I’ve often heard that some people are disadvantaged. We worry about disadvantaged children. We hear that some adults are disadvantaged as well. I started to think about what that meant. If some people are disadvantaged, then obviously some people must be advantaged as well. Of course, people who are rich are said to be advantaged, which is how they earned their wealth. They had special advantages that allowed them to succeed and rise to the top of the heap.
At first I dismissed this idea. Everyone I know of who has become wealthy has worked. Really hard. They also took chances in order to put themselves in a better position to earn wealth. They started a business and spent a year or two working a second job to pay for food and shelter while putting everything into their business. They skipped vacations to stay and run the business. They spent 80-100 hours per week working on their business.
As I thought about it, however, I realized that they were advantaged. they had advantages all along, from their school days to their retirement. The advantages they had were as follows:
Advantages at school:
1. They pay attention in school and learn all they can so that they have knowledge they need to succeed.
2. They do all of their homework and all of the extra credit so they can get into a good college, hopefully with a scholarship. They do this so they could get into high pay professions like medicine, law, or engineering.
Contrast this with many disadvantaged students who miss a lot of school, or never open a book outside of class, or never turn their work in. Of course these students are disadvantaged – they never learn the skills they need to succeed.
Of course some people who have become wealthy were only mediocre students. They may even have left school early to start working at a job. Even if they graduated high school, many who went on to start businesses didn’t go to college. They also had an advantage by working.
Advantages while working:
3. They gain skills by working at jobs. They learn to show up on time, to dress well, and to please customers. Perhaps they learn how a particular business operated or how to do some of the accounting, which helps them later when they start their own business.
4. Because they are working, they are on the short list for better jobs. Many people who are in a job get asked to take on higher responsibilities such as management or work in totally different fields. When applying for a job, you’ll fare much better if you have work experience than if you don’t.
Contrast this with a person who doesn’t work. They are not learning skills needed to please people, which is probably the most important skill to have to succeed in a free enterprise society. They also aren’t learning personal management skills, computer skills, business operations skills, or other skills that will help them get a better job. This is a huge disadvantage.
Another area where wealthy people are advantages is in the groups they join and the people they meet:
5. They hang around with people who are supportive of them doing well.
6. They are involved with organizations like Scouts, Rotary, and church groups, where they create a network.
Contrast this with a person living in public housing collecting a check each month. People around them tell them there is no reason to better themselves. If they try to get out, they have lots of people trying to pull them back down. They don’t get involved in civic organizations, so they miss out on making important connections that could lead to a good job. In fact, they often make connections with criminals that will make them end up getting killed or imprisoned. This is a huge disadvantage.
Finally, the children of rich and middle class parents have a huge advantage:
7. They support their schools, so that their children can learn. They provide snacks during testing. The chaperone field trips. They visit during career day. They support the PTO to help buy things for the school and resolve issues at the school.
8. The ensure their children complete their work and do their best. They sit with their children while they are doing their homework. They check the answers and explain things they missed. They drive them to the store for supplies for projects. They remind them of things they have due. Most important of all:
They expect them to succeed.
And that is probably the most important advantage of all. Children of wealthy people have high expectations placed upon them. Probably the most damaging form of racism remaining today isn’t the idiot making racist jokes in a coffee shop. It’s institutionalized low expectations for minority students. The idea that just because you are black or Hispanic, you need a lower bar. You are not expected to do as well, because you are disadvantaged just by the color of your skin. Now, if people start believing that about themselves, that can really be a disadvantage.
Note that none of these advantages are things that come from money or background. They come from individual choices that anyone can make. It doesn’t take money to show up to class and pay attention (and if your school is too full of interruptions by other students and bad teachers, move.) It doesn’t take money to get a job, work hard at it, and look for opportunities to broaden your skills. It doesn’t take money to join organizations like scouts or a local church. And it doesn’t take money to be involved in your school. Do these things, and you’ll be advantaged too.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.