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  1. Mr. G, your whole argument presumes that opportunity is equal for all and that inequality is only due to effort.

    I’m not ashamed of my privilege, but I damn well recognize that it’s there and that opportunity is NOT equal. Opportunity is there, but not fairly distributed.

    Let’s say life is a marathon. A race is simple, but fair, right? Totally about ability and effort and grit. (I made it a marathon, not a sprint because let’s admit that endurance and strategic thinking can compete with natural ability).

    Here’s the rub, though. Privilege means we all start at different points. We don’t all have the same starting point. Upper Middle Class me got to start about 10 miles in. Now a 15-mile race still means I need to give a good effort. I need to train and work hard and keep going. And I’m gonna work hard to make sure my kid starts 10 miles in, too, so she can make it to the finish line. She’s gonna go to good schools and live in a good neighborhood and learn coding, etc.

    But up ahead of me are folks who are starting 15 miles in. They can still give up or fritter away their lead, but with less effort than me, they can beat me pretty easily. Okay, that’s fine too. And the conscientious ones are gonna use their advantages to try to get their kids a starting point at 15 miles in or even 20. They’re going to pay for tutors and SAT camps and elite private schools where they can make all the right connections. That bothers me a bit more, but ok.

    And there are people who start behind me too. Maybe they start at 5 miles in, or maybe at the beginning. Whatever, it’s all the same course, right? They can still finish. Some of them may end up among the top finishers, even, if they have exceptional talent, skill, luck, strategy, and grit.

    I mean, we used to put up barriers that said some people could only run a mile or two. Now everyone can try to make it to the finish line.

    But it’s a heck of a lot harder to run the race if you start at the beginning. Those folks who have the full marathon have no room for error. Unlike the guys who have a 5 or even a 15-mile race, it takes a lot more stamina to run the full 25.6. It wears you down, gets in your head. Only the strongest of the strongminded can do it. A few people will manage it, but many won’t overcome their starting point. And they’re way more likely to pick up an injury along the way.

    And so, here’s the thing. I’m not ashamed of my FI. I’m thankful as hell for it. I don’t want to take anyone else’s away, either. But I don’t want my privilege to push people further back, either, or ignore what allows them to start at their starting point in the first place. Because don’t you think it’d be a little fairer if we made sure the next generation could all with adequate nutrition and shelter?

    24% of the kids in NC goes hungry. 1 in 4. The number one predictor for a school’s average scores on standardized tests is the percentage of kids who get free or reduced lunch. There are outliers, of course, but that’s still the highest correlative factor. And it makes total sense because hungry kids are distracted and irritable, and they get sick more often. They miss more school and they’re more likely to disrupt the classroom and take the teacher’s attention away from teaching.

    Life ain’t fair, and we can’t make it fair, but I can try to keep it from becoming less fair. And darn it, I can try not to begrudge a glass of water or two to the folks who are traveling a few extra miles.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Emily. I disagree with your understanding of “privilege.” Black Americans are the best basketball players in the world. Is this because they have “privilege” and the other races and ethnicities don’t? Is this because our society makes sure black kids get the best sneakers, gym equipment, basketball courts, trainers, nutritionists, and coaches? At some point, all the great advantages out there mean squat. All you need to succeed in this country is adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and schooling. You don’t need the best of everything. As long as you have the basics covered, and talent and drive, of course, you’re set. Our material deprivation is the wimpiest on earth. We’re neither the Congo nor some rural area of India. And, thankfully, the vast majority of Americans have the basics covered. They have enough. All that’s stopping our ghetto, barrio, and trailer park residents from succeeding are the attitudes and behaviors they have adopted.

  2. I have no comfort with the idea of a person who has far fewer advantages than I pondering our two fortunes side by side. But it is more discomfort than guilt. Or wait – is that shame? I might feel shame. I feel low enough on the socioeconomic scale that I don’t think I feel guilty for what I have. But I do feel guilty on behalf of far wealthier people. Not all of them. Just the cruel and greedy ones. We know that the very wealthy in this country often use their power to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. For example, an ultra wealthy person can bribe congress to keep the minimum wage low, which keeps life painful for workers. Or they can direct their bribe to ensuring that they don’t have to incur the cost of cleaning cancer-causing pollution in a poor area. This results in their becoming undeservedly richer. Only the very wealthy can bribe our lawmakers to help them become wealthier. Those people should feel guilty.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Amen, Linda. True privilege battens on a government that can give favors to some citizens at the expense of other citizens.

