Occupy Wall Street

“Dear 1%, we fell asleep for a while. Just woke up. Sincerely, the 99%.”

Those were the words on a sign held by one of the demonstrators participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

But what do the protesters really want? That’s a question many analysts and pundits are debating.

“I’m not quite clear on what defines success for these protesters,” Huffington Post contributor Demetria Irwin writes. “What makes one decide to de-camp? A particular bill? A particular election? Is there anything that could be done right now-ish that would take the protests down a notch or in a different direction?”

CNN contributor DouglasRushkoff wrote a scathing piece on those in the media who are casting the protests as “random, silly blather of an ungrateful and lazy generation of weirdos.”

“Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher,” Rushkoff writes. “What upsets banking's defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.”

Here are two more opinions of the Occupy Wall Street protest pro and con:

-- “The protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent,” wrote Paul Krugman in the New York Times. “The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.”

-- “Tea Partiers distinguish capitalism from crony-capitalism,” writes Fred Smith in USA Today. “Occupiers confuse them. In fact, some Occupiers seek their own form of cronyism — an expanded government that will help the ‘right’ beneficiaries, such as students and homeowners, instead of bankers and automakers.”

What’s your opinion of the occupiers? Here’s this week’s Color of Money Question: Is the Occupy Wall Street movement overdue or overdone? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.

Millionaire Myths

There’s been a lot of news of late about millionaires. In his jobs package President Obama wanted millionaires to pay more taxes. The bill has been blocked but the debates about millionaires and how much they pay in taxes continues.

John Steele Gordon, author of “An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power,” dispels some of the misconceptions about millionaires in the Post’s Five Myths feature.

Here are three of the presumptions Gordon wrote about:

-- Being rich is relative. A Fidelity Investment survey found that the rich don’t feel rich enough even with $7 million. “Today, a well-invested $1 million might generate $50,000 in a combination of investment returns and interest income,” Gordon writes. “That isn’t chump change, but it’s roughly equal to the 2010 median household income.”

-- Millionaires know they are wealthy. In a 2008 survey of affluent Chicago households, only 22 percent thought a nest egg of $1 million was rich. It’s hard for people to think they are rich when they see others with more money than they have.

-- Millionaires don’t pay enough in taxes. Gordon writes that those with adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million paid an average of 23.3 percent in federal income taxes in 2008; those earning between $100,000 and $200,000 paid 12.7 percent; and those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 paid 8.9 percent.

But the averages hide the wide variations within income categories.

As Lori Montgomery reported yesterday, a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, found that when all federal taxes are taken into account — including those on wages, investment income and corporate profits — some households earning more than $1 million a year paid as little as 24 percent of their income to the Internal Revenue Service in 2006. That’s substantially less than the share paid by many families making less than $100,000 a year that faced a top effective tax rate exceeding 26.5 percent, the report said.

College Graduates Income Decline

Jay Hancock recently wrote in The Baltimore Sun about some work Michael Mandel has done in examining the income of college graduates. Mandel is the former chief economics writer at BusinessWeek and currently chief economic strategist of the Progressive Policy Institute.

In his Innovation and Growth blog Mandel says by his latest calculations:

•  Real earnings for young male college grads are down 19 percent since their peak in 2000.

• Real earnings for young female college grads are down 16 percent  since their peak in 2003. 

“This actually doesn't give the full, bleak picture facing young college grads -- those figures are for people who are actually employed full time,” Hancock writes. “And they include employees as old as 34 -- folks who have been employed for a while. Many, many grads can't find a full-time job.”

What’s the explanation for the low wages and rise in unemployment for young grads?

Mandel asks: “Is there increased competition with young college grads around the world? Are new college grads lower quality than their predecessors? Has information technology reduced the need for young grads? I really would like to know.”

Me too.

Chats Today

It’s time to talk money.

Join me at noon ET for my text chat.

It’s just you and me today so send your money questions in early or read the archive later.

Debt Defeater

Have you recently paid off a whole lot of debt?

If so, I want you to join my Debt Defeaters club.

Send your Debt Defeater story to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Tell me how much debt you got rid of, how long it took and what sacrifices you made to become debt-free. And include a statement describing your debt relief. Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line.

