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The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness explains one way the rich get richer.

Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.

The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.

A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.



Author Terry Pratchett is no longer with us, but his writing lives on and is occasionally shared on his official social media accounts. Recently, his Twitter page shared the "Sam Vimes 'Boots' Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness" from Pratchett's 1993 book "Men At Arms." This boots theory explains that one reason the rich are able to get richer is because they are able to spend less money.

If that sounds confusing, read on:

Pratchett wrote:

"The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet."

In other words, people who have the money to spend a little more upfront often end up spending less in the long run. A $50 pair of boots that last five years essentially cost you $10 a year. But if you can only afford $10 upfront for a pair of boots that last six months, that's what you buy—and you end up paying twice as much over a five-year period.

There are so many areas in which this principle applies when you're poor. Buying in bulk saves you money over the long run, but you have to be able to afford the bulk cost up front. A reliable car that doesn't require regular repairs will cost more than a beater, but if the beater is all you can afford, that's what you're stuck with. You'll likely spend the same or more over time than if you'd bought a newer/higher quality car, but without the capital (or the credit rating) to begin with, you don't have much choice.

People who can afford larger down payments pay lower interest rates, saving them money both immediately and in the long run. People who can afford to buy more can spend more with credit cards, pay off the balances, build up good credit and qualify for lower interest rate loans.

There are lots of good financial decisions and strategies one can utilize if one has the ability to build up some cash. But if you are living paycheck to paycheck, you can't.

Climbing the financial ladder requires getting to the bottom rung first. Those who started off anywhere on the ladder can make all kinds of pronouncements about how to climb it—good, sound advice that really does work if you're already on the ladder. But for people living in poverty, the bottom rung is just out of reach, and the walls you have to climb to get to it are slippery. It's expensive to be poor.

When people talk about how hard it is to climb out of poverty, this is a big part of what they mean. Ladder-climbing advice is useless if you can't actually get to the ladder. And yet, far too many people decry offering people assistance that might help them reach the ladder so they can start taking advantage of all that great financial advice. Why? Perhaps because they were born somewhere on the ladder—even if it was the bottom rung—and aren't aware that there are people for whom the ladder is out of reach. Or perhaps they're unaware of how expensive it is to be poor and how the costs of poverty keep people stuck in the pit. Hopefully, this theory will help more people understand and sympathize with the reality of being poor.

Money makes money, but having money also saves you money. The more money you have, the more wealth you're able to build not only because you have extra money to save, but also because you buy higher quality things that last, therefore spending less in the long run. (There's also the reality that the uber-wealthy will pay $5,000 for shoes they'll only wear a few times, but that's a whole other kind of boots story.)

Thanks, Terry Pratchett, for the simple explanation.


This story originally appeared on 01.28.22

@jennielongdon/TikTok, Photo credit: Canva

It might not be hip, but it makes sense!

Online shopping is an integral part of adult life no matter what age group you fall into. But apparently there’s one digital spending habit that didn’t make it to Gen Z.

UK-based radio host Jennie Longdon recently went viral for sharing how—despite being able to do virtually everything from our phones—folks over the age of 30 can’t seem to part with using their laptops for “big purchases.”

“Takeaway , clothes, shoes within reason, yeah,” she says in a clip posted to her TikTok. “But…a plane ticket? That’s a laptop job!”

Longdon continues to feign disgust as she imagines big purchases being made from the phone, as these items obviously require the larger screen. It’s just something that a millennial brain cannot get behind. “We cannot make a big or significant purchase on the phone. You can't browse properly."

“Bigger screens for the big things please,” her video caption reads.

@jennielongdon Bigger screen for the big things please. #millennial #millennialsoftiktok #millenialmum #fyp #foryou ♬ original sound - Jennie Longdon

But there may be some sound reasoning behind this seemingly outdated logic. According to Fluid Commerce, the average desktop provides “over 3 times as much information” as a smartphone screen, allowing for more research. Laptops might not offer quite as much information as a desktop, but they certainly offer more than a phone, and it’s just good common sense to want as much information as possible before making an investment.

Either way, most millennials seem willing to die on this hill.

“Big purchases on the computer because I don’t trust mobile apps to show me everything I need to know,” one wrote in the comments.

“Big purchase requires the big internet,” added another.

A third said, "I will literally look at the information on my phone, then go get my laptop to go to the same site to book it.”

A few even shared horror stories of trying things the newfangled way and it backfiring immediately.

“I lived dangerously the other day and booked a hotel room on my phone and it tools ages buffering at the confirmation screen and I was fuming and knew I should’ve done it on my laptop,” one person lamented.

Another wrote, "I booked a mini break on my phone once and I accidentally refreshed the page with my thumb midway through booking.”

Still, there are some millennials who are on board with the phones-only approach.

