This Week: The Fall 2021 Nygaard Notes Pledge Drive!!

Had you forgotten that Nygaard Notes relies on its readers for the financial support needed to keep publishing? If you had forgotten, no problem. Today is the first day of the 2021 Pledge Drive, and this issue will tell you how to do what you know you ought to do.

The Pledge Drive issue is not only about raising funds; it includes some economic information that I think you’ll find interesting and relevant to your lives. So, read, then give. Or give, then read. However you do it: Thank you for supporting Nygaard Notes!

If you’d like a printable PDF version of this issue of Nygaard Notes,
just send an email to and put PDF in the subject line.

Making a Pledge to Nygaard Notes: How To

After two-and-a-half years (Really!) the month of October 2021 is the month to renew your Pledge of support to Nygaard Notes! OR to make your very first Pledge. Whether you are a first-time Pledger or Renewing Pledger, it’s pretty easy.


Method #1: A Check

Do you still write checks? Many people do, and if you are one of them, you can just make out a check to “Nygaard Notes,” and mail it to:

Nygaard Notes
P.O. Box 6103
Minneapolis, MN 55406


Method #2: Online

Of course, you can also donate online, and that’s easy, too! It works like this:

1. Go to the Nygaard Notes website at

2. At the top of the page you’ll see the word “Donate.” Then you just click on that and follow the extremely simple directions. You can use your debit or credit card, or donate directly via PayPal.

I honestly don’t care too much which method you use, but I will mention that 100% of your Pledge goes to Nygaard Notes when you write a check, while PayPal takes a small percentage off the top. It’s only 3-4%, as I recall. But still, if you make a $10,000 Pledge, that’s $3-400! (Sorry, I drifted into FantasyLand for a moment there.)

If you already have made a Pledge, or already know that you want to, then there’s nothing else you need to know. But you may want to read the next essay anyway, as there is much to be learned from this “How Much” question…

How Much to Pledge?

I never know what to say about this. Pledges have ranged from $1.00 up to $3,500! Most fall in the range of $25 to $100.

I appreciate them all, in any amount! And that’s because your donation tells me that there is one more person out there who values what Nygaard Notes has to offer.

So here’s the short story: Just send in whatever you feel like sending in!

But the question “How Much” deserves a longer story, I think, so if you want to think a little bit about the “How Much” idea, read on…

I said “I never know what to say about this.” That’s not strictly true, as I have in many a Pledge Drive offered a few ways to think about this. Two methods come to mind as the year 2021 winds down.


Method #1: Pay-Per-Word, Page, Issue

Some people like to donate as if they were purchasing Nygaard Notes, which means they calculate how much each issue (or page, or word) is “worth,” and donate enough to pay for a year’s worth. That’s a little tricky with Nygaard Notes, as it is improvisational. That is to say, it’s unpredictable, and no one knows how many of anything will come your way in a year. However, if you insist, here are some facts:

Over the past year I have published almost 79,000 words in Nygaard Notes, spread out over 20 issues. If that’s hard to believe, consider that I’ve published 131,000 words since the last Pledge drive. And in the 23 years that Nygaard Notes has been publishing, I have put out 1,840,338 words! (Now we’re getting into some numbers that even I have a hard time believing!)

What if you decided to donate one penny per word per year? Well, you’d send in $790. But that includes every “it,” “and,” and “the.” Who wants to pay a penny for those useful but repetitive words?

What if you paid a dime for every typewritten page? (Remember “typewriters”?) You’ve gotten 170 pages over the past year, so maybe you could send in seventeen bucks. Of course, 25 cents a page doesn’t seem unreasonable, so how about $40?

20 issues at $1.00 per issue would lead you to send in $20. But isn’t an issue of the Notes worth $3? OK, then, send in $60.

Any of those amounts would be great! But there’s another way to approach this momentous decision.

Method #2: Ability to Pay

A second way to think about what amount to Pledge is to relate your contribution to your own income or wealth. Are you willing to devote one or two hours worth of your wages each year to support Nygaard Notes? Then send me that amount. (If you earn a salary rather than an hourly wage, you’re on your own; I’ve never worked on a salary. You can figure it out.)

And here is the point where I ask you to allow me to treat this as a teaching moment, and offer some numbers that, really, we all should know but most people don’t know.

The federal minimum wage, I am embarrassed to say, is currently $7.25/hour. (It has not changed since 2009!) I genuinely hope that no one reading this (no one anywhere, honestly) is working for such an impossibly-low wage. But, if you are, I am more than happy to accept one hour’s worth—$7.25—for your annual subscription donation. Maybe the minimum hourly wage in your state is different than the federal minimum (Minnesota’s minimum, for example, is $10.08). So maybe you could go with whatever you are earning in your state.

Economist Dean Baker wrote in 2020 that “While the national minimum wage did rise roughly in step with productivity growth from its inception in 1938 until 1968, in the more than five decades since then, it has not even kept pace with inflation. However, if the minimum wage did rise in step with productivity growth since 1968 it would be over $24 an hour today.” We’ll leave that aside for now.

If you make closer to the median hourly wage for United Statesians, then it gets a little more complicated. The Economic Policy Institute reported in 2019 (most recent figures available) that the median hourly wage—the wage at which half the workforce is paid more and half the workforce is paid less—stands at $19.33 per hour. Thus, your Pledge would be $19.33 or $38.66.