You will receive a Debt Defeaters T-shirt if I read your story during my video chat.

Responses to “Men At Work”

A reader wrote to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax asking why women were turned off by his lack of professional ambition. He said he preferred to read a good book than work grueling hours.

He wrote, “I wonder when I am going to be valued by a woman for who I am, and not my ability to be a ‘provider’.”

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked, “Is it unreasonable for a woman to want her partner to earn enough money to cover the bills?”

Here are some comments.

“On one hand, I can see the security guard’s point that he should be able to find someone to share his life with who will appreciate him for who he is,” writes Katy Wood of Pickerington, Ohio. “On the other hand, I live with a husband who sees it as his duty to provide for his family, and he is not pleased that both of us need full time jobs in order to do that.  Frankly, having both partners/parents work means there is so much less time to give to household chores, children’s needs, etc.  These days’ women are not looking for a man to provide for them completely, but to do at least an equal amount in terms of salary, chores at home and appreciating each other for who we are!”

“People in relationships need to contribute as equally as they can, be it paying the bills, cleaning the house, preparing dinner or helping with the children, said Earl Roethke of Minneapolis.

Michelle Nusum of Ellicott City, Md. said the topic hit home for her. She’s often earned more than the guys she’s dated. “My issue isn't about how much a man earns, it's about what he does with his earnings. Ambition is important to me. A man who appears to be going nowher, is a turn off for me. I'm not saying he needs to be aiming to be the next Rockefeller. I am saying he should be aiming to be the best him that he can be--whatever that is.”

“I wouldn't be interested in a woman without a good paying job, so I don't have any issue with the reverse,” wrote Will Scott of Silver Spring, Md. “But of course ‘good paying’ is relative.”

Upcoming Events

--On Saturday, Nov. 12, I will be speaking at the YWCA of the Hartford Region at their 10th Anniversary Money Conference for Women. The organization will be “Celebrating 10 Years of Giving Women the Power to Prosper.” The event will be held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown at 200 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford, Conn.  The event is from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event is free. For information, click here.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com . Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested
Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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“Dear 1%, we fell asleep for a while. Just woke up. Sincerely, the 99%.”

Those were the words on a sign held by one of the demonstrators participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

But what do the protesters really want? That’s a question many analysts and pundits are debating.

“I’m not quite clear on what defines success for these protesters,” Huffington Post contributor Demetria Irwin writes. “What makes one decide to de-camp? A particular bill? A particular election? Is there anything that could be done right now-ish that would take the protests down a notch or in a different direction?”

CNN contributor DouglasRushkoff wrote a scathing piece on those in the media who are casting the protests as “random, silly blather of an ungrateful and lazy generation of weirdos.”

“Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher,” Rushkoff writes. “What upsets banking's defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.”

Here are two more opinions of the Occupy Wall Street protest pro and con:

-- “The protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent,” wrote Paul Krugman in the New York Times. “The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.”

-- “Tea Partiers distinguish capitalism from crony-capitalism,” writes Fred Smith in USA Today. “Occupiers confuse them. In fact, some Occupiers seek their own form of cronyism — an expanded government that will help the ‘right’ beneficiaries, such as students and homeowners, instead of bankers and automakers.”

What’s your opinion of the occupiers? Here’s this week’s Color of Money Question: Is the Occupy Wall Street movement overdue or overdone? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.

Millionaire Myths

There’s been a lot of news of late about millionaires. In his jobs package President Obama wanted millionaires to pay more taxes. The bill has been blocked but the debates about millionaires and how much they pay in taxes continues.

John Steele Gordon, author of “An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power,” dispels some of the misconceptions about millionaires in the Post’s Five Myths feature.

Here are three of the presumptions Gordon wrote about:

-- Being rich is relative. A Fidelity Investment survey found that the rich don’t feel rich enough even with $7 million. “Today, a well-invested $1 million might generate $50,000 in a combination of investment returns and interest income,” Gordon writes. “That isn’t chump change, but it’s roughly equal to the 2010 median household income.”

-- Millionaires know they are wealthy. In a 2008 survey of affluent Chicago households, only 22 percent thought a nest egg of $1 million was rich. It’s hard for people to think they are rich when they see others with more money than they have.

