I AM the 53% – Share Your Story

by Darwin on October 18, 2011


There’s a great site worth checking out.  In the same vein as the Occupy Wall Street crowd who claim to represent 99% of Americans, there’s another site dedicated to the JUST 53% of Americans that actually pay federal income taxes.  After all, if it weren’t for those 53%, who would pay for the 47% of Americans who presently pay no federal income taxes?

It’s a culmination of pictures and stories outlining how Americans who started from humble beginnings have pulled themselves up and made something of themselves.  They have had their challenges, and they still do – but they are contributing back to society by starting businesses, working long hours and notably, paying federal taxes and living the American dream.

Here’s my Story:

  • I was raised middle-class
  • I have never known priveledge.  I wore hand-me-downs, we drove crappy cars and didn’t take extravagent vacations.  My parents were VERY frugal and saved enough so I could go to a state school.
  • I went to college and got a job
  • I worked 60-100 hour weeks for years (including weekends) because that’s what my job demanded
  • I wanted a better work-life balance for myself and my family
  • I got an MBA to be able to move into a corporate function and have better hours
  • I wanted additional financial security and options in life so I started a blog at night which is helping to fund the college 529 plans for our children, our retirement and even a swimming pool  to enjoy life in the present
  • I partnered with a college friend to found a CAD Services business
  • I made a sizable real estate investment so years from now I will have an additional steady income stream
  • I am not immune to layoff; people around me are being laid off weekly – by MY employer.  If it happens to me I will get back on my feet.
  • I have always paid federal taxes since I started working as at age 15 (OK, I mowed lawns starting at 12 and didn’t report that income; real jobs only). I am raising my children to positively contribute to society and be self-sufficient.
  • I am the 53%

I am living the American Dream

Here’s the site that I wish I’d started myself.

Are You Part of the 53% ?
What’s Your Story?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff @ Before You Invest October 18, 2011 at 10:53 pm

My dad worked in a sawmill in the cold winters of upstate NY
My mom worked 60-70 hours a week in an underfunded hospital
My first job in high school was cleaning toilets in a highway rest stop
When I went to college my college savings fund was $1500
I went to community college for 2 years to save money on the total bill
I went to a state school the last 2 years funded totally on student loans and personal loans
I worked 3 jobs on summer break, and a part time job during the school year
I graduated with a finance degree in 2001 when the market crashed and nobody was hiring so I took a job that paid $15k a year
My first apartment had very poor insulation so it was 40 degrees indoors some nights… but it was all i could afford
I ran up $20,000 in credit card debt because I refused to take money from my parents
I worked up the ranks and landed a 60 hour a week job with GE that paid me good money
I started blogging on the side and made some spare money
I paid off EVERY penny of my credit card debt without settling
I reinvested my money in my blogs
I left my job and started my own company
I paid off EVERY penny of my student loans
I pay more in taxes than I ever thought I would earn

Even though I started with nothing… worked hard in horrible jobs to pay the bills… paid my own debts without help… I made a financial success of my life… and apparently my president acts like I’m the enemy. Gotta love this country.


Darwin October 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Great story. Thanks for sharing it.

And shame on your for being successful and self-sufficient.

I feel the same way some times; it’s either overt or subtle, but consistent – attack those who’ve made it – because people want what you have. And the government’s gonna make sure they get it (so they can get a vote)


Jeff @ Before You Invest October 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Yea thats really what makes my blood boil.

I get that people are frustrated, out of work, desperate, angry… I totally get it, I’m with them, and I sympathize with them. But this nonsense rhetoric that Obama has going is nothing but divisive.

Derek Jeter gets a big contract… does that take money out of my pocket?
Steve Jobs invents the iphone, ipad, macbook etc and made billions… does it make me poorer?
George Clooney inks a three picture deal for millions… am I worse off?

Obama doesn’t care about poor people… he cares that there are more poor VOTERS than rich VOTERS and he’s trying to whip them in to a frenzy and nothing more.


