I Don’t Know What Percentage I Am

I think I’m the only blogger on the planet who hasn’t posted about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Mostly, that’s because (1) I don’t think most of you care about politics and (2) I don’t want to stir up a shitstorm. But I will say I’ve been intrigued by the handwritten stories popping up all over the internet - the ones that say things like “I’ve been unemployed for five years. I live in my parents’ basement and eat cat hair. I am the 99%.”

I really wanted to make a sign of my own, but I couldn’t figure out which percentage to identify with. Obviously I don’t belong to the 1%, but there are lots of ways I could describe myself other than “not wealthy.” The 99% thing just doesn’t seem specific enough.

I pay taxes. I am the 53%.

Even though I’m broke right now, I generally make enough money to owe income taxes. I have enough deductions to get a small tax return each year (I think I got $800 this year) but that’s not much compared to the amount I pay in. Personally, I don’t get too upset about taxes, especially since I have always worked for agencies who are at least partially funded by tax dollars.

I’m a divorced single mother. I am the 38%.

38% of single-parent homes exist because of divorce (as opposed to death of a spouse or parents who were never married). The statistics say I’m supposed to be living below the poverty line in an inner city somewhere, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Luckily none of those things are true for me, but I know lots of single moms living that way.

I have a graduate degree. I am the 9%.

This one was kind of surprising. I had no idea so few people had suffered through completed grad school. I’d like to think that this makes me special, but it’s just another expensive piece of paper. I haven’t achieved all the great things I thought I would with my degrees. Which brings me to my next point…..

I borrowed more than $50,000 to attend college. I am the 12%.

The OWS crowd is on a kick about student loan forgiveness. For everyone. And as someone with a ton of educational debt, I have to say I think they’re nuts. Don’t misunderstand - I’m mad about my student debt. I don’t think I understood the implications of borrowing the money when I was 18 years old. I think schools owe it to college students to explain EXACTLY how loans will affect them in the long run. But I took out the loans, and now I keep deferring them because the payments are ridiculous, and I’ll be leaving the balance to my grandchildren when I die. Is that anyone else’s fault? Nope. It sucks, but I can’t blame anyone else.

I am a dog owner. I am the 44%.

I have three wonderful dogs - Bentley (a Pekingese/Shih Tzu mix) and Apollo and Bella (both Shih Tzus). They are like my furry children. I love them to pieces and I’ll be devastated when they’re gone. I’ve always loved dogs, and I will probably always have at least two.

I prefer crunchy peanut butter. I am the 40%.

This is kind of arbitrary, but so is all the other stuff people are raising such a fuss about. Jayden only eats creamy peanut butter, so I’m forced to buy both kinds. It hurts my soul that I’ve raised a child who likes weird incomplete peanut butter with nothing to break up the texture.

What Percentage Do I Choose?

I still feel kind of left out because I haven’t made a cool sign with my percentage on it. I could come up with percentages all day long, but none of them really grasped who I am (or who I think I am). Finally, as I was typing this post, I figured it out. I worried that the 99% wasn’t specific enough, but I think it was actually TOO specific. Here’s what I came up with:

45 Responses to “I Don’t Know What Percentage I Am”

  1. Insomniac Lab Rat says:

    Love this.

    that is all.

  2. Rachel says:

    frickin awesome post…and I agree with you on the student loans. As much as I'd like to not pay them, I borrowed the money, and I have to pay it back. I'd hate to see what happened to the economy or the federal budget if the government just decided to forgive them. Besides how is that fair to the people that have paid theirs back? Btw, crunchy peanut butter is gross.

    • I can't imagine the consequences of forgiving billions of dollars in student loans. I hate mine, but I was an adult when I made the decision, so I don't think I have a right to complain. Well, no, I'll take that back. I complain about them all the time, but that doesn't mean anyone else should pay them for me. I did tell my parents that I want them to pay off my loans if they ever win Publisher's Clearinghouse.

      Crunchy peanut butter is SO not gross! I'm shocked and disturbed by that statement. Creamy peanut butter is the devil!

  3. Ashley @ Money Talks says:

    Awesome!  If it makes you feel any better I haven't written about OWS either.  And I don't plan on it. 

  4. 100percenter says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  5. TeacHer says:

    Love this post. I wrote one about being a part of the 53% about a week and a half ago, but it was a way different take than that stupid Tublir site. 

    I didn't know only 9% of Americans have grad degrees. Now I feel sorta special. Only sorta, because I'm still broke. Smart, but broke :/

  6. JT says:

    Hell yeah-I'm a 40 percenter, too.  Love me some crunchy peanut butter.

  7. Carrie Smith, Financ says:

    Well said. 

    I love crunchy peanut butter but it's so hard to spread evenly and my OCD makes me buy the creamy just to have it all even on the bread…

    • Broke Gal NYC says:

      Mmm, peanut butter. I have to say I'm a crunchy fan myself, but the smooth is great for cooking, mixing, and (now I learn) OCD :) .

  8. Anonymous says:

    That's an amazing post. I haven't written about OWS for the same reasons, but you did it beautifully. I am the 100%!! I like that!!

