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#274392 - 10/11/14 01:48 PM How did you get ahead?
logtroll Offline
veteran

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 8579
Loc: New Mexico (not old Mexico)
"Getting ahead" poll

Do the poll responses from the U.S. represent reality? Or a cultural myth?
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#274395 - 10/11/14 04:26 PM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: logtroll]
Scoutgal Offline
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Registered: 01/23/01
Posts: 27583
Loc: CA USA
I think that it is a combination of things. But education certainly is a large part of it.
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#274399 - 10/11/14 09:16 PM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: logtroll]
pondering_it_all Offline
old hand

Registered: 02/27/06
Posts: 6942
Loc: North San Diego County
Personally, I lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck until I was about 26. Then I bought some Ameritrade stock just after they started internet trading. A couple of years later I sold it for 27 times as much. Just having all that money has shaped most of my financial decisions since then. For example, I have bought several houses (normal American behavior) in the following years, but I only ever sold one of those. So now we have several rental properties. I always maxed out my 401Ks, always maxed out my IRA contributions. Changed careers at age 30, to one were I soon made more than twice the income. I never invested foolishly, but I also never made the common mistake of being too risk averse for my age.

I don't know a lot of people who have helped my career. I have a BS from a State University, but it pertained much more to my first career than my current one. My family connections are non-existent, and the most I've ever won gambling is $375. So where is "made good financial choices" in the poll?

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#274401 - 10/11/14 09:26 PM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: pondering_it_all]
Scoutgal Offline
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Registered: 01/23/01
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I have always been a stay at home wife and mother, so I didn't really have my own income. But Mr. Scoutgal and I iscussed every financial move and career that he had. He has only really worked for one company, and they are large enough to have excellent benefits. We also made the max contributions to Mr. Scoutgal's 401K, and have invested in medium and low risk stocks. We also tried to be as debt-free as possible and made extra payments on our mortgage with inheritances. We buy cars that are only one or two years old, and keep them on average for 10 years, making sure to do the upkeep. We don't eat out a lot or take fancy vacations every year. We will save that for retirement!
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milk and Girl Scout cookies ;-)

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#274403 - 10/12/14 02:51 AM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: Scoutgal]
pdx rick Offline
Member
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Registered: 05/09/05
Posts: 40424
Loc: Puget Sound, WA
Originally Posted By: Scoutgal
We will save that for retirement!

My Aunt Joanne and Uncle Larry were planning to do that. They have four kids. Put all four through college, paid for two weddings ( I have to female cousins and two male cousins ) and Uncle Larry died of cancer in 2010 and left Aunt Joanne heavily in debt because of the cancer treatment.

Go and enjoy the world while you can - tomorrow may be too late. Hmm
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#274405 - 10/12/14 03:43 AM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: logtroll]
Ken Condon Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 06/14/07
Posts: 3720
Loc: Eugene, OR
Iím still waiting to get some head.
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#274406 - 10/12/14 05:46 AM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: logtroll]
pdx rick Offline
Member
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Registered: 05/09/05
Posts: 40424
Loc: Puget Sound, WA

It's out there and available and probably within 10 minutes of your house.
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#274408 - 10/12/14 01:41 PM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: pdx rick]
logtroll Offline
veteran

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 8579
Loc: New Mexico (not old Mexico)
Guys, guys... that's how you get a little head (reminds me of story about a fellow who found a bottle with a genie in it).

What I find curious about the American response to the poll is that the high scoring categories for Americans are Working Hard - 73%, and Education - 62%.

All of the other categories were well below 50%, and the personal assessments by two of us aren't very much related to any of the poll options.

First, I think the basic question indicates a myth bias - that getting ahead (financial success) is synonymous with a fulfilling life. Financial security is an important element in being comfortable, which could be the test of getting ahead, if one was able to be satisfied with that (many of us are not and need to be reminded that the path of ambition may not be the end-all... note my signature line, a little-heeded jab to myself).