  3. I am not ashamed I worked hard and choose a job with a pension. I worked with many people whom complained about being terminated for not showing up for work on time. I had friends I went to school with looked forward to being layed off and making full pay. Now all they have is social security plus a union pension. Which is being reduced! Sadly I found unions protected those who chose not work hard. So do I feel bad about making smart chooses he’ll no!

    • Mr. Groovy

      You are preaching to the choir, my friend. For twenty-one years I was the member of a municipal union. Its leadership was utterly indifferent to developing a first-class workforce and providing the taxpayers with excellent service. Most of my co-workers were lazy bums. If they did two or three hours of half-assed work during their shift, it was a lot. And our union couldn’t care less. All it wanted was more pay and more benefits for their members. Yeah, if you overlooked their complete disdain for the taxpayers, our union leaders were great “public servants.”

  4. This is something I have wrestled with my whole working life. Growing up we weren’t financially wealthy, by any means. but I worked hard and saved whatever I made. I was fortunate that I had great grandparents and grandparents that taught me the value of a dollar and how to make ends meet.
    As I grew older my friends didn’t have the same work ethic. I watched them sponge off the government, skip classes their parents were paying for, and smoke whatever other money was given to them. I pretended to be poor so I wouldn’t rattle the cage. I’ve also done the same in relationships. Not talking about my financial success for fear people would think it was handed to me when it was anything but. It is only in the past few years, with this community, that I am able to talk freely about money and not feel ashamed. I am not wealthy, by any means, but my potential to get there is greater than many because I am willing to work and I am willing to sacrifice things that others aren’t. I recognize that I won the ovarian lottery being born here and I won’t waste the opportunity to succeed.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Miss Mazuma. This is my biggest problem with the concept of “privilege.” I don’t think most people use it to enlighten. I think most people use it to belittle someone else’s achievement or to cow someone into not standing up for him- or herself. In other words, most people use the word “privilege” to marginalize others. And this sickens me to no end. Okay, I get it. I had two parents. I grew up in a nice neighborhood. I’m an evil bastard. How much of my paycheck do you want? And how many of my rights must I surrender to avoid be branded with a scarlet “P”?

  5. I don’t feel guilty, Mr. G but I do feel as if I’m supposed to. I grew up VERY blue collar and while I can see that I had some advantages, I never once felt privileged. I just played the hand/advantages I was dealt and don’t feel any guilt whatsoever.

    Very good post and love the comments. By the way, I loved this nugget: “trickle-down government is just as ineffective as trickle-down economics”.

    • Mr. Groovy

      This world ultimately belongs to the doers. If you’re expecting our businesspeople or politicians to save you, you’re in trouble. At best, you will lead a life of mediocrity. “Trickle-down government” was just my cute way of reminding everyone that there are no saviors. And I totally hear you about advantages. Some definitely have more than others. But as long as you have enough–as in adequate food, shelter, clothes, medical care, and schooling–you have all you need to succeed. And fortunately, for the vast majority of Americans, material deprivation isn’t the problem. It all boils down to what culture you embrace. If you embrace a crap culture, you’ll have a crap outcome. If you embrace a cool culture, you’ll have a cool outcome. Thanks for stopping by, Ty. It’s always great hearing from you, my friend.

  6. Nope, no guilt here, but then again we live life in the 10% tax bracket (with an occasional errant step into the 15% bracket). Maybe I should feel guilty about my fat-cat teaching job that pays me an incredible $67k a year after 22 years of service and three graduate degrees.

    Modern America’s use of the term “privilege” is laughable to me. I don’t recall much privilege while scratching and clawing for rebounds as a college basketball player. I didn’t see much privilege watching my Dad run a carpet store out of an old chicken house before he built his first store. He was so privileged that he was usually open seven days a week. I’m sorry (actually I’m not), but when the “privilege talk” starts flowing, I turn the page, change the channel, or simply tune out.