Darwin October 18, 2011 at 11:13 pm

A bit ironic how the administration’s trying to get in on the OccupyWallStreet momentum while, well, they’ve been in charge for 3 years, including 2 years of a supermajority where they pretty much rammed through whatever the hell they wanted.

Perhaps nobody told them yet – they’re largely responsible for where things are headed…


Jeff @ Before You Invest October 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I dont think they’re getting off as unscathed as some assume though. I heard there was a poll that said something to the effect of 48% of the OWS crowd would not vote for Obama.

Of course the same poll said that 33% would support violent acts to further the cause…

I’ve been saying since this thing started that its only a matter of time until the angry mob takes a violent turn.

Not saying everyone, or even most of the people involved would support it but this whole thing is a gas can and it only takes one match.


Milan Prodanovic October 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm


Just wanted to thank you for your website. You seem like a hard working, smart American who appreciates what he has.


Darwin October 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Thanks Milan.
I work hard.
Not so sure about the next part :>


Martin October 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Darwin – nice post.

@ Jeff – I have also racked up some credit card debt I’m not too happy about for the same reason, but I’m not sustaining myself on Ramen anymore at least.

You do anything you can if you want whatever your definition of “making it” is.

I can’t remember the last time it was I didn’t work at least 60 hours….at just my full time job! I picked up a part time job two months back. And then of course the baby, the house cleaning and maintaining, the firewood…etc..etc…

Like I said before, I have learned a lot, unlike my fellow high school graduates who fall into the “Peter Pan Generation” label.


Darwin October 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Hmm, Peter Pan generation; haven’t heard that one before. I guess it could be worse, but doesn’t sound like a good tag.


MoneyCone October 20, 2011 at 10:04 am

Hard work pays off no matter how difficult the circumstances are! Glad you didn’t wait for help to arrive!


Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey October 21, 2011 at 1:03 am

Congrats on your journey and accomplishing everything you have! Do you ever think about working on your real estate investing, blog, and CAD business full time?


Darwin October 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I’ve toyed with the idea of going full-time, but it’s tough at this point to take that too seriously, especially w just blogging. Google is just too variable, as evidenced by last week’s latest Panda update. Honestly, the CAD business might be more of a possibility than blogging alone. But it’s not something I have any firm plans on for the near-term.


retirebyforty October 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm

You have come a long way and you should be proud of all your accomplishment! You’ll be such a great role model to your children.


Darwin October 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Thanks! My kids don’t really look up to me for stuff like this – more like if I tickle them or fart, they think I’m the best. Working my butt off (and just spending this past weekend with the boys at a YMCA camp?), they totally take it for granted.


Sam October 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

Fight on man! I’ve shared my story a well on FS.

Now imagine if you have people protesting you, your family, and wanting to raise your taxes!



Darwin October 23, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Personally, I don’t even make enough to worry about my taxes going up considerably. Heck, I’d probably continue to benefit financially from more distributions of wealth the administration keeps enacting. I’m just disturbed by the state of affairs in the country – both from the government and from the millions of Americans that think government is the answer the successful/rich should be ashamed.


Invest It Wisely October 24, 2011 at 7:27 pm

* I was raised in a ghetto household and had a typical white trash crappy childhood, with the abusive step-dad, broken house etc… and unlike some others I wasn’t born athletic or something else to make up for it 😛 but… I had a very supportive grandmother who helped to save me from the worst of it.
* I worked during the entire time I was in university so that I could cover most of the expenses.
* I have paid EI since 16 but have not yet collected a dime.
* I have gotten laid off and changed jobs, and though I get a decent salary in my current job it is decent only relatively speaking. I am not in bling bling land, yet I already pay more in taxes than I do on all my other expenses combined.
* I have not yet gotten the MBA but I graduated with honors in business, and it would be the next step to consider doing.
* I lean very libertarian and I don’t believe in the left-right dichotomy, and I don’t get those people who think I must be rich or that I must be right-wing because I don’t believe that taxation nor big government is the cure for everything and because I lean toward a voluntary social order.


