One of my brothers left school at 16 without any qualifications. He worked from that day to this. He is a co-director of a successful firm he founded at 19. His philosophy is that money given to you when you’re young stifles creativity. Coming up the hard way is learning for life…I can’t disagree!
If your in the top 1%, what do you dream about? I think the lessons you learn going thru life as one of the 99% makes you a better person. If everything is handed to you on a silver platter you won’t be greatful for what you have. Just my thoughts.
Owning your own private Boeing 777 and never having to fly coach or go through general airport security again?
I’m not a parent yet so I can’t speak from a parental point of view, but I think my parents did pretty darn good as part of the 99%. They’ve never had a lot of money but they found ways to get me into good schools and taught me good values. They didn’t have the skills or the education to help me much with school work, college applications, or networking opportunities, but they have always given me a lot of emotional support which is priceless.
I think anyone has the potential to be awesome parents if they love their kids, support them, and spend time teaching them things no matter how much money they have. Sure money can buy a LOT of things and provide a lot of advantages but money doesn’t make someone a model parent.
I think that is AWESOME Sydney! Thanks for your example. I know how good you turned out, which proves that the 1% is not better at raising a family.
Quite honestly, the 1% do want what’s better for their family. I know so many well to do people who are so driven to succeed b/c they want to give the world to their family.
If you are a parent who is buying things they can’t afford and not being the best to provide a comfortable living for your family, you don’t care as much.
Hahaha. There’s also a Conde Nast elevator Twitter feed, which is equally entertaining. (Off topic, there’s also a new, hilarious account for the Tupac hologram, if anyone’s interested.)
I don’t really want to wade into this debate. Good parenting is not dependent upon wealth. However, I am a big believer that while money doesn’t = happiness, money makes life a hell of a lot easier. Especially when kids are added into the picture.
Currently we are moving to a part of the country where we can be middle class, have good public schools, and live in an area that isnt prohibitively expensive yet nice. We are moving from paradise, where it is astoundingly beautiful but where we would struggle everyday to send our kids to private schools, live in a crappy apartment, and where our salaries would be lower.
I don’t see it as the 1% being better than the 99%, but I do think we owe it to our kids to try and give them the best possible start – and in our case it means moving away from paradise (though it breaks our hearts) so that they can live a better life, with a little more money, and less struggles. The 1% is able to give that to their kids anywhere, but for the middle class we need to find the best place to raise our kids that will match what we need in terms of money, education, domicile, etc.
Doesn’t this boil down to greed and envy? If the 1% are vilified for their greed, shouldn’t the 99% be labeled greedy AND envious? After all, they want stuff (more entitlements) and they want it from the 1%?
And if that’s all true, is someone who is greedy better off than someone that’s greedy and envious? Nope, they’re both going to have problems.
From a 94%-er.
Providing for your children is much more than money or what you give them. It is showing up for your kids’ games, plays or birthday parties. It is sharing values, experience and spending time with your children. Most people who earn a lot of money need to spend a great deal of time at work. I know I worked on average 60-70 hours a week, but I took off for games, awards and anything my kids were in.
There are good and bad parents in every income level. I find that divorced parent have the most trouble supporting their children emothionally and psychologically. Finances are secondary. When I taught in a low socioeconomic school, the kids were better behaved than a higher performing high income school. Mor than money, it is the priorities the families have that are important.
I agree “that good grades + hard work + good communication skills + team work = success”, but I’m not certain that success is only defined by making it in to the top 1%, or that anyone who doesn’t make the top 1% is therefore unsuccessful (since that would mean that 99% of us are unsuccessful- and I certainly don’t feel that way).
While I agree that you should have the money to provide for your family’s needs, I’m not certain it matters if you have enough money to provide all of their wants or not. Kids shouldn’t be given everything they want. Kids should have to work for something.
I grew up knowing that I was expected to go to college and also knowing that I was expected to get an academic scholarship to pay for it. And I did get a full ride. I made my college choice based on that full ride, not on where I really wanted to go. But then I messed up and lost the scholarship after 2 years. My parents did not bail me out. If wanted to continue in college, I had to pay for it myself.
My undergrad loans weren’t bad, but my later managing of them was, and I’m still paying on them 12 years after I graduated, with the balance not even $1k below the amount I actually borrowed. Would I be a better person if my parents had instead stepped in and paid for my college?
Would I be a better person if I had gone to a fancy private school instead of a state school? What if for my MBA, I had gone to a big name school instead of choosing a program that actually worked for me? Would my parents have automatically been better parents if they could have paid for me to go to “better” schools?
I think most parents want to raise their children in the best possible way. I just don’t think it requires the money of the 1% to do so.
Maybe, maybe not. I’m trying to see the view point of the @GSElevator Tweet, since I’m assuming most parents in the 99% would disagree and find it somewhat offensive.
