When The Elites Go On Strike, We Should Pay Attention

If you're like me, chances are you are not part of the elite. Like 75% of college students, you may have gone to public school. For various lengths of time, you may have been underemployed or unemployed. Further, you definitely didn't come from a rich family with prominent connections.

Despite not being one of the elites, life can still be pretty good. Personally, I enjoy being a nobody so I can more easily do as I please. When nobody is watching your every move, life feels totally free!

However, when the elites do go on strike, we should probably pay attention. Because no matter how hard the gatekeepers try to keep us shut out from the pinnacles of success, it's always good to understand various points of view. Maybe then we can one day climb to the top of society’s ladder as well. If we can't, maybe our children can.

Let's explore what The New York Times strike means for the rest of us. I'll also discuss whether we should redefine what it means to be an elite and whether the term really matters. No matter how much we have, we seem to always want more.

But first, let me share some background on my experience with The New York Times.

Didn't Think Much Of The New York Times Before

Before starting Financial Samurai in 2009, I never thought much about The New York Times. It was just another paper to me. As an investment banking veteran for 13 years, The Wall Street Journal was the paper du jour.

While I was a newbie financial analyst from 1999 – 2001, every one of us had to read The Wall Street Journal from cover-to-cover. If we didn't, we'd get embarrassed by our VPs who would constantly quiz us on the news. Not only did we need to know the news, we needed to form an opinion on how the news would affect a company, the stock market, or the economy.

Even as the industry moved to reading the news on our Bloomberg terminals, we'd still read The Wall Street Journal on a daily basis. There was always at least one big story everybody would be talking about on the trading floor. If we didn't know it, we'd feel like dummies and miss out on connections.

Meritocracy Is A Myth

Come 2011, I still didn't think much about The New York Times because I had stumbled across an NYT-published article called, How A Financial Pro Lost His House by Carl Richards.

The gist of the article is Carl bought too much house, was underwater by more than $200,000, and decided to do a short sale. A short sale is an offer of a property at an asking price that is less than the amount due on the current owner's mortgage.

Carl argued that while he had a contractual obligation with the bank, he had a moral obligation to his family. Therefore, he stopped paying his mortgage and handed back the property to the bank.

At the time, I remember thinking, “Ah, so here's a well-paid guy who is causing hardship for the rest of us who decided to continue paying our mortgages. Are we really the fools here?” If everybody kept paying their mortgages, the devastating financial crisis would not have occurred to the extent that it did.

2011 was a tough time for me because layoffs were still happening in the finance industry and I also had a huge primary mortgage. My Lake Tahoe property was also underwater by several hundred thousand dollars too. Compensation was rightly slashed and I also wanted out. Anybody who could afford to keep paying their mortgage but decided not to seemed suspect.

In Asian cultures, breaking a contract is dishonorable. So to see Carl's story get celebrated on a large platform felt wrong. The more people who broke their mortgage contracts, the more the economy would suffer.

His article just made me feel like an idiot for doing the right thing. But I could not break my promise because I never break my promise.

A Realization That Platform Matters Over Meritocracy

In the investment banking industry, we generally get rewarded for bringing in business and punished for losing business. Besides professional sports and entrepreneurship, investment banking is as close to a meritocracy as it gets.

However, what I realized from the 2011 The New York Times article was that merit may not always be the most important thing to getting ahead. Instead, looking the part and being a part of an elite system are more helpful for wealth and success.

Once you're part of the elite, you can hang on like Teflon. No matter how badly you mess up, you tend to get multiple second chances. It's kind of like starting a business when you're already rich versus when you're poor. The poor have one shot at making it whereas the rich have multiple shots.

Instead of being punished for not paying his mortgage, Carl Richards was rewarded by The New York Times with a regular financial advice column. Once he got the regular column, Carl got more exposure for his financial planning business, which meant more money. Then, Carl was able to land lucrative book deals. Kudos to him. No rational person would turn down such opportunities.

In a way, I'm thankful for Carl Richards and The New York Times because they enabled me to believe that anything was possible! I didn't have to be perfect on my financial journey. I just had to be honest. And if I really messed up, I might even get handsomely rewarded!

The next year I left my job for good.

How I Realized The New York Times Was Elite

It was only after I finally landed my own traditional book deal in December 2019 did I realize The New York Times was an elite institution and its employees were elite writers. One of the tennis players I met in San Francisco worked at The New York Times and won a Pulitzer Prize! Now that's impressive.

