Every few days, I get a test back from my kids’ school. Either I’m really spoiled or the tests are too easy. It may be a combination of both. They do well at school, so they probably get 96% on average. I figure that because they are in the first and second grade the school is building confidence in them.
Over the long term, they won’t always get A’s. They probably won’t even get A minuses. Competition gets greater and the pressure to be the best all the time is probably not the healthiest lifestyle.
I’ve found in most cases in life, 92% is great. Of course, there are a few exceptions – I expect more out of pilots and surgeons.
Last week, something happened that made me wonder if 92% isn’t good enough.
The 92% Wealthiest People
Our net worth is probably somewhere between the top 90% and top 95% in the United States for our age. Every now and again, I find a tool online and it fits somewhere in that range. For lack of a better figure, let’s call it in the 92% range.
In many ways, I feel that being in the top 8 percentile of wealth makes it difficult to relate to some of the challenges of my younger readers. We’re on different parts of our money journeys and the changing world makes today’s challenges different than the ones I had. We had the benefit of having invested early and a long, long bull market. We also are high income – my wife much more than me as I focus more on kids and household stuff.
In any case, being in the top 92 percentile of net worth is a good place to be in. We don’t have many day-to-day money troubles. At the same time, we do have a small-ish house (by today’s standards), a mortgage, and I drive a 2012 Subaru Forester. I don’t have a pair of jeans that isn’t ripped. To outsiders, we probably look like “The Millionaire Next Door”, except without the millionaire part.
Our greatest splurge is that our kids go to a very good private school. Even with a generous military discount, it is a lot of money. We love the education that the kids are getting, but the families are extremely wealthy.
Last week, I found out that Millionaires Next Door and the One-Percenters don’t mix well. I’m sure this isn’t surprising, but it also isn’t the kind of thing that most people have the privilege of even thinking about.
My son and I were invited to one of his friends’ birthday parties. It was just a few families and the kids were all from the same school. There’s not a lot of COVID in our area and through one means or another (age, health care worker, connections maybe?) the vaccinated percentage was high.
I Zillowed the house beforehand and saw that it was a 3M mansion. The family was new to the school, escaping COVID of NYC for their summer house where the kids could be in school full-time. Their Maplethorpe-like original art was very much my kind of humor, but not something I’d consider appropriate for kids. The host casually mentioned that it was probably worth more than the house… and I’m not sure that’s a stretch. (People can pay a lot of money for art.
They had complaints about their refrigerator, but I couldn’t get past that it was bigger than my closet. It was a historic house and parts of it always seemed to need fixing… at crazy prices to keep up with the neighborhood code. Our house, at a fraction of the cost, is cheaper to maintain – a great feature of being constructed around 1990. Our yard is just as big or bigger, but the location is a little farther from the center of town.
(Funny side story about the fridge, my son got thirsty so he went to the kitchen sink and poured himself some water. When he saw another kid get water from the refrigerator door, it completely blew his mind. I know the feature isn’t limited to the one-percenters, but our fridge was brand new when we bought the house, and it didn’t have the feature – my kids had never seen it.)
They were really great people. However, we are just from different worlds. Every so often something came out like, “Johnny doesn’t own a shirt without a collar”, I would blurt out that my kids barely own any shirts WITH a collar. (It’s not true that my kids don’t own shirts with collars, the school has a dress code, but they would never choose to wear them.) My son wore his Minecraft T-shirt on the outside of a Pokemon long-sleeve T-shirt because those were the characters that the birthday boy liked. Like every day, his socks didn’t match. (I dressed up for the occasion in my best Newport pastels with the tiny whale logo, so I at least looked like I fit in.)
I kept trying to find a way to bridge my 92% life experience and their 99% life experience. Our kids seem to be great friends. (It has been hard to tell because COVID has prevented us from meeting all school year.) Maybe we’ll be spending a lot of time together as things start to open up. I just couldn’t find that common ground.
Overall the kids had tremendous fun. Truth be told, I did too. It was much more fun than I expected, but maybe it’s because this was my first socialization in over a year.
When I got home that night, I couldn’t help but think what they thought about us. I wonder if they were thinking that we were great comic relief as such commoners. I know that being in the 92% is enough for us and that’s all that matters. However, it’s strange to live in two different financial worlds and not fit into either.
Just before I drifted off to sleep, I had a strange thought that made me laughed to myself. I imagined the host family writing in their bedside journal – or maybe they have a blog too. Their entry was “When 99% Isn’t Enough.” After all there are a couple of families who are semi-famous with net worths of over $100 million.