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Let’s tax ‘em! Many Americans hate the rich simply because they’re jealous

by Steve Coomes

I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who aren’t rich don’t like those who are because of a few simple reasons:

  • They are jealous of rich people’s money or possessions.
  • They are jealous of rich people’s lifestyles because they seem more fun than theirs.
  • They think the rich are rich only because they’ve gotten breaks they haven’t.
  • And they believe the rich to be greedy for amassing wealth, implying, “If I had their money, I’d donate to everyone.”

Don’t believe me?

Then ask 10 friends this question: “If you were suddenly ‘hit the lottery wealthy,’ what would you do with that money?”

In such conversations over the years, I’ve heard most people say things such as:

  • I’d quit my job and never work again.
  • I’d build my dream home—it would be huge!
  • I’d buy myself a new Lamborghini.
  • I’d travel around the world on my yacht
  • I’d never cook again; I’d eat out at restaurants every night.

Keep the conversation going and you might, just might, hear someone say, “I’d find a way to give lots of that money away,” but that’s pretty uncommon.

What I have yet to hear in a “fantasy rich” conversation is this one thing: “I’d invest it.”

Which is what self-made millionaires do: they make money—typically not all that much—spend far less than they take home, and invest it into things that will make that money grow and work for them.

Read the books, “The Millionaire Next Door,” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” to learn what I’m talking about. No matter how wealthy they get, the bulk of self-made millionaires aren’t the types lolling about in tuxedos lighting stogies with $100 bills.

The vast majority are seemingly regular folks who work—a lot—and live pretty ordinary lifestyles. But they’re anything but normal. As Dave Ramsey, the well-known financial counselor says regularly on his nationwide broadcast, “Normal is broke and up to your eyeballs in debt. Weirdoes are debt free, they live well below their means and become rich.”

The vast majority of all American millionaires are first-generation millionaires, people who busted their humps to earn it and denied themselves some things to ensure they kept it. A July 2012 study by Fidelity Investments found that “86 percent of today’s millionaires are self-made—not silver spoon types.

And yet, there’s a sickness in our culture—I call it jealousy—that tells us these are people should share their wealth regardless of whether they want to. Our government forces them to, and yet politicians say they’re still not paying “their fair share.”

Somehow our country has bought into this notion that if you make more, you should pay more in taxes—even though the rich guy is no more a burden on the system than the poor guy. In fact, since he or she is paying INTO the system and not taking from it, the rich are LESS a burden.

But as so many people like to say, “What’s it matter to a rich person if he pays more taxes? It’s not like he’s going to miss it or need it.”

Really?

Just ask one of those self-made millionaires if they don’t resent the government taking a bigger share from them than it takes from regular folks like me. Trust me, they miss it. I interview business people all the time who talk about it. They’re not missing it because they have to golf less or take one less trip around the world, they miss it because the harder they work, the less they get to keep.

I know a man in his early 80s and who’s a self-made millionaire. When he was 4 years old, his father dropped dead in the field where he was working alongside him (yes, he was working at 4!) As he likes to say, “We were so deep into the sticks, we had to walk a dirt road for more than a mile just to get to a gravel road!”

His mother eked out a life for herself and her three children doing odd jobs and working their land. Milk from their modest dairy herd also supplied income.

After some mandatory time in the Army, the man married and moved from a small town in Kentucky to the University of Kentucky, where he and his wife lived in a diminutive mobile home they towed there.

He earned an engineering degree in three years (not a partier, not a frat boy) and moved back to that small town and worked as an engineer at a nearby power plant for four decades.

He and his wife raised three children on enough, but little extra. She was a stay-at-home mom and he farmed a little on the side. Mostly, the couple saved their money and invested it into land and retirement funds. As their children left home, they invested those funds into other small money-making ventures that the husband managed. All the while, they saved and invested, saved and invested and never took on any debt.

Far as I know, the couple has never owned a new car, and they live in the same house in which they raised their children; it’s not even 2,000 square feet.

His children are friends of mine and we visit their town occasionally. Once, his daughter pointed to a not-so-stylish shirt her father was wearing and said, “See that shirt? It’s probably 25 years old, and it looks like it’s brand new. He just takes care of his things.”

Since retiring two decades ago, he has built and sold numerous houses using used equipment bought at auctions. He gets bargains on backhoes, dump trucks and tractors—implements costing tens of thousands of dollars—because he’s always got the cash. He doesn’t have to ask his banker for a loan.

He’s reportedly very generous, but you’ll never hear it from him. He likes to do his giving privately. Each year his children receive annual gifts from his estate—the maximum the IRS allows without taxes—and, just like him, they invest it.

He came from nothing, but he and his wife are wealthy. Yet you’d never know it by looking at them or listening to their stories of daily life. They live humbly.

Which is something too few people are willing to do because the rewards aren’t immediate. Most people crave the comforts of wealth to the point they’ll load up ridiculous amounts of debt to have them and a life a lifestyle they ultimately can’t afford.

But research shows that most self-made millionaires don’t get caught up in satisfying cravings immediately. They have the long-term in mind, and they know that nearly anything that can be had with a quick loan swipe of a credit card is probably not worth having because there’s no return to be made.

I know lots of self-made millionaires whose friends think they’re cheap, but they’re not. They merely hate to spend money on things that don’t return more money. They’re not greedy, they just know that once their money’s spent, it’s lost all ability to make more money.

And yet, these are the very people whom politicians and way too many constituents believe should be heavily taxed and forced to share their wealth! The very people who never scrimped, saved and invested wisely or delayed gratification in their lives are saying, “Take more of theirs. They’ll never miss it.”

I don’t get that. In fact, I’m repulsed by it, partly because of personal experience.

I became a full-time freelance writer in 2007, a fairly risky gamble, especially compared to what I was earning in my job. I racked up a couple of good years until 2010, when I logged the lowest income year I’d seen since 1998.

Resolving to do better, I buckled down even further in 2011 and earned more than I ever have. I worked my butt off, did the best I could and was proud of myself.

Yet, for paying more taxes than I ever have on those earnings, the government rewarded me with … an even higher tax bracket!

After my wife and I wrote a check for about a month’s earnings to settle up with Uncle Sucker, we were told by our account to withhold more for my 2012 quarterly tax payments. So, after the privilege of paying that extra tax, I got to live as though I never earned it.

I’m having yet another record year—just barely—but once the taxes all shake out, my wife and I will actually net about we did when I was making less.

Nice, eh? That’s what I get for working no less than 50 hours a week, often 60 and a couple of times a year, 70.

In fact, I’m writing this piece on a Sunday morning when most 40-hour workers are relaxing.

I didn’t get wise to money management until I was into my 40s, and that’s sad. Knowing what I know now, I’d do things differently, but I didn’t have that education growing up. (Research shows that such knowledge handed down—not wealth handed down—plays a huge role in how ordinary people become millionaires.)

I see the error of my ways and hope to steer my son away from doing the same. Maybe he’ll be wise and save his money steadily, never take on debt and live below his means so he can—by choice—give to people and causes he believes in.

And since there will be nothing like social security for him—and possibly for me—hopefully he’ll amass a few million dollars to take care of himself—yeah, become a millionaire.

And hopefully, not everyone will hate him for it.

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