Global View gives true picture of wealth

Published in the Courier Mail 2 October 2008
THE headlines really have been a little depressing. Looming economic meltdowns. Tumbling stockmarkets. Talks of bailout packages worth hundreds of billions. Australian shares are moving into the red. The Aussie dollar is getting weaker.

For those of us who haven’t really experienced a period of economic downturn in our own working lives, the future seems unknown, untested and a little unnerving.

We have had it good for a long time, and we have become accustomed to it. If you go for a walk at night, you can almost find your way home by the glow of large-screen televisions emanating from living rooms throughout the suburbs.

We are a lucky country. And no one really wants to see that change. There will be pain for people as the world’s economy continues the roller-coaster ride of late.

A friend who works in the finance and share-trading industry went to work last week to find half of his team had been told at close of business the day before not to return as they were no longer required.

That’s troubling, particularly for those people and their families. And compassion, support and encouragement will be needed.

So, in the midst of of this, it’s a good time to take stock of what we do have. Australians are seeing their wealth shrink on the stockmarket, but we are still, in fact, very wealthy. For while our economy seems to be suffering from the global happenings, our personal wealth far exceeds many in our global village.

For a reality check, head to a website which uses figures from the World Bank Development Research Group.

It’s called Global Rich List (www.globalrichlist.com), and allows you to enter in your annual income, to find out where you fit in comparison with the rest of the world’s population.

Did you realise, that on a salary of $25,000, you are in the top 10.99 per cent of the world’s richest people? If you are on $60,000 a year, you are in the top 0.98 per cent of the world’s richest people. 
This is a simple way of looking at complex issues, but it does bring some perspective to us which is helpful.

So often, we look at our wealth in comparison with those who earn more than us. Last week it was reported we now have 172,000 Australian millionaires, and have seen a 10 per cent increase in “ultra-rich” Australians — those who have more than $36 million in assets and bank deposits excluding their primary homes.

Your average Australian can feel a little, well, poor when they read that and compare. But when you discover the average Australian income places you in the top 3.64 per cent of the richest people in the world, you realise we are very fortunate people.

In a small box toward the bottom of The Global Rich List we read the following: “Three decades ago, the people in well-to-do countries were 30 times better off than those in countries where the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s people live. By 1998, this gap had widened to 82 times.”

It’s a reminder of just how much we have. And it’s a challenge as to what we should do with the relative wealth we have.

In the coming months or years, we may need to cut back, simplify or downsize. We may need to learn the fine art of delayed gratification and live within our means.

But as we face what may be difficult times ahead, remembering how fortunate we really are can help us adapt with a more positive attitude.

Ruth Limkin is a Brisbane pastor and author.