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The Almighty Buck

The Almighty Buck 523

The NYT Magazine this week focuses on a topic near and dear to its heart: money. Stories about the dotcom boom, priorities, the cult of Wall Street. Some of the stories are interesting, as with this comparison of how far a dollar goes depending on where you live. Some are disturbing, like this one on CEO salaries. And several are (unintentionally) humorous, like this one about bankrupt Etoys and this one, by a rich writer who believes everyone else is rich too.
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The Almighty Buck

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  • Kind of ironic... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sorthum ( 123064 ) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @10:58PM (#3667224) Homepage
    ...that this is done by the New York Times, who requires you to register so they can sell your personal info (or at least demographic information) for more "almighty bucks."
    • NYT is a business and do need to pay expenses, and ceo salaries, etc. in the online world, there's a few options, pay per read, tell us lots about you that others will buy from us, or x10 pop-up windows. with the onslaught of mozilla users, hopefully the last will be come obsolete.
    • There is a big difference between lining your own pockets at the expense of the shareholders whose company you are running into the ground, and trying to figure out what the average age of your newspaper's readership is.
  • The 'almighty buck' is a concept I think most people (even us geeks) battles. Even Linus in his book Just for Fun talks about how he wouldn't mind some more of it. Everyone wants it. Everyone would like it in huge quantities. Just some people are willing to do a lot more to get it.

    Guess that's the story of our lives. Some people have it. Most people want it. Few people get it. Oh well.
  • by cp4 ( 250029 ) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:12PM (#3667274)
    An unemployed person gets a WEEKLY manicure and pedicure? Excuse me... weekly!?

    And that gives her an hour a week when she can feel normal? NORMAL?

    You are far from normal lady!
    • Exploiting vanity and insecurity is a sector of the economy, and even many not particularly well-to-do participate. Witness the massive cosmetics industry, and, hell, diamonds, which are nothing more than shiny lumps of carbon that somehow got associated with marriage by a huge advertising campaign, and that would be far more common if the De Beers cartel didn't exert so much control over supply.

      'sides, what, she claims it was $100/week. That's not THAT outrageous compared to such concepts as "shopping therapy".
      • 'sides, what, she claims it was $100/week. That's not THAT outrageous compared to such concepts as "shopping therapy".

        It's a hell of a lot more than zero, which (along with a couple of minutes) is all it takes to trim your nails back. If you've lost the clippers, add in a dollar or two for new ones.

        $400 a month for someone to cut your nails? The monthly payment on my truck isn't much more than that!

    • And that gives her an hour a week when she can feel normal? NORMAL?

      Normality these days is a state described and controlled by the mass media. When we're told all the time to consume, consume, consume, and look beautiful, beautiful, beautiful... sometimes the only way to feel normal is to do what you are being told everyone else does, in order to fit in.

      I don't condone this, but I do understand why she says it.

  • EToys ceased being cool when they went after the artsy-fartsy site EToy.com [etoy.com] for "confusing" EToys.com's customers [wired.com] (even though EToy existed before EToys).

    You can look at a historical graph of their stock price and pinpoint almost the exact moment when people realized that Etoys.com was nothing more than some money-grubbing lawsuit-happy suits who would rather use the courts as a business case than the traditional way (e.g., have a plan on how to make a profit yourself without relying on government handouts).

    RIP Etoys; say Hi to Beelzebub for me.

  • by RasputinAXP ( 12807 ) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:14PM (#3667280) Homepage Journal
    It seems that upon reading the article, David Brooks has placed his tongue firmly in cheek while writing about how we as Americans (#include ) are richer than most anybody in the world.

    It's true.

    Fact is, we spend more than most people in the world make. We're a consumptionist society. We invented disposable plates and cups and diapers and everything else. Sake of convienience, isn't it?

    I agree with his article where it describes the 'poor' of the US as wanting things they can't afford. Poor here is defined as "earning between $17,000 and $34,000 a year."

    I don't make much more than that, and I've got all of these computers, and an XBox, and a Dreamcast, and...well, not to get too far into it, but I've bought a lot of crap I don't need, but I want. I have nobody but myself to blame.

    But don't hide under a rock and take this article as a joke. I've started to think about what the hell I'm spending all of this money on long before I read the article.

    Next time you buy 3 DVD's at Best Buy, take a step back. Do yourself a favor.

    • by jcsehak ( 559709 ) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:45PM (#3667389) Homepage
      I've bought a lot of crap I don't need, but I want

      Worse than that is when you buy stuff you don't need but really want, then two days later you realise you don't have much of a use for it, and don't really want it anymore. Anyone else just go out and buy something just cause it feels good to? What's going on? You know, I've been unemployed for a while, so I don't buy much of anything other than groceries (well, and beer) these days, and to tell you the truth, I don't really miss it. Maybe this is what the **AAs are really afraid of? Not that piracy will deprive them of their revenues, but that it'll get people used to not buying stuff, and then they'll really be up shit creek.
      • I think what the **AAs would really be afraid of is people discovering that their public library has tons of good books that are free for you to read.
      • Worse than that is when you buy stuff you don't need but really want, then two days later you realise you don't have much of a use for it, and don't really want it anymore. Anyone else just go out and buy something just cause it feels good to? What's going on?

        Americans have all been programmed, by Christmas especially, to associate getting stuff with feeling good (getting an endorphin rush). Doesn't matter what kind of plastic crap it is, the point is that getting stuff feels good. It's an addiction, and the first step in kicking it is realizing that. The next time you find yourself hot to buy some new thing that you just gotta have, take a step back and start doing some serious thinking.

    • Poor here is defined as "earning between $17,000 and $34,000 a year."

      Poor is relative, right? I used to think that being a student was a tough living. I worked two jobs as an undergraduate to make ends meet and after I graduated, went on to the medical school here and am now making about $15,000 a year as a Ph.D. candidate. Because I worked as an undergraduate, I don't have many of the student loans that other M.D. and Ph.D. students have, but I still thought that getting by was fairly difficult.

      Recently however, there was a group of ophthalmic surgeons, nurses, technicians, students and scientists here that travelled to Ghana with the idea of helping out some of the local folks who would not otherwise have access to medical care. You will never see poverty in your life like exists in third world countries. People live in unbelievable conditions and the one patient that stuck out in my mind was a 50 something gentleman who had SEVERE cataracts so bad he was completely blind. Replacing his lenses restored his vision completely. Now, cataracts of this severity are never seen in the western world. In the U.S., even if you are completely without any job skills and make absolutely no money, your cataracts will never get that bad without someone paying for them to be fixed. And whats more, this man was brought in by his grandson who guided him walking for over twenty miles for the chance to have something done for him.

