Author Topic: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans  (Read 10531 times)

DadJokes

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The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« on: June 02, 2020, 08:36:28 AM »
This article is over 4 years old, but it popped up while reading something more recent, and I thought that it was an interesting read. I don't know if it fully belongs in the Antimustachian Wall of Shame, but it is a stark reminder that most people simply have no idea how to handle money.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/

Some notable quotes:

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We have no retirement savings, because we emptied a small 401(k) to pay for our younger daughter’s wedding.

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You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous.

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Choice, often in the face of ignorance, is certainly part of the story. Take me. I plead guilty. I am a financial illiterate, or worse—an ignoramus. I don’t offer that as an excuse, just as a fact. I made choices without thinking through the financial implications—in part because I didn’t know about those implications, and in part because I assumed I would always overcome any adversity, should it arrive. I chose to become a writer, which is a financially perilous profession, rather than do something more lucrative. I chose to live in New York rather than in a place with a lower cost of living. I chose to have two children. I chose to write long books that required years of work, even though my advances would be stretched to the breaking point and, it turned out, beyond. We all make those sorts of choices, and they obviously affect, even determine, our bottom line. But, without getting too metaphysical about it, these are the choices that define who we are. We don’t make them with our financial well-being in mind, though maybe we should. We make them with our lives in mind. The alternative is to be another person.

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Perhaps none of this would have happened if my income had grown the way incomes used to grow in America. It didn’t, and they don’t.

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And then, on top of it all, came the biggest shock, though one not unanticipated: college. Because I made too much money for the girls to get more than meager scholarships, but too little money to afford to pay for their educations in full, and because—another choice—we believed they had earned the right to attend good universities, universities of their choice, we found ourselves in a financial vortex. (I am not saying that universities are extortionists, but … universities are extortionists. One daughter’s college told me that because I could pay my mortgage, I could afford her tuition.) In the end, my parents wound up covering most of the cost of the girls’ educations. We couldn’t have done it any other way. Although I don’t have any regrets about that choice—one daughter went to Stanford, was a Rhodes Scholar, and is now at Harvard Medical School; the other went to Emory, joined WorldTeach and then AmeriCorps, got a master’s degree from the University of Texas, and became a licensed clinical social worker specializing in traumatized children—paying that tariff meant there would be no inheritance when my parents passed on. It meant that we had depleted not only our own small savings, but my parents’ as well.

On one hand, the writer takes blame, but he also doubles down and basically says that he doesn't regret some of the more expensive decisions.

Imma

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2020, 08:56:35 AM »
What confuses me quite often when I read American stories is that parents wonder how to pay for their children's weddings? Is that a big thing in your culture, is that a normal expectation, is there so much pressure on parents to do that that it's a serious concern? Because in my part of the world parents paying for a complete wedding would be really uncommon unless the parents were millionaires or something - and then I know a couple of millionaires who would never even consider that. I've heard of parents gifting the wedding dress or the cake or another very specific thing but the entire wedding?

Mr Imma and I are eternally engaged and will eventually get married but as getting married by definition is a sign of adulthood we would never expect our parents to pay for anything and I know they would flat out refuse if we'd ask. Most of our friends are married and I'm pretty sure none of their parents paid for anything.

ixtap

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2020, 09:08:05 AM »
The wedding thing is considered traditional, but I thought that tradition came from church reception halls and even pot luck dinners for middle class workers. You paid for clothes and flowers and maybe a photographer. I have no idea how it transitioned to special venues and elaborate catering that averages out to half the median household income.

DadJokes

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2020, 09:11:35 AM »
What confuses me quite often when I read American stories is that parents wonder how to pay for their children's weddings? Is that a big thing in your culture, is that a normal expectation, is there so much pressure on parents to do that that it's a serious concern? Because in my part of the world parents paying for a complete wedding would be really uncommon unless the parents were millionaires or something - and then I know a couple of millionaires who would never even consider that. I've heard of parents gifting the wedding dress or the cake or another very specific thing but the entire wedding?

Mr Imma and I are eternally engaged and will eventually get married but as getting married by definition is a sign of adulthood we would never expect our parents to pay for anything and I know they would flat out refuse if we'd ask. Most of our friends are married and I'm pretty sure none of their parents paid for anything.

In American culture, it's often expected for the bride's parents to pay for the wedding. Many people are shifting away from that, but it's still a thing.

