Author Topic: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans  (Read 216232 times)

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #100 on: April 22, 2016, 07:51:23 AM »
All colleges have financial aid calculators online (required by Congress). I put in estimates of his income ($150,000?) and home equity ($0?) and it appears that he would have received a lot of aid from Stanford for one of the daughter's undergraduate education. He says colleges are extortionists, but is he taking massive aid and then calling them names?

I'm not sure that student loan debt over $50, $100K, $150K can be considered "aid."  At some point, gigantic student loan debt becomes crushing debt that prevents a middle class lifestyle depending on income and job security.  If parents guarantee the loans, then the crushing debt can become multi-generational.  The alternative, not attending college, also inhibits a middle class lifestyle.  Even dual income households are unable to live the same lifestyle with the same retirement security that single income households were able to achieve 50 years ago.  This may be because they are not managing their money perfectly and overspending on their children but the reality is is that most people in every generation engage is less than optimal financial decision making.  The difference is that when you have retirement security via a pension, your dumb financial decisions made in your twenties, thirties and forties are not as pronounced.  Making bad financial decisions when you are young and invincible is simply human nature.  Foisting an economic system that ignores human nature will cause many more problems than it will solve.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 08:01:17 AM by Sid888 »

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #101 on: April 22, 2016, 07:56:37 AM »
The comment section is pretty encouraging, I don't see a ton of people crying over the unfairness of this guy's suffering.

This guy's situation, along with half the country apparently is reason enough to talk about fixing Social Security and/or figuring out how Gen X and Millenials are going to retire. Ya think the shrieks are bad now that the boomers are hitting retirement? Hell, at least Boomers bought houses, us millenials don't even buy houses! Stagnant wages, and growing health care costs are going to decimate this generation upon retirement.

You know who really doesn't buy houses - Generation Z! The true entitlement generation; almost all of them still living with parents, very few if any have full time jobs, they just want to sit around and play video games and shop at the mall (with mommy and daddy's money, of course).  How in the hell are THOSE people going to retire!?

Generation Z will have a rough road.  Student loan debt coupled with Gen X and Millennials chasing retirement security by working into their late sixties and  buying up cheap homes and jacking up the rents will make it tough for many of them to build wealth in the same manner that we are able to do it now.  Of course, there will be Generation Z billionaires in new and existing fields, but I suspect that the nation's current do it yourself retirement system that almost mandates generational exploitation (why not, we're already discussing Karl Marx) will result in further erosion of the middle class.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 08:03:42 AM by Sid888 »

plainjane

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #102 on: April 22, 2016, 07:59:53 AM »
We are incredibly frugal and savers and we had three years in a row with medical emergencies - we hit our OUT OF POCKET max two years in a row. Another year would have taken us perilously close to draining our non retirement "emergency" savings. Then our 12 year old fridge died, then our water heater leaked, then our cat got sick, then an ice storm put a tree through roof, now our 14 year old car is on it's last legs. It was a rough three years.

Stories like this also emphasize the importance of the order of returns.  You are dealing well because your rough three years are after several years here you had a chance to create a buffer for yourselves.  If they had happened at the beginning, you'd be digging out with interest rates against you.

It's a success that you've been able to cope with all that and still didn't drain the emergency savings - that's what they're there for.  You should pat yourselves on the back.

Making Cookies

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #103 on: April 22, 2016, 08:04:00 AM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #104 on: April 22, 2016, 08:14:28 AM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

A system that requires marriage (and not having children) to pay off student loan debt seems a bit broken to me.

StarBright

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #105 on: April 22, 2016, 08:33:33 AM »
[

 . . .So these days, I think a lot of people that I know aren't savvy on how to fix things, or don't want to, or don't have the time.  That can come to bite them.  I've got neighbors and friends who have had problems with leaky roofs, blocked sewer lines (we have one of those too!), etc.  The guy with a SAHM doesn't have much money, so he does it all himself out of necessity (especially when the sewer repair was quoted at $17k).  Some of the other neighbors moan about not being able to pay to replace the roof, but they spend thousands every year on vacations and entertainment.

I've gotten questions like:
"How did you pay for your roof?"  With a check.
"What are you going to do about the sewer main?" Pay for someone to replace it.

Now, we are lucky, I suppose, that we are frugal enough and high income enough to be able to weather it.  But part of it is just growing up and knowing that things are going to break.  Am I happy about the $4500 tax bill followed by the $8500 sewer bill?  No.  Ouch.  But we have the money.

And part of it is time too - the families with 2 working parents are crunched for time - so it's a lot harder to replace your own roof when you've got three kids and a wife who works full time.  You pick your battles.

MM1970 - Yes! I am picking up what you are puttin' down. This is such a fantastic point and I think it is very generational. My grandparents on both sides grew up in the depression and were poor but man, they knew how to to do stuff! Cook, Sew, build, take care of horses, raise chickens, etc. Post WWII the grandfathers moved into Union jobs (Ford and Bell Telephone) and lived middle class lives in the suburbs: 1 car, nice little houses and they took pride in being able to hire people for less interesting tasks. My parents grew up in late 50s and 60s and lived golden age childhoods. They still knew how to do some stuff (basic home repair, yard work, basic car maintenance) but they didn't learn the survival skills of their parents. My parents in turn were the first in their families to get white collar jobs and outsourced even more.

