I try not to have regrets at the close of a year. It seems a good idea to go into the next year with awareness of what I learned from the hard things behind me, but beating myself up about it seems counter-productive. Unfortunately, as we finish 2022, I have some solid regrets…about something left undone in 2020.
Get ready for this. It’s a big one.
I didn’t watch Ted Lasso when it first came out. One of my best friends told me I should. She said I’d like it. I think she said it would restore my faith in humanity.
And it’s not that I didn’t believe her. I just didn’t understand how right she was. Or how much I needed Ted and his footballers. (And yeah, I also held off because I was trying really hard not to get another TV subscription. Damn you, Ted, for being an Apple guy and not a Netflix guy.)
There are a lot of things I like about Ted. Just one of those things is that he’s employed by a professional sport and yet seems completely unfussed about money. So, yeah, it’s fiction. I’ve never understood why we buy-in (literally) to a society where professional athletes make so much money. But of all the weird things we do these days, athletes’ salaries are actually pretty low on my list of concerns.
Back in the spring, a colleague and I attended a celebration of local business and local investing. Of the businesses profiled that evening, one gourmet food supplier casually mentioned that his business had not raised prices – at all – and yet the big, chain grocery stores carrying their products had bumped up costs on those products, substantially.
Well, that’s fascinating. Let me just check on some of those grocery stores and whether they’re ending 2022 with any regrets. Loblaw Companies (you know, Superstore and Shoppers Drug Mart, among others) ended its most recent quarter with revenue of $17.39 billion. But hey! Those guys employ a lot of people, right? They create jobs! And GDP! So it’s especially lucky for those stores’ chief executives to make millions each year while paying minimum wage to others.
It’s not nice to pick on only the grocery stores. So, let’s consider the banks. That’s where we keep our money when we’re not spending it all on the highly-inflated cost of food, so those guys must be our friends…right? Oh wait. Canada’s big bank CEOs actually made more money lately. Well, that’s nice for them.
Lest you think that I’m going to stop this rant anytime soon, let me drive it home a bit further. The top 5 highest-paid CEOs in Canada are making, roughly, $14 million to 26 million dollars per year. According to this calculator, I currently make within the top 10% of all Canadians. And even so, the CEOs I just mentioned are making more than 100 times that.
Here’s the thing that really gets me. As one of my colleagues pointed out a few months ago, inflation doesn’t really matter if everyone’s purchasing power (i.e., wages) grows at the same rate. But in this current situation, that’s not the case. The wealthiest are becoming wealthier, and the lower and middle classes are ending the year with concern over costs.
I haven’t been able to get this graph of the wealth gap out of my head. But before you go accusing me of wanting to hold back the rich folk that work really hard, I would like to note two things: 1) Minimum wage workers also work hard. I have a lovely office job. I will happily keep it rather than stand on my feet all day while being berated by customers trying to save money on sweatpants (based on just one of many recent examples I have witnessed); and 2) I am a good little capitalist who can stomach someone making a couple million bucks per year.
It’s the couple million times 10 that really gets me. Particularly while other people are struggling to feed their families and fill their cars to get to their underpaid jobs.
If you’ve read this far and you’re still thinking I’m just whining, or if you think I might have a point but you’re not yet planning to factor it into how you vote, shop or write letters…cool, cool. I mean, Scrooge would still have been Scrooge-ing if he wasn’t visited by those ghosts. And the Grinch was probably just fine living on his own and not caring about anyone else (some days that’s a pretty appealing lifestyle).
But since we don’t live in a Dickens novel or a Dr. Seuss tale – or even, sadly, in a world that includes Ted Lasso – there are cautionary tales from reality to be mindful of.
When I wasn’t watching Ted Lasso today, I listened to some podcasts. In the first 11 minutes of this one by The Economist, you can hear about how the 1500s were remarkably similar to today. And while I’d rather live today than 500 years ago (e.g., as much as I hate going to the dentist, I’m very glad dentistry exists), our current inflation situation could end very, very badly before it gets better.
Fortunately, we can still do something about it. I think.
Ted would tell me to try.