      That was poverty.

    • Poor here is defined as "earning between $17,000 and $34,000 a year."

      I don't make much more than that, and I've got all of these computers, and an XBox, and a Dreamcast, and...


      No doubt, but I'll bet your single, young and in good health. That's a 2-child household income in a lot of places. Bringing up baby cuts into the gaming money real fast. But you've got a point. The article does sort of hit home.

      I actually found it a little sickening, but also very difficult to refute. I've been thinking about this topic long and hard already after a recent trip to the Netherlands. Their country makes so much more sense than America in terms of infrastructure, land use, and even on some levels culture (e.g. live events are more popular than TV), and yet there's a certain spark over here in the US that just doesn't seem as present. For all the great stuff they've done with their nation, the Dutch struck me as generally bored, laconic, maybe even a little down in the dumps. And I know it's not just because their Football team didn't qualify for the world cup.

      So this article does a good job of capturing That Thing (opportunity, real or perceved) that makes America glimmer, hum and sing, but it convienently glosses over the rough spots. I'm talking about things like the amount of trash we produce, the violent crime, or the soaring numbers of citizens who subscribe to anti-depressant prescriptions. You know, all the fscked up stuff that's wrong with this place.

      The trouble with the cult of money is that as good as it is for getting people off their ass, it's an empty temple. There's no there there, no nirvana, no peace, only endless and relentless pursuit. I'm fine with this kind of thing in theory. It is, after all, all about the journey. We're still evolving as a nation, thank the constitution, gutted as it may be, but we're not there yet. That's why it's so important to keep the playing fields open (copyright law) and the spooks off our backs (civil liberties) and keep a careful eye out for the nasty leviathans that tend to rise up (anti-trust). If we declare this or any other time to be, as they used to say, 'the end of history', then we will surely go the way of the Romans.

      In the end, I encourage the impulses that drive the consumer machine. How can I not? It's energy, and energy is the potential to make some of the wrong things right. We've all got a bit of that progressive energy in us. I just wish we were a little more progressive about how we applied it.
    • Fact is, we spend more than most people in the world make.
      Yeah, people are so stupid. House prices are rising here because the Feds cut interest rates so mortgages look cheap. These dumbasses don't realise that in 2 years when the Fed raises interest rates their mortgage payments are going to be so high that half of them are going to be in negative equity.

      Maybe we should lie to homebuyers and say, "Yeah, with interest rates at 20% your mortgage payments will be yada yada" then we'll have a solid recovery instead of a credit card-induced recovery.

      MESSAGE TO ALL AMERICANS - you are poor only if you have sold your only car, and have to buy discounted groceries from WalMart because the fresh stuff is too expensive. Just a reality check for you, this is how we live in the rest of the world.

  • by Indy1 ( 99447 ) <spamtrap@fuckedregime.com> on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:14PM (#3667285) Homepage
    use this for logging in


    username: slashdoted
    password: slashdot


    Rinse, lather, repeat if needed.

  • It's really weird (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcsehak ( 559709 ) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:29PM (#3667343) Homepage
    There's the same happy : unhappy ratio of rich and poor people. Yet I swear, no matter how many times it hasn't happened, if I had a little more cash, life would be a lot better.

    All the major religions, all those philosophers mentioned in the last article seem to say "the key to true happiness is inside you," but I feel like the Greatest American Hero [tvtome.com]: where's the manual?
    • But don't you see? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skim123 ( 3322 ) <mitchell&4guysfromrolla,com> on Sunday June 09, 2002 @01:46AM (#3667711) Homepage
      There's the same happy : unhappy ratio of rich and poor people. Yet I swear, no matter how many times it hasn't happened, if I had a little more cash, life would be a lot better

      Shit, dude, it doesn't matter how much you have, you'll always be wanting a little more. Psychological studies have shown that people's happiness levels is relatively set, and while major events may elevate or depress their overall happiness (such as winning the lottery for happiness or death of a loved one for misery), before too long people are back to their previous happiness levels. So, even if you think you'd be damned happy and things would be great if you won the lottery and became a millionaire, that happiness would be relatively short-lived, I'm afraid. Essentially, you'd find other shit to bitch about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:29PM (#3667346)
    It sounds to me like he thinks every American is rich. He has a point.

    How many color televisions and refrigerators are owned by the typical poor person in America? How many color televisions and refrigerators are owned by the typical Bangledeshi?

    How many times per week does the typical poor American get to eat clean food, versus his Third World counterpart?

    Health care may not be free, but *no* injured person is turned away from an emergency room.

    Poor people today don't have to worry about many problems that would have killed even rich people 75 years ago, so I think the author is justified in regarding virtually all Americans as rich.
    • Heh. It's fiction, and futurist satire at that, but Neal Stephenson has an amusing take on it near the beginning of "Snow Crash":


      In the real world -- planet Earth, Reality -- there are somewhere between six and ten billion people. At any given time, most of them are making mud bricks or field-stripping their AK-47s. Perhaps a billion of them have enough money to own a computer; these people have more money than all of the others put together.


      Americans (and, for that matter, just about everybody else in the wealthy nations of the First World -- the US isn't the world leader in per-capita income, if memory serves, although yeah, you'd probably have to normalize against cost-of-living or some other standard *shrug*) range from poor and homeless to fabulously wealthy, but even the lower bound is often pretty well-off compared to dying of cholera, dysentary, or random atrocities during a civil war.
    • You could probably fit every truly poor American in a medium size high school gymnasium. Everyone else who claims to be poor, or is officially pronounced poor, are wealthy in comparison to the poor in other countries. The county I grew up once had the highest unemployment rate of the nation. Yet the poorest of the poor there had automobiles, refrigerators, and televisions. They had shoes on their feet, clothes on their backs, and food on the table. In fact, they only people I can remember as being truly poor were a few illegal immigrants, but even they had enough money that they could eat well while still sending half the money back home to their wife and kids.

      If you don't think all Americans are rich, go spend a week in Tijuana.
    • Agreed; This guy makes a tremendous amount of sense. Especially his point about the money flowing all around, and we're so busy spending it we don't have time or urge to accumulate it in the bank anymore.

