10.06.2009

How Rich Are You


I own 10 pairs of shoes: black fancy, brown fancy, black casual, brown casual, new running shoes to run in, old running shoes to do housework in, two pairs of hiking boots, sandals, and flip-flops. My wife, who is by no means a clothes horse, has many more pairs than I do. My kids probably have three or four pairs each, only because their rapid growth makes buying more pairs pretty useless.

Add it all up, and maybe we're talking 30 to 40 pairs of shoes in our family of four. This is unfathomably rich, by the world's standards: the median number of pairs of shoes per person in the world is probably about one. That's right: if you have an extra pair of shoes, you are on the rich side of things.

According to this website, if you make more than $2.33 a day (an annual income of $850), that's enough to put you on the rich side of things. I am lucky enough to earn a salary well above that, one that puts our family easily in the top 15 percent of the world's population, which means there are well over 4 billion people in the world who make less than my family enjoys.

Spending is not evil. One can prudently buy a good pair of shoes, or a laptop computer, or a nice dinner out, and not feel that good money is being squandered. But, look at the chart above, and, considering where you fall on it, think about what fortune you have and what role you can play in improving the lot of those billions to the left of you.
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