February 23, 2004

How Rich Are You?

A new Web site shows you where you stand on the list of the world's wealthiest people

There's nothing like a Forbes list to make you feel poor, what with Bill Gates there at the top with $46 billion, Warren Buffett next in line with $36 billion, and the five Wal-Mart Waltons clocking in at $20.5 billion (that's $20.5 billion each, by the way).

But do you ever wonder where you'd rank on a list like that? Wonder no more. At www.globalrichlist.com, you can find out where you stand just by typing in your annual income. You're ranked not only in terms of how many people in the world are above you on the list, but also how many are below. Type in $100,000, for instance, and you get this response: "You are among the top 0.6% richest people in the world. There are 5,963,992,435 people in the world who are poorer than you are."

It can be jarring--and it's supposed to be. "How do you feel about that?" the message continues. "A bit richer, we hope. Please consider donating just a small amount to help some of the poorest people in the world. Many of their lives could be improved dramatically, or even saved, if you donated just an hour of your salary (in your case, $69.44)."

The Web site, created by a small consulting firm in London called Poke, was designed to put the traditional "rich lists" in perspective and encourage charitable giving, says Nicolas Roope of Poke, who initially came up with the idea. For financial planners, the site can be a thought-provoking way to introduce clients to the idea of charitable giving, and can be a useful, concrete way to show clients that they are better off than they think they are.

So congratulations on nearly topping the Global Rich List; even if you only make $25,000 per year, you're still in the top 10%. And if you plan on helping the less fortunate with that hour's worth of your salary, there are plenty of charities more than willing to help; try www.justgive.org, www.charitablechoices.org, or www.guidestar.org to get started.

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