Why Some Folks Are Rich... but Most Aren’t

Alexander Green
by Alexander Green, Chief Investment Strategist, The Oxford Club

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Some people in this country are rich. Most folks aren’t.

It’s important to stop every once in a while and recognize why this is.

Poverty needs no explanation, really. History shows that it was the default existence for most of the men and women who ever lived.

(And remains the unfortunate fate of billions in the Third World today.)

Today we live in an affluent era in the world’s most prosperous country. So it’s reasonable to ask why some have so much and others have so little.

Let’s think about it...

Some are rich because they won the genetic lottery.

I’m not talking about inheriting Gal Gadot’s looks or LeBron James’ physique.

If you were born 50 years ago or more, at a time of institutionalized discrimination, it was a tremendous advantage to be born male... or white.

Being white and male - as I am - made it easier still.

If you were born with an average IQ or higher, you had another advantage. People with low IQs don’t typically go to college.

And people without college degrees end up with much lower lifetime earnings. They don’t go on to become doctors, lawyers, pilots and engineers.

Some folks are born into loving, supportive families. Others are not.

That has huge ramifications.

Poor kids, for example, often grow up in a culture of silence. They show up for kindergarten not knowing that peas are small, round and green.

They often lack good role models. In fact, outside their door, there may be plenty of young people who are just the opposite.

In our competitive society, being born into this environment is like starting a foot race in a 10-foot hole.

Then there is a matter of circumstances.

You might meet the right people at the right time. (Or, like singer-songwriter Dr. John intimates in one lyric, you may be in the right place... but at the wrong time. Or worse, the wrong place at the wrong time.)

Some people wind up in tragic accidents. Or have major health issues.

Young people may be called up to go to war and lose their lives, their limbs or part of their sanity.

Most of us can thank our lucky stars that we weren’t among them. And feel compassion toward those who were.

In my view, luck generally has something to do with whether a person experiences economic success... and the riches that often come with it.

But that’s not the whole story.

There are millions of Americans who have become rich that weren’t born white... or male... or super smart.

They didn’t have the best upbringing. They didn’t go to private schools. They didn’t have family or business connections. Or the best health.

Yet they prospered, even though they had less than favorable circumstances and plenty of unlucky breaks.

I’ve known a lot of men and women like this. You probably have too.

In my experience, what sets them apart was not luck (though they’re generally humble enough to acknowledge that too) but choices.

And habits.

In particular, virtually all of them made a habit of doing the things that unsuccessful people don't want to do.

Working when they could have been playing. Saving when they could have been spending. Taking risks when they could have played it safe... like almost everyone else.

In the weeks ahead, we’re going to analyze and discuss the simple steps the “rich” take that most never learn... and therefore never apply.

The secret isn’t tireless work or intellectual firepower.

Most successful business owners admit that they were B and C students.

The same is generally true of investing. Warren Buffett famously said, “Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with the 130 IQ.”

But there are certain principles that almost inevitably lead to economic and investment success.

And it all starts with a particular mindset.

We’ll discuss that - and make one of the biggest announcements in our 20-year history - in my next column.

Good investing,