When we focus on wealth inequality, we always focus on the people above us.
We think of Occupy Wall Street protesting outside of investment banks. We think of Bernie Sanders gesticulating wildly while telling us about millionaires and billionaires. We think of Mitt Romney and friends with money coming out of their suits.
And there is a time and a place for that. Inequality in the United States is an issue that needs to be addressed. Economists and policymakers should be spending a lot of time focusing on the people at the top of the pyramid and looking at how to level the playing field.
For the rest of us, though, it might help to look at the people below us on the pyramid to gain some perspective from time to time.
Credit Suisse recently issued its annual Global Wealth Report, which has some really interesting numbers on this point.
Your Portion of Global Wealth
The Credit Suisse report looked at global wealth. What they found is that inequality is on the rise.
The richest 1% of the world owns 50.8% of the world’s wealth.
The richest 10% of the world owns 89% of the world’s wealth.
The richest 50% of the world owns more than 99% of the world’s wealth.
Immediately this looks extremely unfair and you may be ready to get up in arms over global wealth inequality. But where do you fall on the spectrum?
If you have $71,600 in cash, investments, and assets, then you are in that top 10% that owns 89% of the world’s wealth. You are part of the world’s wealthy elite.
Hell, $10,000 puts you in the top 27%.
Half of the world has less than $2,222, and the bottom 20% have less than $248.
As a point of reference, 20% of the world’s population is over a billion people. Over a billion people have less than $248 to their name.
What Does This Mean?
First, this means that we should be grateful. We should be grateful that we won what Warren Buffett calls the “Ovarian Lottery.” We should be grateful that we were born in the time and place that we were with the abilities and aptitudes that we have.
Next, at least for me, was the realization that the time to give is now.
I had always donated to charities when friends or family were raising money. I would donate to causes that I felt were important from time to time. But I had never systematically and consistently donated to charity. I always figured that once I had gotten myself more financially secure, then I would be able to be more generous with my money.
Then I did some research on income and wealth inequality. I realized that while I still had a long way to go before I felt financially secure, I was far better off than most of the world.
This coincided with my reading Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins, in which he says that if you won’t give a dime out of your dollar, then you aren’t going to give a million out of your ten million.
This hit me pretty hard. If I am not generous with what I have now, how can I expect to change when I have more money?
I am not even 30 yet. I have been out of school for fewer than five years. And yet I am in the top 10% of the world in wealth already. If I am not donating now, what makes me think I will donate when I am part of the global 1%?
Where to Donate
The short answer is anywhere. Anywhere that you believe you can be helping those who are less fortunate than you.
Maybe for you that means food pantries. Maybe your church. Maybe your school district’s music program. Maybe political causes that you believe will help people over the longer term.
Last week I talked about Effective Altruism and my own current favorite charity (and I recommend checking that out, as well).
But today we are talking about global wealth inequality. With that in mind, take a look at the map below from the Credit Suisse Report:
If you’re looking to help address issues raised by global wealth inequality, then you’ll want to find charities that target the blue countries.
Here are a few that you may want to look into:
- Against Malaria Foundation – Provides nets to families in sub-Saharan Africa to prevent the spread of malaria, which killed around 438,000 people in 2015, including over 300,000 children.
- Schistosomiasis Control Initiative – Treats diseases caused by worms in poor countries. These diseases are cheap and easy to treat, but often go untreated.
- Deworm the World Initiative – Similar to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, but focused on school-based programs and increasing school attendance through decreasing disease.
- Project Healthy Children – Works to fortify staple foods with vitamins and minerals, preventing malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency in children in poor countries.
- GiveDirectly – Gives cash directly to very poor families in Kenya and Uganda. I discussed the evidence supporting this program last week.
Any of these causes, and a litany of others, could use our help. It’s time we looked around, saw how lucky we are, and started working to pull others up with us.