    Interesting post Mr. G,
    Ed

    • Mr. Groovy

      “I’m sorry (actually I’m not), but when the “privilege talk” starts flowing, I turn the page, change the channel, or simply tune out.”

      My sentiments exactly! The term “privileged” is not used to make us more thoughtful and understanding. It’s used as a slur to make us less vigilant in the defense of our rights and more willing to surrender our paychecks to the government. And the only proper response to this villainy is to “tune out” and shun any virtue-signaling wretch who derides someone as “privileged.” Thank you, Ed. Your comment warmed the cockles of my heart. Cheers.

  7. One of the things that made the USA great was the belief that there’s opportunity for all. That doesn’t, however, mean success for all. Bust your butt, and you can succeed. Sit on the couch and watch TV all day, and live on “wealth redistribution” at the hands of the Government? I don’t think that was the intent.

    I’m proud to be in the first camp. And I don’t feel guilty, at all.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Fritz. I don’t get this guilt trip that so many elites want to foist on the masses. We live in a rich country with a lot of freedom and a lot of opportunity. You would think that the elites would be pleased whenever someone took advantage of these blessings. But apparently they’re not. Antipathy towards success has now been weaponized. You work hard, live honorably, and thrive both socially and economically, and you’re not a role model, you’re a “privileged” piece of shit. I guess if you want to be respected by the elite, you need to be an excuse-making loser who is perfectly happy with the filthy bowl of oatmeal that the welfare state provides. Sigh.

  8. It’s such a scary feeling, making friends with strangers.

    One great thing about acquiring wealth is you can experience what it’s like to be richer than the majority of people around you.

    It’s great to feel superior to them and be reminded that I’m just a little sharper than the dimwitted hordes.

    All their imperfect clothes and their mediocre homes and families. It’s really amazing how these imperfect pidgeons manage to survive when they’re not in my presence.

    They must feel so lonely when they leave my house, or when I leave theirs. I wish I could hold all these sorry sacks in my arms and engulf them in my pure soul.

    But they brought it on themselves with all their imperfections and stupid mistakes.

    All I can do is be polite and put up with them when I’m forced to see them. After all, I can’t tell them what I really think of them. I can’t let them down. I can’t let them suffer knowing that their god presence is actually human after all.

    So for all concerned I think it’s best I stay away from all these imperfect people. I just don’t want to hurt anyone again. I just don’t want to get hurt again.

    I’ve been very lucky because I’m lazy enough that my businesses fail every 4-5 years and I have to rebuild.

    I get to see all my family and friends for what they really are. Beautiful, loving, caring, weak, lonely, scared, dying and genuine.

    But soon I will get business back on track, and I’ll be living a more comfortable lifestyle than the average guy.

    Soon I’ll hear that voice in my ear again. That voice that reminds me of my natural superiority.

    – EGO

    • Mr. Groovy

      Ego is the problem. When you succeed, it tells you that it was all because of you. When you fail, it tells you that it was all because of others. I love the way your mind works, Brent. Can you now focus that awesome tool and how we can control the fickle beast that is ego?

  9. I am on your side for this Mr G. We all have choices.

    Using the average person as an example, someone who is born healthy, has an opportunity at an education and grew up relatively free of any major incidents in their life. The only reason why the average person can’t achieve FIRE is because of their choices.

    My parents didn’t teach me a lot on how to build wealth, they just told me to get a job. But I was curious about how the wealthy did it, so I went to Google and went to learn. In our current digital age, most of us have access to Google. It just depends on whether you want to use it.

    On this path to achieving FIRE, I had to give up a lot of choices to cut my spending and save more. All this just to try and reach a goal, that is still pretty far away for me. The goal is not even guarantee. In the event that I finally achieve it, I am not going to feel ashamed. Because I decided to start early and I work hard at it. And if I’m lucky enough, I’ll get it.

    Anyone can be wealthy. It all comes down to the choices they make.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I’ve had the same experience as well. When I was a financial bum, I was living paycheck to paycheck. But once I decided to turn things around, and started reading and googling my ass off, nothing could stop me. At forty, I didn’t have one time my annual expenses saved. At fifty-five, I had over twenty-five times my annual expenses. Give a man an internet connection and he has the collective wisdom of world at his finger tips. Thanks for stopping by, Terence. Great comment.