I went the grinding scenic route of getting a book deal by building up my own platform for 10 years. In retrospect, it might have been better if I had gotten a job at a large media publication. From there, I could instantly leverage the publication's readership and reputation to land a book deal sooner.

Alas, there's no rewinding of time. Just lessons to share with those of you also trying to get ahead in this brutally competitive world. Doing things the hard way may be more fulfilling. But nobody really cares how you get there, only that you made it. Don't let honor and pride keep you on hard mode forever!

When Buy This, Not That came out, it became an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. Hooray! The media publication I most respected recognized the book's quality. It's not easy to knock off a homogenous group of incumbents.

The Wall Street Journal bestseller list is based solely on the number of sales each book achieves in a one-week period. In other words, The Wall Street Journal's bestseller list is based on a meritocracy.

Buy This Not That Wall Street Journal Bestseller - best personal finance book

Being Elite Is About Not Being A Meritocracy

Based on the number of sales, Buy This, Not That should have also made The New York Times bestseller list. However, as explained to me by those in the publishing industry, The New York Times bestseller list is not 100% based on meritocracy. Instead, there is an editorial committee that decides which books get on the list.

The industry insiders went on to reveal several realities.

  • Given The New York Times bestseller list is editorial, they are free to do what they want.
  • If you write for The New York Times, you will most likely have your book reviewed by them.
  • If you write for The New York Times and sell enough copies in a week to make the list, you will most certainly be on their list.
  • First-time authors seldom get on the list.
  • Finance is a harder genre to get on the list.
  • I'm not a preferred minority the publication fights for.

If a bestsellers list is an editorial, then so be it. Institutions are free to pick and choose who they want to be on their list. I also accept everything else on the list, including “not being a preferred minority.” It's just the way it is in America as the elites decide who gets an extra cookie or a helping hand.

I want to be rewarded based on the quality of my work, not based on my identity. In fact, it is partially due to my belief in the quality of my work that I decided to go out on my own. There were no more financial institution's coat tails to ride.

The Importance Of Rejecting Well-Qualified People

What I realized from my two-year book publishing experience is that part of being an elite is about rejecting well-qualified people. The more well-qualified people an institution can reject, the more elite the institution becomes!

For example, top private universities purposely keep their enrollment sizes small and admission rates low to retain their elite status. If these universities really wanted to help educate more students, they would actively work to increase enrollment. Goodness knows, their multi-billion dollar endowments are large enough to support growth.

Alas, too many alumni and university professors care about status and prestige to be willing to meet the incredible demand by increasing enrollment. As a result, many parents and students are forced to play the status game to avoid having their children excluded from too many opportunities.

The New York Times Workers Go On Strike

The most interesting thing about The New York Times workers going on strike is that it's really the elites striking against other elites.

When you're a part of the elite, you are considered to have already the most amount of money, power, access, and prestige. Hence, I became immediately curious as to why The New York Times employees were striking?

As always, strikes are mostly about trying to get more money.

What The New York Times Is Striking Is About

The New York Times journalists haven't had a “working contract since March 2021.” As a result, these journalists haven't had a pay raise for one year and nine months. As an NPR article reports,

The union is arguing for a package of raises that works out to a 5.25 percent average annual raise over the four-year period covered, which includes the past two years. The company's most recent offer — as of late Tuesday night — represented exactly half of that. 

The Times has offered to allow the guild to decide whether to continue the current pension plan, or to convert to a 401(k) retirement plan with a 6.6 annual company contribution for all covered guild employees, its most generous benefit inside the company.

It is somewhat surprising The Times seems unwilling to offer a 5.25 percent annual pay raise to its ~1,800 staff over a four-year period. As we all know, inflation is running at well over 5.25 percent today. But what business wouldn't want to keep costs low as we head into a Fed-induced recession? It sounds like The Times countered with a 2.625 percent pay raise and the union then decided to strike.

At the same time, it also seems kind of sad employees felt strongly enough to strike for only a 5.25 percent annual pay raise. They are supposed to be the elites. And if you're a part of the elite, would you really need to strike for a net $2,625 more a year on a $100,000 salary?