So I grew up in the 80s and 90s and learned less than my parents because they hired out things like car maintenance but I can still do cosmetic stuff and yard work. My husband, conversely, grew up distinctly upper middle class and had never mowed a lawn or painted a wall or refinished a floor until he met me.

It is the whole point of the middle class and parenting, right? To have your children be better off than you. And I think that is where this sense of dread and failure is coming from - my kids might not be better off than me and we might not be able to offer them a childhood and young adulthood that was better than ours even though we're scrambling to do so. This is where folks fall into the credit trap.

Which brings us to now and going forward. I think it is okay to admit and embrace that we might not be able to do what our parents did. I think it is fair to say that things might be harder  in some ways now when comparing middle class to middle class. The big thing (and what the author of the original Atlantic piece did not do) is to accept the reality and try to live with it (while also potentially trying to change it). You can live within your means and still advocate what you think is a fairer tax system or education system or whatever!

I think this is a really interesting and actually, distinctly American and middle class issue. In so many cases I think it comes down to how do we give our children a better life. It is the American mythos - work hard and you and your family will prosper and better things will keep coming your way. It's a little religious (the righteous prosper) and bit a nationalist and full of American exceptionalism and it might all be false (and that's okay) on a large scale. So on an individual level it might come down to living within your means, but on a larger scale it might take rewriting the prescriptive narrative of the American Middle Class.

Sorry for the ramble. y'all but I love this thread and it is helping me clarify some thoughts on this issue :)


jody

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #106 on: April 22, 2016, 09:00:48 AM »
All colleges have financial aid calculators online (required by Congress). I put in estimates of his income ($150,000?) and home equity ($0?) and it appears that he would have received a lot of aid from Stanford for one of the daughter's undergraduate education. He says colleges are extortionists, but is he taking massive aid and then calling them names?

I'm not sure that student loan debt over $50, $100K, $150K can be considered "aid."  At some point, gigantic student loan debt becomes crushing debt that prevents a middle class lifestyle depending on income and job security.  If parents guarantee the loans, then the crushing debt can become multi-generational.  The alternative, not attending college, also inhibits a middle class lifestyle.  Even dual income households are unable to live the same lifestyle with the same retirement security that single income households were able to achieve 50 years ago.  This may be because they are not managing their money perfectly and overspending on their children but the reality is is that most people in every generation engage is less than optimal financial decision making.  The difference is that when you have retirement security via a pension, your dumb financial decisions made in your twenties, thirties and forties are not as pronounced.  Making bad financial decisions when you are young and invincible is simply human nature.  Foisting an economic system that ignores human nature will cause many more problems than it will solve.

The Stanford calculator says they would get $41,000 of grant aid per year with no loans in the package. ($64,900 total costs = $41,000 grant aid + $18,900 parental contribution + $2,200 student contribution + $2,800 student academic year job + $0 loans)

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #107 on: April 22, 2016, 09:09:00 AM »
All colleges have financial aid calculators online (required by Congress). I put in estimates of his income ($150,000?) and home equity ($0?) and it appears that he would have received a lot of aid from Stanford for one of the daughter's undergraduate education. He says colleges are extortionists, but is he taking massive aid and then calling them names?

I'm not sure that student loan debt over $50, $100K, $150K can be considered "aid."  At some point, gigantic student loan debt becomes crushing debt that prevents a middle class lifestyle depending on income and job security.  If parents guarantee the loans, then the crushing debt can become multi-generational.  The alternative, not attending college, also inhibits a middle class lifestyle.  Even dual income households are unable to live the same lifestyle with the same retirement security that single income households were able to achieve 50 years ago.  This may be because they are not managing their money perfectly and overspending on their children but the reality is is that most people in every generation engage is less than optimal financial decision making.  The difference is that when you have retirement security via a pension, your dumb financial decisions made in your twenties, thirties and forties are not as pronounced.  Making bad financial decisions when you are young and invincible is simply human nature.  Foisting an economic system that ignores human nature will cause many more problems than it will solve.

The Stanford calculator says they would get $41,000 of grant aid per year with no loans in the package. ($64,900 total costs = $41,000 grant aid + $18,900 parental contribution + $2,200 student contribution + $2,800 student academic year job + $0 loans)

So our higher ed funding system also works if everyone goes to Stanford (and the parents pay $20K annually)?
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 09:10:54 AM by Sid888 »

FINate

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #108 on: April 22, 2016, 09:30:45 AM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

A system that requires marriage (and not having children) to pay off student loan debt seems a bit broken to me.

DINKs was used as an example, based on personal experience it seems. You don't need to get married. After graduation and landing a decent job get some roommates and rent the cheapest possible accommodations for a few years. Live cheap and use the excess to pay down loans. It won't be glamorous, but I promise you'll survive and your future self with thank you.

