Some facts from the American Consumers Newsletter reported by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press: Just 10 occupations employ more than one in five (21 percent) American workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are those occupations and the annual average wage for full-time workers in 2013, ranked by number employed... 1. Retail salesperson: $25,370,
2. Cashier: $20,420
3. Food prep worker: $18,880
4. Office clerk: $29,990
5. Registered nurse: $68,910
6. Waiter or waitress: $20,880
7. Customer service rep: $33,370
8. Laborer: $26,690
9. Secretary: $34,000
10. Janitor: $25,140
Comparing Men's Income from 1950-2012
Year in which men's median income peaked
Aged 25 to 34: 1973
Aged 35 to 44: 1973
Aged 45 to 54: 1999
Aged 55 to 64: 2003
Percent change in men's median annual income, peak year to 2012
Aged 25 to 34: -27% a loss of $12,485
Aged 35 to 44: -19% a loss of $10,345
Aged 45 to 54: -17% a loss of $9,762
Aged 55 to 64: -13% a loss of $6,407
Please note while all the top ten jobs are necessary and desirable not one of them with the possible exception of laborer can be considered a wealth creating job. U.S. industry reached peak employment in 1978. Since then we have exported over 20 Million wealth creating jobs to the rest of the world.
I am deeply worried about the future of the average man. Fifty years ago a man of average intelligence with a high school diploma who was willing to work 40 to 50 hours a week could reasonably expect the income necessary to support a wife, a couple of kids, a house, and a car. This is no longer true. Even two incomes are sometimes not enough.
The baby boomers grew up in an economic miracle. In the aftermath of World War II, the United States owned the only significant industrial base that hadn’t been severely damaged in the war. Today the rest of the world has caught up with us or is catching up with us. Depending on how you choose to evaluate these questions, we have dropped to number four behind Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands.
For the past forty years or so we have maintained our lifestyle, not by creating more wealth, but by borrowing against the future. Our current national debt has passed $17 Trillion, at $16 Trillion household debt isn’t far behind. What we are doing as a nation simply is not working. Debt is a curse. There are only three things that can be done with debt. Pay it off, which is painful. Default, call it bankruptcy. Or if you control the printing presses you can simply inflate debt out of existence. The last two options tend to cause revolutions, civil wars, and at least one World War.
The time has come for you to choose, whether you are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Are you going to continue to buy things you don’t need with money you don’t have or are you going to try in find contentment in what you do have, giving you the opportunity to invest in your future and the future of your country?
Capital accumulation, what our nation really needs to create new high paying wealth generating jobs, begins with an individual decision to opt out of the consumer mentality that uses borrowed money to buy the latest greatest techno-gadget that will be obsolete in six months. I was told by an employee of Kyocera that after a new model cell phone has been on the market for six months they consider it obsolete.
Studies indicate that net worth is only somewhat correlated to income levels. The accumulation of wealth begins when a household decides to spend less than its income. Over time that money is invested in wealth creating enterprises that generate new jobs. The vicious cycle becomes a virtuous cycle. Deferred gratification is a key component to what has been called the Protestant Work Ethic. Quoting Charles Smith, “The key feature of Capitalism is not greed--that existed long before capitalism and flourishes in non-Capitalist societies. The key feature of Capitalism is capital accumulation, i.e. what's left after expenses are subtracted from income, i.e. savings that can then be invested in productive assets.”