Class Divisions & Financial Stratification

by James & Miel on October 8, 2008 · 0 comments

One of our commenters tipped us off to another great blog, Cure Money Madness.

I found one posting particularly interesting, Friends at Work, but not Friends for Long It basically goes into the blogger, Spencer, feeling an uncomfortable divide when a friend at work asked where he “summered”; since the answer to this was the Queens public swimming pool. In the end, Spencer knew the relationship was doomed.

This blog posting got me thinking about my own parallel experiences. Rather than the public swimming pool, I spent my summers on a river in rural Southern Oregon. While on opposite coasts I imagine our experiences overlap in ways.

For me, I thought I grew up middle-class, until I went to a prestigious college and learned that I was closer to the poverty line. My roommates all came from wealthy families, all three paying out of pocket for school at $25k a year.

Interestingly enough, the divide came when I actually had more money working two jobs than my roommates had getting an allowance from mummy and daddy. I could pin point that moment in my dorm room as when I realized what power I had to pursue the American dream. It struck me that if I continued to work hard and persevere, I could surpass my privileged classmates.

That is exactly what happened.

I’m certainly making more than any of my roommates at the time, and I’d likely be in the top percentile of earnings for my graduating class.

Even here in Afghanistan, where salaries are generally quite high, I realized recently that I actually make more than most of my closest friends in Kabul, some of whom are twenty years older than I.

It also occurred to me recently that I’m making the equivalent to all three of my parents, and four siblings combined!

The one area that Spencer and I differ though, is that I’ve somehow been able to not let class or status get in the way of my self-worth. I guess this is due to feeling that I’ve climbed the ranks and been at nearly every stage along the ladder of wealth, aside from being handed it.

For this reason I guess I can relate well to those who are just trying to make it, or have made it. I think I would still find the most difficulty with those who are just handed it. There is something that just doesn’t set well around folks who haven’t worked for it. I can pretend that I’m okay with it, but I wouldn’t be being straight with myself.

I will say that there are some class issues that James & I have had to deal with over the years. He admits that he feels a class difference between our families. I guess I’ve combated this by making a success of myself.

While for the most part I can be comfortable with folks from all walks of life, I am cognizant that this can change sometimes when interacting with people who had a more traditional upbringing, even those that are simply more conservative. I realize that I don’t always mention the fact that I grew up on a commune in certain circles, including our blog. I guess there is something that just feels funny about having grown up with an outhouse and now making $150k annually. I guess that is just life though.

Food for thought I suppose. I find that the emotional side of financial, particularly our financial background, makes a big difference in how we approach finances. It’s good to reflect from time to time about what makes up your attitudes about finance.

It occurred to me recently the connection between my siding with those who are pulling themselves up by their boot straps and my work in development. While I’m all for improving the quality of lives in the developing world, I’m certainly on the side of believing that it has to come from within. This obviously comes from my own experience with how to get ahead in the world.

Readers: I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on relating to difference classes and migrating from one to another.

Cheers,

Miel

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