Of course, if you're making much less, every dollar counts. New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Performance And Pay Correlation

When I worked in banking, my compensation would regularly get slashed by 20% – 70% during difficult times. Even when I performed well, as I did in 2011, my compensation got cut because management said we had to subsidize the money-losing fixed income division.

Instead of complaining at the water cooler, I negotiated a severance to do my own thing. If I wanted to stay in the industry, I would have aggressively searched for a new job with better pay. There is no way I would have gone on strike because I'd simply get laid off.

But the media and finance industries are two separate animals. As I'm too used to “eating what I kill,” I respect how other industries pay their employees. However, I do think talented journalists should start their own newsletters and websites like plenty of us less talented people have done.

If you have The New York Times on your resume, surely you'll be able to more quickly grow your brand and personal readership, no? You already have the writing skills.

As an ex-employee, I'm always going to be on the side of employees getting as much money as they can. Company loyalty to employees is dead, especially in the media industry. Due to the internet, media companies have had to lay employees off and cut benefits in order to survive.

Being Elite Is About Exclusivity NOT Inclusivity

The strike over a 5.25 percent annual wage increase made me realize being an elite is not just about being rich. It’s also about having a powerful-enough voice to affect your desired change.

Being a part of the elite is also about exclusivity, not inclusivity. The more exclusive, the more elite you are.

But do you really want to be a part of the elite if you have to strike for a meagre 5.25 percent annual wage? I don't. Instead, I'd much rather earn as much passive income as I can to do what I want, even if I'm viewed as a peasant with inferior intellectual capabilities.

As every child and parent of school-age children knows, being inclusive of others is a fundamental part of being a good person. Teachers and parents teach their students and children to celebrate differences so that they don't grow up and become racists, bigots, and assholes in the future.

We understand that 15 percent of the world's population has a disability, which can make life a-little-to-a-lot more difficult. As a result, we make accommodations to help equalize the playing field and are less quick to judge.

From history, we understand how Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation prohibited some folks from owning homes and creating generational wealth. As a result, we fight to make things right for those who didn’t have the same opportunities historically.

Given being elite is about excluding other people, you actually never want to be considered part of the elite. Nor should you want to praise the elite for their power. Instead, we should question what these people and institutions are doing to make things more equitable for others.

Celebrate Your Non-Elite Status

Yes, it's nice to feel special. However, you will ruin your life if you go too far in pursuing prestige. Instead of doing something you like, you may end up doing something you hate because society deems it worthy.

When you look back on your life, you may end up feeling full of regret for not pursuing your dreams. All for what? So you can be a part of an exclusive club that shuts most people out? Forget it.

Please celebrate your proletarian status. Being middle-class is the best class in the world. If you really want to be an elite, be elite at giving away your time and money to help other people. The more inclusive you are, the better you will also feel.

Financial Samurai will never have a paywall because I don't want to shut out a poor kid or a poor family who wants to learn more about personal finance. Creating a $2,000 e-course is also never going to happen. I'd much rather try to get an institution I believe in to support my work.

Finance is not the language of the elite. Instead, Finance is the language for everyone who is willing to learn!

May We All Find Comfort In What We Do

Congratulations to all the elites out there for achieving great goals. It's not easy getting to the top of your profession. Don't let anybody discredit your hard work and talent.

However, if you have to go on strike to make ends meet, perhaps the definition of being an elite needs to change. After all, what's the point of being so good at something if you can't even be properly compensated?

If you are considered an elite, the only thing I ask is for you to give others a chance to ascend as well. Don’t pull the ladder up from behind you. If you do, you might not have enough support to prevent you from eventually falling over.

Related posts:

For A Better Life, Be The Top One Percent In Something

Who Are The Top 0.1% Income Earners And How Much Do They Make?

How To Convince Someone You're Middle Class When You're Actually Rich

What If You Go To Harvard And End Up A Nobody?

Reader Questions And Recommendations

Readers, what does being a part of the elite mean to you? Do you find it is strange or ironic elite journalists are going on strike? Why do we strive to be elite? What is your definition of being an elite?

To build more wealth, pick up a copy of, Buy This, Not That. Not only does my WSJ bestseller help you get richer, it also helps you make more optimal decisions for some of life’s biggest dilemmas.

To learn how to negotiate a severance and be free, pick up a copy of How To Engineer Your Layoff. The book is in its 6th edition and updated for post-pandemic work life. Use the code “saveten” at checkout to save $10.