Another issue with the notion of getting ahead is the implication of a counterweight of getting behind. We are seeing how that dynamic plays out; when some really get ahead, many others fall further behind. Can't have ahead without a behind. rolleyes

But what motivated me to start this thread was the singular notion that hard work is identified by our culture as the premium path to wealth. By my observation, however, of my life and others whose lives I have considered, is that hard work is fundamentally unconnected to the accumulation of wealth. It may, or not, have been evident in people who have been successful at accumulating wealth (not going to get any further into the broad topic of defining "wealth").

So why is it so important to Americans (more than any of the other countries included in the poll) to believe that hard work is the primary path to financial success?
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#274415 - 10/12/14 06:10 PM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: logtroll]
NW Ponderer Offline
Moderator
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 15413
I, too, was struck by the utter disconnect between belief and reality for U.S. responders. (It is impossible to know if responses from other countries are any more "accurate".) Of course, it is a poll, and therefore based upon perception. It also, I think, explains the persistence of the Republican Party (of myth and prejudice). PERHAPS it is because "get ahead" is such an amorphous term. "Ahead of whom?"

I attribute my success in the game of life by a great deal of luck, a really good start, and an awareness of opportunity (and taking advantage of it). I learned hard lessons along the way, but fortunately was never crushed by them. I ran up debt, but not to insolvency. We've had disastrous health crises, but had good insurance at those times. I have had a supportive and contributing partner for most of it. And I've had propitious inheritances at several points.

Have I worked hard? Oh, I certainly think so, but always with a goal in mind. I've been in government service most of my adult life, one of the few employers still offering traditional pension plan arrangements. That was both because I love public service and because I recognized the value of those benefits despite a lower-than-my-peers salary for most of that time. For the majority of my adult life I have held two jobs.

But, I had such abundant advantages that I can't even list them all. First, I was born white and male, in the United States. My parents were married and my father had a stable job in what would be an upper-middle-class profession. My mom was also educated, but stayed at home until I was in Junior High. (She, fortunately, was established in work when my father died.) I got a good education on a full-tuition scholarship based upon the generosity of an alumnus of my school (and my grades). My room and board was paid for by Social Security survivor benefits. I worked throughout college and saved for law school.

I entered a well-paying profession, and joined the Army. I saved half of every pay raise I received throughout my career - mostly in retirement accounts. My wife worked for nearly 30 years for the State as well. My children's education has been paid for from savings, a trust fund, and government benefits (mostly the post-9/11 GI Bill). I live prudently, if not frugally.


Edited by NW Ponderer (10/12/14 06:48 PM)
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Here, as elsewhere, people are outraged at what feels like a rigged game -- an economy that won't respond, a democracy that won't listen, and a financial sector that holds all the cards. - Robert Reich

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#274419 - 10/12/14 07:10 PM Re: How did you get ahead? [Re: logtroll]
Ken Condon Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 06/14/07
Posts: 3720
Loc: Eugene, OR
It also to an extend depends on what ones goals are in life. Iíve read where if one starts out with the overriding goal of making lots money and getting rich, many times they accomplish just that. Not always but the correlation is there.

But if gathering more rocks than your neighbor is ones overriding goal in life a big pile is never big enough. The goal posts and associated happiness (if money can buy that) keep moving father away. The guy with $1M thinks he would be happier with $2M. The guy with $50M thinks he would be happier with $100M. Ad infinitum.

Itís no fun to be poor and always stressed by the hounding creditors but if one can pay their bills and have something left over to play-- with thats my definition of rich. Iíve managed to reach that level by a combination of hard work, some good luck, frugalness, education and gained life skills,and a childless uncle who left me a very helpful chunk when I was 18. Thank you Uncle Bert.

That largesse greatly pissed my father off as he thought I would immediately blow it but he failed to realize what a tightwad I really was.

I eventually used that chunk to make a down payment on our first house many years ago and have benefitted by the subsequent rising home values since then. Plus a combination of the aforementioned habits. I was given that long ago break and canít say with certainty if I hadnít if I would be in the comfortable place I find myself in today.

And I often wonder how one born into abject poverty with few connections or educational opportunities can ever escape from that trap. I suppose its possible as one reads about ďbootstrappersĒ from time to time but I believe for most one needs some breaks in life.
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