Historically, there have been 3 distinct levels of wealth. In the modern-day, these are typically referred to as lower-class, middle-class, and upper-class. There’s no set definition about how much money each class has, but it’s commonly understood that the middle has a good deal more than the lower, and upper has a good deal more than the middle.
Not only are the levels of wealth distinct among these 3 groups, but so are the positions they occupy in society. If you study them carefully, the professions that the lower, middle, and upper-class people work in display a pattern. Understanding these patterns will be key to unlocking your long-term wealth potential.
The people in the lower-class manage things. By things, we mean individual tasks, items, crafts, or skills. The bus driver is considered lower-class since they manage one single task: driving the bus. The waiter or waitress is lower-class since they’re focused on one thing: servicing customers at their tables. The entry-level programmers at Google and Apple are considered lower-class since their main task at work is one thing: writing code.
For the most part, it’s not about the salary, but rather the position which is occupied. The salary is simply a reflection of the position. The bus driver, waiter or waitress, and entry-level programmers all have a boss which manages them — but they themselves don’t manage anyone. This puts them on the lowest level in terms of both authority and wealth.
As one grows in their career, you’ll typically see them trying to move up to some sort of team leader or manager position. This is for a good reason: they want to increase their authority and consequently their salary — they recognize that a managerial position has those things. If you want to advance your wealth-position, it’s a good idea to do the same, moving away from managing things and towards managing people. This will require some hard work and perhaps long hours but will be well worth the rewards.
The people in the middle-class manage people. By people, we mean the workers who can only manage things. A Senior Manager at the local transit company in your city is middle-class since they manage all of the single-task drivers. A Restaurant Manager is middle-class since they manage all of the waiters, waitresses, and chefs — all single-task individuals. The team leads and managers at Google and Apple are middle-class since they manage all of the single-task programmers.
The ability to manage people puts you in a stronger position since you’re able to create more value with the same effort. A programmer working 40 hours a week can potentially create 40 hours of value. A manager who oversees 5 of those programmers can potentially create 5 * 40 = 200 hours of value since they’re the leader of the team and all of their projects. Even more valuable is that the manager often receives the credit for the 200 hours of value since they’re technically the leader of the group. As a manager of people you have more resources and leverage and as such command a higher authority and salary.
The middle class is where the vast majority of people will stop. It is a comfortable level. Not too much responsibility and risk, and you get a great salary and position. You make enough money to live why having some hours of relaxation. Still, there is one more class above this level, the class which is funding all of the projects that the manager and their team are executing.
The people in the upper-class manage money. This person is the one who started the local transit company, the restaurant franchise owner, and the founders and top executives at Google and Apple. These people are past the point of managing the actions of individuals and are now mainly letter their capital do the managing for them.
The ability to effectively manage money is the most powerful path to wealth. You are no longer tied to the amount of time you put in since you’re now using your money to leverage other people’s time. Your money becomes a multiplier of value. You pay them to put in their time, and then you’re done with it. You simply review the results and re-direct any resources as needed. Although you’re not on the front lines, this position gives you all the leverage and as a result most of the rewards.
Moving from the lower to the middle-class required hard work. But moving from the middle to the upper-class is all about working smart. Many of the people sitting on the Board of Directors at big companies didn’t get there by working there for 30+ years. Instead, they were founders and investors. They used their money to buy into the right positions. From there, they’ll get the biggest rewards from the people on the front lines.
“History reports that the men who can manage men manage the men who can manage only things, and the men who can manage money manage all.”
― Will Durant, The Lessons of History
The Lessons of History by Will Durant provides a study and insight into these 3 levels. It is the perfect introduction to the staple human patterns embedded in our society.