The other day, I found myself thumbing through Forbes magazine’s annual special edition: “The Forbes 400 – The Richest People in America.”
Each year, the magazine highlights the 400 richest people in America with a brief discussion about who they are, how they became wealthy (112 of the 400 simply inherited their dough, if you’re curious), and their thoughts about how they arrived at this station in life.
Many are pictured on Forbes’ pages, and most are smiling big, broad smiles.
Why not be happy, I suppose, if you have at least $475 million in personal wealth (that’s the minimum amount needed to qualify for the list).
By way of comparison, the average American has approximately $20,000 in net worth (including home equity and bank balances) and about $80,000 in overall wealth (including IRA/401-K accounts).
Here’s something else interesting: Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ $40 billion personal wealth is increasing at the rate of $400 million – per week.
The Forbes’ articles hypothesize about the reasons why some people are worth $40 billion and the rest of us are worth about $40 billion less than that (including last week’s take).
The conclusion is that Gates and many of the other 400 are reputed to have high IQs, work extremely hard and, not suprisingly, have been very lucky in their lives.
Well, I’m sure I speak for all Advocate readers when I say that I also am pretty smart, I work pretty hard, and I’ve been pretty lucky in life – but I don’t have $400 million in new pocket change every week.
So what do you suppose would happen if the Advocate had placed a disposable camera in the hands of Gates and Ross Perot and Warren Buffett as they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this month and if we had asked them to take pictures of the things they are thankful for.
Would they have taken pictures of pets and parents and siblings and friends, just as the elementary school student photographers for this month’s cover story did?
Or would we instead have been inundated with pictures of Porsches and Jaguars and yachts and fancy restaurants and bank vaults?
I can’t tell you what our wealthy countrymen value in their lives – hopefully, and their often single-minded and neverending efforts to become rich and successful businesspeople, they still have friends and families waiting for them when they go home.
But it’s pretty obvious from their photos what our neighborhood students think is important. And I hope you’ll find their thoughts both interesting and inspirational as we begin this holiday season.
I want to thank the neighborhood businesses who, along with the Advocate, helped underwrite the cost of buying 100 disposable cameras and developing more than 2,000 photographs in order to make this story possible. So thank you Doctors Hospital, Flash-Back Photo Labs, Burger House restaurant, and Annette Stone State Farm Insurance.
There is more I could say on this topic, but speaking as one relatively poor person to another, I’ve got to go now.
My six-year-old and three-year-old sons have just marched into my office, and they aren’t interested in how much money Bill Gates or I have in the bank, nor are they interested in the type of cars we drive or in our personal philosophies about success and business.
Instead, they need a worthy opponent for a pirate-style sword fight.
And I’m thankful, regardless of my ranking on the richest people in America list, that I’m in a position to join them.
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