How much difference is there between a billionaire lifestyle and a half-billionaire lifestyle?

Posted by on March 9, 2019 in What Pooks Is Writing | 4 comments

And no, that’s not a trick question.

Nor is it a failure of my dys-brain, which as disordered as it is, can actually understand that particular mathematical concept.

Just don’t ask me what 7×8=.

But, billions and half-billions?

I understand the concept and am yet very confused about it.

I’m certain there must be a big difference in the lifestyles of those who are worth one amount rather than the other, because if there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be so many billionaires who build their wealth on the backs of underpaid employees.

When writing my first #fanstuffmonday I rediscovered two things I’d long known but had forgotten:

One: JK Rowling was the first author to become a billionaire. Way back in 2004!

Two: She gave away so much money in charitable contributions [paying taxes also was involved] that she gave up her billionaire status and last tally I found, was “only” worth about half that much.

Which brings me to my point.

How much difference is there between a billion and half a billion? I mean, how much difference is there in what you can buy, do, or just in general afford?



How does it benefit the Walton family of Walmart to each be worth billions [plural]?

This picture of the Waltons is from a 2014 article in the Economist. They are obviously a very nice family.

But because I’m pretty brash and brazen [Gryffindor, you know] I have to ask:

How much would it change their lives if they actually paid a living wage and allowed their employees to work enough hours each week to have benefits?

Where would the Waltons feel that pinch? Anywhere?

I really want to know.

On the other hand we have Starbucks. To get their full benefits package [and seriously, click here and check it out] an employee only has to work 520 hours per six months which averages out to about 20 hours per week.

Howard Schultz* [who bought Starbucks in 1984 and grew it into what it is today] is a billionaire, too.

I don’t know how much of that is because of his position as Chairman and CEO of Starbucks in the early years and a return in 2008 through June 2018 when he retired and was named Chairman Emeritus.

Howard Schultz is also clearly a very nice man.

But even if he doesn’t have an entire billion from that as opposed to his other investments and endeavors, could it possibly make any difference in his life other than a scorecard for the uberwealthy to use to know how much they have to earn to topple someone else?

While other billionaires allow their employees to be underpaid–even make underpaying and leaving them without healthcare part of their business plan–JK Rowling gave up her spot on the list to give to those who would truly benefit from her money more than she did.

Starbucks built a multinational juggernaut while actually valuing, respecting and sharing the wealth with its employees through health benefits, paid leave and opportunities. Mind you–employees whose average work week is as little as only 20 hours of work.

I have never understood why others billionaires and/or people who will never be able to spend all the money they have, nor will their children or grandchildren, make keeping their employees underpaid, underemployed, and without benefits as part of their business model.

By what standard do they judge themselves, that they think almost unimaginable corporate profits are so justified that they have to take financial advantage of their employees?

How many billions does any person need when the very people who earned it for them are left hurting?

And finally, full circle.

Even receiving a rare award, Companion of Honour, honouring her for her services to literature and philanthropy, JK Rowling is still, obviously, a very nice person.

Since they are clearly very nice people, and I say that sincerely, how much would it change the lives of the Walmart family if they actually paid a decent wage that includes allowing their employees to work enough hours each week to have healthcare along with other benefits?

How much difference is there between a billionaire lifestyle and a half-billionaire lifestyle?

How much of a pinch would they feel?

The answer has to be really significant, or such clearly nice people [and other billionaires who have also built their fortunes on the backs of the underpaid, and/or the outsourced to countries with slave labor or close to it] would be looking at their employees as human beings with genuine needs that a paying job should provide them access to, as people who even if they have a full-time job building the fortunes of said billionaires, shouldn’t still have to get government assistance to live.

[Pooks steps down from pulpit.]


*This is not commentary on Howard Schultz’s
potential candidacy for US president.
I would have held up Starbucks as an example
anyway and his exploration is merely coincidental.


  1. You picked an epic moral question–I have no answer.

    7×8=56 That I can answer.

    • I actually asked two questions, because I have a disorganized brain.

      One, how much difference is there between a billionaire and a half-billionaire when it comes to lifestyle or anything they want to do?

      Two, how many billions are enough for one person? LOL

      Actually I’m not on a screen that has my post on it, so I probably didn’t word either of those correctly.

      And here I thought it was going to be 40-something.

      • Yes, you did ask two questions. I can’t imagine the lifestyle is significantly different between those incomes…

        How many are enough? No idea.


        • I mean, seriously–there HAS to be some kind of difference that is tangible to billionaires that’s beyond our imaginings. Because otherwise there simply isn’t a reason for them to be able to sleep at night knowing their full-time employees are struggling!

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