An Exercise in Trading Places

I really like this article from Esquire, examining the different lives of four men across the income spectrum. It’s hard to imagine the way other people live—how they plan their finances, what keeps them up at night, what they do on a daily basis—especially if, like me, you’ve never been exceptionally rich or exceptionally poor. Esquire‘s standardized set of questions and the wide variance in answers helps you envision life in another person’s shoes.

A few things that struck me:

  • They all ranked their happiness at a 7 or above on a scale of 1-10. Was this a control for this thought experiment (i.e. did they only interview people who claimed to be relatively happy in their income bracket), or was this intended to paint the picture that money doesn’t buy happiness?*
  • Dissatisfaction with taxation had an inverse relationship with income level. Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about upsetting the rich with higher tax rates?
  • Planning for the future is truly a privilege for the rich. The two men in the highest income brackets are able to choose when and how they plan for retirement and their kids’ college educations (even how to create a system of rewards for their kids), while the two men in the lowest income brackets just hope to scrounge up enough to retire eventually and maybe help their kids out a bit.

The article got me thinking how I’d answer those questions (I won’t do that on here), and how I hope my answers change in the coming years. And of course, it’s important to note that this article profiles four men. The story would be much different if it followed four women.

*It does, to an extent…kind of.

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