      This is actually a problem for people in the banking industry; banks have FAR FAR less on deposit to use for loans, and so borrow money from The Fed to provide loans. If they have to pay The Fed interest, it costs them much more to make loans than if they just paid 2% to the owner of the savings accounts on deposit, while charging 8% interest on the loan.

      And my other point... I just looked back at my taxes; my household pre-tax income was insanely high! My post-tax sucked, obviously, but compared to the other people in the world I AM FREAKING RICH. I don't have a college degree; I worked my way up from a "starving college student"/dropout who was racking up debt buying RAM upgrades for my computer, not stomping for a dishwashing job to buy Ramen noodles.

      Admit it, you're deperately trying to find a way to afford a GeForce4 Ti 4600 or finance a 42" plasma screen, not worrying about how to afford groceries!

      Yes, not everyone is rich. The signs of poverty are everywhere, and there are those here in need. But even the most desperate are nowhere near the state of the masses of New Dehli, or the villagers of Somalia. But our society is insanely wealthy in comparison to the world of today, and of days past. And it doesn't look to be slowing down.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:39PM (#3667378)
    Hrm, the article doesn't mention two interesting part of the story. His "Stay Incentive" was stolen from money which was promised to the employees.

    I used to work for eToys.

    eToys layed off a bunch of nonesential staff in January 2001. The survivors of us were promised, if we worked until March 2001, our regular pay plus a retention bonus equal to 2 months of pay (some were offered more). This money was "supposedly" in a specially marked fund that was protected from the creditors.

    But when March 2001 rolled around, eToys dropped the bombshell: The bonus money is gone. It wasn't protected after all.

    But Toby still got his retention bonus. Guess who payed for it? That's right, we employees.

  • babycenter vs eToys (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:52PM (#3667403)
    Another interesting part of the story.

    eToys had one subsidiary, Babycenter [babycenter.com], which they bought in 1999 for like $90 million in eToys stock. I still know many Babycenter employees.

    Here are some stats:

    - Number of employees in December, 2000:
    eToys: over 1000, not including babycenter
    babycenter: 90

    - Number of layoffs by Feb 2001:
    eToys: 700
    Babycenter: 20

    - Revenue in 2000 (not profit):
    eToys: $70 million
    Babycenter: $20 million (consider that they had
    10% of the staffing)

    - Expenses in 2000:
    eToys: $100 million
    Babycenter: $20 million

    - Typical expenses in the FALL of 2000 (Which
    is when they were considering bankruptcy):
    eToys: Brand new shiney Pentium III with a flat
    screen monitor for most employees
    - Brand new shiny headquarters in West Los Angeles, with a $100 million 10 year lease

    Babycenter: The poor schmucks are still using
    PII/366 & Sun Ultra5 machines
    - converted warehouse in SOMA, San Francisco

    - Amount that the entity sold for in spring 2001
    eToys: $7 million to KBToys
    Babycenter: $12 million to Johnson & Johnson

    - Number of employees who still work for the company:

    eToys: 10 or so
    Babycenter: 70 (almost everyone)

    - Number of days that the website has been down
    due to the bankruptcy

    eToys: 90 - March - May
    Babycenter: Zero

    - Number of managers who came in from the parent company to replace existing managers:

    eToys: almost all of them
    Babycenter: 1 , the finance controler
  • Americans spent 14 percent less on clothing, the largest decline in any category, though they did spend 12 percent more on shoes.

    [paraphrased from memory]

    computeach: "you are depressed, you are downtrodded, you are looking at your shoes. how do you cheer yourself up?"

    student (excited) "buy a new pair"

    computeach: "good, now you can press the button"

    bzzz!

    student: "ooo...that was so nice"

    computeach: "so, what happens when everyone does this"

    student: "everyone feels nice?"

    computeach: "no! forget the button, concentrate."

    student: "more people buy shoes"

    computeach: "and then..."

    student: "more shoe shops"

    computeach: "go on"

    student: "manufacturers begin making more shoes, eventually they start making them so badly that they fall apart as quickly as you get them on."

    computeach "and so..."

    student (very excited) :" the shoe event horizon! every store becomes a shoe store, it becomes economically impossible to build anything other than shoes...and then...i get to press the button again!"

    bzzz!

    computeach: "wait for permission! and then"

    student: "war, famine, collapse, all the beings on the planet evolve into birds, and never walk on the ground again."

    computeach: "excellent, you may press the button!"

    long bzzz

    student: "oooo! heheheh! that was so nice, ok, goodbye teach"

    computeach: "aren't you forgetting something? press the other button"

    bzzzz

    computeach laughs maniacally

  • by Andy Tai ( 1884 )
    This is not pleasant for many people to hear, but there are signs that the USA may be in decline. The 20th Century was the American century, and what do we see in the first year of the 21st Century? September 11. The Roman Empire did not fall to a single enemy, but to successful waves of attacks from "barbarians" from east of its border (the strongest being the Huns). Strong nations decline due to being worn out by external factors.

    Bin Laden will be remebered in history as a terrorist and no more, but he at least shows the existence of the "barbarians" to America. These enemies will not be able to conquer America, but they, like the barbarians, can wear America out. The USA's policy toward the Islamic world does not address the "production" of these bin Ladens, so there will be more bin Ladens to drain America's energy for a long time to come.

    We already see the changes inside the USA due to September 11. This new Dept. of Homeland Security will be a massive government organ and take over many agencies who previously focus on more "peace time" tasks but now turns to security matters above everything else. The internal orientation is changing. USA will be more like a police state. There will be more overhead on productivity and creativity. The previous "free" environment is in decline.

    History may not always repeat itself, and the USA does not have to follow the cycles of nations. But it needs the right policy to resolve the root causes of the productions of the external threats, and so far there are no signs the USA is addressing these anti-American feelings in the Middle East. America is trying to build the dam higher to block the water rather than to open channels to let the water flow through without harm. This does not look good.
    • I'll feed the troll. This really isn't even off-topic. Come, feed the troll.

      This is not pleasant for many people to hear, but there are signs that the USA may be in decline.

      These words are nothing new. For as long as I've been alive, and a tad bit farther back (to at least the Fifties), people have been singing this refrain. The Commies, the Japanese, the Economy, Flag-Burning, the Moral Majority, etc. There have been any number of perceived threats to the nation, big and small, that have led people to comment on the decline of the United States. I'm certain similar things were said of alcohol consumption, women's suffrage, equality for African Americans, immigration, and other "threats" during the life of this nation. We're not the same as we were, but we're still here.