Wealth vs Income

You might wish to base your contribution to Nygaard Notes (or anything) on your net worth rather than on your income. Remember, your income is what you EARN, while your net worth, or personal wealth, is what you HAVE.

Let’s say you want to Pledge one-tenth of 1% of your net worth to Nygaard Notes. A modest amount? Maybe not, when we consider that, in 2019, white families (who had the highest level of both median and mean family wealth) had a net worth of $188,200 and $983,400, respectively. One-tenth of 1% of those amounts would be $188.20 and $983.40, respectively. Send it in!

(Economics note: The “mean” is the same as the “average”. Add up all the numbers and divide the total by the numbers you just added up, and you get the mean. It can be misleading because, if you have a few billionaires mixed in with thousands of regular people, the average (mean) will be pretty high, too high to reflect reality. The number at which half the numbers are bigger and half the numbers are smaller is the median. The median is closer to what we might call the “typical,” and thus is usually a more meaningful number.)

Black families’ median and mean wealth is less than 15 percent that of White families, at $24,100 and $142,500, respectively. So, using this method a Nygaard Notes Pledge for a typical Black family would be $24.10 or, if you want to use the skewed average, you’d go with $142.50.

What the Federal Reserve (the central bank of the United States) calls “Hispanic families” have a median and mean wealth of $36,100 and $165,500, respectively, which leads to a Pledge of $36.10 or $165.50.

I have looked high and low for statistics on median net worth of indigenous people in the USA, but to give you an idea of what I ran up against, consider this parenthetical comment I found on the website of the Bush Foundation: “(Note: Native American wealth data is not available from the U.S. government, so Native Americans are excluded from most research on racial wealth gaps.)” The heading for the section where this comment appeared was “Racial Wealth Gaps Are Profound.”

It’s worth repeating here a comment that I have previously published, taken from an October 2017 report on the racial wealth gap by Prosperity Now. That report commented that “when it comes to Native American data, the issue for these communities is less often about how they are seen and more often about if they are seen.”

In fact, the most recent data we have is 21 years old! So we learn that “In 2000, the last time Native American wealth was systematically measured, the median net worth of Native households stood at just $5,700.” The arithmetic: White = $188,200. Native American = $5,700. That’s about 3 percent, speaking of “profound gaps.” If we go with that, a Nygaard Notes Pledge would come to $5.70.

Using such averages or medians is kind of ridiculous, really, but I wanted to remind people that generosity is relative, and that whatever amount anyone thinks that they can afford is affected by all sorts of factors, of which race is just one.

If these numbers interest you, I’ll tell you that this is all spelled out, and quite understandably I was surprised to discover, in a report on the website of the Federal Reserve called “Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances,” released in September of 2020.

Cutting to the Chase

As I said earlier, the simplest answer to the “How Much to Pledge?” question is: Just send in whatever you feel like sending in!

Whatever you decide to send, I will record it and then I will contact you in a year (or whenever I get around to it) and ask you to renew your Pledge. Most people do renew, but you don’t have to; these are gifts you are making, not prices you are paying. I used to send out Pledge reminder notices via the postal service, including pre-addressed and stamped envelopes, but I stopped doing that for environmental reasons. So you’ll get an email. Easier to ignore, I know…

Some people send in their annual Pledge even before I ask them to. I love it! Thank you!

However and whenever you pitch in to keep this unique and inimitable newsletter publishing,

I have only one thing to say:

Thank you for supporting Nygaard Notes!


Pandemic Footnote

I want to say a few words about the timing of this Pledge Drive, and about the Pledge Drive itself.

Since the year 2000 I have had periodic Pledge Drives like this, in which I ask readers to make gifts to support the production of Nygaard Notes. In 2018 and 2019 they came around in April. But then 2020 rolled around and, well… Just as I was gearing up for the 2020 Pledge Drive, the Pandemic was kicking into high gear, and I simply couldn’t bring myself to ask people for money. I know that many people have weathered the Pandemic well, and easily could have made a Pledge to the Notes. But so many people were being laid off, or their hours were cut back, or their small businesses were scraping by, and everyone was so stressed out. “I’ll put off the Pledge Drive for a few months,” I said to myself.

A few months! That was 18 months ago. And remember that it had been almost a year since the previous Pledge Drive, which occurred in April of 2019. So it has been two-and-a-half YEARS since the last Nygaard Notes Pledge Drive! Some of you recent subscribers may not even be aware that there is such a thing as a Nygaard Notes Pledge Drive!

There is such a thing.

How have I kept this newsletter publishing without Pledges? (You may ask). The way it works is this: When you send in a Pledge—let’s say, a Pledge of $24—I deposit it into a special bank account. Then every month for the next year I withdraw 1/12th of your Pledge, in this case $2.00, and “pay” it to myself. Combined with all the other Pledges, it all adds up to a modest amount of income, and that modest amount allows me to reduce the time I spend at my day job, giving me hours and hours every month to research, write, and edit Nygaard Notes.

What I have been doing for the past many months is to draw down the funds in my special bank account. Remember, I deposit your entire Pledge into the account and only withdraw it little by little. And now the balance is dropping rather low. The only reason it’s not zero is because a number of you renewed your Pledges without my even reminding you. You are amazing!

So, here we are: It’s the 2021 Pledge Drive. New Pledgers, renewing Pledgers, lapsed Pledgers, procrastinators, absent-minded Pledgers: This Pledge Drive is for YOU!

As long as you keep giving, Nygaard Notes will keep publishing. Deal? Deal!