Living Below Your Means
Eye-Opening Moment at Work

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By ZootsTwin
February 25, 2005

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Hi, guys -- emerging from Lurkdom here to share an experience I had recently.

I work at Very Large Company Which Shall Remain Nameless, Inc. Every now and then, Very Large Inc. schedules guest speakers on a variety of topics during the lunchtime hours so that you can go take your lunch and become edified on random topics. Every now and then, these topics are in the financial domain: house buying, retirement planning, and so on. (They sometimes seem like covert sales opportunities to my overly-sensitive-to-advertising eyes -- of course, there are all kinds of disclaimers given by the speakers about how this isn't a sales pitch, but then their phone numbers and company affiliations are all over the handouts. But it doesn't bother me, I guess -- I can tune out whatever minimal "advertising" content is there either in reality or in my perception, and focus on the other 99% of the content.)

Anyway, to my point. Yes, I do actually HAVE a point. ;-)

Last week's talk was called something like "Climbing The Mountain To Financial Freedom" -- right up the ZT alley, of course. There were probably about 200 people in the room, which is a nice strong showing for one of these events. What struck me were the responses to two questions that the presenter asked to kick off his presentation, and the responses of this self-selecting group of my co-workers at Large, Inc. Here they are:

"By a show of hands, how many of you can tell me, within about $100, give or take, where all your money goes each month? That is, how many of you have a budget?"

About TEN people out of TWO HUNDRED in the room raised their hands.

Then this:

"By a show of hands, how many of you have a savings plan in place for your retirement?"

About TEN people out of TWO HUNDRED in the room raised their hands.

TEN. One of which was I, for both questions, of course, but TEN. Out of TWO HUNDRED.

What also got me was the speaker's comment after the showing of hands: "that's about on par with the other groups I speak to. About five to ten percent of people in the room raise their hands."

I think we would have ALL been shocked if he'd asked what I consider to be an even more important question: "By a show of hands, how many of you spend LESS than you make every month?" Judging by nothing other than the fact that only ten people in the room actively budget, I would be willing to bet that positive responses would have been even scarcer.

So, ladies and gentlemen of LBYM-ville, what I learned was this: we are not the norm. We are five to ten percent of the population, if this admittedly anecdotal evidence may be said to be indicative of the population at large. The implications of that are still sinking in to my brain, slowly -- so slowly that I'm not sure I can articulate any of them at the moment.

Five to ten percent. Wow.


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