      I'm not even certain how you are assessing this potential decline. You allude to "barbarians" and the Roman Empire. Do you seriously think that the United States is facing utter decline and its own dissolution as a whole nation? Do you really find your chosen analogy applicable or appealing?

      This new Dept. of Homeland Security will be a massive government organ and take over many agencies who previously focus on more "peace time" tasks but now turns to security matters above everything else ... USA will be more like a police state. There will be more overhead on productivity and creativity.

      Intriguing. You point to what you label a genuine threat to American interests, yet indict measures taken to address them? In my opinion, it's a bit early to declare definitively that the US is on a one way trail leading to martial law and individual oppression. There are signs that Dubya (or at least his advisors) are thinking critically about homeland defense [cnn.com]. :P

      History may not always repeat itself, and the USA does not have to follow the cycles of nations. ... [America] needs the right policy to resolve the root causes of the productions of the external threats.

      What is this cycle of nations to which you refer? Seems to me that the root causes are quite involved, and that, in certain quarters, anti-American sentiment will exist for as long as there is an America. I'm not really certain what one could reasonably propose as a solution. Neither isolationism from world affairs nor thorough and direct intervention in the affairs of other nation states seem palatable, let alone congruous with traditional understandings of democratic ideals. Have you a solution, or an idea to share, or do you prefer simply to cry havoc?

      How any of this springs from articles concerning Americans, their earnings, and their spending habits is beyond me.

      • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .tteksehnad.> on Sunday June 09, 2002 @01:48AM (#3667716)
        Very interesting responses, and very well thought out. But I have one thing I need to address with you:

        Seems to me that the root causes are quite involved, and that, in certain quarters, anti-American sentiment will exist for as long as there is an America. I have to disagree. Let me ask you this: how much anti-Swiss sentiment do you see throughout the world?

        You may think I am kidding, but seriously, think about. Why do some places (the US) get this hatred and others do not?

        There are four major policy revisions that would stop about 99% of the anti-American sentiment throughtout the world, ready for them?

        1. Stop the "enemy of our enemy is our friend" bit. Its a cycle that is silly. 25 years ago we hated Russia, and so we fueled and funneled money to the Afgans and the Talibs in Afganistan. Osama bin Laden fought with American made weapons and with American trained forces against the Soviet army. The list of similiar cases never ends. We supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. We've supported horrible dictators, butcherers, drug runners, etc in the name of thwarting the larger enemy. Bottom line: Choosing between the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.

        2. End most if not all foreign aid. The foreign aid this country gives out goes to dictators, the already wealthy, and the powerful. Little if any gets to the people it is intended for. Worse, the unintented result is that the aid props up illegitimate/hostile regimes. Three weeks before September 11, Colin Powell signed off on a deal that would give Afganistan $150 million in aid for putting out a fatah proclaiming that heroin production is against the will of God. Five weeks latter we were heavily bombing the smae people we had been negotiating with just weeks before. It is absolutely insanse to continue this, and worse it breeds intense hatred of the United States. Isarel, for example, is armed with the latest American military technology, worth billions and funded with loans and aid given by the US.

        3. Pull out troops from "strategic" positions. Send the carriers to the states. Protect the "homeland" ONLY. The American military breeds ill-will every where it goes. Truly, it is not their fault. But the very presense of a floating attack force a few miles from your coast will cause disconsternation. We have troops stationed in over 90 countries. It is simply incompatible with a nation trying to cut down future terrorist attacks. Whether its hot-shot fighter pilots buzzing ski resorts and killing dozens of skiers (Italy), or American serviceman raping school girls (Japan), the ever present American military machine causes much pain to locals all over the world.

        4. Create a consistent and straightforward foreign policy, that applies to all nations and circumstances with *mathematical* and *logical* precision. Right now the bottom line is that we have no cohesive foreign policy. We oppose terrorism, except if its comitted by the British (against the Irish), the Russians (against Chechyna) or the police (against minorities). I dont even care what the policy is - its largely irrelevant. But mroe than anything a common framework based on *principle* must be established. People and nations should know that if X happens, America will do Y.
        • You are horribly, horribly naive. In many parts of the world, the only thing preventing full-scale war from breaking out is the knowledge of certain American intervention. While shitty things happen where American troops are stationed sometimes, it's almost always the lesser of two evils. For example, the American campaign in Afghanistan undoubtedly killed a number of civilians, which is terrible. But it also ended the decade-long civil war and established enough order for massive amounts of aid to be delivered -- which has saved many many times the lives that were unintentionally ended.

          The world is not black and white. We can't just leave and expect some sort of utopia to grow up in its place.
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      Strong nations decline due to being worn out by external factors.

      I'm sure you know this, but your picture is oversimplified. Waves of barbarians broke themselves on the rock of Roman legions for literally centuries before the Empire declined. The external threat is a crucial ingredient, but so is internal decadence and decay. When the attention of officeholders leaves the world scene and concrentrates increasingly on the capital -- because the one nation is so overwhelmingly dominant that more gain can be had rearranging seats at the council table than in trade or even conquest -- and foreign affairs become merely tools for domestic intrigue, a great nation begins to decline.


      Anyway, not to disagree with your conclusions, but the analysis is somewhat more complex.

    • WooHoOo!!

      Slavery leads to feudalism..
      Feudalism leads to capitalism...
      Capitalism... leads to socialism!

      This is such great news! Look at all the problems in our current economy, we don't have completely open trade with china, one of the largest countries population wise... why? Because Bush hates them, they are commies..

      I can't smoke a cuban cigar.. Why? See above paragraph.

      Maybe America is closer to a shift in policy that will make it stronger, if not unstoppable.

      Maybe i've had too much to drink.. =)

      -fc
  • CEO Salaries (Score:3, Insightful)

    by z4ce ( 67861 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @12:18AM (#3667464)
    • Good CEOs are very scarce.
    • Good CEOs build companies and produce profits.


    Therefore, good CEOs are worth a lot of money.

    Why is this so difficult for people to comprehend? Why do they continually whine about how much CEOs are paid. They are paid that because they are scarce. In general, they're the best business men in the world. Why is it shocking they're paid so much?
    • Therefore, good CEOs are worth a lot of money.

      Why is this so difficult for people to comprehend?


      It's a matter of proportion. When compared to the "best in field" from any OTHER profession, excluding perhaps pro sports, compare the top salaries of execs to the top salaries of engineers, journalists, policemen, teachers, etc. Now just TRY to tell me that the work of your average CEO is proportional to what they're paid, when considering the value of work to compensation ratio of these other professions.

