This past week billionaire Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, made a statement that made me think “did he really just say that?” Speaking on one of the Sunday talk shows Gates told journalist Fareed Zakaria that a person today making $40,000 has a “better quality of life” than a person who was making that same amount 20 years ago. His rationale is that technology and the internet have improved people’s quality of life significantly. This got me thinking about the two worlds that existed just twenty years apart. Would I be enjoying a better quality of life in 2015 compared with 1995 even though my pay was still $40,000 per year? Would my access to the internet and all of today’s wonderful technology make the difference? Let’s look at these questions in more detail.
Our firm is unusual in that we spend a lot of time thinking about how to educate others about money, and what it takes to achieve personal financial well being. Part of this work is selfish in that we believe a better informed investor is more engaged and thus able to make good decisions. We have developed programs that are designed to teach children the fundamentals of money. In addition we are part of the team that takes young adults to Cambridge to delve more deeply into the responsibility of money. Each fall we host a series dedicated to women and investing. All of this is on top of the regular meetings we have with clients, and their family members, that are designed to teach and educate about the markets and money. This past week I was asked to visit an Atlanta inner city school to talk to a group of 10th grade boys about money, debt, and basic financial issues.