  10. I wouldn’t say I had an easy path and definitely not privileged. But I am lucky. Lucky I was chosen to immigrate here, lucky my parents found the jobs they found, lucky to have gone to college with FAFSA and grants taking the load off.

    My mom said Bezos was more impressive than Gates (this was when Bezos almost toppled Gates as the wealthiest man) because Bezos came from nothing – a teen mom in fact! Whereas Gates had everything in life given to him, his parents were both lawyers etc. I can see why she thinks it’s romantic but it irked me a bit…Gates didn’t choose what he was born into. He accomplished just as much, if not more, than Bezos.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Most people in the United States have everything in life given to them. So why aren’t we all Bill Gates? Beyond a basic threshold, material comfort is basically meaningless. You have clothes, indoor plumbing, adequate shelter, food, and the internet? Congratulations. You not only have more than most people in the world, you have all you need to succeed. Stop crying. Stop bemoaning how you don’t have as much as others. Get off your ass and make something of yourself. The United States is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. But we’re rapidly becoming the land of the dependent and home of the wuss. Meh. Would be that more Americans were like you, Lily. Thanks for stopping by. Great comment as always.

  11. Interesting points. I don’t think wealthy people should feel guilty for their success, and I agree that positive financial habits have a lot to do with how successful people can become. That being said, some people still end up having many advantages over others, and I think it’s important for it be acknowledged.

    For example, a kid born in the inner-city born to a single mother has the odds stacked against him/her. That doesn’t determine their full life path and ultimately whether or not they’ll reach financial independence, but it’s certainly more difficult. It also doesn’t mean their circumstances should be used as an excuse for them adopting poor habits. I’m a big believer that with hard work, persistence, perseverance, a willingness to learn, and strong financial habits a person has a huge impact on how successful they’ll be in life.

    I consider myself privileged for being born in the US, to middle class parents that stayed married, etc. I don’t feel guilty that I’ve had some advantages, but I do acknowledge it as a blessing and it makes me even more motivated to give back and help others.

    • Mr. Groovy

      So true. And so sad. There’s material poverty and there’s cultural poverty. Get the cultural poverty fixed and the material poverty will eventually go away. Just look at Asian immigrants who arrived penniless but valued hard work and education. Their material poverty was wiped out in a generation. Now here’s the rub. How do you fix inner-city, barrio, or trailer-park culture? Our best and brightest have been working on it since LBJ launched his war on poverty and things appear to be getting worse. Sigh. Very tough problem. Thanks for stopping by, Matt. There’s a lot of wisdom in your comment.

  12. Laurie Blank

    Ditto, ditto and ditto!! I am from the opposite end of the spectrum. We grew up DIRT poor. Times of NO food in the house and yes, no electricity etc. No college degree (are you KIDDING ME? My mom’s biggest prayer was that we’d all graduate high school – and that was a lofty prayer for her considering where we came from). It’s taken me years of being pissed off for being born into poverty and years more of getting over myself and years more of educating myself about how to manage money smart. The path would have been a lot shorter (I’m 50 now) if I would have cut the pity party short and got to work when I was 30 instead of waiting till I was sick and tired of being sick and tired at 47. Any moron walking can get a leg up on supposed “income equality” by googling terms like “how to get out of debt”, “how to get rich” or “how to budget money”. NO MORE EXCUSES. Well, it is a free country, and you are free to continue making excuses (as I did for so many years) but then you’ll be in the same rotten place 20 years from now as you are today. What will you choose?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Made my day, Laurie. We are what we focus on. If we focus on what we don’t have and how we’ve been wronged; that is, if wallow in self-pity, we are destined for a life of mediocrity or worse. For the excuse-making prone among us, a bitter, frustrating life awaits. For extreme-ownership prone among us, a fruitful, glorious life awaits. Like you said, Laurie, the one we choose is up to us.

  13. Louise

    “Wealthy people are one of the official villains of big education and big journalism in this country, and this demonization campaign has rendered many wealthy people psychologically neutered. ”
    The media and political campaigns so often present wealth as an either-or situation. THEY are wealthy, so you can’t be. We must take from THEM, so you can have wealth.
    What if it was a both-and world? THEY are wealthy, and so are you?