  9. PKamp3 says:

    Good stuff, but I calculate you're probably the 0.0000000000142857143% percent. (1 divided by 7 billion). Luckily, so am I, and probably everyone else, haha.

  10. Little House says:

    Excellent post. I haven't really been following the Occupy movement because there isn't a single or cohesive goal to it. As I get older, I think I'm becoming more conservative and really think that people need to take responsibility for THEMSELVES.

    • My thoughts exactly - until they figure out what exactly they're protesting, I just can't get behind what they're doing. Right now they're just making themselves look like idiots. I'm about as liberal as they come, but I see very few TRULY disadvantaged people involved in OWS. It seems like a bunch of upper middle class kids whining because they have to pay back what they've borrowed, or because they got out of school and no one handed them a job. I know there are people in this country who are really hurting right now, but the OWS protestors don't fit in that category from what I've seen.

    • Sopbebek says:

      I have been wondering where personal responsibility is in all of this OWS stuff. I too cannot figure out what they want. Just like you, I am a little older and maybe a little more conservative than I used to be, but I have always felt you are responsible for your choices. I am sure the % of people who are forced to do things at knife point are way below 1%.

  11. Bogofdebt says:

    There's another kind of peanut butter besides crunchy? That/'s just wrong!

  12. Kay says:

    It's funny, some of your commenters have shown like and agreement to this post……but when I click over to their blogs they are (seem to be anyway) quite different than you…so I think a more in depth response would be great from you.  I have a feeling (?) that the differences are far greater than peanut butter and it would be great to bring them out..

    • I purposely decided not to post an in-depth post of my opinion about OWS. Basically, I think all of us are dealing with problems (economic and otherwise) that aren't going to be solved overnight, but it's not always the government's responsibility to solve them. I think some people (not all) can agree with that no matter where they stand politically.

      • Kay says:

        Well to be sure the "occupiers" & "the 99%ers"(or whatever) are not all on the same page…I mean really how could they be? <—- Part of why those that stand back and watch are doing it with confusion as to the goal and purpose……..Government has a HUGE responsibility to its citizens and if this is a huge outcry to long standing IRResponsibility by the Gov. (with no result) then so be it…… I guess I find it troubling to see the "I'm the 53%" and  the, "these people could be" doing something else about their situations kind of reactions….

        • I know some people are in bad situations through no fault of their own. Hell, I'm in a nasty financial situation now that I don't necessarily consider my fault. But I don't look to the government to solve the problem for me because they can't even figure out how to run the country. I'm trying to figure out what *I* have the power to do, and in the meantime if the government comes up with something, that's wonderful. I just think it's a better use of my time and energy to try to find a way out of my mess instead of standing around waiting for a solution that may never come.

  13. Jana @ Daily Money S says:

    I haven't written about OWS and I don't plan on it in any specific way. I can't figure out what they stand for and what exactly they want. I don't even think they know.

    That said, I think you make great points, especially about choices. And we have a lot in common-I have a graduate degree, am a dog owner (2, actually), and pay taxes. But crunchy peanut butter? Is just wrong.

  14. The Girl Next Door says:

    Great post! 
    I don't know what percent I am either. I lost my father at a young age, so my mother received social security for my siblings and me until we turned 18. On the other hand, I had enough money to pay for four years of college, so I don't have student loan debt, although I do have credit card debt. But if I wanted to be part of the 9% attending graduate school, I'd have to take out a loan. I think your conclusion that we all have to take responsibility for our own choices is so true though. I don't think student loan forgiveness is fair to the people who worked to put themselves through school or weren't able to go at all. 

    However, after the 2008 elections, I've decided to just not talk about politics on the internet. As the only person in my Facebook feed not voting for Obama, I WAS the 1% (and got a lot of crap for it.)

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am a no percenter!  I pay taxes, but rarely enjoy it.  I am unhappy with what our government does with it. 

  16. shanendoah@Dog Ate M says:

    Sometimes I feel like the only PF blogger who both understands and sympathizes with the Occupy movement, though I haven't written about it because I'm trying to avoid going political on my pf blog. (I go political on other blogs.)
    However, the one thing I don't get is, how do they expect the government to forgive private student loans? The federal government puts limits on how much money you can borrow from the federal program each year (even for grad students), so most people graduating with really debilitating debt also got private loans, and those are the ones with the terrible interest rates.
    In that case, I think the real answer is to find a way to make a college education more affordable for all students, not to forgive loans. But unfortunately, in this time of major government budget cuts, tuition costs at even the state schools is rising, meaning private schools see no reason not to raise their rates.

    • I do sympathize to a point, but I think most of the people who truly need help aren't the ones standing around with signs. They're at home, trying desperately to work a crappy low wage job, feed their kids, and keep the electricity on. THOSE are the people I feel for. Most of the people I've seen on tv (not all) don't deserve sympathy because being able to leave home to protest for weeks means they have it better than some could ever imagine.

