Lately i’ve been talking a lot about my attempts to minimise my belongings, this has lead to me really re-evaluating my life and my beliefs. I like it when something can alter my perspective like this, I think it is healthy to check in with yourself every once in a while and think about how you really feel about certain things.
Today I want to talk about “The 1%”.
Many things spring to mind when we think what this term means to us, The 1%. It has become a sort of adjective for upper-class individuals with their heads seemingly in the clouds.
So what and who exactly are The 1%?
To be a part of this elusive club you have to have a lot of money. To be more specific:
The average household income of the 1% was $1.2m in 2008, according to federal tax data. Measured by net worth, rather than income, the top 1% started at $6.9m in 2009, according to the Federal Reserve, down 23% from 2007.
That was back in 2009. Since then the rich have only gotten richer, as we know. Now let is just stop for a moment. 1.2 million dollars. This translates to £917,782.03 in todays conversion rates. Have you ever seen that much money? Can you even comprehend what that kind of money could do for you? More importantly, can we comprehend what that money could do TO us?
We often think of the ultra-rich as living excessively easy lives, all champagne on yachts and a walk in closet bigger than our house. This is not the case. And this is the point I want to make: more money will never make you happier. It may make your life easier but that does not equate to happiness.
My mum had a magnet on the fridge when I was growing up, I always remembered it because I always thought it was silly, it said: ‘Do not pray for an easy life. Pray to be a strong person.’
Of course now i’m an adult I realise how practical and true that advise is. At times when my life has been easy I have been miserable and at times when life is hard and I should be miserable I have found strength and happiness in the simpler things. Can you think back to similar experiences in your life?
The ultra-rich fascinate me. They work tirelessly in demanding jobs to pay for a lifestyle based upon competition and status. A show of wealth so that everyone knows how much money they have. They work so hard to pay for the luxuries they have whilst having barely enough time to enjoy them. They cannot feel the joy of possessions. They acquire masses of things because they feel a need to keep up with others in the 1%.
I have watched a lot of documentaries and read many articles on the ultra-rich and believe me, there is a lot that goes on behind closed doors. Or in some cases not. Some of the ultra-rich will buy mansions and pay for house-keepers and then never, ever use the house. It will remain undisturbed and unused for years. I heard of one particular woman who ordered the maids to bring fresh flowers to her overseas villa every week, despite her only using the villa for one weekend in TEN YEARS! Even sitting here writing that makes me just think, Why?
Do you know why? It is a show. A status symbol.
Can you imagine spending mountains of money on something pretty useless to yourself, just because you felt the need to keep up with friends. Perhaps you bought 7″ Louboutin heels just because all your friends had them, even though they make your feet hurt like hell and they make your calves look fat.
This is what it is like for the ultra-rich. They hate it too. They, apparently, have plenty to moan about and feel miserable about and it may surprise you how much of the 1% feels hard done by. These are not the only things making them miserable, according to The Economist in 2008 16% of the 1% worked in finance. Other occupations include law and medicine. These are all highly demanding professions that cause high levels of stress.
According to an article in The Atlantic, “the respondents turn out to be a generally dissatisfied lot, whose money has contributed to deep anxieties involving love, work, and family. Indeed, they are frequently dissatisfied even with their sizable fortunes. Most of them still do not consider themselves financially secure; for that, they say, they would require on average one-quarter more wealth than they currently possess.”
“Wealth can be a barrier to connecting with other people,” writes the spouse of a tech wizard who cashed in to the tune of $80 million. “Not feeling you should share some of the stressors in your life (‘Yeah, wouldn’t I like to have your problems’), awkwardness re: who should pay at a restaurant.”
Countless studies have often shown that more money does not equate to happiness.
The secret to happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less. – Socrates
Developing the capacity to enjoy less means finding pleasure in the smaller things and being more mindful of your surroundings in order to notice beauty around us that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
A particularly blue sky, a cute fluffy dog enjoying his walk, the crunch of autumn leaves beneath your feet, there are so many things in the everyday that we oversee and it is such a waste of good feelings. We have so many opportunities to smile and feel good, we just have to notice them.
This is what the ultra-rich lack. They lack gratitude and meaning in their lives. The work they do is unfulfilling, the family they raise feels entitled and their cars pollute the precious earth they have no time to enjoy.
Just for a minute here I want to mention an article I read that spoke about the experiences of African born people in the USA. In Africa communities rely upon each-other for many reasons which means everyone in a village will know each-other. There is a lot of togetherness and even when they moved to the U.S they chose to sleep in the same room because it made them happy, they also said how strange it was that neighbours did not speak nor know each-other.
There are people living in poverty all over the world, they struggle for most if not all of their lives. They have no choice but to find happiness wherever it may lie. What other choice do they have? Lead a miserable life of toil? They choose to find peace and happiness in their lives, through family togetherness and the simpler things.
I remember seeing a program where a charity installed a water pump in a remote African village. The children and adults laughed and beamed as if they had won a million pounds. Money means very little to these people because they understand that when their basic needs are met they do not need anything else. That water pump brought so much joy and happiness to so many people and it really makes me think, why doesn’t turning the tap on make me as happy as those people? Why can I not feel that kind of pleasure? It is because running water is all I have ever known just as six-figure incomes are all the ultra-rich children have ever known. We cannot take pleasure in things we take for granted, it is as simple as that. To feel happiness in the small things we have to open our hearts to gratitude.
So the next time you hear that term “The 1%” maybe you will think, “Oh those poor people who have no lives and cannot feel true happiness”. Perhaps instead of feeling envious of them, we will feel sorry for them. They are the products of our consumer society and they have so much in their lives that it has left them hollow.
Less, will always be more.