4/6/2012 3:54 PM ET|
What the poor can teach the rich
Those on the low end of the income scale can teach the rest of us important lessons about empathy, charitable giving and the realities of economic mobility.
Wow. I thought taxes were a hot-button issue. But taxes are nothing, nothing, compared with how we feel about social and economic classes.
My column "Why are the rich such jerks?" -- which summarized some recent research about the behavior of wealthier people compared with poorer people -- drew more than 600 comments on MSN Money and 1,700 shares on Facebook.
Many people were so busy condemning the rich, the poor, each other or the research that they missed my point: that stereotypes about rich jerks could give some people an excuse not to take care of themselves financially. Who wants to be wealthy if the wealthy are all vile, greedy, evil creatures?
Just as clichés about the rich are unhelpful, so, too, are stereotypes about the poor. Dismissing all low-income Americans as losers who deserve their fates, or as powerless victims of terrible circumstances, is no more accurate than saying all wealthy people are jerks or they're all meritorious (exhibit A: Paris Hilton).
I find it more interesting to see what the different ends of the social and economic spectrum can teach each other. That's why I wrote "What the 1% know about money" and why I'm now writing its counterpart.
Here are some of the things the poor can teach the rest of us:
How to empathize. People in lower socio-economic ranks are better able to read and understand other people's emotions, according to studies conducted by researchers from the University of California and the University of Toronto.
"Lower-class individuals, relative to their upper-class counterparts, scored higher on a measure of empathic accuracy, judged the emotions of a stranger more accurately and inferred emotions more accurately from subtle expressions in the eyes," the researchers noted in their paper, "Social Class, Contextualism and Empathetic Accuracy," published in the journal Psychological Science.
The researchers speculated that poorer people were more likely to "live lives defined by threat," which required them to be more vigilant.
In a world that seems increasingly dogmatic, polarized and shrill, I think we could all use a little more empathy. Empathy connects people and builds trust. It breaks down barriers, leading to more understanding and cooperation. Being able to put ourselves in each other's shoes makes us better people and better citizens.
How to be compassionate. Other studies by the same researchers found lower-class people were more likely to be helpful and generous than wealthier folks. But those who specialize in philanthropic research have long known that poorer people give away more of their incomes, proportionately, than richer people.
Independent Sector, a nonprofit that tracks charitable spending, found in 2001 that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2% of their incomes. Those with incomes of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7%, on average.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest Consumer Expenditure Survey shows a similar trend, with cash contributions to charities generally shrinking as incomes rise:
|All Americans||$5,000 to $9,999||$10,000 to $14,999||$15,000 to 19,999||$20,000 to $29,999|
|Average income before taxes||$62,481||$8,082||$12,606||$17,483||$25,001|
|Average % of income given to charity||2.6%||4.4%||4.1%||4.5%||3.4%|
|$30,000 to $39,999||$40,000 to $49,999||$50,000 to $69,999||$70,000 and up|
|Average income before taxes||$34,762||$44,734||$59,253||$129,151|
|Average % of income given to charity||3.5%||3.2%||2.7%||2.2%|
|Source: Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2010|
These are pretax numbers, but the after-tax numbers are very similar.
What fascinates researchers about these numbers is that they seem counterintuitive. The poorer you are, the less discretionary income you have; most of what you make is eaten up in basic expenses. Logically, the higher-income folks have more discretionary income to give -- but they don't, at least not at the rates that lower-income people give.
Another interesting trend is where the money goes. About 41% of the $89.9 billion donated to charity in 2005 by households with incomes under $100,000 went to causes that helped the poor meet their basic needs, according to a study (.pdf) by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Of the $51 billion donated by households with incomes above $1 million, less than 15% benefited causes that helped the poor. The very wealthy tended to favor health- and education-related charities and to give to religious causes over giving to the poor.
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knothing,the rich live on anouther planet.They dont care if you live or die.Most in washington are rich beyond belief or get that way after being there.The corruption is terrible and we need term limits to skim the crud off.
There is a difference between trust fund babies and those who went out and earned it. I'm not rich by any means but I did start with nothing and, through doing what it took instead of what I "could", I was able to retire at 55 with a nice portfolio.