-- Millionaires don’t pay enough in taxes. Gordon writes that those with adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million paid an average of 23.3 percent in federal income taxes in 2008; those earning between $100,000 and $200,000 paid 12.7 percent; and those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 paid 8.9 percent.

But the averages hide the wide variations within income categories.

As Lori Montgomery reported yesterday, a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, found that when all federal taxes are taken into account — including those on wages, investment income and corporate profits — some households earning more than $1 million a year paid as little as 24 percent of their income to the Internal Revenue Service in 2006. That’s substantially less than the share paid by many families making less than $100,000 a year that faced a top effective tax rate exceeding 26.5 percent, the report said.

College Graduates Income Decline

Jay Hancock recently wrote in The Baltimore Sun about some work Michael Mandel has done in examining the income of college graduates. Mandel is the former chief economics writer at BusinessWeek and currently chief economic strategist of the Progressive Policy Institute.

In his Innovation and Growth blog Mandel says by his latest calculations:

•  Real earnings for young male college grads are down 19 percent since their peak in 2000.

• Real earnings for young female college grads are down 16 percent  since their peak in 2003. 

“This actually doesn't give the full, bleak picture facing young college grads -- those figures are for people who are actually employed full time,” Hancock writes. “And they include employees as old as 34 -- folks who have been employed for a while. Many, many grads can't find a full-time job.”

What’s the explanation for the low wages and rise in unemployment for young grads?

Mandel asks: “Is there increased competition with young college grads around the world? Are new college grads lower quality than their predecessors? Has information technology reduced the need for young grads? I really would like to know.”

Me too.

Chats Today

It’s time to talk money.

Join me at noon ET for my text chat.

It’s just you and me today so send your money questions in early or read the archive later.

Debt Defeater

Have you recently paid off a whole lot of debt?

If so, I want you to join my Debt Defeaters club.

Send your Debt Defeater story to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Tell me how much debt you got rid of, how long it took and what sacrifices you made to become debt-free. And include a statement describing your debt relief. Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line.

You will receive a Debt Defeaters T-shirt if I read your story during my video chat.

Responses to “Men At Work”

A reader wrote to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax asking why women were turned off by his lack of professional ambition. He said he preferred to read a good book than work grueling hours.

He wrote, “I wonder when I am going to be valued by a woman for who I am, and not my ability to be a ‘provider’.”

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked, “Is it unreasonable for a woman to want her partner to earn enough money to cover the bills?”

Here are some comments.

“On one hand, I can see the security guard’s point that he should be able to find someone to share his life with who will appreciate him for who he is,” writes Katy Wood of Pickerington, Ohio. “On the other hand, I live with a husband who sees it as his duty to provide for his family, and he is not pleased that both of us need full time jobs in order to do that.  Frankly, having both partners/parents work means there is so much less time to give to household chores, children’s needs, etc.  These days’ women are not looking for a man to provide for them completely, but to do at least an equal amount in terms of salary, chores at home and appreciating each other for who we are!”

“People in relationships need to contribute as equally as they can, be it paying the bills, cleaning the house, preparing dinner or helping with the children, said Earl Roethke of Minneapolis.

Michelle Nusum of Ellicott City, Md. said the topic hit home for her. She’s often earned more than the guys she’s dated. “My issue isn't about how much a man earns, it's about what he does with his earnings. Ambition is important to me. A man who appears to be going nowher, is a turn off for me. I'm not saying he needs to be aiming to be the next Rockefeller. I am saying he should be aiming to be the best him that he can be--whatever that is.”

“I wouldn't be interested in a woman without a good paying job, so I don't have any issue with the reverse,” wrote Will Scott of Silver Spring, Md. “But of course ‘good paying’ is relative.”

Upcoming Events

--On Saturday, Nov. 12, I will be speaking at the YWCA of the Hartford Region at their 10th Anniversary Money Conference for Women. The organization will be “Celebrating 10 Years of Giving Women the Power to Prosper.” The event will be held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown at 200 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford, Conn.  The event is from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event is free. For information, click here.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com . Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested
Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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