Believe it or not, the bottom 50% of American households represent only 10% of the country’s wealth. Put another way, the wealthiest 10% of Americans are worth more than the other 90% of people combined. Think about that for a minute. The raw numbers are laid out in a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ revived this study because the collective net worth of the country just passed $100 trillion for the first time. There have been countless books and articles written on the growing income inequality and multiple theories of why things are the way they are, but I wanted to take a few minutes to explore the mindset I believe is behind this amazing statistic.
How do you think about wealth?
Just so we’re on the same page, let me define what I mean by wealth. If you had to liquidate everything you own into cash, what would that number be? Sell everything in the asset column and pay off all the debts. In my definition, wealth equals net worth.
At a fundamental level, most high net worth individuals think of money as tool to make more money while low net worth people view money as the fuel needed to survive. You’ve heard the cliche, “Money to burn…?” That’s basically what low net worth people are doing. Working a job to generate income that gets burned off by the day to day expenses of living: rent, food, utilities, family, and entertainment.
Meanwhile, when you talk to a person in the high net worth category, it’s striking how differently they think about wealth. They talk about deploying capital into opportunities that will make them more money. They are constantly weighing the risk and reward of opportunities. To them, money is only a tool and can be scaled bigger or smaller depending on the circumstances.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “well if I had a few million dollars to spare, I’d go out and deploy the heck out of that cash…” But that’s the thing. It’s not necessarily the millions in reserve that make this possible, it’s the mindset.
Let’s think about this at a different scale. I was recently watching a video by internet marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk – or “Gary V” as he’s commonly known. If you’re unfamiliar with Gary, he is a sought after motivator and speaker. He’s raw, likes to curse a lot, and hustles his butt off.
The video I watched was Gary V talking to some college football players about what he calls “flipping.” It’s a pretty simple concept. Find an item that you know a lot about, at a price that you know is low, then turn around and flip for a profit. It could be anything from sneakers to wine; from computers to Disney memorabilia. To prove his point, Gary V, who’s worth approximately $50 million, will go scour garage sales in New Jersey to find items he can flip. He makes videos for his social media channels of the trips where he will buy a Disney stuffed animal for $0.50 that he can turn around and sell on eBay for $20. To me, it’s a great example of a low risk way to exercise his high net worth mindset.
He’s training his mind to look for opportunity. To use his money to make more money.
As you get comfortable with the concept, you just move up in stakes until you can see the opportunity in a business or a building. It’s really more about the mindset than the dollar amount.
There was one other thing from the WSJ article that I found intriguing. For that bottom 50% of the people, the biggest opportunity for them to build wealth was through Real Estate. It’s the only asset class that you can live in. I say that a little bit tongue in cheek, but it’s really true. You can’t exactly move into your stock portfolio.
Here’s where the mindset we spoke of earlier can really be your friend. If you can think of where you live as an asset in addition to lodging, it’s the start of wealth building. If you’ve been stuck being a renter, just find a way to become an owner – even if it’s not your dream place right now. Having that ownership stake will empower you to build wealth and help you ladder up as you start to use your assets as tools to make more money while you live there.
You can reach out to Ron directly at firstname.lastname@example.org