Because I DID do it right, (get an education, work hard, save, invest, live within my means), I have a very short fuse for those who say "It's rigged", "the stock market is a casino", "the 1%ers...", "the rich take everything and keep us down", and all the other BS you see on these threads.
Thanks to "entitlement" mentality and "living wage" idiocy, people somehow feel they should live large without doing the work. It's to the point that illegal aliens are more American than Americans, they come here with nothing yet they can somehow build a life and prosper. They are realizing the American dream, many here never heard of such a concept.
bei ng poor is not always because of choices they make. Some are born in to poverty. And getting out does not always come easy.
There's 2 kinds of poor.
The rich don't "game the system"? The rich don't have "entitlement attitudes"? Oh no? What game was Madoff playing? Ebbers? Kozlowski? Ken Lay? Jeff Skilling? What game did the CEOs of Wall Streets 7 biggest banks play when they took TARP and ARRA and then gave themselves 26% increases in their salaries and bonuses in the past 3 years? What game was Big Oil playing when it raised prices 3 times a year for decades and then helped itself to trillions in taxpayer subsidies. Don't talk about the poor gaming the system. They poor go to jail...the rich "settle" using money they stole from the poor to pay off their fines instead of sitting their asses in jail like poor people do. One law for the rich and another for the poor?
As for entitlement attitudes, don't talk about the poor having entitlement attitudes until you are ready to admit that Madoff felt perfectly entitled to every dime he stole to the tune of $62 BILLION dollars. What is that if not "entitlement"?
Seems like the rich can only play their games and earn their "entitlements" by demonizing the poor and raking the Middle Class over the coals with one entitlement after another to tax cuts that reduce their taxes and bankrupt everyone else. Just don't get toooo bankrupt because there's a rich man sitting there two asses where one should be ready to jump start the demonizing he created. Are the 8 million who lost jobs from 2000 to 2008 "poor" and did all those CEOs who dumped the 8 million jobs care a hoot about how much poverty their were creating just to buy another private jet, private island, $7,000 shower curtain and a fleet of gas guzzlers.
Sorry, a poor person owes zero empathy to a rich man who lives so far beyond his means he never believes there's ever going to be a ceiling on predatory prices he charges to make himself rich or a limit to how much greed the rest of us will tolerate before "it" hits the ceiling.
My father taught Me to always save 10%, donate 10% to my local church pay My bills the day they come in the mail and the rest was Mine to spend as I see fit what the Government don't understand about My Dads philosophy is the more I pay in taxes the less I will spend out on the economy , sure We have a huge wasteful bureaucratic government but what about the other businesses in are community they need support to.
You can say whatever you want,but i have been on this old earth many years and i know that a great many wealtrhy people had breaks that no one else could get. Money opens many doors to make more and more money. Its plain and simple math that once you can get a certain amount of money that you dont have to worry about your monthly bills you can then start to make money. Its also a fact that a large number of wealthy people inheirted their money and did not have to work hard to get it just like it is also a fact that a large number of wealthy people feel they are a better person than anybody else.
I find it interesting that when you look at the study people on the bottom end of the economic ladder give more to helping the poor, while the wealthier are giving to higher end charities. Does that make any sense, I think it does, we tend to help those that resemble ourselves. If you never suffered in life, most wouldn't understand that there are a lot of people at the bottom that work just as hard if not harder than people at the higher end of the scale. Just like some at the higher end of the scale, might have worked night and day through college, and three jobs before they made it, I don't count these as the "rich", they worked their way up.
Now, the ones that were born into what my father used to call "old money" might be what most people are irritated at. Is it their fault for not noticing the "little people"? I think not, maybe they just weren't taught that. Now not all are like that, there are always exceptions to the rules.
The big thing to consider is, there are a lot of people that are happy just where they are. Money doesn't always bring happiness. I'm not at the top, I'm not at the bottom, I'm not even in the "middle class", I'm somewhere between the bottom and the beginning of the middle class. We've raised 5 kids that way, are paying on a small house, a cheap car, and trying to float with some kind of small savings account.
