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Senior Moments

Category: Work, Employment / Topics: Character, Integrity Financial Work

Earning Power

by Dan Seagren

Posted: August 12, 2007

How to answer the question, "what do you make?"

I imagine most of realize that what a person earns varies considerably. And, we might add, with some considerable inequities. When I was younger, a millionaire was an exceedingly wealthy person. Today millionaires are dwarfed by billionaires. Really, that boggles my mind. One billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) I suppose is quite enough for anyone except that those who have a billion probably want more.

I tried to imagine one billion. If I were to count $100 bills, one per second, that would add up to $6,000 a minute, $360,000 in an hour, $8,640,000 in 24 hours. Now I had to abandon my finite adding machine and compute by hand. In one month I would have counted 259,200,000 $100 dollar bills. In two months I’d be half way there. Try imagining how long it would take if we had $20 bills to count (a much more typical currency for many of us).

Now that many of us seniors are not in that category, our senior moments are not devoted to counting lots of money. Rather, we probably worry more about how long our money will last. Yet, many of us with rather modest incomes are rich compared to many in developing countries and ghettos where earnings are paltry by comparison.

When we consider the rather incredible salaries and earning power of a segment of our population compared to that of ordinary people, it is hard to fathom. The President of the Country who earns $400,000 plus benefits pales in comparison with some athletes, media stars, CEOs, entrepreneurs and others. There is considerable variability in earning power.

Not long ago, I received an email which in effect prompted this column. Here is how some of it went: Dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher? He reminded the other dinner guests what is said about teachers: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. To stress his point he said to another guest; You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, You want to know what I make? She paused for a second, then began. Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental... You want to know what I make? She paused again and looked at every person at the table. I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions . . .

Bonnie concluded. Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high . . . You want to know what I make? I make a difference. What do you make? We’ve heard it before and we’ll hear it again: Money doesn’t make the man. But as the wag retorted, It sure helps. Yes, we seniors may have to count our pennies, but if we have made a difference (or are making a difference), that is far better than gold, isn’t it? It is true that some with lots of money are making a difference, but don’t overlook the multitude of little folk (which includes lots of seniors) who have and are making a difference. Knowing that is a powerful senior moment.

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Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: August 12, 2007

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