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The Cost Of Being A Top 1 Percent Earner?

Lately, it seems like the media and world in general, are against the top 1 percent of income earners.

It’s presumed that the fortunate top 1 percent have it easy and they just go to work socialize.  Perhaps they go to the golf course and play 18 holes while the rest of the workers (those lowly 99% of income earners are such tools) slaves away making the money for the top 1%.

Actually perhaps there are a few like that, but they don’t last long and their numbers are very low.  Eventually someone a bit leaner and hungry knocks such slacker off of their perch.  So the image of a top 1 percent income earners does not reflect reality.

What makes me so sure?  I’ve seen the suffering of a friend that made it to the top 1%, here is his story…

Jon was a VP of finance when I knew him.  He was a very friendly guy to great, but behind closed doors, he was much, much more.  If you met Jon, you would think what a nice guy, a family man and overall a class act.  Jon really was a great guy but he was also a businessman with business drive.  He had so much drive that he would stay incredible late working with the then CEO of the company I worked at.  Once I was part of their discussions, and this wasn’t the Jon that the other employees knew.

I consider myself a keen observer, so in my mind I put a few things together and painted a crude picture in my mind what his personal life must be like, and it wasn’t pretty.  Mostly he held it together quite well, and stuck with his huckleberry routine, until one day when we had the classic moral building exercises that always happens at larger corporate businesses (or so it seems).

During this “feel-good” meeting, Jon got up to speak.  He was delivering an excellent speech on going a little bit further than the other guys.  After all, it doesn’t matter if you win the race by a nose or a mile, what counts is that you put the time in and win…

That’s when it happened, Jon started going on and on about the time commitments, when he deviated off course and started talking about not seeing his kids.  A red flag in my mind went off, thinking “Hey, this isn’t part of the speech, it doesn’t fit”.  At that point, Jon continued with his speech, but literally he started crying.  Being a pro, he continued with the speech after jumping back on track.  He used his charisma and polished looks to deliver a speech that appeared to most in the audience that the man just had incredible passion.  But, there are a few of us that knew what really happened.  It was an eye opening glimpse into his 1% life, and honestly since I have kids, I choose my kids.  Even if I had the potential to get into the 1, 5 or even 10% income classes, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice the time that I could have spent with my kids doing things (although blogging is really taking a big slice of that time!).

My friend has since moved on to head up another company as a CEO.  When I knew him, he had just crossed that threshold to the 1% club, but not he is firmly ingrained in the 1 percent group.  I don’t see him much anymore, but I’m sure if I did, he would still great me with his warm, but polished and rehearsed greeting.  I’m sure he still works long hours and cries (literally) about his kids growing up, being raised almost sole by his wife.

So before you think that the top 1 percent group has it so great, think of my friend.  If you do, you’ll see why I’m more than happy to live a more (money and time) balanced life, at least now.  I’ll probably regret it when my friend is vacationing in Europe (lol).  I’m pretty sure he has crossed the threshold to financial freedom already.  Still, unless you’re buffett, you can never have enough money…

I hope you found as much value as I did watching Jon’s story unfold when my old friend gave his speech.




Update!  I just read that the top 1% earn 17% of the total income in the US, but pay 37% of all the tax revenue brought in!  Check out this article called:  Who are the 1%

21 Responses to The Cost Of Being A Top 1 Percent Earner?

  1. wow, that is a tough story. I don’t know if I could make that sacrifice either. Money isn’t the end all. But then again, some people are motivated by the success and not the money.

    • To boot, the guy that I’m talking about was really a great guy and very religious. He had the best of everything and probably still does, but time with his kids is one area that he loses in.

      I feel bad for him, if I were in his shoes, it would be a hard choice.

  2. Very interesting. But that’s what happens when people choose career and money over family. They end up living a lonely life. Even if they still manage to maintan their families. Great story!

    • Thanks, it enables me to see that 1 percenters are more than just numbers. They are people that choose to sacrifice time for money many times. So I think we should cut them some slack. Especially since the 1 percenters pay 37% of the tax revenue that we use!

  3. It is not an all or nothing game. You have to have balance in your life otherwise it is not worth it. When I was a CFO, I worked long hours (60-70 hours per week), but I went to work early so I could be home for dinner with the family. I made sacrifices by getting to work by 7 AM. I never missed one of my children’s events. Did it affect my career? Maybe! I did what I thought was important.

  4. I have worked 70 to 80 hours per week before, and I wasn’t even a top 1% earner! Even if I had made tons of money doing this, I wouldn’t have stuck with it. Working so much leaves you little time to enjoy all that money you’re making. There are more important things.

    • I agree, Time is the biggest enemy of the 1% club. They have the money, but they sacrifice time. And those of us climbing have to be wary of Time. The opposite side of time is not enough to really enjoy life. It’s all about balance…

    • I just hope people realize that going the aggressive route to rich isn’t easy. Those at the top 1% didn’t just get luck, they worked their butts off. Long, long hours (at least the ones that I know did).

      With my kids, I can no longer do that path either. Family first…

  5. Sacrifices definitely have to be made! Folks don’t see behind closed doors all the sweat and tears that go behind being a success. It’s hard to have it all. I just wish people wouldn’t rail against others before fully understanding how they got there.


    • Exactly, people who form these opinions have no idea! they just assume the fairy tales that that media portrays to be true. It a hard path to follow for most people…

      Granted I’m not in the 1% group, but I know others who are…

  6. I love this story. Well, I don’t love the story because of all the sadness. I appreciate the message in the story. It truly is hard to have everything without some sacrifice.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • It was a touching moment, and while I’m not sure if everybody understood what was going on, I did and I felt very sad for my former friend.

      I guess his breakdown is one of the reasons I cut the 1% club some slack. Nobody realized that those folks are just like us… or at least it seems that way.

  7. Great post, MR. Many of us know this, sometimes without articulating it. Put in the hours, and it will show.
    I know I can make more of an impact with constant travel and increased visibility. My incentive income would most probably reflect the increased time commitment.
    Could do it. Choose not to.

  8. I hit somewhere in the top 2% my last year of full-time work. And that came with being in the top 1% of time spent at work to make it.

    It was worth it because it was for a short period of time (18 months) but I will never do it again. Fortunately, since I saved most of it, I’ll never have to.

  9. The Cost Of Being A Top 1 Percent Earner…

    There is a cost associated with being a top 1% earner for most individuals. Read a personal story of a top 1 percenter and his struggle for a balanced life….