I am pretty bad at arithmetic. I like some more complex maths, like the geometry of triangles, and solving for x. The Fibonacci number sequence makes me happy, and I love counting by nines. Back when arithmetic in school was a bunch of gnomes named Plus, Minus, Times, and Divide, math was alright. However, I stink at what my math teachers horrifically called “guesstimation.” Maybe it is an act of rebellion against the butchering of our language. Maybe it is because I’m rusty. It isn’t the fault of my mother or my genes; my grandpa was a math teacher. But somehow, the little black number squiggles have always felt slippery and indifferent in a way letter squiggles never have. There are wrong answers, for one thing.
I recently made a particularly jarring guesstimate. I figured out I would only need to make nine times as much money as I make to be a millionaire. Well, I thought, if I worked full time, that could double my salary, and if I got married to someone who worked full time, that could double or triple that. Considering I am still early in my career, I could easily be a millionaire by my fifties!
Then I checked my math.
Turns out, I would need to make THIRTY TIMES what I make to be a millionaire. I have not been able to stop thinking about this. First of all, how was my math so bad? But more importantly, holy fuck, that is a huge disparity.
Millionaires make more in a day than what I make in a month.
I live in a nice house, eat good food, own a car, have health insurance, take trips to Paris, don’t get in debt for Christmas, and occasionally impulse buy two hundred dollar pairs of shoes with no bad results. I don’t feel poor.
And I’m not. Millionaires make more like seventy times what a full-time Federal minimum wage job pays. That means millionaires make in a day what lots of people make in three and a half months. Millionaires — assuming they have to work to get their money — can make a year’s minimum wage salary in a leisurely European work week.
Clearly, this is fucked up. Also, there are billionaires. This clashes with my sense of order and proportion, though Fibonacci numbers clearly show how money breeds money like rabbits breed rabbits.
And yet, I was just dreaming of being a millionaire. I am excited about my belief in the limitless possibility of my life, and financial health and the feeling of prosperity matter to me, though I find that this is as much a mental state as it is a particular income. I guess I just want this for everyone, minimum wage workers and millionaires alike. My hunch is, living with a sense of generous plenty would be a stretch for people on both ends — otherwise, why do rich people keep moneymaking as fast as humping bunnies?
I know that the income disparity is not new news, but sometimes a little math can illuminate things. And just so you know, I double-checked my statistics. With a calculator.