Once more, on those rich General Authorities

Once more, on those rich General Authorities January 18, 2017


Elder Perry's mountain cabin!!!
One recently departed apostle’s home in the foothills of Salt Lake City. The Great Salt Lake is visible in the background.  (Wikimedia Commons photo by Zeppelubil / Th. Haft / Torgau)


I’ve run into a number of people over the past week or so who’ve assured me that, if General Authorities all really receive an annual stipend of $120,000, they are — beyond any reasonable dispute — rich.


Now, there’s little question that $120K per year would seem very rich indeed from the perspective of, say, North Korea or Bangladesh or Yemen or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  But these things are relative.  Even to an American making $50K annually, a yearly income of $120K will seem like wealth.  But, to a person making $120K, it probably won’t.  People who are worth a million dollars in America today don’t — say various surveys — feel rich.  And, to somebody worth three million dollars, it will seem quite middle class when compared to the wealth of people worth eighty million dollars.


Previously, and in response to more recent critics, I’ve pointed out that $120,000 per year is roughly the average income of tenured full-professors in the United States, and that few people either go into academia to become wealthy or consider professors “rich.”


I’ve also pointed out that we don’t know whether all General Authorities actually take their stipend, nor how they spend it if they do.  (I’ve heard, for example, but can’t confirm, that, in the past at least, some have given any book royalties they may have earned to the Church’s missionary or humanitarian fund.)


But here’s another angle on the issue:


Without (so far as I’m aware) any connection at all to Mormons or Mormonism, “Financial Samurai” looks at the question of “What Income Level is Considered Rich?”


What Income Level Is Considered Rich?


According to him, $120,000 per year puts you in the middle class.  Perhaps, maybe, possibly — although he doesn’t say so — at the very lowest level of the beginning of the first rung of upper middle class.  Moreover, if he’s being accurate, even President Obama puts the “rich” threshold at $250,000 per year for couples.


Or here — again without any Mormon connection — is a tool from the Pew Research Center:


“Are you in the American middle class? Find out with our income calculator”


I fed an an income of $120,000 annually into the calculator, along with the location “Salt Lake City.”  I also posited an average household size of three (3), on the assumption that, while members of the First Presidency and the Twelve are typically of an age that they rarely still have dependents at home or children outside of the home who require substantial help or even support, many of the Seventy and perhaps of the Presiding Bishopric are not.  And some of them have quite large families.  Thus, assuming an average family size of husband, wife, and one dependent child doesn’t seem ridiculously excessive.


You can do the calculation yourself, if you like, but here is what the Pew calculator told me, working from the data that I had given it as outlined above:


“Based on your household income and the number of people in your household, YOU are in the MIDDLE income tier, along with 58% of adults in SALT LAKE CITY.”


Just so you know.



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