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it, Louise. The both-and message is much more uplifting and accurate than the either-or message. And this is so because sound financial habits don’t discriminate. As soon as you befriend them, they’ll befriend you. I should know. Prior to my 45th birthday, I had a casual relationship with sound financial habits. But once I fully embraced them, nothing could stop my quest for financial independence–not the “banksters,” not the crooked politicians, and not even the evil One Percent.

  14. Happy Friday, Mr. G!

    I don’t feel guilty, nor do I feel my success comes at the expense of others, and I don’t think anyone should.

    I do think that while just about anyone can adopt good habits or do the things we do in the FIRE community, there are those that don’t know about it so they will never get there. It’s that whole ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ thing.

    On your movies, I must admit I’ve not read any of the books and I’ve only seen 2 of the films, so I’d have to go with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

    • Agreed, Amy. I had semi-prime financial habits until I married Mrs G and she discovered Dave Ramsey. But how do we get our schools and media to spread the glories of sound financial habits to the ignorant? I’m afraid our thought-leaders in our schools and media find sound financial habits to be too white and too bourgeoisie. It would therefore be a form of cultural imperialism to promote them to people of color. Sigh.

      Finally, great point about the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve missed out on a lot great literature and great films.

  15. Hello Mr Groovy,

    We love your blog. You guys rock!

    To answer your question, we are not ashamed of our wealth but at the same time, we don’t flaunt it which is part of the reason why we blog anonymously.

    Some people are def more privileged than others. For example, our daughter will grow up way more privileged than we were growing up.

    And we will make sure she doesn’t take it for granted and that she helps and advocates for people who are less privileged than her. We started off very poor so we know how extremely difficult it is to make it.

    Free, good education for the poor can def make a difference along with for example free daycare, free housing, and welfare BUT only for a limited time, let’s say 5-7 years.

    • Agreed, Ms99to1. No one should feel guilty for working hard, living modestly, and learning how to manage one’s money well. And you are absolutely right about the moral hazards of welfare. It seems the more the government helps, the more helpless and dependent the populace becomes. Sigh.

      P.S. I love your story and your blog. You and Mr99to1 are a fine addition to the personal finance community. I can’t wait to read your future ruminations on life and finances.

  16. First: I heard a saying at one point that has stuck with me. I don’t know where it came from, but paraphrased it is that if you are ashamed of something, you should either stop doing it or stop being ashamed. If it’s valid shame, then stop doing whatever it is causing you shame. If it is invalid, then stop feeling it and give yourself permission to go about your life. I am not ashamed of seeking FIRE or having some money.

    Second: You know I have to respond on privilege and welfare haha.

    I consider myself to be privileged because my life has been much easier than it would have been if I were not born a straight white middle-class male. I did well in school, sure. But I never had to go to class hungry like many of my classmates. I never had to fear for my safety. I didn’t have to worry about interactions with the police going sideways through no fault of my own. I didn’t have teachers giving up on me or doubting my abilities based on my skin color. I didn’t have to deal with sexual harassment or worry about my safety if I was walking alone.

    And that’s just one snapshot in time. I live a life of privilege because I haven’t gone through the hardships that others have been forced to go through. It’s not that I don’t deserve what I’ve earned, it’s just that others are playing the game of life at a higher difficulty level.

    As to the efficiency of welfare, I’m sure there are inefficient programs like the one you link to, but the statement that every dollar of benefit requires four dollars of tax is incorrect. Food Stamps are extremely efficient. (https://www.cbpp.org/research/snap-is-effective-and-efficient) Payment errors, management and maintenance fees, and abuse are all very minimal. The benefit is about as close as 1 dollar to 1 dollar as you could hope for. Same with Medicaid. (https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/frequently-asked-questions-about-medicaid) It is much more efficient than the private sector and maximizes benefit to the recipient at as low a cost to the taxpayer as one could hope for.

    There are certainly inefficiencies (especially in some of the more experimental programs), but on the whole benefits for the poor are run very efficiently.