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 65,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. 

56 thoughts on “When The Elites Go On Strike, We Should Pay Attention”

  1. Hi Sam, I really enjoy your blog and have enormous appreciation for you sharing your thoughts on a wide variety of subjects related to finance. It’s been incredibly helpful and informative for me to learn from your experience.

    This was a very interesting post, but I disagree somewhat with you.

    NYT is an elite brand, and those journalists and other staff (which includes game developers, like myself — though I don’t work at NYT) are employed there because of all of the following:
    1) They are the top 5-10% in their field
    2) Have benefited from some combination of “right time, right place” or “knowing the right people” or “being the preferred minority” type of luck
    3) Their style of writing/vision and ideas suit the particular requirements of the NYT brand

    The NYT brand is in part about exclusivity (they are hardly the only ones), and they never promised anyone impartiality or meritocracy. It is their first amendment right to run their outlet as they wish.

    While their staff may benefit from certain unmeritocratic perks like being considered for the Best-Seller list ahead of others, this doesn’t apply to all the NYT staff, only to the journalists employed there. The strike you mentioned benefits all staff, many of whom do not earn anywhere close to $100k (which doesn’t go very far in NYC anyway).

    I am sorry to hear that in your career you experienced such enormous salary instability. It strikes me as deeply unfair. You took it like a champ, in spite of the fact that your company’s Chief Officers and the owner likely benefited from your work and likely didn’t get any paycuts (or not any that really made their finances difficult). You can look at the many charts out there on how much the compensation of workers has stagnated relative to that of CEOs. Not getting a raise while inflation soars is a noticeable hit to one’s family budget, and workers don’t deserve to shoulder that.

    In any case, it’s absurd to me to consider the staff at NYT “elite” when they would strike for such a tiny amount of money. It’s because that money is so important for them and their families to make ends meet. They are at the mercy of their day jobs. Those people don’t have real power, otherwise they wouldn’t need to be in a collective to improve their salary or lot in life by a meager 5%.

    You know who actually is elite?

    The owners of NYT, of WSJ, of Washington Post, etc. People like Rupert Murdoch, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, the Kochs, Peter Thiel, Warren Buffet, and all the other mega-billionaires of the world. People with so much money that they can swing elections. People with more money than many countries’ GDPs. People who are in a real sense above the law. THAT’S elite. No human being needs that kind of money or should have that kind of power.

  2. “If you’re like me, chances are you are not part of the elite. Like 75% of college students, you may have gone to public school.”
    IMO certain public universities, including your alma mater for grad school, UCB are considered elite, given high barriers to entry. Go bears!

  3. Please go to glassdoor and google average salaries at the New York Times. The top average salaries go to the software engineers and reporters have an average of $100k a year which doesn’t go far in New York City. But let’s not mention all the other positions that have lower pay rates than reporters. Institutions like the New York Times are about prestige. Prestige does not pay bills. And you brought up that you are not part of a preferred minority. Well guess what? Even if you were, you would still have trouble in the “elite” New York Times. The union is actually accusing the New York Times of discriminating against those “favored minorities.”

  4. Another thing to know about the New York Times bestseller list is that is does not include self-published works. I am a self-published author with the majority of my sales occurring on the Amazon platform where they are identified with a best seller. Amazon provides these orange ‘best seller’ banners to books which have the highest 24 hour sales volume within their category. A true meritocracy!

  5. Hi Sam. Great post. I’m an aspiring writer hoping to one day get published the traditional way. What’s been your experience with being a published author? Are the earnings more or less what you expected them to be? Would I be able to quit my day job where I make about $200K per year and get sustained with earnings from writing a book? Would appreciate your insight on this. Thanks!

    1. The experience has been good. If you extremely proud of your accomplishments, because writing a book takes a lot of time, imagination, and discipline. Buy This, Not That took two years to write and edit.

      Unfortunately, being an author is incredibly hard to make enough to take care of a family. So as the saying goes, “don’t quit your day job! “It’s much better to do it on the side.

      Only about 1% of authors get a book advance of $250K. And that is spread out over three or four tranches.

      See this post on being a professional writer.

      Good luck on your author journey! Step number one is to get that book deal! But actually, there are many things you need to do before hand. Build your platform now.

      1. I saw an interview with Min Jin Lee, and she summarized the economics as the author gets $1 per book sold.

  6. The PMC (professional managerial class) elites power is based on culture and are generally considered subservient to the moneyed elite. See Musk buying twitter.
    Regarding elites going their own way, Bari Weiss who used to write for NYT started her own very successful substack.

  7. Thought you would appreciate this quote from Robinson Crusoe regarding the blessings of Middle

    [he said] that mine was the middle state, or what might be called the upper station of low life, which he had found, by long experience, was the best state in the world, the most suited to human happiness, not exposed to the miseries and hardships, the labour and sufferings of the mechanic part of mankind, and not embarrassed with the pride, luxury, ambition, and envy of the upper part of mankind.

    I worked three years through a pandemic as a teacher without a raise. Finally after negotiations finished, we got a sizable chunk. Now we are asking for 10%. That is what is given to the district by the state for wages. Interesting to see what happens. As a high school teacher I am not “elite” but I am paid better than community colleges or adjunct professors who are “smarter” and “subject matter specialists.” I translate that as they don’t want to teach but lecture. In my humble opinion I should be paid more. I am the first line of defense in a working democracy. I assure we have an educated working class population that votes and contributes.

  8. I didn’t really grasp the point of this post… NYT is a top level institution and one of the most influential papers remaining, with highly experienced journalists and writers. I’m not saying I agree with all their articles, far from it, as they have some clear biases, but I push back strongly with the concept that being in an elite class is some problem that needs to be fixed.

    We need elite institutions, organizations, and groups to do some of our best work. For example in the military, for the elite seal teams, should we allow everyone a chance to ride on the chopper to go kill Bin Ladin? In NASA, should we just allow anyone to fly into space on a complex space mission? In medicine, should we allow everyone to operate or be a neurosurgeon? In the Arts, should we just allow anyone to play at The Philharmonic? The United States is and remains one of the best meritocracies in the world. If you work really hard, make good choices, and are persistent you will eventually get chances to succeed no matter where you came from or started from..

    This recent concept that every single thing needs to be perfectly balanced and equal for everybody is flawed, unrealistic, and potentially detrimental to advancement. Trying to force every selection to be perfectly equal can also facilitate discrimination in and of itself. In this world we need highly skilled, experienced, and “Elite” people to do some complex jobs. There is also a concept of being proud of your work if you are doing elite work. This pride in work drives some of the most refined and sophisticated products in the world, specifically because those doing elite work rise above to a level of distinction among others.

    1. The point is gatekeepers pulling up the ladder behind them so others can’t get ahead.

      The other point is that no matter how much power in status of money you have, there is a tendency to always want more.

    2. Imbecilic, asinine apologetics for the hegemony of the despotic elite autocrats. Categorical capitalist pernicious drivel. Property is theft. From each according to his (unearned) ability to each according to his (undeserved) needs. True democracy and abolition of inequality ineluctably entails embracing socialism and deracination of nefarious capitalist depotism, oppression, and exploitation.

  9. Interesting that you think working for the NYT is part of the elite. Dying industry, average pay, half the country doubting your credibility. Not very elite in my eyes. Now sitting in your hot tub writing blog posts, playing tennis in the middle of the day, as much time with your kids as you can handle, passive income covering your desired lifestyle and some healthy active income from your blog. In my eyes that’s elite! Definitely elite in a good way.

    1. Haha. I’m just living the lifestyle I want. It’s not elite because I’m not excluding anybody. In fact, by leaving finance in 2012, I made way for my junior colleague to ascend and take my spot! He hasn’t sent me a gift card to my favorite steakhouse yet though. Hmm.

  10. Good post Sam. Wanted to add that strikes are about more than just money. Often they are about working conditions and power imbalance.

  11. Hi Sam,

    I used to teach at an elite British university (think of Oxbridge), where faculties are soooo poorly paid, that they repeatedly go on strike for pennies. They are the elite of the elites, but they can’t make a good living out of it. The elite institutions are compensating people with prestige instead of real money. The institutions are not afraid of people quit because there will be hundreds overqualified people all over the world jumping on it.
    In the end I left the ‘prestige’ for the money sake. It was just not worth it. Earning a good living with your expertise might sound more middle class than elite, but being elite does not necessarily make you happier.

    1. Thanks for sharing. Guess it’s a harder balance in the UK.

      I just wrote a post about how being a professor is one of the best combos for riches and prestige.

