To the Editor:
As one of the poorer kids in Wildwood Crest during the 50s, I resolved to make some money and, fortunately, the U.S. economy allowed me to do just that. So, I'd like to share some reflections.
My wife, Terri, made much more than I did as a private school teacher, and enough to provide seed money to invest on Wall Street. So after working 25 years, we retired at age 55 to a life of leisure.
We had no pension but plenty to live on for the rest of our lives from our portfolio of investments which had grown 10 times, not from anything I did, but mostly along with the rest of the market while giving $30K or so annually to charities.
Other than the giving, we were essentially drones living off the work of others. I don't know what, if any, social or economic benefits the various investments I made did, but I do know that their workers dutifully awoke every morning, drove to work, and mostly returned home nine hours later, all to give me 5% of everything they made, and I thank them very much for allowing me to enjoy life and do nothing. I can't begin to tell them how grateful I am.
Partly, our lifestyle was due to the fact that we didn't pay the combined 6-7% Social Security/Medicare tax, which saved us about $20k/yr. Why? Because those taxes are only paid on wages and salaries, not on "return on capital," which is a/the main source of income for the upper fifth and certainly ours.
During these last 25 years, we have collected lots of Social Security benefits while not paying anything during that time. We also ran up probably $75-$150,000 in Medicare expenses, while not paying a dime into the system.
Neither is due to cheating. It's due to the fact that that our Congress chose to lay the burden on workers, not on investors.
So, life has turned out well for us, thanks partly to a system which rewards people for not doing much of anything but receiving a lot.
Most of the parents of my private school students, many of whom I got to know reasonably well, were wealthy. I met few calloused parents, but many of them simply did not understand the problems faced by those of poorer backgrounds.
Unfortunately, many seemed to assume that their income/wealth came from their own efforts and didn't see the role of the entire system of laws, workers, etc., that enabled them.
Personally, I will freely admit that most of our good fortune came from a hard-working wife, and a decent set of genes that my wife and I each inherited from parents who never had the opportunities we had. And a lot of luck. Few are so fortunate.
An example - I am the co-executor of a friend's, M, $3-million-plus estate. M didn't earn any of it; it was handed down from his grandfather. As a co-exec, I received $90K by law, even if I did nothing, and received half of the estate as a beneficiary. Two of M's cousins contested the will and got a quarter million each, just for being relatives.
Because I don't need any money, I have already distributed half a million as gifts to M's eight Army buddies from Vietnam and will pay more once the dust settles on the case. No one has paid taxes on any of it.