Last night, during one of the debates, Governor Paul LePage said that people earning $100,000 per year “are not that rich.”
I have to agree with the governor, but I would have disagreed with him if he made that statement in 1998.
In 1998, I accepted a job as a reporter that paid $9 per hour or $18,720 per year before taxes. A few weeks prior, I had paid $500 for a 1988 Subaru Loyale that featured duct tape and a leaking oil pan. I lived in a third-floor apartment above a Chinese restaurant.
Every piece of clothing I owned reeked of Moo Gai Pan.
I was 34 years old and earning roughly 60 percent less than I was just a few years earlier.
It’s a long story.
But back in 1998, I would have considered anyone earning $100k as wealthy. I wanted to earn $100k, but I thought it was impossible.
So, what happened?
Basically, I worked my ass off. My work became my life. Within a few months, I got a raise. I replaced the Subaru with a 1993 Ford Escort station wagon that desperately needed a new exhaust. I bought an air conditioner.
The future seemed bright.
A few months later, I was promoted and got another raise. I worked nights, weekends and holidays. I pretended that I owned that newspaper.
I got another raise, and then another, and then another.
Before I knew what was happening, I was getting married and buying a house. I bought a Jeep. Things were really looking up. I felt rich, but only for a little while.
I eventually left the newspaper and nearly doubled my salary. Suddenly it was so much easier to pay the bills. I thought I was rich, until it came time to pay my taxes.
At each point along this journey, my definition of “rich” constantly changed.
I won’t say how much I earn today, but I will say that I could not imagine my current salary back in 1998.
Sure, there were times when I struggled with a little bit of envy, but I also noticed that with each rung up the ladder, my definition of “rich” continually changed.
It’s easy to conduct class warfare and talk about the “rich” being out of touch, but considering the cost of living, the median cost of a home in Maine, the rising cost of heating oil and insurance premiums . . . you get the idea, $100,000 per year isn’t such a big number. Yes, it’s much more than $18, 720/year, but it’s hardly “rich.”