Believe It or Not, You're Rich

PHOTO How rich are you? How do you determine how much you can afford to give to charity?

You're a lot richer than you think. Seriously.

One British Web site is pushing that message and trying to not-so-subtly guilt you into giving some of that hard-earned money to charity.

Many families in America might not be feeling so rich these days, but the site compares your salary with those of workers around the world. There is a reason, after all, that companies like to manufacture clothes, cars, TVs and just about everything else overseas.

Global Rich List asks users to simply plug in their salary and then see how rich they actually are.

Make $50,000 a year, and you are the 59,029,289th richest person in the world. Not quite a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffet, but you are doing better than 99.02 percent of the world. But remember, there are more than 6.7 billion people living on this planet.

Now, let's say you make $200,000 a year. It's not too bad by American standards but not quite millionaire status. But at that salary, the site pegs you as the 786,570th richest person in the world and in the top 0.01 percent of the population.

The site then asks you how you feel about learning your relative wealth.

"A bit richer, we hope. Richer and ready to give some of your newly found wealth to those who need it most," the site says. "It's not hard -- just slip your hand in your pocket and pull out something special. Something that can help redress the balance -- and also make you feel uncommonly good."

The site then prods you to donate just one hour's salary to start making a difference and gives visitors examples of how the money could be put to use. For instance, it says $8 could buy you 15 organic apples or 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and then sell the fruit at their local market.

Currently, Global Rich List supports CARE, a humanitarian organization that works to improve global poverty.

'Well Off' in the Western World

The creators of the site, Poke, a design and marketing firm in London, said the site, which dates back to 2003, was originally conceived as a project for a client.

They were inspired by seeing one of Forbes magazine's richest people lists, Poke CEO Nicolas Roope said.

"When you put (the magazine list) down you feel terrible, poor, insignificant," Roope said. "But then this is ridiculous because of how well off we are in the Western world."

The client ended up not wanting to buy the site, but the company decided "we'll do it anyway," Roope said.

Poke decided to support CARE because the organization is doing great work, Roope said. The site has raised roughly $25,000 for the group.

But the real value of the site, he said, is the publicity it creates for CARE.

"It would probably have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions, if they had paid for (the publicity)," he said.

Melissa S. Brown, associate director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, said it's unclear how much a site like Poke's can actually influence people to give.

"I think many people who are not particularly aware of the economic circumstances in different countries around the world will be surprised," she said. "The part that I am less certain about is if they will take that surprise and turn it into the type of action that the site seeks."

Brown said most studies have shown that people are motivated to give because they want to have an impact, they want to bring about some change.

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