As for kids....don't have them while you're drowning in debt, and don't have them outside of marriage. Kids are difficult enough in even the most ideal of scenarios.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #109 on: April 22, 2016, 09:31:51 AM »
It is the whole point of the middle class and parenting, right? To have your children be better off than you. And I think that is where this sense of dread and failure is coming from - my kids might not be better off than me and we might not be able to offer them a childhood and young adulthood that was better than ours even though we're scrambling to do so. This is where folks fall into the credit trap.

Which brings us to now and going forward. I think it is okay to admit and embrace that we might not be able to do what our parents did.

If more people were willing to do that, I doubt there'd be as much consumer spending. Why is it so difficult to accept that economic conditions have changed over time, or to adjust our expectations to suit reality? People used to adapt when times got difficult by scaling their consumption to suit their means.

AM43

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #110 on: April 22, 2016, 09:53:40 AM »
Yes, it's hard not to want the "best" for your kids.  But, the best is not usually had at a price.  The best is a stable family, time at home to study and be encouraged. family activities together.  You do NOT need 800K house to provide the "best" life for your child.  We live in a shitty district so I do send my kid to private school...but it's 4500 bucks a year.  I saved at least 150k on my house.  I can afford to spend a couple thousand on school for a few years.  Once she has a solid foundation and study habits, she can go to a public high school.  Drowning yourself in debt is not how to provide a good foundation for your child.  IMO

THIS^^^

Always providing "The Best" of everything is bad for kids. It creates impossible expectations, turns them into narcissists, and limits their adaptability. I want my kids to struggle a bit with the less-than-ideal, which forces them to be resourceful. Other kids aren't being kind or cooperating on the playground? Unless you're in some kind of real actual danger, don't come crying to me, work it out or brush it off and do something else. The key, I think, is to figure out how much you can stretch your kids without overwhelming them, which should increase as they mature and gain experience.

+1
Agree 100%
Only if more people would see it that way, things would have been different.
Instead, new generation of kids are weak, spoiled, physically unfit, expect everything to be handed to them.
I mostly blame parents for their own doing, as I see it all around me every day.

zephyr911

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #111 on: April 22, 2016, 10:02:26 AM »
That Bloomberg article is good.  I really think that the Atlantic article tapped into another force for consumerism that I see all the time - spending on your kids.

Quote
On the East Coast, affluent parents of bright children explain that they absolutely must live in the best possible school district, and send their kid to the most prestigious possible college. In “flyover country,” parents explain that they have to have a nice new car for the kids, because safety. Also a bevy of very expensive activities, from travel sports to marching band, because otherwise their lives will be blighted. Auto accidents are declining, and bright, motivated kids are probably going to do OK no matter where they go to school. Yet parents can convince themselves to spend near-infinite amounts seeking marginal improvements.

I see people on the East coast who are paying >50% of their take home pay on their mortgage in order to send their kids to the best public schools.  Lexington, MA, for example,  has a median house price of $838,000.  They are also spending thousands on all the trimmings, fancy activities, sleep away camp, expensive sports or horse riding lessons etc...   It is one thing to say no to your own spending habits, it is another to say no to your kids when all of their friends are going on a class trip, or are in a travel sports league etc....  I'm not sure how to stop the arms race on kid related spending, because the drive to have your kids succeed no matter what the cost is really hard to overcome.
Well, it's easy. You stop, take a deep breath, and realize that the best-funded kids still often end up being lazy assholes, and those who just get basic love and support at home can be billionaire entrepreneurs.

Metric Mouse

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #112 on: April 22, 2016, 10:05:03 AM »
The comment section is pretty encouraging, I don't see a ton of people crying over the unfairness of this guy's suffering.

This guy's situation, along with half the country apparently is reason enough to talk about fixing Social Security and/or figuring out how Gen X and Millenials are going to retire. Ya think the shrieks are bad now that the boomers are hitting retirement? Hell, at least Boomers bought houses, us millenials don't even buy houses! Stagnant wages, and growing health care costs are going to decimate this generation upon retirement.

You know who really doesn't buy houses - Generation Z! The true entitlement generation; almost all of them still living with parents, very few if any have full time jobs, they just want to sit around and play video games and shop at the mall (with mommy and daddy's money, of course).  How in the hell are THOSE people going to retire!?

Generation Z will have a rough road.  Student loan debt coupled with Gen X and Millennials chasing retirement security by working into their late sixties and  buying up cheap homes and jacking up the rents will make it tough for many of them to build wealth in the same manner that we are able to do it now.  Of course, there will be Generation Z billionaires in new and existing fields, but I suspect that the nation's current do it yourself retirement system that almost mandates generational exploitation (why not, we're already discussing Karl Marx) will result in further erosion of the middle class.

How is this different from every pervious generation?

