My wife loves the Olympics so we’ve been watching a lot of them this week. Yesterday I saw some stunning images like the one on the right accompanying several articles like these.
On a recent Malcolm Gladwell podcast he raised an interesting question about how to solve problems. Is a particular problem a ‘basketball problem’ where teams need to improve the best player or is it a ‘soccer problem’ where improvement comes by improving the worst player?
His point was that some problems have top down solutions and other problems have bottom up solutions.
The image above really provides a stunning portrait of income inequality. When it comes to Income Inequality, almost all the articles talk about it like a ‘basketball problem’. That is they focus on the top .01%. That’s understandable because broke people are always at zero. When the .01% get even more money the Inequality goes up. The reality is that the top 1% of income earners receiving 20% of the pre-tax income is a problem.
But assuming you are not in the 1%, I would suggest that the best use of your and my time is not trying to tear down the 1% but rather work on lifting up from the bottom. Specifically what do I need to do to lift myself and others up from the bottom?
I believe that creating opportunities and paths out of zero is the key. It’s a soccer solution. I can’t lift everyone up, but it’s a lot more impactful to move from destitution to the middle then to move from the middle up or from up to slightly less up.
In today’s world, there are a lot of opportunities, but the traditional paths are no longer clear. Instead, we need to really get creative on how to create and find opportunities to help myself and others into financial stability. I think it starts with a lot of questions:
How can I create a financially stable environment to raise my children?
How can I pull one friend out of instability and into financial peace?
How can I create an emergency fund that will take the crisis out of my financial life?
How can I prepare my children for life so they won’t be financially burdened for decades into the future?
How can I help one impoverished person start a business?
How can I avoid and payoff debt?
Do I need to work more or at a different employer?
Are substance abuse issues causing me to stay in poverty?
How can I pay my house off and take back my income?
How would a small business I start create future financial freedom?
If I could earn an extra $500 a month as a freelance employee at night or on the weekends how would that change my life?
If I could cut my lifestyle expenses by $200 a month, what would I do with an extra million dollars in 40 years?
Would something as simple as access to clean water enable a poor person to start working and producing something of value they could sell?
How would personal financial margin create opportunities for myself and others?
What do I need to change to create a path to financial stability?
Do I have a plan?
In what ways to I put a higher value on luxury then on stability?
How do I evaluate needs versus wants?
If I am drowning, it’s really difficult to save another drowning person. It takes personal capacity; savings and extra cash flow to be able to give and be generous. I believe lifting myself out of poverty is step one in helping others do the same and creating greater income equality.