I like what you wrote a lot, ” It’s the land of opportunity as long as you don’t make ‘too much.’” In fact, I wrote an article years ago with this same thesis.
It is something I wonder how children of the 1% view life if they come out and can’t afford a crappy place to rent or buy, and only make $50K a year.
Basic math (and Captain Obvious) suggests that there are more people in the 99% who are “better” at raising their family than the entire 1%, even if they were all fantastic, right? Maybe 2-5% are collectively better… Either way, I think money is overrated when it comes to raising kids and even caring for your family.
Taking care of “needs” isn’t expensive (so the top 50% or more shouldn’t have much of a problem, generally). I know plenty of well adjusted people who were raised on very little $$ and that buying $40,000 cars you don’t need and taking luxury vacations when you can’t afford it might have something to do with not having “enough” money to take care of a family. Amazing how many “OWS” people protest while holding their iPhones and iPads, then asking for the 1% to give them money…
(Disclaimer: I am not in the 1% but just get annoyed when people refuse to change their lifestyle and then complain…)
This is all a numbers game. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s nothing to say that earning more money than 99% of your fellow citizens makes you a better or worse parent. If someone at the top of the 99% makes an extra $10, and bumps into the 1%, thus bumping someone out, is that person a better parent than the person he just bumped out? I’d guess not.
Not to mention the fact that even if everyone aimed to be in the 1%, there would still only be 1%, and the rest would fall somewhere below. It’s not a state that everyone can — or should — reach. Like I said, it’s just numbers, nothing more.
Good response Melissa, but I do have a few opinions and questions for you as well.
First off, the U.S. economy is not a fixed pie with a set limit of money and opportunities available. If you make more money you are not necessarily bumping someone else, that is the tails I win heads you lose approach.
Second, money does not make you a better person. I don’t think anyone here would argue that money makes someone superior over those who make less. I can think of several movie stars and celebrities who had terrible drug problems, abusive relationships, bitter divorces and other problems that definitely don’t put them above “poor” people.
Question: Do you strive to reach an arbitrary set number of wealth or do you think money will make you happy?
Thanks for your response. Yes, anyone can attempt to increase their net worth, but 1% is still 1%. To put my comment in simpler terms, if there were only 1000 people living and working in the U.S., exactly 10 people will make up that 1%, persons 991 – 1000. If person #990 is only *just* behind 991, and makes a bit of extra, one new person doesn’t get added to the 1%, because there can still only be 10 people with that designation, so someone then gets bumped. The difference in income could be as little as a penny, which is why I commented that it’s simply a numbers game. Money, in any respect, can give you the options and resources to do certain things, but just because you make a certain income, doesn’t mean you’ll actually do those things.
Besides that, the implication that Sam is suggesting is that people who make money in the 1% are able to give their families the best, when in actuality, providing those sorts of opportunities to your children can be had for much less money. Families making much less than that are able to provide well for their children. (And I won’t even start on how maybe it’s a *good* thing for your high schooler to have a job, even if you can afford to buy her whatever she wants.) The question might better be stated as: Are the top 75% of people better at raising families than the bottom 25%, because they make enough to provide more than the bare necessities?
And to answer your question, no, I don’t strive to reach an arbitrary amount of wealth, nor do I expect more money will make me happier.
Let’s forget about the numbers and go back to the quote which implies the 99% don’t care as much about their family b/c they don’t have as many resources to their disposal. Does GSElevator have a point here?
It’s possible that only 1% of people do the best possible for their families, I can’t say if it’s that 1% though! Like you said the other day everyone needs to start from what makes them happy and work back to what they need.
People always need to have groups, if they didn’t have the 1% and 99% they would have to start office gangs.
I would say that money to a certain extend doesn’t affect how you raise a child. Of course an income below poverty level might not be the best (due to stress, etc), but eventually there is a threshold where money doesn’t make you a better parent.
I actually read the other day that $50,000 is the “happiness amount” for families. No one needs a full-time nanny that costs $200K, preschool that costs $100K, etc.
$50,000 for a family of 3 or 4 will not get you far in San Francisco or New York City. That is an income level where I do believe kids will suffer vs. their $385,000+ income friends.
Agreed – even 30-45 mins outside of NYC, the cheapest 2 BR apartment will cost approximately 18k per year. That’s just rent.
I agree with both of you. $50K is definitely not my happiness number either. But I was just pointing out that the number is not in the 6 figures.
50k won’t get you far in D.C either. You will be in a bad neighborhood, studies have shown that the neighborhood the kid grows up and their friends have a large influence on their success.
I hear ya. DC, Arlington, McLean, Fairfax County, Potomac, Langley, all those areas are expensive… hard to survive on 50K/yr w/ a family of 3 or 4.
I don’t think one group raises better families than the other, just different. Like David said, working against each other is probably more harmful than beneficial.