      The other reason is this: a lot of CEOs out there AREN'T any good and they STILL make shocking amounts of money. This is even more shocking when you again compare their work vs. pay against the work vs. pay of the people that work for these execs.
      • Okay, I agree to that. However, I believe their skills are more rare. Namely, the ability to understand financials, set vision, and manage people is very rare. This is what makes them so expensive.

        Business in a capital society isn't about work, it's about scarcity. Teachers could say that engineers are overpaid for their work. Since they put x amount of work into teaching and only get y dollars. Engineers put x amount of work and get z dollars because the engineers are more scarce (at least in certain fields).

        In the case of a Bad CEO paid insane amounts of money, that's a failed investment. The board decided that CEO was going to make or save them a certain amount of money and they bet wrong.
        • Re:CEO Salaries (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @08:40AM (#3668349)
          However, I believe their skills are more rare. Namely, the ability to understand financials, set vision, and manage people is very rare.

          That's the "advertised" view - CEO's are somewhat more able, or are able in areas we (who's we) don't really understand.

          Come to think of it, the whole top-to-bottom structuring of salaries/rewards is based on the theory that people higher up in the hierarchy are more experienced/skilled/able than people lower down in the hierarchy and thus need a proporcionaly better reward.

          When i started working in IT, i was a bright-eyed kid that trully believed that if someone was above me in the hierachy and/or getting a bigger salary, that was because they were beter than me.

          After years in IT, having contacted with all levels of management (including CEOs) and having developed some of the people-skills which i was never taught in my technical degree (things like networking - the people type of networking - which are taught in management degrees but not technical ones) i came to the conclusion that decieving is the most rewarded ability in IT:
          • Disinformation - don't let people know they're being shafted.
          • Getting the credits not the blame - taking advantage of other people's successes (for CEOs - ride the wave of a market wide growth and claim your companie's growth as a result of your "vision") and dumping the blame for your mistakes on others ("the market is going down").
          • The appearence of success - if you look successful you will be rewarded as such
          • A success now at the cost of long-term losses - "by the time things fall down i'll be long gone in a new coushy job"
          • ...


          I've seen these over and over and over, and i'm still amazed at the stupidity (or maybe ability for self-decieving) of most people which cannot see beyond the outer layer (or maybe just won't do anything about it).
      • When compared to the "best in field" from any OTHER profession, excluding perhaps pro sports, compare the top salaries of execs to the top salaries of engineers, journalists, policemen, teachers, etc.

        Two points:
        Number one is that if a CEO is growing his company and seeing them through difficult economic times, and the shareholders are making money, he deserves to make a hefty salary. However, (and i'm talking to the parent post) If a CEO, like the one in the story, is making $82 million per year, and his shareholders are only barely beating the SnP index value, that is wasteful, gluttonous. What we're preaching against is the "heads i win, tails i win" in the article.
        Number two: I hate it when people bitch about professional athletes. Take Kobe Bryant [lakersground.net]. How much does he get paid? Holy crap. But the thing is: how many people in the world could play basketball like that guy? Not many, and most of them are in the NBA. These people are THE TOP in their field, as in it doesn't get better than this. For that kind of excellence, I can see them getting paid what they do. I think of it as "the more people capable of doing your job, the less you make".

        ~Will

    • Re:CEO Salaries (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Osty ( 16825 )

      Why is this so difficult for people to comprehend? Why do they continually whine about how much CEOs are paid. They are paid that because they are scarce. In general, they're the best business men in the world. Why is it shocking they're paid so much?

      Simple -- envy. The average person has no concept of what kind of work goes into being a CEO. Most people have the notion that they could do just as good of a job, because all they ever see CEOs doing is giving speeches and making press appearances and so forth. They never realize the actual work that goes into managing a business. From the point of view of those who complain about CEO salaries, being a CEO looks like beer and circuses -- all fun and games, no work. To those people, I say send an e-mail to the CEO of your company (you do work for a company that has an "open door" policy about communicating with management, right?). Ask him or her for a brief overview of what he or she does. The request will probably get shunted to a secretary (yes, most CEOs are that busy), but most likely you'll get an answer that describes at least at a high level what kinds of responsibilities a CEO has, and that should give you a better idea of the amount of work that goes into it.


      What you said is true. Good CEOs are very scarce. Potential CEOs are everywhere. Everybody wants to be one, but few would do a good job of it. And that's why those few get the big bucks.

      • Amen. I've seen the bosses job, and you couldn't pay me to take it! Well, you could pay me, but it would have to be one ofthose outrageous wages :-)

        I read a good economics article on the subject one (Landsberg IIRC) that analyzed why CEO's got paid so much. One thing mentioned really caught me attention. CEOs don't just run companies. They take risks. Big risks. They know that if they do something risky they're going to get replaced. You pay a CEO too little and they'll play it safe. But if you pay them enough, then they will take those sometimes necessary risks.
        • Re:CEO Salaries (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gilroy ( 155262 )
          Blockquoth the poster:

          CEOs don't just run companies. They take risks. Big risks. They know that if they do something risky they're going to get replaced.

          Risks? Then why are so many CEOs "forced out" with multi-million-dollar golden parachutes, while the companies they leave endure a death-spiral?
          • They take risks with OPM (Other People's Money). CEo's should be well paid but I think it has gotten out of hand in the USA.
          • Without that golden parachute they're not going to take any risks at all. The price of a CEO includes the perks not just the nominal salary.

            I know one perfect example, but I'll withhold the name of the company and CEO. I was working for this company. It wasn't doing very well. In fact, it was doing terrible and had filed Chapter 13. None of us knew if we were even coming in to work the next week. But the company hired a CEO that had turned around two other chapter 13 companies, both of which are doing very well today. But he failed with our company. We lasted only another year. Was he worth what he was paid? What he worth his golden parachute? The cynical will say no, but if he had managed to turn the company around, he would have been worth ten times what he got.

            Perhaps the way to think of CEO salaries is not in terms of a wage, but in terms of an investment.
            • Blockquoth the poster:

              What he worth his golden parachute? The cynical will say no, but if he had managed to turn the company around, he would have been worth ten times what he got.


              Then it seems that it was the Board and the shareholders who took the risk, not him.