      We learned Stanford professors can buy $16 million vacation properties in the Bahamas!

      Hope you were able to make big bucks and find joy in your new profession! Nice to do both actually.

      1. Thanks Sam. I moved to the US for a non academic job that provides both meaning and more money. Four years in, with some luck and hard work, I’m a million richer than my old academic self. I still go back for visit, but I’m no longer sold to the ‘prestige’ of being an ‘elite’. So I feel somewhat sympathetic to the NYT strike, because they are struggling between the prestige and the money – they want both but the institution won’t give them both. It’s a hard choice for people without family money.

        1. An extra million bucks in four years is great! And then to find more meaning in your work is even better. Congrats!

          I wonder if this struggle with prestige and money is a first-world problem or a problem throughout.

          For me, I would choose making enough money to feel comfortable. The prestige feels nice for a couple of months, maybe a year? But after that, all the people you’re hanging around with are the same. So the prestige no longer feels special.

          1. Haha it was a lot of luck especially with RE – buying multiple cash flow properties before end of 2020 was key. Earning much more while continue to live frugally also helped. I do appreciate learning from your writing and discussions, as well.

            Like you rightly observed, prestige is built on exclusivity – a system that reinforces the idea that people within the circle are above others (despite others can be wealthier and happier than you). Once you are rooted in this bias for a long time (think about the time, intellect and hardworking you invested to be part of this exclusive club), it becomes a prison in some way.

            So let’s just be emphatic to all kinds of human conditions, and focus on our own emancipation ~~

  12. The WSJ reported that the Washington Post lost 500,000 subscribers (17%) in the past year. In a struggling industry, no wonder the NYT can’t afford to pay people.

    The good news for the elite reporters who may be soon unemployed, is that blogging can be quite profitable. Alex Berenson was a former NYT journalist. Now he runs a blog with “tens of thousands of paid subscribers.” His cheapest tier is $6 a month, so he may be making somewhere between $720,000 and $6.5 million off of his blog alone. In addition, he uses his blog to promote his new book.

    I’m grateful for Financial Samurai being free, with no agenda other than to make everyone richer. Thanks Sam!

    1. Making $720K to $6.5 million doesn’t sound too shabby at all! A great example of what I’m saying.

      Journalists from big media organizations can make A LOT more money if they put in their side hustle work. Start a newsletter, write books, have their own blog. If the media orgs allow, then they gotta do it! They have the writing skills and resume.

      Why not?

  13. NYT is only elite insofar as people want to give them that power. I choose not to.

    Yes, there are other institutions that don’t rely on people giving them their power; you just have to fly under the radar when dealing with them.

    Finally, elite status would seem to counter stealth wealth, a concept I heard about from some guy on the Internet. Wish I could remember his name! Sam something or other?

    1. Indeed. You don’t actually want to be identified as one of the elites. B/c it means you have more money and status than others. And that doesn’t feel good to the majority. Be elite at helping others I say!

  14. Love how Carl Richards is a CFP with all kinds of financial advice books but couldn’t pay his own mortgage. Seems like one of those teachers who teaches what they can’t do themselves…

    1. It made be realize that PLATFORM matters more than MERITOCRACY. We’d all like to think that the harder we work and the smarter we are, the more wealth and success we will get. But the correlation is not as tight as we might believe.

      In the personal finance world, you can have zero finance background. But so long as you market and entertain well, you can be a great success. That’s good and bad!

  15. First off, you never putting up a pay wall commitment is huge. It’s in internet ink, so now it must be binding right? Or perhaps someday a page 26 correction is pending?

    Secondly, hijacking the post a bit, but I wanted to note… I just bought a few more copies of “Buy This, Not That” to give out to my nieces and nephews for Xmas gifts. I figure better to start their financial education sooner than later. My own kids each already have a copy.

    on to the strike…

    I think it’s a shame. While I understand the collective power, I find it difficult to balance in my mind. In the one hand, these people provide a skill and should be compensated for it, but on the other hand they are getting paid for their skill. They benefit by the brand of which they support, and now just because they wear the brand their image grows. As you just noted, they could likely start a website and reference they are or were NY Times writers and get some instant clout. It reminds me of all the NIL issues running rampant with the college sports. Is it the player, or is it the school that makes the player valuable? Hard to say where the profit should land. But one thing I can tell you, if/when those kids graduate, I still cheer for the school so how important is the player…?