With so many bloggers preaching the “anti-college” movement, it’s good to hear you at least suggest college is important in the future well-being of individuals. With that said, Yes, I think that people who strive for the best for their children are better than others, who leave kids to “fend for themselves” with student loans, credit cards, etc. The obvious issue is the parents ability to attain wealth to provide the education and luxuries you mentioned above. Let’s be honest, some people simply can’t convert their hard work into wealth, so it’s hard to define the 1% vs. the 99% are better, but their underlying intent is better.
Are there really a lot of bloggers preaching their readers not to go to college? Maybe an expensive no name college that puts the student in a lot of debt…. but please, go to college. There are some amazing state schools out there.
I’m sure you’ve read their posts – James Altucher and Penelope Trunk have taken hard stances on not attending college. Clearly, this is an overly broad view of things.
I’ll take a look. I have a feeling both went to college though.
Guess they help make the labor market competition easier for those who did attend college.
What does it say about me that I don’t have an opionion on whether the 1% is better than the 99% or the 99% is better than the 1%?
I don’t look at these people as groups – each person is the person they are!
Maybe this has something to do with getting out of America and meeting people that are “poor” but very happy. For example, I visited an elementary school in Laos last year and these kids were monetarily poor but they were so happy. Just thinking about these kids now makes me smile broadly and feel great.
We Americans needs to work together to create a great country not work against each other. Congress needs to do the same thing – they need to work together to make America stronger now and in the future! I don’t see this Congress doing this – however, I would be happy to be proven wrong by them!!!!!
I agree with David. While it’s fun to generalize on blogs and it can make for interesting blog posts, who you are as a person and what your character is will be the greatest influencer and shaper of your children and the harmony of your family. When we assume that certain groups are better than others, that’s where we get into trouble. Who is to say that the way society is now is the perfect way for it to be and if we don’t strive to be in its top 1% we are doing ourselves a disservice? Who said that $1500 SAT prep courses are reasonable, justifiable or make for happy, well-adjusted children and therefore we should definitely get it for our kids? I think your example about the perfect husband is very interesting. That description sounds like a housekeeper, not a relationship partner. I’ve never listed “folded laundry” as one of the elements of a great husband. You know what matters? Strong communication skills, the ability to work through arguments and differences, the ability to make each other laugh and most important, to have respect and loyalty to your partner. When you stop being a team, nothing else matters. You just lost the game. Sure, SOME of the things I want to give my partner need money. But more of it revolves around the strength of the relationship and our awareness of each other. Let’s not generalize who’s better, but rather focus on what matters for each person. In the end, awake and mindful people will also realize how important the community is and will find ways to give back and strengthen the community at any income level.
I wish my parents could have afforded $1,500 SAT prep courses… they told me to just go buy the $19.99 Princeton Review book! Who knows what my life would be like now if my SAT score was 100-200 points higher…….
Optionality is good!
David, I think you’ve got to write President Obama a letter, because I agree! This @GSElevator twitter handle wasn’t created unilaterally. It’s partly a response of the continued class warfare that has been espoused by the President since taking office. How do we assail the very people who pay the most in taxes? Why not a thank you note instead and getting everybody to pitch in?
I think a solution to the problem is to simplify our tax code. That way people will not feel that the “rich” are not paying there “fair share”
However, unfortunately I do not think our tax code is going to be simplified. If congress ever gets around to making changes to the tax code they will probably complicate the tax code.
I read the article with interest. However, there is one aspect that I couldn’t find in the article, the quality time available for family of the 1% and the 99%. Unless, you meant that getting into the 1% doesn’t require additional time as compared to staying in the 99%, in which I let the readers to determine its possibility.
To me, all the money in the world mean nothing if I found out that my son is getting into drugs in the search for my attention (time), for example.
I work in the oil & gas industry in my home country. I see that the successful employees (managerial levels) spend more time in the office when they weren’t managers, and even more when they are. We are a subsidiary of an european country entreprise. But the habit is not common in all subsidiaries. There is a subsidiary in europe with more relaxed work hours, but surely there are still managers there.
May be, it all comes back to how we manage our time.
I was in Indonesia earlier this year it was wonderful. Flew into Yogjakarta and visited Borobudupur – it was wonderful. What does this have to do with your post nothing – just thought I would say I had a great time in Indonesia.
I had previously visited Bali – however is that Indonesia? Just like I have only visited Bejing – have I really visited China?
You bring up a good point about quality time, as well as assumptions about how much extra effort/time it takes to get into the 1%. If the assumption is that it takes extra effort and time, then by all means, doesn’t it mean the 1% are harder working than the 99% as a whole?
Would the assumption therefore by that if you want to be in the 1% and want what’s best for your family, you will bust your butt in high school, college, grad school, and the first years of work for your future family?