Trip to Turkey & the World Wealth Income Distribution

13 06 2012

Today I bought a round-trip plane ticket to Istanbul, Turkey for less than $700 Canadian dollars including all the taxes, fees, adjusting my seat options etc. from Vancouver BC. I was ecstatic, as these tickets normally run for about $1500-1600, if you aren’t picky about your dates, and can run up to and over the $4000 mark for economy class seats! (The seat sale is still on, so grab one if you have ever wanted to visit!) Incidentally – props to KLM for lowering their prices so much! ❤

After buying my incredible steal of a ticket, I excitedly posted on Facebook that I was going to Turkey next year, and another, more sombre post underneath:
“Just bought another transcontinental plane ticket on a whim… 🙂 I am SO lucky to live in an age where international travel is so easy. It humbles me to think that as recently as a single century ago, this would be the voyage of a lifetime for almost anyone on the planet…”

I probably rewrote that comment 3 or 4 times in trying not to draw hostile comments about how it would still be the voyage of a lifetime for many, or how many people can’t afford to travel, or more specifically how my friends couldn’t afford to travel, and how I was somehow luckier than them in this way…

I will say, that nothing drives me crazier than my friends telling me that I am “lucky” to be able to travel so much.

Not because I am not lucky… I will be the first to admit how lucky I am –

I was born and raised in a likeable country with a good reputation overseas, and one with not many restrictions on which countries I can visit. I even have dual citizenship – helpful with those tricky countries that don’t like one another…

I am healthy and have full use of my body – I am not wheelchair bound, I do not need glasses, I am not dependent on any medicines or machinery to keep me alive and in good health.

I have no criminal record and I am sound of mind – these can both be used to keep someone from entering another country.

I am not married to another woman – as wonderful as this might be, it would certainly restrict the places I could visit.

I speak an international language, which enables me to function on a relatively high level in most places around the world today.

I have freedom of movement – I am not a hostage, a prison inmate, a political diplomat, or anything else that would necessitate me staying in one country besides keeping my job – which I have the option to take vacation time from, or quit.

But 9 times out of ten, that’s not what they mean. They imply, or sometimes outright tell me – that I have money to spend on travel, that they do not. Or that I somehow have no other expenses, and that is why I can afford to travel? These conversations always boggle my mind, because they always end up going like this:

Me: I am going to Turkey next year! I am so excited…
Friend: You bought another plane ticket? You are so lucky! I never get to go anywhere… I wish I could travel.
Me: … Why don’t you come with me?
Friend: What?! I can’t afford that! I have bills, and stuff to pay off…
Me: I have bills to pay off too. I have a mortgage to pay, my cell phone, electricity, internet, student loans and credit cards.
Friend: Yeah, but you always seem to have more money than me – you’re just lucky like that.
Me: Well… I don’t own a car, and I don’t spend $300 a month on cigarettes and coffee. That adds up pretty quick.
Friend: Yeah, but I NEED my cigarettes, car and coffee…
Me: And I NEED to travel. So I give up my car, and put $50 a month away in savings for future travel. $25 each pay cheque.
Friend: Whatever… I have tried to save up for travel too
Me: Didn’t you go to Vegas last year?
Friend: Yeah, but… that’s not real travel. I want to go to exotic places like India!
Me: …Yeaahh…

In any case, I will also not deny that by global standards I am rich, but honestly, if you saved $25 a week for a year, you could go somewhere exotic “like India” for about 2 weeks if you planned it right. It’s just a question of priorities. Mine is to travel.

Let’s talk about wealth – relative wealth, that is… Tricky thing about money – most of us feel poor at some point, relative to our lifestyles and to our peers/family. The Canadian average income per year is $40, 541 according to the International Monetary Fund (2011). There is an interesting article that lists 20 jobs that earn approximately this much. I am in my twenties, I have no dependents, and I work full-time in a salaried job. My income is below the national average of my country, but I also recognize that not having children is saving me a lot of money too.

To put us on the global scale, I love to use the chart below. Normally I draw it out myself, but I had to find one I could post as an image because my scanner is broken…

This figure represents all of the world’s current money earning adults (in case you were wondering why it’s only ~4.5B people and not 7B people).

More than 2/3 of them make up the bottom portion of the triangle, and earn less than $10, 000 per year.

That’s right – if you are North American you are richer than 67% of humanity. Stop your bitching.

Another 23.5% earn between $10,000 to $100,000 – with most of us at the lower end of that spectrum.

And less than 1% of people in the world are millionaires and billionaires – however, they own 38.5% of the total $. The original posters of this figure break it down even further:

“As readers can see above, the figures for mid-2011 indicate that 29.7 million adults, about 1/2 of one percent of the world’s population, own more than one third of global household wealth. Of this group, they estimate that 85,000 individuals are worth more than $50 million, 29,000 are worth more than $100 million, and 2,700 have assets above $500 million. Compare this to the bottom of the pyramid: 3.054 billion people, 67.6 percent of the world’s population, with assets of less than $10,000, who own a mere 3.3 percent of the world’s wealth. Add another billion people with assets between $10,000 and $100,000 and we have 91.2 percent of the world’s population that owns something on the order of 17.8 percent of total world wealth.”

So next time you think to yourself – wow, that person is so lucky, they get to travel and I don’t – either start saving to buy a plane ticket, or just be grateful that you earn more than $10, 000 a year, and probably won’t ever have to worry affording vaccines, basic education, shoes, a clean toilet, food and a roof over your head.

For my part – I will continue to make travel a high priority for spending my hard-earned dollars, and try to stay humble about how lucky I am to be able to travel with such ease – sound of mind and body, and with a passport, plane ticket and full belly.

– Sarah Topps 2012



One response

13 06 2012

That’s crazy! Great post!

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