    I run into it all the time on my construction sites. There are things that these skilled people do day in and day out that are amazing. Sure, I know how to do most of it, but push comes to shove I couldn’t build half the things without them. If suddenly they decide to all walk one day unless I give them $XYZ… it would be a real problem. Without them the work would likely stop and the brand would suffer and I would be out. But, If I gave into them and gave a raise on every whim then the whole scale would be off and the brand would also suffer.

    In reference to your striking for a 5% increase, I see your point. However, when you think about compounding I see their motivation. Given we can’t control inflation we can only look at aggregate numbers. %5 more of 5% more of the starting point each year is going to be greater than not asking at all. Right?

    Lastly, in my opinion, if you have to strike to make your case or point, you are not elite. Someone who is elite has the ability to influence change not just by stopping work or quitting. If they are elite then they should be able to drive the situation and motivate others and create the result they want.

    1. Yes sir! It’s in internet ink, so it has to be. Otherwise, that would be like going back on my word, a dishonorable act! So long as I’m in charge, no paywall.

      “In reference to your striking for a 5% increase, I see your point. However, when you think about compounding I see their motivation. Given we can’t control inflation we can only look at aggregate numbers. %5 more of 5% more of the starting point each year is going to be greater than not asking at all. Right?”

      I will write a new article about this topic. It is dangerous to always expect to get paid more, even with the NYT stock at a 2-year low and the economy heading into a recession. This is a disconnect from reality.

  16. Good man, Sam. I love that you don’t put this site behind a paywall and that you would like folks to gain financial literacy.

  17. There’s a saying. “It’s better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven”
    The so-called elites that are striking for a 5k raise aren’t truly part of the elite inner circle. These people are the servants of the elite.
    There are sooo many people who have been brainwashed to think they’re part of the elites, when in actuality, they’re just the help.
    No thank you!! I’d rather be a free nobody than a servant to the elite.

    1. Precisely. Like Chris Rock once said: “Shaq is rich but the white man who signs his check is wealthy.”

      1. You know what’s interesting? One of my friends played in the NBA for over a decade. He’s made tens of millions of dollars. And there is still envy by the basketball players of the wealth of the owners.

        It never ends, no matter how much you have! Which is one of the main points of this post.

    2. Great quote! Satan says it after God kicks him out of heaven in Milton’s classic “Paradise Lost”.

      And yeah, elite journalists are not quite the same as, say, the top 1%.

  18. Fascinating on so many accounts. Thanks for bringing so many interesting facts to light. I totally forgot about that Carl Richards article. I do remember shaking my head when I found out they gave him a financial column. Not someone I have any interest in following.

    The way I view “elite” is a group of people who are self centered, intentionally choose to stay within their own likeness, look down on those who have less, and who have no interest in helping others. I know a family who is in the multi hundred millionaire range whom I don’t view as elite because they are humble, donate a ton to so many causes, and socialize in various circles in a range of net worths.

    On the other hand, I know a different family who is worth significantly less, but I view as elite because of their whole attitude and constant need to put on a show. They love to flaunt about where they’ve been, who they’ve seen, what they’ve bought, etc. It’s quite off-putting.

  19. Professional athletes are definitely part of this group. Unionizing is preposterous considering what they make. However, they have helped the less talented. Some of them make a lot to “ride the pine.”

    1. You should have included actors and musicians in your post. Tom Cruise and Bruce Springsteen make far more money than professional athletes.

  20. Chuck Sarahan II

    Article is spot on at least two counts:

    a) Once you are in the club, you have a vested interest in limiting new comers.

    b) From a professional standpoint, if you are in the club, mistakes matter less. You have the group’s leaders to cover your back. This teflon like quality is invaluable. Seen it firsthand.

  21. I enjoy reading your articles, but I noticed a small typo. See below.

    “But nobody really cares how you get there, only that you mad it. Don’t let honor and pride keep you on hard mode forever!”

    You obviously meant made instead of mad.

    1. Thanks for the correction. It helps to have a readership to point out the typos. That’s one of the benefits of being a writer for The New York Times! A copyeditor and content editor to make your article shine. But I do highly appreciate all my dad’s efforts in editing!

      The elites get people making over $100K editing their work. But I’d rather have my dad and wife.

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