Money

I don’t understand it.

Oh, I know it makes the world go-round, they used to say that about love but I know it’s about cash. And I know you need a job to pay your bills, that we live in an exchange economy, you use your salary to put a roof over your head and food on the table, but I just don’t understand how you make it, certainly not copious amounts, not the sums my brethren are socking away these days.

I get it. If you’re an entertainer, a musician or an athlete, you provide a show that the people want to see and cash rains down. But it’s all the other faceless people dropping dollars that I don’t understand. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a different era, where your mind was more important than your money and no one had that much, back when a doctor was a king and lawyering was a safe profession and no one flew private and you were lucky if you owned a vacation house.

Now multiple people own multiple houses and multiple cars and the accumulation is breathtaking and I believe if most of the public saw how the elite truly lived there would be revolution in the streets. The rich have done a good job of labeling the takers as the problem, when the truth is it’s really about them and they’re getting richer, Trump is enabling them after telling them he was out to help the little guy.

But the little guy’s been screwed.

It starts with education. And I’m not talking that marketing degree at the state school. Good if you can make a living, but the opportunities start much younger, in nursery school. You’re set up for success at age 5, it’s about who you know and who you hang around with and the truth is the rich earned their income, but I’m curious as to what they’re adding to society.

My father owned a liquor store. He wanted to be in real estate but he had no money, so he dabbled. Then in the sixties he became a real estate appraiser and with redevelopment he ended up making the income of a doctor or a lawyer, because the pinnacle of every field can triumph financially.

And he put three kids through college and graduate school paying the freight all the way.

But we never moved and the vacation home he purchased cost $14,000. Sure, that was 1968 dollars, but the same property is barely worth six figures today, just to give you an impression of the domain.

But for the last two days I’ve been skiing at Deer Valley in Utah, which is a glorified real estate development. There are hundreds of houses, one of the new ones they’re building is 30,000 square feet. And most are unoccupied most of the time. There’s Christmas and spring break and maybe a week in the summer and then the kids leave home and…

These houses are bigger and better than the ones almost everybody on this list resides in. They’re worth millions of dollars. Where did I go wrong?

Maybe I should have gone to business instead of law school. Maybe I should have gone to Wall Street instead of the music business. I can’t tell you how many people my age I know who are nearly broke. They made six figures in the music business and then they got too old and got squeezed out and then Napster hit and now they’re working retail jobs without health insurance, living in rental property, just hoping that social security will pay the bills, because they’ve got no 401k.

Things were different back then. We knew the future was coming but we thought we would live forever and you could always get a straight job and the company would look after you.

But then lifetime employment disappeared and you were too old to be retrained and you could label yourself an “entrepreneur” but the truth is you were a hustler, starting on the same line as everybody else. While the younger generation knew the score and bought insurance in education and safe jobs, we oldsters were screwed.

And now much of America is screwed.

But much of America didn’t jump through hoops. I did. Is the problem with me?

I don’t know how to work Excel. Oh, I can read a spreadsheet, but I can’t create one.

And I’ve never written a business plan.

And I know about margins from the Apple quarterly reports but I believed if you just did what you did extremely well money would rain down. But that’s patently untrue. All that b.s. about do what you love and the money will follow… No. Network aplenty and go where the cash is and it might work out. Come on, LinkedIn is more popular and exciting than iTunes. And MTV may air no music but “Shark Tank” slays the competition and although some musical acts win the lottery, most do not, which is why everybody with a brain now stays out of music. Only the great unwashed, uneducated and inexperienced, tread that path, whilst Daniel Ek who doesn’t play a note becomes a billionaire.

You’re either a have or a have-not.

But everybody’s on their own. They’re dismantling the government that looked after you. For fear of takers you lose much of your safety net. And god forbid you get sick, even if you have insurance it could bankrupt you.

But the problem is less with the system than me.

I’m not a networking bro. To tell you the truth, I’d much rather hang with women and artists than the He-Men of the Universe jockeying for position, elbowing ahead. Women talk about feelings, men talk about achievements. And artists see the world in a different way, they question the proposition, but there are few artists left, they’re all just entrepreneurial business people trying to become brands so they can align with the corporations.

Did time pass me by or did I never have the juice to begin with?

I think both.

People have no idea what it costs to stay in a first class hotel. The cost of transportation. They’ve never been on a private jet. They truly don’t know how the other half lives. But the broke can see they’re losing so they put a stick in the spokes and elected Trump. But now the joke is on the educated non-strivers, who did not wake up and smell the coffee and realize you’re either a winner or a loser, and if you’re not on the path to one you’re on the path to the other.

I think I need a remedial education, in how to navigate the planet and make bank.

I also think I’ve lived long enough to see the landscape change. Life is much harder and coarser. Used to be you waited in line all night to buy a ticket for five bucks, now that seat is bought for five hundred bucks by someone who cares not about the cost but just wants to be inside.

But you want to be inside too. And you can’t find a door. Not only are they locked, they don’t even exist. Upward mobility is for very few, with education connections and wherewithal. And they earn their living, sometimes by screwing others and creating nothing of value, but they’re working damn hard. And are pissed they’re supporting the rest of us.

But the rest of us are dazed and confused, broke down and busted by the side of the road, wondering what the hell happened.

 

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