Monday, January 27, 2014

Only a Few Years Ago

Only a few years ago, Asian immigrants came to this country with no money. They couldn’t even speak the language. Now they own houses in upper middle class neighborhoods. Their children are "over represented" in the finest schools in our country. Already there are more Asian millionaires in this country than could be statistically predicted by their numbers. My broker, Schwab, offers a second language. It isn’t Spanish. It is Chinese. What do these new immigrants know that I need to learn?

Yes you’re right, there are not as many opportunities for upward mobility in this country as there were 60 years ago. Roughly 20 million industrial jobs are gone, perhaps forever. That makes it harder on the average American with only a high school diploma and no particularly valuable skills.

No doubt about it.

But let me tell you a story. I know a man who came to this country from somewhere south of the border. I don’t know how he got here, but I do know that today he is a citizen of this country; just like me. Not all that many years ago he had an insecure low paying job with a maintenance contractor at a large Government facility. The primary tool of his trade was a wide push broom. He used this tool with such skill that the Government employees who worked in at this laboratory would joke that there were two levels clean; clean and then there was (name of employee) clean. When this man finished his assigned tasks, he did not hang out in his supply closet with his buddies and gossip in their native tongue or go outside to smoke cigarettes. He started sweeping the entire length of the building. He worked in a test facility that was approximately 5/8 of a mile long! So far as I know, that had never been done in the 75 years of that building’s existence. The Government supervisor who was responsible for this building was so impressed with this man that he begged, pleaded, and twisted his supervisor’s arm until a special entry level job was created for this one man. Now he has a secure full time Government job with excellent benefits. Needless to say, he brings the same spirit of excellence to his new job as an assistant mechanic that he once put behind a push broom. When given the opportunity, he is now learning the basic skills required to become a machinist.

I have examined the keys to success and multigenerational wealth in a number of posts. For new readers here are some important traits that will greatly increase the probability of prosperity in your life and the life of your children. None of these factors alone are enough to provide a high probability of employment, but in combination these factors almost guarantee full employment over most of the years of a working lifetime.

1)The Confucian/Protestant Work Ethic, The most important single factor
2) IQ, There is a correlation between salary and IQ up to 120.
3) A Respect for and Love of Education, Education guarantees nothing but this factor is common in successful subcultures.
4) A Life Sustaining Social Network, This most often begins with a stable nuclear family.
5) The Ability to Take a Calculated Risk, leaving an impoverished country or area of this country to find better opportunity elsewhere comes to mind.

Keith Cameron Smith discovered one of the significant differences between the rich and the poor is their sense of time. We all plan, but our timescales are different. Smith makes the following observations concerning different socioeconomic groups.

The very poor think day to day.
Poor people think week to week.
The middle class thinks month to month.
The rich think year to year.
The very rich think decade to decade.

Finally, learn to see the opportunities that are all around you. If there isn’t anything happening in your valley, do like the bear in the song. Go over the mountain; cross the river; if only to see what you can see. You might just find a whole new wonderful world that is just waiting for your particular skills and gifts.

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