Friday, September 24, 2010

The Rich Don't Really Understand That They Don't Understand

You've heard about the guy in Chicago that was complaining about not making ends meet on $250,000. Actually he was lying. They make about $400,000. Anyway here is his whining blog. Now of course he took it down after a billion or so negative post. But once on the www it is permanent. So from the archives here is the blog:

We are the Super Rich
Posted by Todd Henderson on September 15, 2010
"The rhetoric in Washington about taxes is about millionaires and the super rich, but the relevant dividing line between millionaires and the middle class is pegged at family income of $250,000. (I’m not a math professor, but last time I checked $250,000 is less than $1 million.) That makes me super rich and subject to a big tax hike if the president has his way.
I’m the president’s neighbor in Chicago, but we’ve never met. I wish we could, because I would introduce him to my family and our lifestyle, one he believes is capable of financing the vast expansion of government he is planning. A quick look at our family budget, which I will happily share with the White House, will show him that like many Americans, we are just getting by despite seeming to be rich. We aren’t.
I, like the president before me, am a law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and my wife, like the first lady before her, works at the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she is a doctor who treats children with cancer. Our combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold for the super rich (but not by that much), and the president plans on raising my taxes. After all, we can afford it, and the world we are now living in has that familiar Marxian tone of those who need take and those who can afford it pay. The problem is, we can’t afford it. Here is why.
The biggest expense for us is financing government. Last year, my wife and I paid nearly $100,000 in federal and state taxes, not even including sales and other taxes. This amount is so high because we can’t afford fancy accountants and lawyers to help us evade taxes and we are penalized by the tax code because we choose to be married and we both work outside the home. (If my wife and I divorced or were never married, the government would write us a check for tens of thousands of dollars. Talk about perverse incentives.)
Our next biggest expense, like most people, is our mortgage. Homes near our work in Chicago aren’t cheap and we do not have friends who were willing to help us finance the deal. We chose to invest in the University community and renovate and old property, but we did so at an inopportune time.
We pay about $15,000 in property taxes, about half of which goes to fund public education in Chicago. Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school. My wife has school loans of nearly $250,000 and I do too, although becoming a lawyer is significantly cheaper. We try to invest in our retirement by putting some money in the stock market, something that these days sounds like a patriotic act. Our account isn’t worth much, and is worth a lot less than it used to be.
Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home. At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income. We occasionally eat out but with a baby sitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive.
If our taxes rise significantly, as they seem likely to, we can cut back on some things. The (legal) immigrant from Mexico who owns the lawn service we employ will suffer, as will the (legal) immigrant from Poland who cleans our house a few times a month. We can cancel our cell phones and some cable channels, as well as take our daughter from her art class at the community art center, but these are only a few hundred dollars per month in total. But more importantly, what is the theory under which collecting this money in taxes and deciding in Washington how to spend it is superior to our decisions? Ask the entrepreneurs we employ and the new arrivals they employ in turn whether they prefer to work for us or get a government handout.
If these cuts don’t work, we will sell our house – into an already spiraling market of declining asset values – and our cars, assuming someone will buy them. The irony here, of course, is that the government is working to save both of these industries despite the impact that increasing taxes will have.
The problem with the president’s plan is that the super rich don’t pay taxes – they hide in the Cayman Islands or use fancy investment vehicles to shelter their income. We aren’t rich enough to afford this – I use Turbo Tax. But we are rich enough to be hurt by the president’s plan. The next time the president comes home to Chicago, he has a standing invitation to come to my house (two blocks from his) and judge for himself whether the Hendersons are as rich as he thinks. "

Now of course he will only have to pay the new rate on $150,000 of his $400,000 so he has now told you two lies. The first $250,000 of his income will not have a tax increase.

So here is what the Wall Street Journal gave him for advice:

Adjust your expectations. "I can show you a client of mine right now who lives in a suburb of Chicago, he's a doctor, makes $350,000 a year, and he routinely racks up $25,000 on his credit cards," says Michael Kalscheur, a financial planner at Castle Wealth Advisors in Indianapolis. The reason? Too many people have "unrealistic expectations," says Mr. Kalscheur. They figure they should be vacationing in Italy, driving expensive cars, the whole deal. "We need to knock him upside the head. He's got to stop spending money." Every financial planner will tell you the same thing: The real challenge is tackling the psychology.

Refinance your mortgage. I have no idea how big and expensive your home is, but you can now get a 30 year jumbo mortgage at around 5.3%. Even on a $1 million loan that comes to $5,500 a month, and it's tax deductible. If your home is so expensive that you can't even afford it at these rates, you can't afford it. Sell it and move somewhere more affordable. If you're underwater on the mortgage, talk to the bank. Forget about "equity," which may not exist, and look at the cashflow.

