Are You A Failure If You’re Not Rich?

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. The notion of woman-as-sex-object has been rightly challenged. The expectation of man-as-provider, not so much.

    The answer to “Are you a failure if you’re not rich?” needs to be clearly understood: Only in the eyes of people whose opinions don’t matter.

    • If we are using the women-beauty-myth as a correlate to the men-success-myth, then yes, you are right, it is only in the eyes of people whose opinions don’t matter. It still hurts though. It still causes feelings of inadequacy. It’s a very insidious method of enculturation: the idea that your self-worth is defined by your body or your material possessions is reiterated in our culture and it is very difficult to shake. I had ingrained those notions by high school. It’s still hard for me to shake sometimes.

  2. Tank Driver Mom says:

    Copyleft, you are so right…

    As one woman, let me just say, my list of valuables in a guy: a sense of humor, brains, the ability to feed yourself when I’m not around, to love and respect the kids, and me, and most important, the ability to be here when you are here, . The ability to buy me marble counter tops, not on my list at all. Having cash does not equate to having character, or even being someone I’d trust to hold a leash while I retie my shoe.

    Looks, wealth, even health disappear, a good man lasts long after all that evaporates.

  3. I concur with the majority of the article. I remember a time in my life when my entire self worth was tied to my money, material possessions and my professional titles. I was the guy who spent hundreds of dollars trying to figure out a way to “get rich” and ultimately I ended up losing everything. The good news is that during the darkest period of my life I asked myself a question that would change everything. The question was “What if I took all the energy and effort I have used in trying to get rich, and focused it all on simply being happy?” As a result of asking this question I refocused my life and can now say that I am happier right now today than I have ever been in my life. I may not be monetarily rich (yet, because that is still one of my goals) but I am rich beyond compare when it comes to my relationships, my health, my spirituality and my participation within my community.

    • your post was a wonderful read, best wishes to you dude

    • wet_suit_one says:

      Dude, I didn’t crash as hard as you did to figure this out, but I still crashed and burned a bit before learning that there’s more to it than money. Life grew immeasurably better afterward and I could see folly for what it was. Folly was all around me for quite awhile and folly was my life’s goal.

      I’ve since come to appreciate wisdom a whole lot more and put folly aside (though I’m still comfortable by any reasonable standard).

      The Wet One

  4. According to some of my wonderful relatives, if you don’t drive a Lexus, BMW or one of those luxury cars by the time you are 40 you are a failure, doesn’t matter your sex. I am a failure because I will still have my little Ford by the time I reach 40 and I am happier for it.

    • wet_suit_one says:

      For my part, I got close to the Lexus / BMW marker of success. I still have that success marker. Other than that though, I’ve pretty much given up on the “success markers” marketable goods. It’s just a waste.

      Fun cars to drive though!

    • If I drive a 1997 Lexus that sometimes doesn’t start, does that count? :)

  5. This article hits on a key political divide. To paraphrase John Steinbeck, the poor in America have been trained to think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. A lot of working people think they don’t need private pensions, unions, an American manufacturing base, Medicare, or Social Security, and that with a little hard work and gumption they’ll make that triumphant move from John Steinbeck Row to Ayn Rand Boulevard

    • >The effect of this pernicious myth is that the majority of the population, those of us who live paycheck to paycheck and bite our lips when the utility bills arrive, are considered losers. … The genius of it, though, is that the struggling 90% of the population feel like it’s their own fault they’re struggling.

      (a) You provide no source to prove the claim that 90% of the population is struggling.

      (b) Even if 90% of the population is struggling, I’d contend that it IS largely their fault.

      Why?

      According to a recent issue of Consumer Reports (with the cover story about bank fees), over 80% of Americans don’t balance their checkbooks.

      And according to any number of studies and surveys, somewhere north of 50% of Americans don’t use a budget to set financial goals and track their spending (see here http://www.bankrate.com/finance/consumer-index/do-not-have-household-budget.aspx or here http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/basics/financial-diet-digest-2005.htm or Google “Americans are stupid for not using budgets”)

      Point being, most Americans have no one to blame but themselves for living paycheck to paycheck. Most Americans are unwilling to sacrifice in the short term to win in the long-term. Everyone I know who is “struggling” — everyone, without exception — consistently takes stupid financial decisions. Eg, they don’t use a budget, they eat at expensive cafes and restaurants regularly; twice a year they buy a new @400 smartphone even though their old phone works just fine; they crank up the furnace in the cold winters so they can walk around the house comfortably in their underwear; they don’t balance checking accounts; they buy $100 worth of drinks each weekend; they spend $100/month on cable television; they lease cars rather than buying reliable and less expensive new cars; etc, etc, etc. It never ends. And then they expect me to have sympathy for them because they live “paycheck to paycheck.” I’m so tired of their bitching and moaning.

