How Many Sweaters Do You Need?

Back when my husband was in Law School at Duke, Coach K (their well-loved Men's basketball coach) was offered a position to coach an NBA team with an eye-popping high salary, and he declined. His response was that he loved what he did and he didn't care for the high salary. He actually said, "How many sweaters do you need?"

It was a phrase that really stuck with me. A few years back, my husband was given two job offers, one with a sweet salary and lots of hours and one with very reasonable hours and a very comfortable salary. We thought for some time about which job to take and that phrase kept coming back to me, "How many sweaters do you need?" Ultimately it came down to the fact that my children needed a father more than they needed more toys.

Our economy has taken a huge hit over the last few years because people can't stop buying their toys. Our cars are nicer, our houses are bigger and we spend WAY too much money on material things. The people who should get paid the big bucks get pennies and people who are in the 'right place at the right time' get billions (literally). Here are some facts I've come across lately that have left my eyes popping...

*Our city is currently renegociating its contract with our waste management company. The 'Teamsters' (aka garbage truck drivers) union is threatening to strike if their demands are not met. They have great benefits and a starting salary of $74,000 a year (yeah, you heard me- you can have a GED and no college degree or skill and start at $74,000 a year). They want a salary increase of 17% over 4 years (that's 4.25% a year) and no increase in their cost of benefits. SERIOUSLY??? Come on people, you drive a garbage truck.

*Stephenie Meyer, (the author of the Twilight series- which I love) who had a whacked out dream and wrote it down, made $50 million last year (according to Parade Magazine). Now, she does have a college degree and she did work hard at pursuing her dream, but really, I have whacked out dreams all the time. Maybe I should be writing them down...

*Mark Zuckerberg, who is the co-founder and current CEO of Facebook (and I do love facebook) was reported by Parade Magazine to have made $3 Billion last year (yes- that is billion with a B). SERIOUSLY?????? I don't think I could spend $3 Billion. Let alone want to. What a waste. Of course, I'm sure most of that was in the increase in his stock and he didn't actually get to spend it. But, still. OH MY GOSH. He will be 26 years old next month.

*The average elementary school teacher, who lead our future, makes $41,000 a year. They have Bachelors or Masters Degrees and they shape and carve our future every day. The average high school teacher makes $47,000. And according to wikipedia this is a great "improvement" from 10 years ago.

*The average salary of an active duty United States Marines (you know- those guys (and gals) over in Afganistan and Iraq who are getting shot at and missing the births of their first born babies so that you can fly in a plane without it being turned into a torpedo or so your kids can go to school without the real fear of it being blown up by a terrorist) is $49,000 a year.

Call me crazy, but doesn't this list seem a bit, I don't know, skewed. I know that those of you who know me well are thinking about my nice car, my big house and my designer bags. But, my car, is paid for- I saved up. My house is well within my means- I saved up. And my bags- all bought second hand or on major clearance. I don't have a tv that cost more than $200 and my cell phone was $50.

But, I guess that's the great thing about America. Its all about choice. Whether to go to college? How big of a house do you buy? How much debt to have? Whether you have a iTouch or a cheap cell phone? Of course, it is those Teachers and Marines that ensure you keep that right to choose.

How many sweaters do you need?
Whaddya think?


  1. This really is an eye opener. It does seem unfair that some people get lucky and make big bucks while others are risking their time and sometimes lives for hardly any pay. Our world has become materialistic and all we want are the nice thing. If only we all were grateful for what we have instead of always wanting more...

  2. This is great, you have a talent for writing and a lot of worth while information to share. Many years ago I had a similar conversation with your mom, of course it's much worse now but our priorities have been way off base in this country for a long time. Oh, how I hope we can reclaim our sanity. Judy Adams

  3. i disagree with garbage collectors asking so much, but what city is that in? is it in New York City or Boston b/c some places have a much higher cost of living than other cities... so I'd have to know exactly where that is.

    Also CEO's who get paid the big bucks - negotiate there wages - so they worked their way up there and can take advantage of that -- teachers making an average of 41,000 - not bad - again, depending on where you live.

    the military gets a lousy salary, that's true... but i guess if you want more money - become a Senator!!! they've got it made.

    if it's not about money and it's about doing what you love - then it doesn't really matter.

    And just because you got a college degree doesn't mean you get a better job - you still have to know how to market yourself and you have to work really hard to get what you want - some people do know the right people - b/c networking is very important in the U.S. - and sometimes you are just lucky to be in the right place at the right time - but it's not purely luck - you have to be a good honest worker to move on up - usually...

    and sometimes you just have to ask for a pay raise -- i've heard they won't give it to you if you don't ask -- again, it's knowing how to be confident, and you have to know how to sell yourself - let your employers know that you are worth it for them to keep you and so forth.

    anyways, that's my two-bit.