              I'm not sure people are riled about the size of a CEO's salary (and perks, etc.) I think people are upset because (a) that salary is so astronomical, yet (b) seems not to be tied to performance at all. Read the NY Times article referenced in the story for the tale of the SBC CEO, whose compensation soared when the company did not better -- or even significantly worse -- than the national and the industry average.

            • I was working for this company. It wasn't doing very well. In fact, it was doing terrible and had filed Chapter 13. None of us knew if we were even coming in to work the next week. But the company hired a CEO that had turned around two other chapter 13 companies, both of which are doing very well today. But he failed with our company. We lasted only another year. Was he worth what he was paid? What he worth his golden parachute?
              Different situation. The company was already in distress. Anyone coming in at the top was indeed taking a big risk (to his reputation at least) and in that situation you have to pay big $$$ to get someone good. (Sort of like trying to hire Michael Jordan to turn the Washington Wizards around? Maybe a poor analogy)

              What is open to question is paying huge sums of money to CEOs who have not demonstrated the ability to do anything except commission more studies from Accenture and McKinsey. These guys are around for 3 years, do no good and a lot of harm, collect a $20 million golden parachute, and move on to the next victim.

              That is what has people hot under the collar.

              sPh

    • Because REALLY good CEO's know that they don't really need the uber-high paycheck (how many millions do you need every year??), and that the money could go back into company benefits, and workers will tend to feel less put-upon, and more productivity, etc.

      CONVERSLY, Bad CEO's still make an uber-high paycheck (from companies like Enron, Pacific Bell, to name a few), and keep getting bonuses at the injury to a company's fluidity, putting their workforce into layoffs, killing productivity, maybe even while driving the company into bankruptcy.
    • Good CEOs are very scarce. Good CEOs build companies and produce profits. Therefore, good CEOs are worth a lot of money.

      I agree. If businesses were paying CEOs and other top management based on performance, and they made a ton of money, good for them! It works for the CEO, it works for the shareholders, everyone's happy.

      But the problem is staggeringly obvious to everyone. They're NOT paid based on performance-- if so, the top figures at Enron wouldn't have made shit.

      "In general, they're the best business men in the world." Yes, and that's why they end up making so much money. But if your compensation plan isn't perfect, it's easy for them to make money while the company goes down the tubes. And, like you said, they're great at business-- so they'll excel at maximizing their own return, whether or not it's in the shareholders' best interests.

      Not many people complain about CEO salaries when they're riding the wave too. If someone sees a fat return on their investment in company X, they don't bitch that the CEO made a ton of cash too. But when they've invested in bullshit.com which just went out of business while the CEO made off with $200 million, they're going to complain, and rightfully so.
      • I agree. If businesses were paying CEOs and other top management based on performance, and they made a ton of money, good for them! It works for the CEO, it works for the shareholders, everyone's happy.

        But the problem is staggeringly obvious to everyone. They're NOT paid based on performance-- if so, the top figures at Enron wouldn't have made shit.
        Indeed. I am no fan of Microsoft, but I believe that one has to admire Bill Gates for his stance on compensation: a salary of $250,000/year, and all the rest in stock. Clearly his wealth is tied to the performance of his company! (yes, I know he has cashed out several billion. He did so AFTER he earned it). Most of these "uber-CEOs" manage to set things up so they take home $20 million/year or so REGARDLESS of how their organization performs. Then they want stock options too...

        sPh

    • Re:CEO Salaries (Score:5, Insightful)

      by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @02:48AM (#3667869) Homepage
      * Good CEOs are very scarce.
      * Good CEOs build companies and produce profits.

      Therefore, good CEOs are worth a lot of money.


      There's two problems with this:

      1. Even poor CEOs are paid extremely well.

      As seen in the article Edward E. Whitacre has led SBC for the past 12 years, his results? Below average growth. Now he may have done good things for other companies in the past, but he's simply been mediocere for SBC, yet doesn't receive a mediocere CEO salary.

      When the board actually does wise up and fire a CEO, the exCEO receive multimillion dollar severence packages. And what did they do to earn this? Balance sheets with wonderful red accents.

      2. When a company does well, those in the company should be rewarded. From top to bottom. But this isn't what happens. In 1999 CEO salaries increased 37%, while the average worker's salary increased a measly 2.7%. [pbs.org]

      Between 1990 and 2000 CEO pay has increased 571%. [ufenet.org] By comparison, the US's GDP over the same time period only increased 3.7% anually [bls.gov], or 37%. Since average corporate performance couldn't possibly outstrip the GDP growth by 15 times, something is wrong. Think of it this way. If the minimum wage increased along at the same rate as CEO salaries, a janitor would be making $25.50 an hour, instead of a measly $5.15.

      There are very real economic issues to be considered. I suggest you read up about how The Market actually works. For starters try United for a Fair Economy [ufenet.org].
      • Between 1990 and 2000 CEO pay has increased 571%. [ufenet.org] By comparison, the US's GDP over the same time period only increased 3.7% anually [bls.gov], or 37%

        Sorry, when you can't do arithmetic, nobody takes you seriously.

        • by ChrisCampbell47 ( 181542 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @08:56AM (#3668379)
          >>Between 1990 and 2000 CEO pay has increased 571%.
          >>[ufenet.org] By comparison, the US's GDP over the
          >>same time period only increased 3.7% anually
          >>[bls.gov], or 37%.

          >Sorry, when you can't do arithmetic, nobody takes
          >you seriously.

          Too bad, because his point is still valid. A 3.7% annual increase equates to 43.8% over a 10-year period, not 37%. But either value is still FAR below the 571% growth in CEO pay.

    • Like that guy running Enron?

      Being a CEO is NOT so difficult that it should pay more than 50 times what a skilled worker makes. The USA has hugely inflated salaries for CEO's compared to most of the rest of the world.

      I'm not saying this is a problem that needs fixed by legislation, but I think shareholders should think about paring down CEO, and the Board of director's costs.

      • I've been a CEO...it is very tough. You need to have incredible social skills and a perfect memory for faces and a good golf game to really make it, in addition to excellent management skills and a complete understanding of business. I've only met a handful of people in my life who I think would make a good CEO. I'm not there...yet.
    • Ever heard the phrase "a rising tide lifts all boats"?

      Good CEOs are few and far between, and the proof that they are good is damn scarce when you see a 30% overall gain across the board: everyone comes off looking like a winner, when it's just stock market speculation that's driving them up.

      Furthermore, even abominably bad CEOs get outrageous paycheques.