    • I love it, Matt. You are the moral conscience of this blog. But here’s something that sincerely confuses me. How do the social and economic headwinds that you so eloquently describe stop blacks from doing well academically but not athletically? In other words, how does “systemic racism” stop black kids from studying math but not practicing basketball? Could it be that systemic racism is a dodge? And the real problem is systemic self-sabotage and systemic excuse making?

      P.S. Excellent point about the efficiency of the food stamp program. Not all government efforts to help the poor are larded down with bureaucratic waste.

      • I haven’t thought much about why the racial proportions are different in different sports, although I am sure there is research out there. I would note that it is important to recognize that while African-Americans are a higher proportion of NFL and NBA players, this is still a very small number of people. So while there may be more black NFL players than white NFL players, there are more black architects than black NFL players. Given that, it doesn’t feel fair to assume that black kids are necessarily better at basketball than math as you posit.

        (This is an interesting take on the “Why are there so many black athletes?” question – http://www.theroot.com/why-are-there-so-many-black-athletes-1790876918)

        I’m currently reading the Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen and I really think you would enjoy it. Cowen is an economist with a libertarian bent. The book covers a lot of different topics, but on race he tends to look to culture in a way that is reminiscent of some of your writing. What the book points out is that neighborhood-level segregation is worse today than it was in 1968. If the problem really is culture, then increasing segregation means that unhealthy cultural habits are going to be strengthened and passed on from generation to generation.

        I guess my point is that even if you don’t buy the systemic racism argument, you are still advantaged or disadvantaged by the situation you are born into and the people you grow up with.

        Thanks, as always, for fostering a community of interesting and openminded intellectual debate!

        • Damn it, Matt. You’re making me think. When I was in high school, half the school was Jewish and the other half was Christian. The academic stars were overwhelmingly Jewish. But here’s the thing. There were a number of Christian kids who did very well academically. One of my best friends was one of them. And I don’t recall any poorly-performing Christians accusing Christian scholars of “acting Jewish.” In other words, Christians didn’t think using one’s brain and striving for academic and economic success was selling out one’s religious tribe. You talk about blacks needing exposure to the better aspects of white culture. And that’s a valid point. But here’s the fly in the ointment. Are blacks open to “acting white”? There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that says they aren’t. So I’m afraid cultural desegregation would do little to change things. Too many blacks have been conditioned to loathe anything that’s “white.”

          • I wouldn’t call the economic/academic approach white culture or black culture or anything like that. I honestly am not a big proponent of the culture argument generally – I was more proposing that argument because I had read it recently and felt it was up your alley.

            That said, I think culture is learned through experience. In the same way that individuals with gay friends or family members are more likely to support gay marriage, I think that people with close cross-racial connections are more likely to see past the stereotypes and snap judgments about other races. I don’t think that a fear of acting white is much of a problem beyond some anecdotes, but if it is, then cross-racial friendships and relationships would help overcome that, and better integration would help create cross-racial relationships.

            • Haha! You don’t expect me to respond to your very cogent reply, do you? Well, if I had a good counterpoint, I would. But since I don’t, I’ll go off on a tangent. Here’s my frustration. The other day I read a story about a great black teacher who can’t pass the teacher certification exam. The gist of the article was that high standards were perpetuating white privilege. But suppose we loosened the standards to keep this teacher in the classroom teaching black kids? Then some think tank would come along and claim that our most needy students–students of color–have the least-qualified teachers and our public schools are perpetuating white privilege. There’s no winning. There’s always an excuse for why black students and people can’t succeed. So what do we do? Is our society really so cruel to disadvantaged people in general and black people in particular? Sorry for the rant, Matt. Like I said, I got nothing else. You deftly answered all my points. I know this isn’t a competition, but you bested once again. Bravo, my friend.

  17. No, I don’t feel guilty. Also, my success didn’t come at the expense of others. In fact, my 2nd million (+) came from selling a business I started and ran for 18 years. We employed dozens of people with nice salaries, 100% paid health insurance, 401k matches, 3 weeks vacation, and they even got 20% of the equity proceeds when the company was sold. Yes. That’s right.

    Now, I don’t think I’m in the majority, but I’m not the only one who leverages their success to spread it around by compensating people who justify it. Justify it. Justify it. Not hand-outs, but people willing to put forth effort, and justify above-average compensation.