Daisyedwards800

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #113 on: April 22, 2016, 10:05:17 AM »
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/

Nearly half of "middle-class" America would struggle to come up with $400 to cover an emergency.  Whatever savings we do have goes to things like weddings ("We have no retirement savings, because we emptied a small 401(k) to pay for our younger daughter’s wedding.")

Not scolding the guy - he admits that he's made the mistake of living beyond his means for too long and it seems he's working hard to correct this. At the same time, he's giving people an out by putting blame on banks/CC companies, universities, etc. Now, I'm no fan of these entities, I think they're all blood suckers. But the sad reality is that no one *really* cares about your finances other than you. Politicians only care about getting reelected, and no one wins elections by talking about responsibility and financial independence. Besides, all the politicians are in cahoots with these industries. So I don't see much hope of this being solved at a policy level.

Perhaps the overarching problem is that the "middle-class lifestyle" has inflated beyond what we can afford, and people just assume this is how they're expected to live. You don't need to send your kids to expensive universities, or drain your retirement account to pay for weddings, or put your kids in private schools, or buy cars on credit, or pay for cable or expensive phone plans. It's unfortunate that he doesn't advocate for a different perspective on our lifestyles and instead ends the article with a defeatist tone: "What so many of us have been suffering for so many years may just seem like a rough patch. But it is far more likely to be our lives."

I think people assume that journalists are wise and know things.  But they don't.  They are just like anybody else.  The reason he doesn't end on any optimistic note or offer any solutions is because he is KNEE DEEP in the thought process that got him there. 

pachnik

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #114 on: April 22, 2016, 10:14:36 AM »
It is the whole point of the middle class and parenting, right? To have your children be better off than you. And I think that is where this sense of dread and failure is coming from - my kids might not be better off than me and we might not be able to offer them a childhood and young adulthood that was better than ours even though we're scrambling to do so. This is where folks fall into the credit trap.

Which brings us to now and going forward. I think it is okay to admit and embrace that we might not be able to do what our parents did.

If more people were willing to do that, I doubt there'd be as much consumer spending. Why is it so difficult to accept that economic conditions have changed over time, or to adjust our expectations to suit reality? People used to adapt when times got difficult by scaling their consumption to suit their means.

To me, it is clear that economic conditions have changed over time.   But perhaps there is an expectation that economic conditions should always be improving over time?  Personally, I don't think this is realistic. 

I am Canadian but I don't think things are very different over the border re: consumer debt. 

MrMoogle

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #115 on: April 22, 2016, 10:20:38 AM »
It is the whole point of the middle class and parenting, right? To have your children be better off than you. And I think that is where this sense of dread and failure is coming from - my kids might not be better off than me and we might not be able to offer them a childhood and young adulthood that was better than ours even though we're scrambling to do so. This is where folks fall into the credit trap.

Which brings us to now and going forward. I think it is okay to admit and embrace that we might not be able to do what our parents did.

If more people were willing to do that, I doubt there'd be as much consumer spending. Why is it so difficult to accept that economic conditions have changed over time, or to adjust our expectations to suit reality? People used to adapt when times got difficult by scaling their consumption to suit their means.

To me, it is clear that economic conditions have changed over time.   But perhaps there is an expectation that economic conditions should always be improving over time?  Personally, I don't think this is realistic. 

I am Canadian but I don't think things are very different over the border re: consumer debt. 

Well history doesn't show constant improvement.  It's like the stock market, give it enough time, and things improve, but there's no guarantee that tomorrow will be better than today.

CNM

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #116 on: April 22, 2016, 10:34:34 AM »
Re. economic conditions improving over time

It seems like in some ways it has, and in others it hasn't.  If you're an underrepresented group or a woman, it has probably improved.  If you're a factory worker, perhaps they haven't compared to the 70s.  The quality of life maybe has improved, depending on how that is evaluated.  It also depends on what "golden" time we're comparing things to.  Someone mentioned the great depression; I think we can all agree that present times are better compared to that.

That is one problem with the article- there are so many factors that come into play when analyzing a nebulous concept like "better off."  Compared to when?  For whom? Better in what way?


Le Dérisoire

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #117 on: April 22, 2016, 10:59:41 AM »
Barnum and Marx were contemporaries. It was Marx who started to solidly identify class based on whether a person controlled the source of his or her income. The word "class" was just one of several that Marx redefined for many. ("Bourgeoise" was another one.) However, Barnum was the more influential of the two in terms of North American culture.

You're a good writer and seem knowledgeable in that area. Have you considered writing something on the subject? Do you have a book to recommend?

Daisyedwards800

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #118 on: April 22, 2016, 11:03:40 AM »

This is a very good point.  I can't remember which book it was "The Way We Never Were", or "The Two Income Trap" or ???

Anyway, a book I read at some point talked about how it requires 2 incomes to be middle class now.  In some ways, we spend more - housing is more expensive, particularly if you want a decent school district.  Entertainment is cheaper, and cars are a much better deal.  Cars didn't used to survive past 100,000 miles, for example.

This- Two income trap. We are living almost exactly like my parents did at the same age: same size house (1100 sqf), same two kids, etc. but we do it on two jobs wheres I had a dad that worked and a stay at home mom.