Get a grip on your discretionary spending. Carry a pocket notebook with you for a month, and write down everything you spend. Get your wife and children to do the same. It will help you understand where your money is going. Almost every financial planner will tell you that this is invariably a huge eye-opener. As Jonathan Sard, a financial advisor in Atlanta, says, you may find you spend $100 in Target every time you go in for lightbulbs, or spend $300 taking your kids to a White Sox game. With everyone it's different, but you need to know where the losses are. If writing everything down is too much of a challenge: Junk the plastic, and just carry cash. This is instant budgeting. If you carry $500 a month, that's all you can spend.

Stop blaming the government. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a household earning $265,000 a year is in the top 20% in the country, and one earning $395,000 is in the top 10%. (The relevant thresholds are $190,000 and $290,000, respectively. And those figures were from 2007, a more prosperous time). So you're near the top of the tree in the richest country in history. At the same time, contrary to what you seem to think, federal taxes are not extortionate by modern historical standards. According to the CBO, families in the top 20% pay average federal taxes of 25.1%. The figure in President Reagan's final year in office: 25.6%.
Think about relocating. No kidding. It's not about how much you earn, it's about how much you get to keep, and if you are paying too much to live in an expensive town like Chicago, you may be much better off earning less somewhere cheaper. You and your wife both have highly portable jobs. According to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, someone earning $350,000 in Chicago could get the same standard of living on just $230,000 a year in, say, Austin, Texas or Cincinnati.

Reconsider the investments. You say you're putting money into the stock market each month, even though you are paying off huge student loans. You need to do the math. If your investments are through a 401(k), they make sense: They're saving you taxes, maybe taking advantage of a company match. But if they are in addition to your 401(k) plan, they may not make sense right now. You are probably better off using the money to pay down that debt.
Rethink the two cars. Are you leasing them? How much are they costing you a month? This is one of the biggest ways middle class families blow their cash. I can't believe the number of people who think these moving white elephants are a status symbol. When I see an expensive car go by, all it tells me is that the owner is (a) insecure and (b) has no sense. These days you can get a decent set of wheels for a lot less than $10,000. Buy used. Pay cash. Run it till it dies.
Rethink the schools. You're sending your children to private school. But how much is it costing you? I take your point about terrible local public schools, but can you move to a neighborhood with better public schools? Or downscale to less-expensive schools?

Talk to a tax accountant. You say you're using TurboTax. With your income, you might benefit from some professional assistance. Are there deductions you can take that you're not using? Are you subject to Alternative Minimum Tax? Should you make your fourth quarter state and federal tax payments before Dec. 31? You may be able to help your financial position.

Go after all the little costs. You're hemorrhaging money. Get the kids to mow the lawn or do it yourself. Bake your own bread. Cook your own meals. Buy generic brands and bulk brands. Go to Costco, Sam's Club and other discount clubs. Junk the landline. Junk cable for Netflix. Rethink your banking: You're probably bleeding money through needless "fees" every month. Forget the "conspicuous consumption." Go for the conspicuous unconsumption. Brag about how little you spend. Find new ways to avoid spending money.

Oh, and one more thing. Never, ever, ever again blog about how hard it is to live on $300,000 or $350,000 a year at a time when one middle. (It was actually $400,000)

So everybody hates this fool. As well they should. 94%of Americans make less household income than his family. Yet to him, it is a crime that the President wants them to pay for their countries operation.

The rich don't seem to understand that they don't understand. What's worse. They don't care much either and when anyone brings either of those points up they whine "Class War"!
OK, we can do that. Is that bitter?


drlobojo said...

FB comments
Bodie Gaffenstof: I don't know what he was thinking anyway. How did he think he could get by living in a crooks neighborhood on a working man's pay.
9 hours ago · LikeUnlike

Junior Bear: Haven't most American been seduced into the life style at about 125% larger than their actual income. That's probably a law or policy somewhere?
5 hours ago · LikeUnlike

Bodie Gaffenstof: I know what you mean. When I first started looking at house

BB-Idaho said...

I'm 'sympathetic'; clearly he would be happier paying less know, like being out of work, homeless and getting a meal twice a week down at the Salvation Army. Yep, he should try that and report on his blog....

drlobojo said...

Yep, so would I. I figured out percentage wise I'm paying about the same as this Turkey and and I don't make anywhere as much as he does and I use an account for taxes. The Rich have no empathy.
I ran across this with my board members over and over again and again. They didn't get it and they couldn't see that they didn't get even when shown that they didn't get it.