Peggy October 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I was raised in a very middle-class neighborhood, with a stay-at-home mom and a father who was a teacher/asst. principal, and then principal. During my childhood my dad worked on his doctorate degree, coming home from work to eat dinner and then going straight to school to work on his degree by night. We had everything we needed, but knew the difference between “need” and “want”. I know that my sisters and I (and our children) learned our work ethic from our parents. My parents paid for all three of us girls to go to a state college and we all graduated and got jobs. I married a man who graduated with a theater degree, but who worked for 33 years for United Parcel Service as it had great health coverage. I was able to stay home with my sons for 9 years by substitute teaching and by going without very many luxuries. We lived for 15 years with only 1 t.v., vacations to CA to visit the grandparents, etc. We bought a bigger house eventually, and it necessitated that I work full-time. We were able to put our sons through college by using my teaching income. When our older son didn’t take college seriously, we stopped paying for his college expenses; he ended up joining the Coast Guard and finally graudated with a teaching degree (much against my advice!), and he had a job within a semester of graudating. When it looked like we couldn’t pay for our younger son’s college w/out loans, I decided to get my master’s degree so I could earn more money. I paid for half of my master’s degree with vouchers from our state school that I earned for mentoring student teachers through the years. Our sons have both graduated and have career jobs, and so do their wives. Two of them have hard-to-get jobs (teacher and nurse), but they were persistent and also willing to move 4 hours away. The teacher and nurse have two young children and a lot of help from grandparents with babysitting. Often, people will say to me, “You guys are all so lucky!” I must admit that there was a little bit of luck involved (supportive parents who valued education enough to save for their children’s college with the expectation that said children would do the same for their kids!; strong work ethics in all families involved, and, in the case of my grandchildren, grandparents were were able to help with childcare while the parents finished school). But, most of it was not luck, but GOOD CHOICES made by all involved! Now my husband and I are retired and learning to live on much less money than we had when we were both working full-time, but it was all worth it! I am the 53%!


Paula @ Afford Anything October 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm

With the exception of the MBA, we have similar stories. My parents immigrated to the US when they were in their late 30’s. They were frugal, drove crappy cars, never ate at restaurants or took vacations, and dressed me in cheap clothes from TJ Maxx and Marshalls. They are now — technically — self-made millionaires, if you include the value of their primary residence as part of their net worth. You’d never guess it, though, because they still buy clothes at Marshalls.


getwhilethegettinisgood January 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I was raised in a middle class family. My dad was a self-taught engineer who started his own business and paid the bills for over 20 years. My mom went back to school when I entered grammar school so that she could earn extra money for vacations and new cars. They didn’t pay for any of their kids to go to college but I’m okay with that as I don’t owe anyone for my success in life (aside from being born and supported for the first 16 years of my life.)

Put myself through school with the help of my husband (then boyfriend) and earned a degree in business. We ate mac and cheese and saved to buy a house for the first three years of our marriage. We were living in a horrid part of town where half the people in the grocery store were paying with food stamps yet wore designer jeans and drove new vans while we struggled to get by on entry level incomes.

Bought a small house, a bank owned fixer upper that we spent the next 20 years improving into something pretty wonderful. When we moved in we had no money for cable TV so went without it. After we could afford it again we decided to continue without it as we realized how unnecessary it was. This saved us over $1K a year. Worked 10-12 hours a day for the next 15 years, climbed the corporate ladder, earned a good living, paid lots of taxes.

Moved over seas and retired in our early 40s. Still living very small in a one room bungalow and ride a scooter. We don’t need much to be happy. Have good friends and a full life without the stress of working the usual 10-12 hours a day.

Ironically, we are now in the lowest tax bracket so all the whiners pushing the “tax the successful” won’t impact us. If everyone who’s currently footing the tax bill dropped out like we did, the “share the wealth” Occupy folks would get a dose of reality like the Greeks. It feels like we’re in an Ayn Rand novel.


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