      CEOs are paid a lot of money because they all get "just above" average reimbursement, which in turn drives the average up. It's a hella scam, and apparently you've been sucked right into it.

      They are risking *MY* money. I've invested in their company. I'm taking all the risk. Pay *ME* my dividend, don't pay that slug 400x more than the front-line employees (the people who actually create value within the company).
  • by bons ( 119581 )
    Top 10 GDP, Shares of World GDP, and Per-capita GDP: leading countries [italtrade.com] (we finally drop to #5 in the last one.)

    Answering the question: What the heck is a GDP anyway? [bbc.co.uk]

    The CIA world factbook [cia.gov], which beats the reference materials I used to have as a kid.

    To all those reading this, wondering where their Porsche is, there's a simple fact you should know now before it's too late. A six figure income will not make up for ever living above your means. You're better off putting off those luxuries until you can get them without a credit card or a loan. If today's pleasure is purchased at the cost of your future, you can forget all about pleasure tomorrow.

  • Does David Brooks' claim that the USA is different from other empires and will never go through a decadent phase remind anyone else of the end of the business cycle supposedly heralded by the dotcom boom? I think one of the greatest problem any society has to face is complacency: once you get too many people at the top saying "yeah, we're great, we've created the perfect never-ending utopia" they stop responding to outside pressures, stagnate, and start to decline. I don't know if that's happened in the US yet, but I'd definitely rather that our national leaders were all a bunch of pessimists. First, they're probably more likely to be right; and second, if they're wrong, the consequences aren't as bad as they would be if they were incorrectly optimistic.
    • Does David Brooks' claim that the USA is different from other empires...

      Americans always forget that theirs is an infant nation. It has also only really been rich for about a 100 years, and the large middle class didn't exist until after WWII. The decline will happen, but probably not in our lives or even our grandchildren's lives. I don't think it will be all that painful either, most of our talent is from immigration and that will slow and reverse over a long period in human terms, if not historic ones. The talented will move to wherever there is more freedom and economic opportunity and those that like the idyllic beauty and the sedentary way of life will stay. Then a few thousand or even just a few hundred years later a whole new society will be born and the cycle will start over again. No biggy.
    • People said the 80's were decadent at the time...I'm sure the 2010's will make the 90's look non-decadent.
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @02:25AM (#3667822) Homepage
    From the article:

    Americans in 2000 spent less than they did 10 years earlier on steaks, martinis, cigars, jewelry, watches, furniture, toys and sound equipment. They spent less on entertainment and more on education, housing, transportation and computers.

    Okay, steaks corresponds with the mentioned trend about people eating more fresh vegetables. That would seem to correlate with trying to eat healthier. Martinis? Okay, perhaps people are drinking more malt beverages?

    As for the education, housing, transportation, if you look, housing prices, education prices and transporation prices have all been going up. That has nothing to do with any earnest desire by Americans to do something wholesome with their money. It's indicative of the fact that we are running our of spaces to expand to.

    Computers? 10 years ago was 1992. Computers were hardly ubiquitous then and the top of the line was a 486. Now computers have become a much more essential part of every home and the internet has driven a lot of buying. To suggest that somehow we are doing something good because we buy an Athlon to surf pr0n is a crock.


    Americans spent 10 percent less on food in general (though baby boomers spent 15 percent more on fresh vegetables). Americans spent 14 percent less on clothing, the largest decline in any category, though they did spend 12 percent more on shoes.


    Food in general? Okay, lets get back to that steak. How much does it cost you for the ingredients for that steak vs a salad? Furthermore, the price of food, realtive to the value of a dollar has been decreasing. The reason clothing prices are going down is because of globalization and cheap international production of textiles. That has nothing to do with buying less clothes.

    So, whatever, if you believe America has escaped some trend of history. If you think that this will go on forever, I just have three words for you:

    THE NEW ECONOMY

    Yup, remember that crock. Oh, record employment, growing wealth, with no looking back. The old rules are done. YEAH RIGHT. This country has done well over the years, granted but we've got a lot of bumps in the road to deal with ahead. A massive generation of retirees. The increasing gap between rich and poor. We haven't solved some magical formula folks, we've been blessed by history and it may continue that way for a while, but as any dot com CEO will tell you, all good things must come to an end.
  • by rufusdufus ( 450462 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @02:51AM (#3667875)
    We as Americans are vaguely aware that we are better off that most people in the world. I thought I 'got it' before I travelled a bit. I know I could have been the one who posted how hard it is to raise a family in New York.
    No.
    I tell you truly: a homeless person anywhere in the US is far better off than the average African. We are so steeped in wealth, what one person I met called "an embarrassment of riches", we have no perspective.
    We truly do not understand what poor means. Not a clue. The average american roughing it in the great outdoors brings more stuff in his backpack than the average african ever owns.
    No running water. No electricity (ha!). No roof. No car. No bus. No sidewalks or pavement. No shoes. Nothing.
    Disease is rampant; 80% of the population is HIV positive in Malawi. The average age is 15.
    If the world is getting you down, take a trip to Malawi. It will change your perspective.
    • We as Americans are vaguely aware that we are better off that most people in the world

      You are so right. I can't stand it when my fellow Americans complain about how "life sucks" and whine about how they don't get what they want. I've even heard people complain about their lack of "freedom" in this country. Those people make me sick.

      The USA is one of the few countries where someone with nothing can become rich and powerful. Anyone who is lucky enough to be born here or who was able to move here legally needs to be aware of this fact. Although the latter already probably realize it. If I had my way, I would force any American who has gripes about the USA to go spend a week in a third world country where there is no freedom, no wealth, and very poor quality of life so that they can appreciate everything they have in this country.

      • I would agree with you that rich people should get some perspective by going to economically less developed countries in Africa and seeing their way of life.People in the United States would be shocked to learn that the average wage is Mozambique is equal to 5 South African Rands a day (about $.50) and even the very wealthy would not get close to earning $1000 in a month.

        So, wealthy people of the World, go to Mozambique, see how the people live and get some perspective. While you are on this odysee of financial discovery, you can have an amazingly affordable holiday on some of the best, least trafficed, beaches in the world. Remember to spend plenty of dollars while you are there.

        I don't agree with you about "no freedom" and "very poor quality of life". The citizens of many African countries have better personal freedoms than people in Western Countries. South Africans, for instance, have a great level of freedom of freedom of speach and thought. This is true in many African democracies. Many people in Africa, despite not being able to afford a DVD player, let alone a radio, still have a excellent quality of life. It is a simple life, which many would swap for a western lifestyle, but it is also a way of life that many citizens of the first world would swap theirs for.