    Instead of whining so much, more people should step up, improve their skills, their situation, and make sure they honestly can justify what they want to earn.

    • Brad, you are so freaking right. Habits compound every bit as much as interest does. And no one should feel guilt or shame for being virtuous over the course of many years and decades. Likewise, no one should feel entitled to a “living wage” just because he or she is breathing. I love the way your mind works, my friend.

  18. I do not feel guilty about my financial success. In fact, I’m so comfortable with it I want to teach as many others that will listen how they can have the same success too. I’ve got a seminar set up in a few weeks call “Avoiding Student Debt”

    I guess I don’t read enough fiction these days to add any additional movies. The silence of the Lambs and Jaws are certainly two good ones. Living on Long Island where Jaws is set, I recall a lot of out of state family members asking us around the time it came out if it was safe to swim in the water. 🙂

    • “I do not feel guilty about my financial success. In fact, I’m so comfortable with it I want to teach as many others that will listen how they can have the same success too.”

      Amen, my brother. That is one of the most beautiful sentiments I have ever heard.

  19. Dani

    I love this, every bit of your definition of privilege. I am not FIRE, nor even close, so I can’t speak of being ashamed of wealth that I don’t yet have; however, I am tired of being shamed for things that I didn’t cause. I am responsible for my own successes and failures; in America, I and every other citizen (man, I wish I could italicize those last 3 words) has the same opportunities unless actual privilege tips the scales–which I will be the first to admit, it often does. However, there are many more success stories about people that build themselves from “nothing,” and they are the examples to which we look–those of us who don’t want to be reliant on the generosity of our government or other people, that is. I’d rather struggle on my own terms to build up my own miniature empire, than struggle under someone else’s rules to just survive.

    • “I’d rather struggle on my own terms to build up my own miniature empire, than struggle under someone else’s rules to just survive.”

      Thank you, Dani. Those who believe they have a right to live off of others are destined to lead a life of mediocrity or worse.

  20. If you hire “help,” you fool nobody by removing price-tags from your purchases. The fact that you call them “help” makes your attitude of superiority impossible to disguise. The fact that you HIRE help indicates you are either rich or acting rich.

    Those who argue most articulately against wealth inequality are invariably richer than most. Inequality rhetoric is more about pretext than actual text.

    When in college I saw a book in Christian bookstores: “Rich Christians in a World of Hunger.” I felt guilty, but didn’t read it. A year or two went by and I saw another book that was much less aggressively marketed, “Productive Christians in a World of Guilt-Manipulators.” And I knew exactly why I had felt guilt in the first place, and vindicated in the second place.

    I joke that guilt manipulation is a Baptist bloodsport. But guild manipulators transcend race, creed, or sexual preference. I recommend open scorn only after stealth-wealth fails. (It’s stupid to act rich, and impolite to flaunt it when you are.)

  21. You definitely laid it out there. My former boss said a 1 saved is 4 dollars earned. This is kind of true but opposite in the government. A dollar given is 4 dollars taken from somewhere else.

    I think there is a fine line. I don’t care if you spend money you have. By a $300k car if you can afford it. I won’t judge you.

    The issue is some people are less likely to do well due to generational poverty. That does not mean they can’t make it and be successful (i.e. Oprah who grew up in a bad part of my town). So yes it is possible, but likely more difficult.

  22. Not ashamed, but I also know that I’m (much) more fortunate than others. Not everyone’s path is as easy as mine has been. It’s much easier to become an entrepreneur when your parents are, for example, and they can help you and teach you from a young age.

    But I’m not ashamed of it – I, too, believe that life is mostly what you make of it, and is based on your decisions and actions.

    • Thank you, Dave. Even though you were born into an entrepreneurial family, you still had to do the hard work of satisfying customers. And that shouldn’t be discounted. I have a good friend who was born into the furrier business. But his dad–the founder and heart of the business–passed away, and fur coats lost favor with the public. So my friend had to work his tail off to find and build another worthwhile business venture. Was he “privileged”? Hardly. Unless you consider working 12-15 hours a day, 6 days a week, a charmed existence.