We've run the numbers and we could get by with one us staying home but our standard of living would drop significantly (as would our ability to save). Sure - cars and TVs are cheaper but health insurance is insane.

We are incredibly frugal and savers and we had three years in a row with medical emergencies - we hit our OUT OF POCKET max two years in a row. Another year would have taken us perilously close to draining our non retirement "emergency" savings. Then our 12 year old fridge died, then our water heater leaked, then our cat got sick, then an ice storm put a tree through roof, now our 14 year old car is on it's last legs. It was a rough three years.

We are people that are not making "bad" choices and we feel impoverished all of the time. Because of our good habits I know that we'll be fine but I think if you compare "middle class" now to that of 25 years ago and then 50 years ago many people are not doing better.

Ah but you are not factoring in the value of the childcare that your mother did.  Add in at least half of your husband or your income for that!

randymarsh

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #119 on: April 22, 2016, 11:07:21 AM »
There's the argument that the boom economy after WWII was an anomaly. It was easy for the US to be overflowing with high paying jobs when Europe was rubble and Asia wasn't a thing, economically. The high paying jobs from GM with gold plated pensions and healthcare benefits were an illusion or only sustainable for a short period of time.

There's a lot of talk about stagnant wages, but there's evidence that total compensation has gone up due to increased benefit spending, mainly healthcare. It's also hard to compare "high" spending today when the same thing didn't exist 30 years ago. CT scans are expensive, but they didn't exist in 1960 and HIV was a death sentence in 1980. Now life expectancy is similar to the general population, if treated.

doggyfizzle

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #120 on: April 22, 2016, 11:16:59 AM »
I'm not sure that student loan debt over $50, $100K, $150K can be considered "aid."  At some point, gigantic student loan debt becomes crushing debt that prevents a middle class lifestyle depending on income and job security.  If parents guarantee the loans, then the crushing debt can become multi-generational.  The alternative, not attending college, also inhibits a middle class lifestyle.  Even dual income households are unable to live the same lifestyle with the same retirement security that single income households were able to achieve 50 years ago.  This may be because they are not managing their money perfectly and overspending on their children but the reality is is that most people in every generation engage is less than optimal financial decision making.  The difference is that when you have retirement security via a pension, your dumb financial decisions made in your twenties, thirties and forties are not as pronounced.  Making bad financial decisions when you are young and invincible is simply human nature.  Foisting an economic system that ignores human nature will cause many more problems than it will solve.

First, about the 50-100k student loan balances: according to DOE student loan statistics, borrowers with the highest student loan balances tend to be the LEAST likely to default.  In most cases, these are students graduating with professional and medical degrees, so that level of debt is not typically "crushing" compared to the beginning post-graduate incomes those students are likely to earn (100k+).  75% of college students in this country graduate with less than 25k in debt, which is not at all "crushing" either.  The majority of the borrowers who have debt above 25k and are not professional or medical graduates made the choice to take debt out either for a private university degree or a for-profit college, which was a personal choice (and a poor one in my opinion).  Not attending college doesn't necessarily prohibit a middle class lifestyle; vocational and trade schools can provide a skill set that offers middle class wages typically in 1-3 years of training and apprenticeship.

Second stop with the retirement myth that 50 years ago everything was great.  In fact, retirement in this country was more bleak in the past than it was today.  Retirement ages didn't begin to drop until the 60s, when Social Security and Medicare benefits began to be widely available.  The old-age poverty rate was nearly 40% in the 60s, compared to less than 10% today.  Peak pension coverage was roughly 40% in the 90s, which still left more than half of the working-age population not covered by pensions.  In the "good old days of the 60s" less than 25% of workers had pension coverage, compared to about 34% today!  IRAs were not available to workers until 1974, and 401ks weren't available until 1978.  It is a choice workers make by not contributing to these tax-advantaged accounts, just like the choice students make by attending college and (in some cases) taking on ridiculous amounts of debt without considering career prospects.  People of each generation have made poor financial choices in their 20s, but as their careers progress through their 30s and 40s these choices become less consequential as their earnings begin to increase.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #121 on: April 22, 2016, 12:14:29 PM »
Barnum and Marx were contemporaries. It was Marx who started to solidly identify class based on whether a person controlled the source of his or her income. The word "class" was just one of several that Marx redefined for many. ("Bourgeoise" was another one.) However, Barnum was the more influential of the two in terms of North American culture.

You're a good writer and seem knowledgeable in that area. Have you considered writing something on the subject? Do you have a book to recommend?

I might scrape together a comparative essay on the subject, but I'm actually busy with a book on sustainable charity management.

For Marx, the foreword to just about any translation of Das Kapital (or any of his other major works) will provide a great deal of biographical information that helps to place him in a bigger historical context. It should be easily accessible in any public library these days.

Comparatively little has been written about Barnum from a scholarly perspective, possibly because nothing he wrote ever spawned a violent revolution. His autobiography is available but should probably be taken with a few grains of salt, and I wouldn't put a huge amount of emphasis on the Beau Bridges movie although it's got a fair bit of introductory material. Joel Benton and Bluford Adams have each published books on him but you'd probably have to put in a special order through the library.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #122 on: April 22, 2016, 01:04:15 PM »
The comment section is pretty encouraging, I don't see a ton of people crying over the unfairness of this guy's suffering.

This guy's situation, along with half the country apparently is reason enough to talk about fixing Social Security and/or figuring out how Gen X and Millenials are going to retire. Ya think the shrieks are bad now that the boomers are hitting retirement? Hell, at least Boomers bought houses, us millenials don't even buy houses! Stagnant wages, and growing health care costs are going to decimate this generation upon retirement.

You know who really doesn't buy houses - Generation Z! The true entitlement generation; almost all of them still living with parents, very few if any have full time jobs, they just want to sit around and play video games and shop at the mall (with mommy and daddy's money, of course).  How in the hell are THOSE people going to retire!?
Yeah, my 10 and 3 year old kids are nothing but a money suck.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #123 on: April 22, 2016, 03:22:35 PM »
We are incredibly frugal and savers and we had three years in a row with medical emergencies [...] then our cat got sick [...]

In the rural area where I grew up it was very common to have various animals around the house. If a pet got sick, it was put out of its misery - quickly and painlessly because the owners cared. Buying medical care for a pet (as opposed to expensive livestock) would have been considered insanely extravagant unless you were a millionaire.

Most people here are better off than my family was when I was a child, so spending more than we did on pets is probably a luxury that's not unreasonable for many. But to consider pet-related expenses an 'emergency' strikes me as odd. As MMM himself has pointed out, pets are optional. Pets (not service animals or livestock) are a luxury just like an expensive hobby. If it jeopardizes your savings then you aren't incredibly frugal.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #124 on: April 22, 2016, 03:30:11 PM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

A system that requires marriage (and not having children) to pay off student loan debt seems a bit broken to me.

My system or the American economy? Nope - neither are ideal but why not try to make the best of an imperfect situation.

Does everyone have kids immediately after marriage and/or graduation? Delay. Instead of going out and spending money, take a more MMM approach and pay down the debt like mad.

Sure I want lower tuition and a 35% raise. Until then I shall remain a creative problem solver...

I can't imagine what it must be like to have college debt when a person's own kids start college b/c the debt was not a major priority in the parents' budget early on. 

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #125 on: April 22, 2016, 03:39:54 PM »
Oh - the marriage part of the example might not appeal to everyone. I just meant two people in a long term relationship of any type. One where they share their debts and their income.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #126 on: April 22, 2016, 09:54:32 PM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

A system that requires marriage (and not having children) to pay off student loan debt seems a bit broken to me.
Doesn't really require marriage, but sharing a household saves a ton of money. The same can be achieved by getting a roommate

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #127 on: April 22, 2016, 10:23:56 PM »
Bed made, lie.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #128 on: April 23, 2016, 03:50:52 AM »
The comment section is pretty encouraging, I don't see a ton of people crying over the unfairness of this guy's suffering.

This guy's situation, along with half the country apparently is reason enough to talk about fixing Social Security and/or figuring out how Gen X and Millenials are going to retire. Ya think the shrieks are bad now that the boomers are hitting retirement? Hell, at least Boomers bought houses, us millenials don't even buy houses! Stagnant wages, and growing health care costs are going to decimate this generation upon retirement.

You know who really doesn't buy houses - Generation Z! The true entitlement generation; almost all of them still living with parents, very few if any have full time jobs, they just want to sit around and play video games and shop at the mall (with mommy and daddy's money, of course).  How in the hell are THOSE people going to retire!?
Yeah, my 10 and 3 year old kids are nothing but a money suck.

:D Maybe read them MMM before bed?

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #129 on: April 23, 2016, 05:54:35 AM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

A system that requires marriage (and not having children) to pay off student loan debt seems a bit broken to me.

My system or the American economy? Nope - neither are ideal but why not try to make the best of an imperfect situation.

Does everyone have kids immediately after marriage and/or graduation? Delay. Instead of going out and spending money, take a more MMM approach and pay down the debt like mad.

Sure I want lower tuition and a 35% raise. Until then I shall remain a creative problem solver...

I can't imagine what it must be like to have college debt when a person's own kids start college b/c the debt was not a major priority in the parents' budget early on.

I won't quibble with your micro-solutions because they are technically correct.  However, it's a little like arguing that we should all have to rent out our spare bedrooms so we can afford a tax hike to pay school teachers more or lower class sizes to better educate our children (or lower higher education tuition).  Yes, we can do it, but man, it ain't ever gonna happen.  Most of these micro-solutions sound good but they typically only work in a controlled environment or come with a catch - like having 3 loud roommates while working in a job that you hate to go to every, single day - and tend to fall apart in the real world.

That said, when you look at the big picture these types of micro-solutions, while technically correct -and likely popular amongst the over 40 crowd sipping chardonnay and remembering their own ramen noodle type sacrifices - are much more like holding the wing of a jet liner together with duct tape so it can fly.  Sooner or later there's going to be a big problem and hopefully you won't be on that jet liner (and up 40,000 feet up in the air) when the wing falls off.  Designing an economic system that overburdens students with loan debt so they can't lead somewhat normal lives after a reasonable period of sacrifice and make the predictable mistakes of (a) not liking their jobs, (B) changing careers or where they live, (c) making a few dumb financial decisions, (d) not finding or losing a job, (e) choosing a field that doesn't pay enough (remember that $40K a year sounds like a fortune to a high school senior from a financially illiterate middle class family) or  (f) simply getting sick, injured or having a medical issue that slows them down from wreaking havoc with their finances is simply a bad system. 

The higher ed system that boomers and Gen X had did not overburden students with debt and could be solved by small sacrifices - like eating ramen noodles and living with roommates for a few years out of college or graduate school.  As result, boomers and Gen X had more freedom to take risks and make mistakes in their youth and more opportunity to explore different career paths.  Millennials and Gen Z, unless the system changes, will have to pay much more to obtain their educations than prior generations and their opportunities and freedom to fail will be highly restricted.  Is this fair?  Hell no.  More importantly, is this dumb policy?  Hell yes.  We are just starting to see the negative ramifications of unaffordable higher education costs and gigantic student loan debt: delayed home buying, delayed marriage, less children, less wealth building, less opportunity, less social advancement, more insecurity, more inequality, and more anger.   When you combine these macro problems with our nation's DIY retirement system, it is truly a recipe for the erosion of the middle class and eventual financial disaster. 
« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 07:08:42 AM by Sid888 »

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #130 on: April 23, 2016, 08:37:23 AM »
I'm not sure that student loan debt over $50, $100K, $150K can be considered "aid."  At some point, gigantic student loan debt becomes crushing debt that prevents a middle class lifestyle depending on income and job security.  If parents guarantee the loans, then the crushing debt can become multi-generational.  The alternative, not attending college, also inhibits a middle class lifestyle.  Even dual income households are unable to live the same lifestyle with the same retirement security that single income households were able to achieve 50 years ago.  This may be because they are not managing their money perfectly and overspending on their children but the reality is is that most people in every generation engage is less than optimal financial decision making.  The difference is that when you have retirement security via a pension, your dumb financial decisions made in your twenties, thirties and forties are not as pronounced.  Making bad financial decisions when you are young and invincible is simply human nature.  Foisting an economic system that ignores human nature will cause many more problems than it will solve.

First, about the 50-100k student loan balances: according to DOE student loan statistics, borrowers with the highest student loan balances tend to be the LEAST likely to default.  In most cases, these are students graduating with professional and medical degrees, so that level of debt is not typically "crushing" compared to the beginning post-graduate incomes those students are likely to earn (100k+).  75% of college students in this country graduate with less than 25k in debt, which is not at all "crushing" either.  The majority of the borrowers who have debt above 25k and are not professional or medical graduates made the choice to take debt out either for a private university degree or a for-profit college, which was a personal choice (and a poor one in my opinion).  Not attending college doesn't necessarily prohibit a middle class lifestyle; vocational and trade schools can provide a skill set that offers middle class wages typically in 1-3 years of training and apprenticeship.

Second stop with the retirement myth that 50 years ago everything was great.  In fact, retirement in this country was more bleak in the past than it was today.  Retirement ages didn't begin to drop until the 60s, when Social Security and Medicare benefits began to be widely available.  The old-age poverty rate was nearly 40% in the 60s, compared to less than 10% today.  Peak pension coverage was roughly 40% in the 90s, which still left more than half of the working-age population not covered by pensions.  In the "good old days of the 60s" less than 25% of workers had pension coverage, compared to about 34% today!  IRAs were not available to workers until 1974, and 401ks weren't available until 1978.  It is a choice workers make by not contributing to these tax-advantaged accounts, just like the choice students make by attending college and (in some cases) taking on ridiculous amounts of debt without considering career prospects.  People of each generation have made poor financial choices in their 20s, but as their careers progress through their 30s and 40s these choices become less consequential as their earnings begin to increase.

In the 1960s - which, by the way, was 50 years ago - you didn't need a college degree and a masters degree to land a middle class job and live a middle class lifestyle.  Employment was much more long term in the 1960s and often one income was sufficient to raise a family of 4 or 5.  "Choosing" college is not so much of a choice now as it was in the 1960s.  Health care, housing (in a safe neighborhood with good schools) and child care are all much more expansive than in the 1960s.  Paying for these essentials impacts a person's choice on what to contribute to a 401(K) - and many don't understand it and often companies don't provide one so employees can educate themselves.   It's a much different world now than in the 1960s so I really don't buy your analysis.  It's seems like the United States' economic system is much more of a rigged game (that ignores human nature) now and that broken system is creating very high levels of economic distress (go to a Trump or Sanders rally and you will see it first hand) and likely to produce much higher than 40% poverty levels for retirees in the very near future.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 08:43:51 AM by Sid888 »

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #131 on: April 23, 2016, 10:14:55 AM »
The higher ed system that boomers and Gen X had did not overburden students with debt

And yet the median student loan debt is THOUSANDS of dollars LESS than the median price of a new car...