      And this article is yet another example of the bitching and moaning. Lots of talk about gender and social class and blah blah blah. But at no point does the author suggest that men budget their spending or set financial goals. At no point does the author advise men to read books, magazines or articles on personal finance or investing. At no point does the author urge men to save x-percent of their income or build up an emergency fund of x-dollars.

      • Ok CC I’m going to give you a slightly hesitant and reluctant “yeah you’re right” but I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Did high school teach you how to balance that checkbook or were you one of the fortunate few who came by it naturally or was taught with great patience by a diligent parent or teacher? Is there a school that teaches CHILDREN about finance or do we all quietly study at the desk labeled hard knocks? I’ve come close several times only to find myself raped by “the economy”. The first time interest went from prime plus two at 13% to prime plus two at 26% over six months. The two hundred feet of waterfront, the restaurant and the apartment building are now worth over 2 million. Kiss that goodbye right? My mommy and daddy didn’t have the ability to back me up like some of my now wealthy friends. Does that sound like whining or just a statement of fact? The second time I got tagged watching 20 acres of development land lose 70% of its value in less than a year. Yup we made the payments anyway but gee, the bank refused to renew the loans without having the difference between the amount of the loan and current appraised value in cash. Does that sound like I’m whining or does that sound like we got screwed? So have a hearty Fuck you pal. Doing all the right things is no guarantee of success. More folks get the timing wrong than get it right and those who take full credit for having the good fortune to actually get it right turn out to have had a little help from Mom, Dad, Grandparents, or just got lucky with timing. If you can find me ten people on the planet who predicted either of the situations that made us “failures” and made their choices based on that knowledge, you can have the rest of what I still have. Arrogant jerk…..

    • >To paraphrase John Steinbeck, the poor in America have been trained to think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

      Steinbeck never said this. Look at his wikiquote page and you’ll see how somewhere along the line, his original comment (an insult against Communists) was distorted into its current pro-socialist propaganda.

      >A lot of working people think they don’t need private pensions, unions, an American manufacturing base, Medicare, or Social Security, and that with a little hard work and gumption they’ll make that triumphant move from John Steinbeck Row to Ayn Rand Boulevard

      If you invest only $200/month ($6/day) at an average annual rate of return of 10%, you’ll be a millionaire if less than 40 years. The 10% growth rate is very realistic over the long-term. From 1980-2000 (which includes Black Monday, one of the largest one-day drops in market history), the Dow Jones averaged about 13% growth annually, while NASDAQ has averaged about 16%. Since the 1920s, the S&P 500 has averaged about 12%/year (though originally it was the S&P 90)

      But it’s easier to complain than to know the facts. And the fact is that for $6/day, you can retire independently wealthy.

  6. It sounds as though Steinbeck thought the lefties of the day weren’t radical ENOUGH.

    How old are you, CC? I used to do the frugality/saving thing quite well, but I found that it got a lot harder after marriage and children. I could have put parsimony down as one of my top three drop-dead requirements in a mate, but you know the old engineering maxim: choose two.

    Why are there so many people out there who played by the rules (worked, saved, invested) that have very unhappy propects for retirement?

  7. It used to be easier to make it; but in these current times, with so many unemployed; its clear the system is rigged against the majority — interesting article — only the 1 percent would respond like CC. The rich corporatepowers that be will have some reality checks fairly soon I think.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] probably going to have about one post a week up at GMP; this week it’s a reprint of my NSWATM piece “The Success Industry”. Still one of my personal favorites; go check [...]

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  3. [...] probably going to have about one post a week up at GMP; this week it’s a reprint of my NSWATM piece “The Success Industry”. Still one of my personal favorites; go check [...]

  4. [...] Noah brand explores an industry that capitalizes on men's need to feel successful, even when they can't afford it.  [...]

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