        • I don't agree with you about "no freedom" and "very poor quality of life". The citizens of many African countries have better personal freedoms than people in Western Countries.

          I must apoligize because that part of my original comment applied to countries like Cuba and Saudi Arabia, and not necessarily just the countries of Africa. But still, we both know that there are way too many people in the USA who have no clue about how great things are here. I still would like to see those people go spend a week in any 3rd world country, especially some two-bit dictatorship, so that they come back with a true appreciation of all the opportunities and privileges we have here.

        • South Africans, for instance, have a great level of freedom of freedom of speach and thought

          Um, yes, but that's because they just recently wrote a new constitution, based heavily on the US Constitution. A decade or so ago, South Africa was one of the most repressive nations on Earth, unless you were white, and even then it wasn't fun, unless you were a racist.

          It is not true that "many African democracies" have constitutionally-encoded freedom of speech, even if the practical effect of poor governments with limited resources is that individuals aren't particularly restricted by the government in their day-to-day lives (as long as they don't do anything to upset a government official).

          Heck, in Zimbabwe, mobs of people are encouraged by the government to maraud farms... Can't do that in the US! Which country has better personal freedoms?

  • ...by consumption figures alone, one has to take in account production. And this is where US has nothing at all for a long time already. US may be "rich" because it uses internally the currency that everyone else uses as a precious resource for international trade. So while in US a dollar is something you pay for everything without thinking, abroad it's something you save for trade with other countries fot their goods (not with US -- US doesn't export much) and can obtain only by international trade (including US -- US imports a lot).

    This situation formed after WWII when US economy was in a good condition while everyone else was in deep crisis and had very weak and unstable local currency. By starting a stream of worthless in itself green paper from US to others US managed to create a mechanism that supplies it with goods and power for merely providing international currency.

    When inflation of dollar in US reach the extent that will make dollar undesirable for international trade, or another currency will start competing with it, or when countries will develop more advanced trading system that will instantly adjust prices based on the expected behavior of the currency offered, US will lose that advantage. If at that point US won't develop a non-parasitic economy it can just as well start randomly nuking foreign countries in an attempt to discredit their currencies just like WWII did.
  • I'm single and I still live with my parents. Granted, I'm only 20, but back in my parent's day, it was common to leave home at 18. Nowadays, none of my friends have left home. Why? Our society is not designed for single people.

    In the UK, the average rent on a small 1 bedroom place is about £600 ($860) in most places, even in the quiet and jobless South West.

    The average wage in the UK is reported as £20,000 (almost $30,000) a year. After tax, this equates to £15,000 a year, or £1250 ($1800) a month. So, bam, half of your wage has gone on your rent.

    In the US, you have it a bit better. Your society is not geared towards single people either, but those who want somewhere cheap and safe to live can find it. I know that you can rent nice places in the South for $400/$500 a month, and I know that groceries are cheap, and gas is ridiculously cheap. Nice weather too. Sure, it's not a wealthy area, but if you telecommute (as I do) who cares?

    Now, take a poor place in the UK. Crime (primarily street assault) is a major problem in the UK nowadays, so finding somewhere reasonably safe is key. You're looking at £500 ($750) minimum to rent a tiny shithole, and add to that that gas is US$4.50 a gallon. Plus, the weather's lousy.

    The difference, however, is that there are housing associations for those who can't afford $750+ a month in rent. This is a rather socialist idea, and one of the reasons we pay so much tax. My pride kinda stops me from looking at this option. I'm a capitalist, and if I want something I have to damn well work for it. This view somewhat conflicts with the UK's 'welfare state' ideals.

    To be honest, if I could haul my ass to Louisiana tomorrow, I would.. but unfortunately your visa system wouldn't let me in. This, despite the fact that I wouldn't be scraping off of welfare, and could keep working for exactly the same clients as I do now! Of course, Greece or the south of France are other options, but hello.. don't we want to live in a place that speaks English? ;-)
  • ..even the poor ones.

    A month ago, Reuters reported that Swedes were less well off than poorest Americans [yahoo.com].

    Quoth the article:
    "Black people, who have the lowest income in the United States, now have a higher standard of living than an ordinary Swedish household," the HUI economists said.

    And I still would choose to live in Sweden any day over living in USA.
    • Well, we have free healthcare, free care of children, free culture (museums, art, music, etc), lots of things that cost hardearned bucks in the US. I guess the average yearly salary is $25.000-$30.000 here in Sweden, that would equal to $75.000-90.000 a year in US (Salarys in US is 3 x Sweden). Ofcouse everything is cheaper too.
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cswiii ( 11061 ) on Sunday June 09, 2002 @11:32AM (#3668799)
    A few weekends ago, a friend recommended Rich Dad, Poor Dad [barnesandnoble.com] to me. No, it's not an investment book. Rather, it's an interesting look into the ways that those of different economic levels teach their kids what money is, and how to earn money.

    It's pretty good so far. Nothing mind-blowing, but there's certainly some logical thought in there that had never occurred to me.

    I mention the book, though, because he freely admits that your typical "employment" lifestyle that most Americans have isn't enough to make you "rich", and is hardly enough to help you retire comfortably. However, he also realises people have to start out somewhere. You can't invest if you have zero. Thus, fiscal responsibility is entirely necessary, especially in the beginning, and something that most of us (yes, you, Slashdot reader) don't have.

    I know and/or have known way too many people who make way too much more money than me to be living paycheck-to-paycheck like they do. Granted, I make an okay salary, but I've known tonnes of people who've made six-figures USD and can't control their finances. It's asanine, but it's not an anomaly -- US News and World Report recently that some enormous percentage of Americans had saved less than $50,000 for retirement.

    The author of that NYT article was right, to some degree. Americans are fairly rich. We also, however, spend a lot of money on absurd things. The author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad is right, too: Americans don't know where to put their money, spending it on liabilities, not assets, and have a pitifully wrong understanding of it.
  • Did anybody check out the slide show the detailed where people where putting their money in different areas of the country?

    The car payments are crazy. It seems like people across all the economic stratas are spending way to much on cars. People with no money are paying $800 or more every month on their cars (sometimes more than one car). It's a far better idea to keep your cars until they are worn out and to put as much down as you can (unless you have a great loan rate).

    Anyway, don't blow all your money on cars when your family is struggling to make ends meet. You have more important things to buy.

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