It’s All Relative, I Guess
How is world wealth distributed and measured?
I often have to remind myself that in spite of my problems, I’m one of the lucky ones. Americans have a deep mistrust for the 1% but are often not aware that they might be part of the 10%.
What does it even mean to be in the top 10% richest people in the world? In the world, mind you.
In 2018, according to credit Suisse reports, to qualify for a top 10% membership, you needed roughly a net worth of $93,000. That made you richer than 90% of the people in the world.
Here’s a chart that shows world wealth in 2021. As you can see, to remain in the top 11%, you’ll need a net worth of at least $100,000. Remember this is world wealth.
Are you surprised?
Americans with a little luck and a few strategies might make that an attainable goal. There were roughly 102 million Americans who were in the top 10% worldwide in 2018.
Even if you didn’t qualify for the top 10%, 19 million Americans were in the top 50% of the richest people in the world.
What’s shocking is how little it took to be in the top 50%. If you had just $4200 to your name, you qualified. Fifty percent of the world was poorer than you. Fifty percent!
If that doesn’t open one’s eyes to the fact there’s a worldwide imbalance in wealth, I don’t know what will.
True, life has become more expensive of late, but still when I go outdoors I see lots of Americans eating at restaurants, drinking at bars, driving cars, filling their carts with food at the grocery store, going on vacation, and filling their gas tanks.
I’m not saying that there isn’t plenty of poverty in the US. After all, some of the 50% who don’t even have $4200 to their names are Americans.
Without a doubt that number is growing. Yet, I hear a lot of complaining coming from those who fall into the top 50% and the top 10%. We don’t seem to realize how lucky we are most of the time.
And, while the 1% is an insane group of people, there’s no reason to even have a group that rich, the 10% probably deserve an eye roll or two as well from the rest of the world.
There is an extreme level of wealth inequality across the world which also tells me that there are people who are consuming more than their fair share of resources and goods.
Suddenly, that finger that we’ve been pointing at the 1% is now pointing right back at us and it feels icky.
We worked hard to be in the 10%. We don’t feel like the 50% is good enough for us. Our goal is to be in the 10%. We know we’ll most likely never make it into the 1%, but not to be in the 10% would feel like failing. We deserve our wealth, our houses, cars, toys, piles of food, closets full of clothes, gadgets, giant screen TVs, air conditioning, vacations, boats, RVs, motorcycles, airplane tickets, booze, and computers.
Wow! That’s a pretty big attitude.
We also suspect that if everyone in the entire world were to make it into the top 10% that we’d need the natural resources of several planets to fulfill their material dreams. Some say, we’d need as many as five more earths to do so.
Americans are the world’s biggest consumers and make the most trash.
Our standard of living is something that we take for granted, however. I rarely meet anyone who thinks they have enough. There’s always something that they wish they could buy or the newest model they wish they could upgrade to as soon as possible. Our economy is based on consumer spending and because we have had the money to spend, we developed propaganda that encouraged us to do so even if Americans had to leverage more debt.
When we talk about wealth inequality, we often don’t include ourselves in the rhetoric.
Yet, when it comes to our lifestyles on display to the entire world, we all appear to be rich. We know we’re not all rich. We see the homeless on our streets and hear the stories about hungry children. We brush it aside and focus instead on staying upwardly mobile, making it into the 10%. That’s the American Dream.
Never mind that we’re taking natural resources from poor countries to provide the stuff Americans are told they deserve.
Never mind that our limited resources are dwindling worldwide, but we still believe that our own personal needs supersede these nagging concerns. Never mind that pollution and climate change are destroying our planet, we’re still entitled to fly in an airplane more than many other people in the world. We need our vacations, you know.
I’m not pointing fingers today.
I’m part of this mess myself. I am the envy of the world just as most of my friends are, too. We don’t think of ourselves as rich by any means, but we’d be wrong. We have been indoctrinated to believe that we deserve this life that we enjoy. We wouldn’t know how to change things even if we tried.
We have no power and frankly, equality has always seemed like a pipe dream.
All of this makes me wonder if we’ll ever live in a world without hunger and poverty. When my mind goes down that grim path, I want to start hoarding in order to protect my own family. My desire to survive is as primal as my distant ancestors.
I’m a rich girl. Who would want to give that up?
Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.