What’s Your TRUE Percent? (OR: Why I’m Having a Tough Time Deciding What Side of the Occupy Fence I’m On)


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My income from my new job, where I’m making a whopping $13.72 an hour, more than I’ve ever made at any job in my whole life, puts me in the richest 8% of the world. Even when I was making a paltry $5.75 an hour at my first real job, working a grand total of 15 hours a week for a yearly salary (if I’d stuck it out a whole year) of $4,485.00, that only moved me down to the top 14.5%.

Am I still the 99%? Sure, but I’m a hell of a lot closer to the 1% than a lot of that number. Chances are, if you’re reading this on a computer connected to the Internet, you are too. Take a moment to see what your real percent is, and then get back to me.

http://www.globalrichlist.com/

This exercise isn’t really to prove any sort of sweeping point, it’s mostly just food for thought. It’s true that many people don’t make nearly enough to easily support themselves or their families. It’s true that I am lucky enough to have made it to 27 years old and not had any kids along the way, to be in good health, and to not have tens of thousands of dollars racked up in debt. I’ve been lucky enough to have family and friends that have helped me out at times when my finances were not quite where they needed to be for the way I was living.

I understand that not everyone is so lucky. I understand there are people that genuinely have it rough.

But this post isn’t really about the people that have it worse off than I do, it’s about my conflicting feelings about the Occupy movement.

I can’t fully oppose the Occupy movement.

I agree with the fact that it’s dangerous to have major decisions made by people who can make any decision they want provided they throw enough money at it. I agree that it seems counterproductive to bail out huge companies that failed when the country’s citizens are failing as well without much (if any) money handed out to them. I agree that police brutality against a peaceful protest is horrible and uncalled for.

And yet, I can’t fully support the movement, either.

When I was in high school, I very much longed to be a hippie in the 60’s. I wished, god knows why, that there were some sort of devastating war going on, some kind of horrible social offense that I could get out in the streets and protest. Show just how dang mad I was. Because, I don’t know, that was the thing to do. It showed you cared, it showed you were paying attention.

Now, however, I’ve grown out of that protesting for protesting’s sake mentality. I have never been to a protest, and I don’t have any great desire to. I think the main reason protests don’t appeal to me anymore is because, from my point of view anyway, they automatically put the protesters in the role of the victim. The people holding the signs are telling someone else, “I am aware that you have power over me. If you didn’t have power over me, there would be no need for me to hold this sign.”

Which brings me back to our true percentages. I spent a long time living with someone who felt that they had been dealt a raw deal, income-wise. We lived together in a one-bedroom apartment. We both had cars. We both had computers. We both had jobs. And yet, all he could see was how poor we were. How it must be THEIR fault that we were so poor. How, if those people with billions and billions of dollars would just give us some of their billions of billions of dollars, everything would be okay, their wealth would be justified and we could, I don’t know, buy a horse or something.

I’ve lived in houses. I’ve lived in apartments of various sizes, from fairly large to most-people-would-feel-cramped tiny. I’ve lived on friend’s couches. I’ve lived out of my car. I’ve lugged most of the possessions I’d acquired from my 99% income to a storage shed that I ended up not being able to pay for, so everything in it was sold. It came as a relief.

What I’m trying to say here, and I’ve said it before, is that we choose what we do with our money. We choose how wealthy we feel or don’t feel. We make the choice to compare ourselves to the people that appear to have more than we do. Meanwhile, how many more people are out there wishing they had as MUCH as we do?

It’s a crap or cone sort of idea. You can feel like it’s all big government’s fault that you are only making $15,000 a year. Or you can look at the fact that if you’re making $15,000 a year, you’re doing better financially than 90% of the rest of the world. You can believe that your rights are being taken away, that the people in charge are squashing you like a tiny bug under their enormous, expensive shoe.

Or you can make your own rights. You can live your own freedom. You can choose to not be the victim to any self-imposed power. You can choose to put down the sign and be your own strong economy.

That’s just what I believe, anyway.

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Stop Saying “I’m Broke”


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For years it was my mantra. “I can’t do that, I’m broke.” If friends wanted me to do things with them, it was assumed they’d pay. I tracked every penny to make sure I had enough money to pay my bills at the beginning of the month. I always did, and yet, I insisted on repeating it: “I’m broke.”

But I wasn’t broke. If I were truly broke, why did I have an apartment? A car? GAS for that car? Food? A computer? Games to play on the computer? A TV? DVDs to watch on the TV?

I wasn’t broke. I was choosing where to put my money.

I didn’t see it that way, though. Money was tight. I had to be careful. I spent so much time worrying about money that I didn’t see how much I really had.

Then, one day (after yoga, incidentally), I had an epiphany. If I keep telling myself I’m broke, how am I ever going to get un-broke?

Worrying about money I don’t have is a waste of worry. If there’s nothing to be done about it, the best thing for my sanity would be to just let it go. I can’t tell you how many miracles have occurred when I give myself permission to not worry about money.

One time, I was fretting about how I would cover the cost of something. I realized there was nothing I could do about it immediately, so I gave myself permission to let go of the worry. Later that day, I got a phone call from a former employer telling me they had an un-cashed payroll check in the system from two years prior, made out to me, for $200, and did I want it?

I never could have predicted that could happen, but the point is, every time I’ve ever let the worry go, something happened (usually un-planned or unexpected) that got me out of whatever pickle I’d been worrying about.

Not worrying is one thing. Breaking out of the lie of “I’m broke” is another. For me, forcing myself out of the habit of saying those two words has been the next step in truly letting go. It seemed contradictory at first, so I needed a new mantra to re-program myself. I can’t remember where I read it, but a blogger suggested that instead of saying “I can’t afford that, I’m broke,” replace it with, “I’m choosing to spend my money elsewhere.”

That takes care of two problems: 1) The implication of lack disappears. It’s not that you don’t have money, you do. 2) Lack of control disappears. It’s no longer a situation out of your hands, you are making an active choice. Money, and how you spend it, is a choice like anything else. Constantly giving your perceived “brokeness” the upper hand is willingly foregoing that choice.

Next time you’re feeling “broke”, try and reverse the feeling. Look around you. What do you have? Do you have clothes on your back? A roof over your head? Food in your belly? Can you read these words? That means you have a computer or a smart phone, and Internet access. How broke can you possibly be if you can log on? The truth is, your life is abundant! Try making a list of all the things you have. You probably have more than you even realize.

I started actively changing my thoughts on this at the beginning of the year, and I feel that I’ve successfully broken the “broke” mantra. Now, hearing someone else say it grates against me, like sandpaper on my skin. It sounds like a lie. Stop feeding into the lie. Give yourself permission to feel abundant! Give yourself permission to not worry about money! Change your mantra. The money always comes. Trust that it will, and it will.