      • shanendoah@Dog Ate M says:

        Oh, I agree. I was just talking with the hubby this weekend regarding an article I read about the Occupy folks having to deal with homeless people in their camps, using their resources, and how they might have to figure out a way to differentiate between the homeless people who really believed in their cause and those who were just using them for free food.
        My response to that was, well, lock up the expensive laptop. Actually more likely that one of your fellow protesters stole that than a homeless person, but otherwise, forget giving them a "belief" litmus test. 
        The Occupy folks are CHOOSING to sleep in parks. They get to bring sleeping bags and tents. It makes the news when they are arrested for doing so. They are still operating from a place of privilege   even it's not as great as that of the 1%. The homeless folks "invading" their encampments don't have those privileges.

  17. Thefinancialite says:

    LOVE this!!   You crack me up!  The percentages I feel are always changing, but I didn't realize only 9% had graduate degrees.  Sometimes it is just a fancy degree and we paid so much for them!!!

  18. Stephanie says:

    Loving this post!  I also was wary of actually posting something because I try to avoid being too political or controversial on my blog.  That being said, maybe it's time I get a little political on YOUR blog

    The way I see it (or what I'd be angry about on Wall Street) is that Wall Street bankers managed to work around the system and manipulate things so that they could make tons of money, with consequences they haven't had to face.  And also that we bailed them out, and then they still gave their employees bonuses bigger than most people's yearly salaries.  So, it's also anger at the government for bowing to special interest, removing regulations or ignoring the changes in the financial world (and avoiding imposing new regulations).

    Also, the people who complain that they're the 53% who pay federal income taxes sorta bother me.  Yeah, I pay taxes, too!  The 47% still often pay state income tax, sales tax, property tax, etc.  And I think I'd rather be making enough to pay income tax that being below the limit!

    Phew.  So, that's it politically from me.  As for the 9% with graduate degrees, that seems really low!  But maybe it's because I am friends with and work with a bunch of smarties with masters and PhDs!

    I'm usually a creamy PB girl, but I'll eat crunchy if it's in the house (and usually it is, because I buy creamy for me and crunchy for the bf).

    I wish I had a dog!  But our place is not ideal for a dog…

    Sorry for getting political there for a bit!  And sorry for the long comment!  But hooray for your post!

  19. Broke Gal NYC says:

    Great post! In regards to student loans, I think that private student loans with insane interest rates and lack of consumer protections should be allowed to refinance through the federal government. In addition, those who were taken for a ride by non-accredited for-profit colleges that gave them worthless degrees should have their debt forgiven.

    • I think both of those are great ideas. Especially the part about private student loans since I've got one. I think private loans and diploma mills should be illegal.

      • Broke Gal NYC says:

        I agree. My best friend got into deep debt with a diploma mill and is trying to figure out how to get it forgiven and for people like her I totally support that. I really don't get how the heck people could get federally guaranteed loans to unaccredited institutions. I don't see why the government can't, oh I don't know, just NOT give loans and aid to non-accredited schools. Seems like such a simple solution, no?

  20. Dr. Dean Burke says:

    Love it, love it, love it, 100%!

  21. Ann Hartman says:

    Great post!!

  22. PromisesFinancialCch says:

    Well said! We are in the 100% of free to bear the consequences of our informed (or not) decisions. Awesome post

  23. Sopbebek says:

    Thank you for hitting the nail on the head. Brilliantly done.

  24. Mark_in_Denver says:

    I am not a political (or other) blogger, so I'm somewhat out of my peer-element. Your post is perhaps one of the most reasonable I've read about OWS. That fact alone makes your post rare in an age when most people seem to be rushing to support the movement. Well, that and your proper use of grammar. Well done!

    Americans' first response to anyone we consider "downtrodden" is the desire to rush to their aid. We have an immense capacity for compassion, perhaps the greatest in human history. When our own people hurt, we don't normally ask for details…and I consider this appropriate in most situations. However, at the risk of taking the discussion political, the questions least asked are whether these "protestors" are even assigning blame correctly and what damage is being done to their effort by their acivities.

    As with any argument, there is a degree of accuracy in some of their concerns. Based on the reporting I've seen and articles I've read, though, it looks like participants and supporters of the "Occupation movement" have decided upon their villain and no amount of reasonable discourse will dissuade them from their course of action. Certainly, the rapes and other crimes committed at several of the OWS sites demonstrate that a movement with once arguably legitimate concerns has deteriorated into a riot. This is anathema to finding a solution.

    We live in a land in which we have the great freedom to make social and political choices, choices with consequences. The truth is that both of the two major "sides" share responsibility. Whatever the cause, whichever party is "really" responsible, 100% of Americans have a stake in the resolution. It is unrealistic to expect, or even ask, for 100% of Americans to participate in the process to fix. In my own idealistic way, I want 100% of Americans to deplore the way these "protestors" are trying to get support. Supporting the movement without condemning the crimes their more radical elements are committing is no different than "good Islam" failing to condemn the actions of their radical element. And that saddens me. In fact, it worries me. After all, aren't we supposed to be better than that?

  25. Lora ONeill says:

    awesome post


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