My in-laws gave us $10k to pay for a wedding. We could use as much of it as we wanted and pocket the rest (or pay for the rest of the wedding out of pocket). I would probably offer the same if I had a daughter, simply because I can afford it. But emptying a 401(k) for a wedding is bonkers.

MudPuppy

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2020, 09:17:03 AM »
My dad gave me the price of my (hobbyist) photographer, my spouse’s dad called in a favor to a friend with a sound system. The rest my now-spouse and I paid for ourselves, which came to about $2500. We still use many of the items we bought for our wedding in our daily lives. That was almost 10 years ago, but it still doesn’t have to be expensive to have a wedding.


My spouse and I also paid for our own college, some scholarship, some cash, some student loans. I’ve never understood why people will sacrifice their own security to pay for their child’s college.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2020, 10:12:19 AM »
The wedding thing is considered traditional, but I thought that tradition came from church reception halls and even pot luck dinners for middle class workers. You paid for clothes and flowers and maybe a photographer. I have no idea how it transitioned to special venues and elaborate catering that averages out to half the median household income.
The tradition was for religious people to have a ceremony to basically commit to one another in the company of their religious community. This was sometimes followed with a celebration of some kind. The celebration was to introduce the families and social networks of the couple to one another, or-- if they came from the same social network-- to present them as a couple and a single social unit. The notion that it had to be some elaborate, expensive process is an invention of what some of us call the Wedding Industrial Complex.

The Wedding Industrial Complex consists of people who charge extortionate rates for things related to a wedding. This includes venue rentals, florists, musicians, photographers, purveyors of trinkets and clothing, and everyone else who can get in on the act. Prices are usually much higher for a wedding than for another kind of reception such as a retirement celebration or a landmark anniversary. Females are taught from an early age that their sole purpose in life is to have a Big Fancy Wedding featuring ridiculous amounts of conspicuous consumption because I WANNA BE A PRINCESS FOR A DAY. Back in the middle of the last century when marriage really did mean the end of a female person's life as an independent human being-- she didn't even get to keep her own name and in many cases her husband gained control of all her assets-- it was basically the last hurrah before a lifetime of butt-wiping servitude to others. Since dowries were going out of fashion, people started splurging on the ceremony and trying to outdo each other. The end result of all this nonsense is that luxuries became decencies, decencies became necessities, and the cult of conspicuous consumption became so entrenched that expensive doodads and luxuries became socially mandatory.

Bridal entitlement came partly from the gradual increase in expected conspicuous consumption and partly from the rise of a matrimaniac culture in the United States, where married people and couples are subsidized heavily at the expense of the uncoupled. Coitus, and being part of a heterosexual partnership, has been fetishized to the point where people who don't participate (despite being the majority of the population) are treated as second-class citizens. So the worship-the-bride trend became so pervasive that it's led to some pretty bizarre cases of bridal entitlement.

The things required for people to be legally married include a marriage license and an officiant fee. Sometimes there are mandatory blood tests. For religious couples there's a sacrament of some sort, and the cost depends on the necessary ritual. Overall, you're looking at expenses on the order of a few hundred dollars. Everything else is extra. There's no actual requirement for rings, a dress purchased to be used just once, photography, a reception, a honeymoon, or any of the things couples spend money on. Yes, a few such things-- if affordable-- do make it nicer for the new couple and their families and communities. But mostly it's expensive window dressing.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2020, 10:27:19 AM »
On one hand, the writer takes blame, but he also doubles down and basically says that he doesn't regret some of the more expensive decisions.
He and his wife appear to be self-absorbed enough to believe he has the right to drain his parents' retirement savings along with their own, to enable some extremely overpriced educations. The one at Harvard Medical might eventually earn enough to repay her parents (but probably won't). The one who's a social worker will be very lucky to make the median income. Are either of the kiddos willing or able to care for their grandparents or their parents in old age?

martyconlonontherun

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2020, 10:38:06 AM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tamC-M8TxtY

Mixed feelings about this guy. He has some good points but shouldn't there be some shame for these people? He is showing "out word signs of success and is constantly broke" ------ I threw big parties, lived in the Hamptons, etc, you should feel sorry for me in my financial situation. He isn't like the butcher who lost money due to his kids income. He seems to be grouping himself in with people who had real reasons to struggle.

It can be extremely cheap to live in America if you make right choices. Not sure I feel sorry for any household making greater than 75k*.

*Obviously, families in HCOL that are tied there for some reason, excluded. Not "oh I want to live in East Hamptoms"

Imma

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2020, 11:33:49 AM »
The wedding thing is considered traditional, but I thought that tradition came from church reception halls and even pot luck dinners for middle class workers. You paid for clothes and flowers and maybe a photographer. I have no idea how it transitioned to special venues and elaborate catering that averages out to half the median household income.

It was like that in my grandparents' day but weddings were coffee and cake after Mass at the bride's parish church. Back then in post-war Europe even the cream on the cake was a luxury.

I think in general marriage is still a much bigger thing in the US than it seems to be in my part of the world. Some people get married and have big parties but it isn't a huge thing whether you get married or not, except for certain religious/ethnic groups. Of course we have bridezilla's but the rest of society seems pretty rational about marriage.

I have by now finished the article and except for private education I'm still not sure what the author spent his money on - he says he didn't live extravagantly, his costs were just higher than his income. But he also claims to have an upper-middle class income. He says he's a penny pincher. But then where did the money go?

mm1970

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2020, 06:32:53 PM »
Both the college thing and the wedding thing are tough, and a LOT of it depends on who you hang out with.  I remember reading this article when it came out.

If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh...I went to really expensive university (as did my spouse), at the level of Harvard and Stanford.  However, spouse's parents said "yeah, we can't afford that" so he joined ROTC to pay for tuition.  My parents were divorced and I got a lot of financial aid (we were poor), but I looked at the costs the first year and immediately joined ROTC also.  I earned a 3-year scholarship.  There are still ways for middle class kids to go to fancy schools, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it in the current climate.

If you are a really poor kid, or you have a good head on your shoulders, or your parents are either not interested it all or very matter of fact, you'll maybe get good advice.  CC for 2 years, transfer to uni later, you'll be fine.  State school.  Etc.  If you are middle class and you are really smart and you hang with all these kids going to Stanford or MIT or Harvard?  It's hard to hold off on that.  My kid wants to go to such an expensive school.  Right now I'm just hoping he won't get in (but we can afford it, regardless).  Parents have to be blunt, and not all parents can be blunt. Especially if these schools have such cache.

My college buddies complain about how expensive our alma mater is "can't afford to send my kid there".  Well, we were all in ROTC, so it's not like your parents could afford it 30 years ago either (but yeah, it's way worse now).

On the wedding thing...I really really didn't want a wedding.  Hate being the center of attention.  Hate it.  I lost that battle to my spouse, but he paid for the wedding.  And, it was reasonably sized and priced for the time.  Weddings have been growing in size and fanciness for years.  Now it's not just the wedding, but ... if you got engaged on a fabulous vacation to Europe, then your honeymoon MUST be better and longer and more expensive.  Set a $20k budget?  Well, $30k is okay.  Don't get me started on the destination bachelor parties.

Bloop Bloop

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2020, 06:40:56 PM »
A couple of things -

1. I'm not convinced the article is written in good faith. I suspect it's written to grab as many clicks as possible, to earn the author some money. I am sure that there are many middle-class Americans who have very bad financial habits but I'm also sure there are many middle-class (and poor, and rich) Americans who have very good habits.

2. In my experience it is mostly new money that spends on lavish weddings. Financially secure middle / upper-middle class folks will have a nice, not-cheap, but not lavish wedding. I think if your wedding is particularly lavish it would cause a lot of people to assume that you are financially insecure and compensating for something.

MudPuppy

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2020, 06:44:38 PM »
I came from a family that kind of hugged the poverty line, however, due to some choices made by the adults, we both had no money and wouldn’t have qualified for much income scholarships. I was able to
 make a reasonable stab at school because the year I graduated was the year my state instituted a lottery scholarship for pretty much all high school graduates. Via loans and via that scholarship, I am in a significantly better financial situation than my family of origin is.


better late

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2020, 09:36:26 PM »


If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh...

Harvard at least but I think Stanford and some other elite schools now have surprisingly generous financial aid. Free for incomes under $65k for example.

Maenad

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2020, 09:59:16 AM »
I have by now finished the article and except for private education I'm still not sure what the author spent his money on - he says he didn't live extravagantly, his costs were just higher than his income. But he also claims to have an upper-middle class income. He says he's a penny pincher. But then where did the money go?

I think this is a common problem - people like to think of themselves as financially moderate. They don't earn a lot, and don't spend a lot. But when everyone thinks that of themselves, and so many people overspend despite calling themselves "frugal", you know there's something missing. If they aren't keeping a budget and can account for every dollar, they're simply lying to themselves about how responsible they are. We as a species are really good at that.

talltexan

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2020, 02:48:12 PM »
Being caught in that trap where your income doesn't increase from your 20's into later was my biggest fear. It was why I aggressively set aside money beginning in my late 20's (I completed graduate school at 28).

One place where I've done nothing tangible: college savings.

EricEng

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2020, 03:39:55 PM »
1. I'm not convinced the article is written in good faith. I suspect it's written to grab as many clicks as possible, to earn the author some money.

And get clicks he did:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/antimustachian-wall-of-shame-and-comedy/the-secret-shame-
Even if we direct a thousand clicks to his article, that's practically no money...

The_Big_H

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2020, 01:15:59 AM »

If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh

FAFSA hacking.  If one can FIRE before kids are 16yo, have all assets in retirement accounts / house, and pull very little earned income, then they will calculate you as unable to afford much of anything and get more grants/subsidized loans.

Wrenchturner

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2020, 02:21:15 AM »

If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh

FAFSA hacking.  If one can FIRE before kids are 16yo, have all assets in retirement accounts / house, and pull very little earned income, then they will calculate you as unable to afford much of anything and get more grants/subsidized loans.

I think this works well in Canada too.  Keep all your wealth in assets and keep your income down and you can minimize income taxes and maximize benefits. 

mm1970

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2020, 10:48:19 AM »


If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh...

Harvard at least but I think Stanford and some other elite schools now have surprisingly generous financial aid. Free for incomes under $65k for example.
$65k in most of California is actually not middle class, it's below that.

Stanford is generous, yes.  Even though they say "no tuition if family income is less than $125,000", their calculator shows that net cost for one year at Stanford, for a family making $124,500 is $22,200 a year, $17,200 of that is parental contribution.  That's 14% of the family income.  I don't consider that affordable for most.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #20 on: June 04, 2020, 11:00:03 AM »


If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh...

Harvard at least but I think Stanford and some other elite schools now have surprisingly generous financial aid. Free for incomes under $65k for example.
$65k in most of California is actually not middle class, it's below that.

Stanford is generous, yes.  Even though they say "no tuition if family income is less than $125,000", their calculator shows that net cost for one year at Stanford, for a family making $124,500 is $22,200 a year, $17,200 of that is parental contribution.  That's 14% of the family income.  I don't consider that affordable for most.
No tuition also doesn't mean that book fees or accommodations are free or low-cost. Where I live, in-state tuition and lottery scholarships mean that a student who lives at home can generally graduate debt-free even if his or her family can't afford to contribute cash. A tuition-only scholarship out of state that doesn't take living expenses into account simply can't compete with that.

ditheca

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #21 on: June 04, 2020, 04:18:26 PM »
... emptying a 401(k) for a wedding is bonkers.

My wife's grandparents desperately wanted to contribute to her wedding, even though they were broke. In order to buy her a $1500 wedding dress, they:
  • fell behind on their mortgage payments
  • ... to pay back a 401k loan
  • ... to take out a larger 401k loan
She wore it twice. We were both sad she didn't get to wear the gorgeous white kimono she already owned.

A few years later, the grandparents filed for bankruptcy.

habanero

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #22 on: June 04, 2020, 04:33:52 PM »
A few years back I was at my parent's place and used their car to go skiing. I noticed the tank was almost empty so I filled it up, I had just been for a short drive. Day after my dad noticed and he made a rather strong point of how I shouldn't do that and it was not required and so on. I didn't really respond but took notice. I mean, I stay at their place for free, I eat their food for free, I borrow the car for free, I serve myself from dad's whisky stash and so on. Both my parents are retired and I make way more than the both of them combined but still he had to make a point about me filling up the tank.

Guess parents also never stop being parents.

talltexan

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2020, 08:32:40 AM »
@habaneroNorway the trick there is you should have filled the tank but not all the way to "full". Enough that you were assuaging your own need to contribute, but not so much that he would notice it had been filled up.

sherr

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2020, 03:00:23 PM »
My wife's grandparents desperately wanted to contribute to her wedding, even though they were broke. In order to buy her a $1500 wedding dress, they:
  • fell behind on their mortgage payments
  • ... to pay back a 401k loan
  • ... to take out a larger 401k loan
She wore it twice. We were both sad she didn't get to wear the gorgeous white kimono she already owned.

A few years later, the grandparents filed for bankruptcy.

:(

If it makes you feel any better, they were probably going to go bankrupt regardless of the dress purchase. That may have even been part of their decision-making process; "give the grandkid one last gift while we can".

exterous

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #25 on: June 06, 2020, 05:14:08 PM »
The wedding thing is considered traditional, but I thought that tradition came from church reception halls and even pot luck dinners for middle class workers. You paid for clothes and flowers and maybe a photographer. I have no idea how it transitioned to special venues and elaborate catering that averages out to half the median household income.
The Wedding Industrial Complex consists of people who charge extortionate rates for things related to a wedding. This includes venue rentals, florists, musicians, photographers, purveyors of trinkets and clothing, and everyone else who can get in on the act. Prices are usually much higher for a wedding than for another kind of reception such as a retirement celebration or a landmark anniversary.

We've had a photography side business for about 6 years now and we charge more for weddings because it is a lot more work and stress. We'll actually turn down weddings because of that but I don't think we've ever turned down family\reunion portraits, bah-mitzvahs, real estate etc jobs. But then those don't involve constantly corralling drunk Groomsmen for pictures, relatives that are surly and pissed off because they think something should have been done a certain way (and care way more about that because it's a wedding), amateur officiants who forget 2/3 of the ceremony and skip right to "You may kiss the bride" so you're totally out of position to get the critical shots or any of the other countless stressors of that day.

So while some of the prices being high is because people can get away with it for a wedding some is due to the stress\complexity\greater chance of drunken shenanigans\damage*

*some fancier venues require we show proof of higher insurance coverage for weddings than other events because of this

Monerexia

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #26 on: June 06, 2020, 08:38:27 PM »
i was somewhat embarrassed for him and his lack of insight. At one point in the video when the interviewer asks him to take accountability. He does, but then walks it back by saying something like, "but then again, these expenses are just 'life.'" Bunch of words to complicate and obfuscate the simple fact he and many others are living beyond their means. People can do what they want, but then to complain about these kinds of things is like complaining that physics problems should have the answers you want them to have, not the answers they do. So unfair!

Panly

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2020, 08:14:31 AM »

so the secret shame of the middle class is that they have no 400USD emergency fund, but two daughters as Ivy league graduates, while living in the Hamptons - as house owners.


Ivy league universities must be big places, if 47% of american households have children there.


But perhaps I didn't get what the shame for the 47 percent is about.



SwordGuy

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #28 on: June 07, 2020, 08:24:39 AM »
I think he's a whiny dumbass.   He made a whole series of stupid financial choices, most of which were obviously stupid, and then feels sorry for himself.


bacchi

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #29 on: June 07, 2020, 01:15:50 PM »
Long Island isn't entirely an enclave of the rich but there's not a single house for sale under $1M in East Hampton. There's 1 house for $350k outside of town and he may live in that neighborhood and just use the "East Hampton" address for prestige.

Maybe the title should be, "The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans Who Want to Appear Like They're Wealthy".

ixtap

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #30 on: June 07, 2020, 01:37:04 PM »
I think he's a whiny dumbass.   He made a whole series of stupid financial choices, most of which were obviously stupid, and then feels sorry for himself.

The title should read "The Shamelessness of the American Upper Middle Class"

BTDretire

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #31 on: June 09, 2020, 06:21:16 AM »
What confuses me quite often when I read American stories is that parents wonder how to pay for their children's weddings? Is that a big thing in your culture, is that a normal expectation, is there so much pressure on parents to do that that it's a serious concern? Because in my part of the world parents paying for a complete wedding would be really uncommon unless the parents were millionaires or something - and then I know a couple of millionaires who would never even consider that. I've heard of parents gifting the wedding dress or the cake or another very specific thing but the entire wedding?

Mr Imma and I are eternally engaged and will eventually get married but as getting married by definition is a sign of adulthood we would never expect our parents to pay for anything and I know they would flat out refuse if we'd ask. Most of our friends are married and I'm pretty sure none of their parents paid for anything.

In American culture, it's often expected for the bride's parents to pay for the wedding. Many people are shifting away from that, but it's still a thing.

My in-laws gave us $10k to pay for a wedding. We could use as much of it as we wanted and pocket the rest (or pay for the rest of the wedding out of pocket). I would probably offer the same if I had a daughter, simply because I can afford it. But emptying a 401(k) for a wedding is bonkers.

 I told my daughter (before marriage was a thought) to elope, and we would giver her $20k for a house down payment. As it turned out, her boyfriend was getting shipped overseas, he ask me to marry her. I said no! Let here finish college first. They secretly got married. And he got shipped overseas.
  They didn't tell us about getting married, I figured it out when I got a letter from the IRS, saying someone else used this SS# as a deduction. I ended up with the deduction, I offered more support.
 Then after he returned, he got a 0% down payment loan, through his military service. So we didn't offer the down payment. I'm glad.
 He ended up cheating and she dropped him like a dumbbell.  I'm still mad I funded his IRA while the cheating was going on.
  Five or six years later she is happily married to someone we think is a great guy. We are now paying for her to go to dental school. I would have rather paid the $20k.  :-)

 

Just Joe

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #32 on: June 10, 2020, 10:54:16 AM »
Maybe some of these broke Americans need to quit social media and watching TV. Maybe focus on real life and quit getting tugged around by all the advertising...

jinga nation

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #33 on: June 10, 2020, 12:59:23 PM »
Maybe some of these broke Americans need to quit social media and watching TV. Maybe focus on real life and quit getting tugged around by all the advertising...
but all they mainly watch is reality TV, which has plenty of social media cross-promotion. It's all merged into one frothy broth of yuck.

Just Joe

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #34 on: June 10, 2020, 01:08:32 PM »
I guess less media consumption for some of us is freeing the mind and for others - it sparks loneliness and emptiness.

ixtap

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #35 on: June 10, 2020, 01:09:28 PM »
Pssst, if you are here, you are a consumer of social media.

Just Joe

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #36 on: June 10, 2020, 01:49:47 PM »
True - but not quite like Twitter or Facebook. Or reality TV. ;)

At least reading the chat here teaches useful skills. Unless we get derailed by foam. Color of an aircraft black box and was the dress blue or gold?
« Last Edit: June 10, 2020, 01:51:36 PM by Just Joe »

Sugaree

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #37 on: June 10, 2020, 02:37:27 PM »

If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh

FAFSA hacking.  If one can FIRE before kids are 16yo, have all assets in retirement accounts / house, and pull very little earned income, then they will calculate you as unable to afford much of anything and get more grants/subsidized loans.


My best friend and I have joked about arranging a marriage between my son and her daughter when they turn 18 so that they both qualify as independent students. 

The_Big_H

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #38 on: June 11, 2020, 12:48:35 AM »

If you are a middle class family, depending on who you hang out with, it is really cool to go to Stanford or Harvard.  But honestly, it's not affordable for most people.  The really poor?  Yes (a neighbor kid went to Yale on full scholarship.)  The wealthy?  Sure.  The middle class...meh

FAFSA hacking.  If one can FIRE before kids are 16yo, have all assets in retirement accounts / house, and pull very little earned income, then they will calculate you as unable to afford much of anything and get more grants/subsidized loans.


My best friend and I have joked about arranging a marriage between my son and her daughter when they turn 18 so that they both qualify as independent students.

Due to circumstances we set our wedding ceremony in janurary but married at the JOTP in December so we would be MFJ that year. The tax savings realized was 80% the wedding expense.

talltexan

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #39 on: June 11, 2020, 02:43:37 PM »
True - but not quite like Twitter or Facebook. Or reality TV. ;)

At least reading the chat here teaches useful skills. Unless we get derailed by foam. Color of an aircraft black box and was the dress blue or gold?

I actually thought the blue/gold dress thing was a neat example of our sensory perceptions are fundamentally physical, not mental. Probably superior to most of the social media content we consume.

projekt

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #40 on: June 11, 2020, 03:40:06 PM »
Sorry, no mention of the bridal industry is complete without this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ff13zZ0h0k

Just Joe

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #41 on: June 17, 2020, 01:08:37 PM »
True - but not quite like Twitter or Facebook. Or reality TV. ;)

At least reading the chat here teaches useful skills. Unless we get derailed by foam. Color of an aircraft black box and was the dress blue or gold?

I actually thought the blue/gold dress thing was a neat example of our sensory perceptions are fundamentally physical, not mental. Probably superior to most of the social media content we consume.

I like the foam. I'm still usually learning something.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #42 on: June 17, 2020, 01:51:01 PM »
I wore my one suit I own (still the only suit I own 15 years later) to our wedding and my wife wore a dress a friend made for her. We got married in the courthouse with my parents and her oldest brother and his wife as our witnesses. Our reception was at a restaurant and it was most of my extended family that lived in the area - perhaps 20-25 people total. I think my parents paid for the food and a cake which was probably $500 or so. Aside from our wedding rings we spent a few hundred dollars or so.

We got remarried in the Catholic Church several years later and my wife worse the same wedding dress and I wore my Army Dress Uniform. It was a ceremony for couples that were already married so we were one of a dozen or so going through the process. I think we had some family over to our house afterwards but really spent little or no money on the whole thing.


A friend of mine recently got married and I believe spent something like $30-40k. He moved the wedding from San Francisco to L.A. because everything was cheaper there (relatively speaking) by about $10k total. I think they had 50-100 guests. They're in their mid-30s and their household income is well into the six figures so they could afford it. I can't even fathom spending that much on a single day. Meanwhile I've helped plan Dining In/Dining Out events (formal dinner with or without outside guests) for my National Guard unit and we have spent maybe a few thousand dollars to feed 100+ people in a nice ballroom.

talltexan

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #43 on: June 18, 2020, 07:27:16 AM »
I wore my one suit I own (still the only suit I own 15 years later) to our wedding and my wife wore a dress a friend made for her. We got married in the courthouse with my parents and her oldest brother and his wife as our witnesses. Our reception was at a restaurant and it was most of my extended family that lived in the area - perhaps 20-25 people total. I think my parents paid for the food and a cake which was probably $500 or so. Aside from our wedding rings we spent a few hundred dollars or so.

We got remarried in the Catholic Church several years later and my wife worse the same wedding dress and I wore my Army Dress Uniform. It was a ceremony for couples that were already married so we were one of a dozen or so going through the process. I think we had some family over to our house afterwards but really spent little or no money on the whole thing.


A friend of mine recently got married and I believe spent something like $30-40k. He moved the wedding from San Francisco to L.A. because everything was cheaper there (relatively speaking) by about $10k total. I think they had 50-100 guests. They're in their mid-30s and their household income is well into the six figures so they could afford it. I can't even fathom spending that much on a single day. Meanwhile I've helped plan Dining In/Dining Out events (formal dinner with or without outside guests) for my National Guard unit and we have spent maybe a few thousand dollars to feed 100+ people in a nice ballroom.

Your friend who spent $30k on his wedding has an income about equal to the peak earning of the article author, so...hopefully he has a plan to growth that income and dig out of the financial hole spending 1/3 of a year's income on a party can create.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #44 on: June 18, 2020, 09:00:38 AM »
I wore my one suit I own (still the only suit I own 15 years later) to our wedding and my wife wore a dress a friend made for her. We got married in the courthouse with my parents and her oldest brother and his wife as our witnesses. Our reception was at a restaurant and it was most of my extended family that lived in the area - perhaps 20-25 people total. I think my parents paid for the food and a cake which was probably $500 or so. Aside from our wedding rings we spent a few hundred dollars or so.

We got remarried in the Catholic Church several years later and my wife worse the same wedding dress and I wore my Army Dress Uniform. It was a ceremony for couples that were already married so we were one of a dozen or so going through the process. I think we had some family over to our house afterwards but really spent little or no money on the whole thing.


A friend of mine recently got married and I believe spent something like $30-40k. He moved the wedding from San Francisco to L.A. because everything was cheaper there (relatively speaking) by about $10k total. I think they had 50-100 guests. They're in their mid-30s and their household income is well into the six figures so they could afford it. I can't even fathom spending that much on a single day. Meanwhile I've helped plan Dining In/Dining Out events (formal dinner with or without outside guests) for my National Guard unit and we have spent maybe a few thousand dollars to feed 100+ people in a nice ballroom.

Your friend who spent $30k on his wedding has an income about equal to the peak earning of the article author, so...hopefully he has a plan to growth that income and dig out of the financial hole spending 1/3 of a year's income on a party can create.

For my friend that was probably more like a month's income, he's an executive at a large tech company and his wife is a nurse practitioner. Their household income is probably $400k+/-.

ixtap

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #45 on: June 18, 2020, 09:07:42 AM »
I wore my one suit I own (still the only suit I own 15 years later) to our wedding and my wife wore a dress a friend made for her. We got married in the courthouse with my parents and her oldest brother and his wife as our witnesses. Our reception was at a restaurant and it was most of my extended family that lived in the area - perhaps 20-25 people total. I think my parents paid for the food and a cake which was probably $500 or so. Aside from our wedding rings we spent a few hundred dollars or so.

We got remarried in the Catholic Church several years later and my wife worse the same wedding dress and I wore my Army Dress Uniform. It was a ceremony for couples that were already married so we were one of a dozen or so going through the process. I think we had some family over to our house afterwards but really spent little or no money on the whole thing.


A friend of mine recently got married and I believe spent something like $30-40k. He moved the wedding from San Francisco to L.A. because everything was cheaper there (relatively speaking) by about $10k total. I think they had 50-100 guests. They're in their mid-30s and their household income is well into the six figures so they could afford it. I can't even fathom spending that much on a single day. Meanwhile I've helped plan Dining In/Dining Out events (formal dinner with or without outside guests) for my National Guard unit and we have spent maybe a few thousand dollars to feed 100+ people in a nice ballroom.

Your friend who spent $30k on his wedding has an income about equal to the peak earning of the article author, so...hopefully he has a plan to growth that income and dig out of the financial hole spending 1/3 of a year's income on a party can create.

You seem to be thinking of "mid six figures" as rounding to $100k, rather than $500k.

talltexan

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #46 on: June 19, 2020, 02:04:38 PM »
Indeed one-month's income for a wedding seems pretty restrained.

Cassie

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #47 on: June 22, 2020, 06:28:09 PM »
I have always seen big weddings as a waste. You can have a nice one on a budget. That guy spending his parent’s money on his kids is terrible. They should have refused.

js82

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #48 on: June 24, 2020, 05:15:17 AM »
I have always seen big weddings as a waste. You can have a nice one on a budget. That guy spending his parent’s money on his kids is terrible. They should have refused.

While I'm in the same camp, there are major cultural components to this, as well as the personalities of the people involved.  Some cultures have a huge bias towards big weddings(i.e. inviting all the extended family from both sides, is a baseline expectation).  And I'd be willing to bet that extroverts tend to have much larger weddings than introverts.

For me personally I think it's my introvert tendencies that push me in this direction as much as anything.

Sugaree

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #49 on: June 24, 2020, 05:28:34 AM »
I have always seen big weddings as a waste. You can have a nice one on a budget. That guy spending his parent’s money on his kids is terrible. They should have refused.

While I'm in the same camp, there are major cultural components to this, as well as the personalities of the people involved.  Some cultures have a huge bias towards big weddings(i.e. inviting all the extended family from both sides, is a baseline expectation).  And I'd be willing to bet that extroverts tend to have much larger weddings than introverts.

For me personally I think it's my introvert tendencies that push me in this direction as much as anything.

My first wedding wasn't a huge event, but wasn't cheap.  My ex had certain...expectations.  He came from an old money family, and liked to act like he had the money to go along with the name.  For example, a friend of my dad's does calligraphy as a hobby and offered to do our envelopes as a gift.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the envelopes that we had chosen didn't take the ink or something (smeared so badly that they became unreadable).  Dear God, you would have thought that this was a tragedy worth of the ancient Greeks.  He pitched a temper tantrum and decreed that if they didn't have fancy addresses then just don't send them to his side of the family.  This was about the time I realized that, just maybe, marrying this fool was a bad idea.  Unfortunately, I felt like it was too late to back out.  It turns out it really is cheaper to give up deposits than to get divorced.

The second time around, I would have been okay running down to the Keys and being married by a sailboat captain.  But my husband wanted a wedding since his first marriage was at the courthouse because she needed insurance.  We had a decidedly small affair considering that my BIL and SIL's wedding a few months prior had to have run at least $100k. 

Our original budget was $5000 but I think we ended up going over that by a bit.  We rented a lodge for the weekend, self-catered the rehearsal dinner and the bar (my parents and some of their friends hooked us up with duty-free liquor from a cruise).  I ordered wholesale flowers and made bouquets and stuff myself.  I worked for a caterer for awhile and he cut me a good deal on the food (plus I knew I could get away with lowballing the headcount and still ended up with SO many leftovers).  We got married in January, outside, in a venue that had these three huge stone fireplaces.  For months, my husband cut, split, and stacked whatever he could get his hands on as firewood.  The day of the wedding rolled around and it was 75 degrees.  We ended up selling the firewood and covering at least half of the cost of the lodge rental.  Resold the table linens within three days of posting them on FB the week after the wedding.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 05:30:59 AM by Sugaree »