web analytics

Low income to top

In the past, I never told people I was retired. Even while recently updating this post for republication, I still do not like talking about myself, and very rarely “pro-actively” talk about very personal things. Sadly I may even be less likely to pro-actively share personal details about myself in the future after my experiences of doing exactly that from this past year.

But I think one big difference now is if/when I am asked, I do not hesitate to speak of it. Yes, it is possible to still come from a difficult, lower income past and reach the top percentages of American earners and assets holders on your own, through extremely hard, honest, legal work. And there was a recent article on millennials and how many “expect” to become millionaires…which is kind of comical to me. But I do like the goal..

People I volunteer with ask why I am like 20 years younger than the other retired volunteers. People in coffee shops may ask what I do for work when they see me drinking a cup of coffee, relaxing, reading my kindle. When I am at the beach I sometimes get stares from other much older, “regular” beach goers…why I like to think of it because of my hot body (ha!) I know much of it is them thinking why is this guy at the beach so often. More people ask me know what I do, and I say retired but do a little work to keep my mind active and keep involved. I can now say the word “retired”, and if someone asks what I do, I just say it.

One big difference between me and many other of the top percentilies in America is I made my own money, and I also did it the right way. I did it through starting a business, investing, and doing things right. I am not some corporate “titan” who underpays their workers, commits shady financial tactics with their company, etc. I am not a drug dealer, pimp, scamming people or taking advantage of them or involved in crime! I ran a clean business, invested smartly and did things the right way.

Unlike this latest survey on millennials I never expected it or felt entitled to it. I worked my butt off to get to where I am. While I am very grateful and thankful, I also know I worked harder than countless people. I am learned skills and focused to be the best at what I do.

I also came from a in effect single mother household. Paid a good chunk of my own way through school (with some of moms and government help). I have worked since I was about 12, had two jobs when 15, and 2-3 jobs at one time through most of school. I had no role model, and for those kids who also come from broken homes or those with lack of money growing up, if I can succeed to the top so can you.

Materialism is not for me. I much prefer freedom, the ability to do what I want and when I want and having “F U money”. I have determined that freedom (along with peace and experiences) is more important than anything. I did not want to keep up with the Jones like most other Americans, and I live well below my means. I am not materialistic when it comes to possessions, and enjoy the simple things…and freedom.

I try my best to treat people right, am generous, volunteer, give back, be kind and to things such as tip well too. I try to pay it forward. When someone does something kind, I thank them and appreciate the small things in life.

Many of those are the reasons why if someone asks “what do you do?”, and I say retired, I could care less now what they think and that I made it to the top ranks by income and wealth the right way, on my own. If someone I tell that too thinks I am entitled, inherited it, or did not earn it, then F them. I am now proud of my accomplishments, and even more so how I achieved them. When in the past I was often embarrassed or felt shame….if that is the proper word.

I was not comfortable with being at the top, as in my heart I am a person who came from humble beginnings to make it to the top 1%. It was hard, and sometimes still can be a little hard, to reconcile and communicate. But now I am proud of what I have accomplished.

For those who ask and are more thoughtful, they may ask how I did it. And I will tell them…exactly what I wrote above and more. This is also a big change. I can talk about my accomplishments now. It is possible to be from a lower income household and make it to the top. I will answer questions they have, and if they ask, tell them to ensure their kids save, invest, work, value money. If they need some guidance or suggestions, whether on business, investments, or anything, I take the time to help them as part of what I do to give back.

It is not easy to get to the top. It takes immense work, dedication, sacrifices, and commitment. The vast majorly of people (or 99%+!) will fail. I too would have liked more time to stare mindlessly at my cell phone or some social network like so many others these days. (err maybe not as I think phones and social networks are horrible and brain suckers). Or maybe I would have liked to play a few more video games or do some other stuff. So many people waste hours per day at mindless activities. But I made the conscious decision to not do those things…instead I decided to work hard, read, improve my mind, and to try to be the best at what I do. I sacrificed that to be where I am….or at least to make the effort.

It also involves some luck. I realize that. But luck can also be made in some cases. Such as when I read I get business ideas (e.g. making “luck”) or investment ideas. Or luck taking the time to try a business idea to see if I am “lucky” if it hits. Using my time efficiently to make my own luck.

I am far from perfect. But when it comes to coming from a lower income, childhood with alcohol abuse, abandonment, etc. that should never be an excuse. It can be overcome to make it to the top percent. Heck, even if you try and fail, and list when you are older, laying on your deathbed, you can look back and say you made the effort and tried…which is better than probably 99% of people.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

One thought on “Low income to top

  • February 25, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    You know, back in the 1800’s, during more pastoral times, “Trickle Down Economics” was known as the “Horse & Sparrow.” The idea was that if you fed the horses more oats then they needed, the extra would pass through their system, and leave in their manure something for the sparrows to feed off. You did not wait for the trickle down oats and manure. Going from that background too the top of the pyramid is a GREAT example for the rest of us sparrows.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *