I previously shared my encounter with a new friend who apparently supplements his income by selling illegal substances. During the course of our conversation, he said that he was an investment banker, a day trader, and a landscaping business owner. None of those things were true.
As it turns out, my new friend mows lawns for someone else’s landscaping business and sells cocaine. He told me that his mother sells real estate (true) and his father is retired from the NBA (not true.) He initially made up stories about his occupation and financial status because he didn’t want me to judge him.
Coming off of Labor Day, I’ve been thinking about what people do for money and what they would do for financial security. Over the weekend I read about:
- How Millennials can retire by age 40. (Pro tip: it assumes you have no student loans and can save 15% of your current income and you start at age 22.)
- How people who cannot move often take well-paying jobs in spite of the certain consequences of serious health dangers.
- Which well-paying jobs you can land in 2018 without a college degree. (Note: “without a college degree” is deceptive because these positions do require certifications and – perhaps – an associates degree. Also “well-paying’ might mean 40k which will not go far in many communities.)
- Amway. This is the company that has made the family of Betsy DeVos rich and the family of the woman who cleans our home dream of being rich.
I am well-paid for the work I (joyfully get to) do, but it was not always so. I earned a hot $12k annually fresh out of seminary and qualified to get surplus government cheese. For five years.
My spouse and I split one FT job at the Presbytery’s minimum salary when our children were young – something we chose so that one of us could be home with them. It was a choice that was good for our family but hard. It meant we couldn’t afford some things we would have liked to have given our children. But we were still privileged enough to get an annual vacation (thank you dead parents.) And I will be forever proud of our ability to pay for three sets of braces.
Many people have the conversation: How can we bring in more money? This conversation often evolves into “How can we spend less money?” And many people who are having this conversation are the ones who serve our communities every day: teachers, first responders, clerks, civil servants. It will probably never be true that those who keep us safe, who teach our children, who organize our lives will ever be paid what they deserve.
Capitalism – at it’s best – is a benevolent system. Yes, businesses exist to make money, but they also exist for the common good: to offer services, to provide products. Capitalism – at it’s worst – abuses people and perpetuates poverty.
As people of faith, we have a responsibility to talk about economic injustice in our nation. Many of us have the power to pay people well for the work they do. Many of us have the power to open doors for others to get hired. Many of us have the power to be able to speak up for others.
Few of us like to talk about money in terms of what we earn, what we donate, and what we spend.
What would we do for money? And what would we do to help others earn a living? It’s a spiritual issue and an important conversation for us to have together.
Image is Almighty Dollar by Donald and Era Farnsworth.