I came across some interesting figures put out by the Bureau of Statistics and the IRS. Thought maybe some of you would find them interesting, too. Twelve percent of Americans over sixty-five are living, or trying to live, on incomes of less than $5,000. Only four percent of people over sixty-five have annual incomes of $30,000 or more, and only three percent have incomes over $50,000. The average annual salary of a full-time worker with a high school education, is $24,180 ($11.63 hr). For a full-time worker without a high school education, it's $16,848 ($8.10 hr.) It goes on to say that fifty-eight of the working people have taxable incomes of less than $25,000, and only two percent have taxable incomes of $100,000 or more. How could only two percent be making $100,000 or more, while the vast majority is making only $24,000?
It's All in the Choices We Make
The only logical explanation has to be education and knowledge (or maybe I should say the lack of education and lack of knowledge), and the choices we make as we go through life. If you choose to be “average” (and it's your choice), then you will get average results. If “average” is your comfort zone and you're happy living in that zone, good luck. If you're happy working your job, and you're earning all the money you need, congratulations. If your job will provide you with the kind of retirement income and security you want, congratulations again. If not, then you obviously have to get out of your comfort zone, make the necessary effort and commitment and do something the average person doesn't do. Approximately one million workers are being “downsized” (a polite way of saying, “You're fired”) each year. For years, many of these people were happy in their comfort zone and failed to learn how to do anymore than what their jobs required. Their choice was to continue doing the same thing they had always done, even though they had the choice and the chance to learn to do better.
Recently, on the evening news, there was a story about a woman being “downsized” after twenty-seven years on the same job. Her job was inspecting TV's coming off the assembly line. For twenty-seven years she was in her comfort zone and did nothing to improve her knowledge or education and learn to do anything different. Is there a lesson to be learned here? As the saying goes “If you continue doing the same thing you've always done, you will continue getting the same thing you've always gotten.” (Unless you're “downsized.”)
Education and Knowledge
Over the years, Joanne and I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars going to many seminars. Not that we could always afford to go, but rather because we couldn't afford not to go. We had a choice, and our choice was to spend the money to get an education. Being in the two percent bracket is much better than being “average” and in the fifty-eight percent bracket. And we don't have to worry about being “downsized.” Education and knowledge doesn't get downsized. (But according to some of our friends, we just got “lucky.”) I've heard it said many times that you will pay for your education at some point in your life. And you get to make the choice when you will pay. You can pay when you are young, healthy, and able to work, or you can pay when you are old, sick, broke, and unable to work. The choice is yours. When do you choose to pay for yours?
How Much Does it Cost to Remain Ignorant?
I gave a seminar several years ago, and whenever I think of that seminar, two men instantly come to mind. One was a plumber that called saying he wouldn't be able to attend the seminar, but would like to stop by and buy my books, which he did. He said he sure would like to attend, but he had a plumbing job he just had to do that day. (I never heard from him again.) The other man was about ready to retire from the Marines after twenty-eight years service. He called me about two months after the seminar saying he had done two mobile home deals. He “thought” he did okay, but he didn't really know because he didn't know how to use a calculator. He wanted me to give him a crash course in using one.
After thirty minutes or so on the phone, he got the hang of it and punched in the numbers on one of his deals. In fact, he punched the numbers in several times; he didn't believe the answer he kept getting. After I agreed with his numbers, there was a long pause. Finally he said, “My God, Lonnie. This stuff is scary.” The Marine paid $295 to attend that seminar to learn how to make his money do the work, so he wouldn't have to. He learned how to make more money on one deal than he got from a month's pay being a Marine. Now, can you tell me how much it cost that plumber for not attending the seminar? Let's suppose he made $500 on that plumbing job that he just had to do; but how much did he lose by not learning what the Marine learned–making his money do the work? The next day, and probably every day after, he has to do another plumbing job to get a check. The Marine can do a simple mobile home deal and obligate somebody else (maybe a plumber) to send him a check for years.
What's Your Choice?
The records show that ninety-five of the people who reach retirement age will need some kind of help or a part time job in order to live a decent life. Those people had the same opportunities and the same choices to make as we did. They just made the wrong choices. They chose to be “average” all their life. I may be getting old and lazy, but I'm still learning. You might finish school, but you never finish your education. Also, we'll get the chance to spend time with some very good friends and meet some nice people we've never met. You can't put a price on that. So, what will your choice be…the two percent bracket or the fifty-eight percent bracket? When do you chose to pay for your education, now or later? Are you willing to settle for being “average”? The choice is yours, and I hope you make the right one because you will have to live with the results of your choice. The best investment you can make is in yourself.