All 5 kids are happy and well adjusted, some have gone off and worked their way through college, some have just worked their way up through jobs, and one has joined the military and is protecting our country. We don't worry about what other people have or do with their money, there is no time in life to do that.
People we have one life, live, love, and most of all quit worrying about what other people do with their life, enjoy yours! I know we sure enjoy ours! :) Have a wonderful week!
We who are content to live modestly cannot teach the rich anything. We cannot even teach the unhappy poor anything.
They are all to blinded by their ego to see that they are both worshipping that little yellow rock that ruined civilization thousands of years ago.
The end to class warefare can never happen unless we all agree that life should be fair and full of love for others as yourself.
If the poor did not idolize the rich and dream of being rich, we may have a chance to change the way that we treat each other.
The poor seem to want to become what they hate? (look at the headlines)
I could continue, but no one wants to listen. Go back to arguing, time is money, everything and everyone has a price.
Good luck fitting through the eye of a needle.
<sarcasm>Yeah 'cause you know contributing to better education and healthcare does nothing to benefit the lower classes, nor do churches ever do anything to help them.</sarcasm>
It's tragic that the author associates compassion with giving away one's limited resources. Perhaps the poorest of the poor stay poor because they are too busy giving away all their hard earned money when there is REAL NEED right in front of them for it. The Bible says that the man who does not take care of his immediate family is worse than an unbeliever. I hate, hate, hate shows like Extreme Home Makeover where a family of 7 has a brand spanking new house built for them because their old one is dilapidated and falling apart, but they can't afford to fix it up because they are giving all their money away to charities and what not.
Reach inward, take care of yourselves and your family, THEN reach outward!!!
So basically, the poor can teach the rich how to act like humans....yeah that actually makes sense.
People are poor for MANY reasons. Rich are rich for numerous reasons. Establish yourself with education and pave a better path for your children than what was made for you.Establish legacy my friends...this takes generations but is possible. You will not be rich in your life time and neither will your children, but every generation can get a step closer. YOU start.
Are you kidding me? Put the rod to the fool's back, and woe to a nation who has a servant who becomes king! These are just two wise comments from God's Word.
Only a Marxist would publish drivel like this. A fool and his money are soon parted is another good Proverb to consider. Give a fool a thousand dollars, and give a prudent man a thousand dollars, then watch foolishness waste it away, and prudence prosper.
I had a fool who worked for me. He bought 2 packs of cigarettes a day ( never ahead financially to buy a carton), about $10 worth of lottery tickets, and each evening, he went to town to buy a bottle of wine. That's about $600 per month wasted. A prudent man would put that money to use, and even at minimum wage, would be financially independent at 60 years old, or earlier.
The fool told me he wasn't making enough money and demanded a raise. Since he wasn't earning his "keep" as it was, plus his potential for pilfering me, I fired him.
First, be careful of taking an old saying too litteraly, and second, if you have to ask, I doubt you'd understand, but I'll try.
I could go on at length about how the wealthy have an illusion of pure self reliance (how they've never had help or will need help) that the poor just don't share, or for all Mitt Romney donates to his church, there's more to respect in someone that gives beyond the point it hurts themselves than someone that gives away cash he can't think of how to spend, but to me at least, above all, it's attitude. This isn't monatary, but this weekend my Mom helped a neighbor move to escape an abusive husband. She didnt' try and get out of it. She didn't lection on how the woman needed to help herself, or how she might be bringing abuse on herself, or complain about the proportion of the work. She just helped because she saw a need.
There's a lot of need in america and the world at large, but somehow help always seems to come with a lecture, and several complaints about how much needs to be given, if not that anything needs to be given at all. I don't know if this is an attempt to reconcile base selfishness with the desire to beleive you'd help the truely needy (just no one is ever truely needy), or such a patholigical fear of being taken advantage of you'd rather people with legitimate need go without than let people without need take advantage, or something else, but I find little respectable about it. I find more to respect in those that give even to the point o pain because there's a need to deal with, rather than anyone trying to help in the manner that best serves themselves.
Think of it as the difference between donating a kidney while still alive and being an organ donor: botha re good, but only one really inconviences the giver.
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