"I booked flights, accommodation, and extracurriculars for four people on my phone recently,” one person wrote. "I was so proud."

Another said, "I'm a millennial and I just booked my Vegas hotel and flights on the phone. It's.....fine....."

Lastly—kudos to this commenter, who truly got to the root of this issue by saying:

“We grew up in an age when mobile websites were terrible and we’ve never forgotten it.”

That really hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it? Some scars just never truly heal.

Sometimes you see something so mind-boggling you have to take a minute to digest what just happened in your brain. Be prepared to take that moment while watching these videos.

Real estate investor and TikTok user Tom Cruz shared two videos explaining the spreadsheets he and his friends use to plan vacations and it's...well...something. Watch the first one:

So "Broke Bobby" makes $125,000 a year. There's that.

How about the fact that his guy has more than zero friends who budget $80,000 for a 3-day getaway? Y'all. I wouldn't know how to spend $80,000 in three days if you paid me to. Especially if we're talking about a trip with friends where we're all splitting the cost. Like what does this even look like? Are they flying in private jets that burn dollar bills as fuel? Are they bathing in hot tubs full of cocaine? I genuinely don't get it.



To be crystal clear here, the top 5 friends on the Forbes list are willing to spend more than double what the guy at the bottom of the Welfare 10 list makes per year on a 3-day guy's trip. I don't know what to do with this information.


But that's not even the full spreadsheet. It might make sense if this guy was just rich, had always been rich, only knew rich people, and therefore having multiple millionnaire friends was his normal. Surely that's some people's reality who were born into the 1%.

That's not the case here, though, because Cruz also has a Welfare 10 list. He says this group of friends who make less than $100K a year call themselves that, and perhaps that's true. (If I were a part of this group, I might call myself a welfare case too because everything's relative and some of these dudes spend more in an hour of vacation than I spend on my mortgage each month.)

It's like we can see our society's wealth gap all laid out nice and neatly in a spreadsheet, only these people aren't even the uber-wealthy and uber-poor. This is just the range of this one guy's friends.

I have nothing against people who build success and wealth for themselves, and even $5 million per year is hardly obscenely wealthy by billionaire standards. But Cruz says he's known most of his "welfare" friends since college, which presumably means most of those guys have college degrees and are making pittance in comparison with the Forbes list. One could claim the guy making $5 million a year just works harder, but does he really work 100 times harder than the guy making $50,000? Doubt it.

Money makes money, and after a certain threshold of wealth or income, it's actually quite easy to get and stay rich without actually "earning" more money, assuming you're reasonably wise and responsible. So maybe the guys who are willing to shell out $125,000 for a week-long trip should offer to pay the travel expenses of the friends they "hang out with regardless of income" who don't even make that in a year, since that's probably just the interest they're making on their wealth anyway.

But what do I know? This is like an entirely different world to me and probably 99+% of Americans, as evidenced by some of the responses.

Naturally, there will be a range of incomes in any group of people, but 1) most of us don't actually know how much our friends make, and 2) even fewer of us make spreadsheets with that information in order to rank our friends and figure out who can go on which vacations.

People are just endlessly fascinating. That's all I've got.


This article originally appeared on 08.20.21

via TED

Comedian Pardis Parker at the Global Ted COnference 2022.

In April 2022, comedian Pardis Parker performed a five-minute set at the global TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada, where he admitted he’s “terrified of wanting to be a billionaire.” The performance was a funny and bold, statement in a culture obsessed with the ultra-wealthy.

Parker’s fear of becoming a billionaire began after he left Canada for Los Angeles. “I think the biggest difference between Canada and L.A. is the extent to which people in L.A. fetishize wealth,” Parker said.

“I'm terrified, man. I'm terrified that L.A. is changing me that I'm becoming one of those people who chases money, who fetishizes wealth who wants to be a billionaire,” he continued. “When I say that people get angry they get defensive. They’re like, ‘What's wrong with being rich? What's wrong with being a billionaire? What's wrong with being financially savvy?’ It's just like yo man, if you own a billion of anything that doesn't make you savvy, that makes you a hoarder.


He then points out that billionaires are just as quickly forgotten as anyone else. “There's 2,668 billionaires on the planet right now. Name them. You can't, and that's while they're still alive,” Parker joked.

Parker finishes his chunk by sharing how almost everyone can leave a legacy long after they’re gone. For example, give kids a full-size candy bar on Halloween. “That's it, that's it. Legacy cemented. It's been 30 years since I went trick-or-treating and me and my brother still talk about 39 Grenon.”

Parker’s stand-up routine presents a fun way of rethinking what it means to be rich and leave a legacy and he’s right. In the end, people will probably forget those who impressed them with their wealth, but they’ll never forget someone who made them feel good.