And I see people celebrating getting new cars all the time...

So how can student loans be so horribly bad for most people?

And, just for the record, the higher education system does not burden students with debt.  They do that to themselves.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #132 on: April 23, 2016, 10:17:16 AM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

A system that requires marriage (and not having children) to pay off student loan debt seems a bit broken to me.

My system or the American economy? Nope - neither are ideal but why not try to make the best of an imperfect situation.

Does everyone have kids immediately after marriage and/or graduation? Delay. Instead of going out and spending money, take a more MMM approach and pay down the debt like mad.

Sure I want lower tuition and a 35% raise. Until then I shall remain a creative problem solver...

I can't imagine what it must be like to have college debt when a person's own kids start college b/c the debt was not a major priority in the parents' budget early on.

I won't quibble with your micro-solutions because they are technically correct.  However, it's a little like arguing that we should all have to rent out our spare bedrooms so we can afford a tax hike to pay school teachers more or lower class sizes to better educate our children (or lower higher education tuition).  Yes, we can do it, but man, it ain't ever gonna happen.  Most of these micro-solutions sound good but they typically only work in a controlled environment or come with a catch - like having 3 loud roommates while working in a job that you hate to go to every, single day - and tend to fall apart in the real world.

That said, when you look at the big picture these types of micro-solutions, while technically correct -and likely popular amongst the over 40 crowd sipping chardonnay and remembering their own ramen noodle type sacrifices - are much more like holding the wing of a jet liner together with duct tape so it can fly.  Sooner or later there's going to be a big problem and hopefully you won't be on that jet liner (and up 40,000 feet up in the air) when the wing falls off.  Designing an economic system that overburdens students with loan debt so they can't lead somewhat normal lives after a reasonable period of sacrifice and make the predictable mistakes of (a) not liking their jobs, (B) changing careers or where they live, (c) making a few dumb financial decisions, (d) not finding or losing a job, (e) choosing a field that doesn't pay enough (remember that $40K a year sounds like a fortune to a high school senior from a financially illiterate middle class family) or  (f) simply getting sick, injured or having a medical issue that slows them down from wreaking havoc with their finances is simply a bad system. 

The higher ed system that boomers and Gen X had did not overburden students with debt and could be solved by small sacrifices - like eating ramen noodles and living with roommates for a few years out of college or graduate school.  As result, boomers and Gen X had more freedom to take risks and make mistakes in their youth and more opportunity to explore different career paths.  Millennials and Gen Z, unless the system changes, will have to pay much more to obtain their educations than prior generations and their opportunities and freedom to fail will be highly restricted.  Is this fair?  Hell no.  More importantly, is this dumb policy?  Hell yes.  We are just starting to see the negative ramifications of unaffordable higher education costs and gigantic student loan debt: delayed home buying, delayed marriage, less children, less wealth building, less opportunity, less social advancement, more insecurity, more inequality, and more anger.   When you combine these macro problems with our nation's DIY retirement system, it is truly a recipe for the erosion of the middle class and eventual financial disaster.

Life is hard, and it has been for every generation. Previous generations did not solve the cost of college problem with "small sacrifices." They didn't just eat ramen and that fixed everything. They worked while in school. They doubled, even tripled up in rooms. They drove junky old cars (or didn't own one). They didn't go on Spring Break trips or summer backpacking tours in Europe. They worked, scrimped, saved. It was hard then, just as it is hard now.

No generation has had the luxury of liking their jobs - most boomers don't, they stick with it because it pays the bills. It's called "work" for a reason. No generation has had a free pass on making dumb financial decisions - lots and lots of people in previous generations paid the price for making dumb choices. I know someone who went to a prestigious private college right out of highschool. She was there for a couple of years before deciding to change her major and ultimately, her school. Very few credits transferred, and she was already $40,000 in debt. That was in the mid 1990s. It set her back a number of years, but she eventually recovered. What she didn't do was complain about it being unfair, because it was the result of her choices.

I graduated with a Computer Science degree in 2001, right when the tech 1.0 bubble popped. It felt like the world was collapsing around me for 4 years. It felt very unfair, but what can you do but keep charging ahead and hope for the best. Eventually things turned around. There were cohorts of boomers that graduated into terrible economies, stagflation, war (and the draft), and so on. Life is hard.

The average student loan debt load now stands at about $35,000. That's the price of a new mid-sized car. Has this gone up in recent years? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No, it's doable. This can be paid off by working a few years full time wil living as cheap as possible. Also, that's the average amount owed. The median among borrows is closer to $15,000 because there's a small percentage of borrowers skewing the results on the high end, so for the majority of college students their loan burden is really very manageable.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 11:00:15 AM by FINate »

Metric Mouse

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #133 on: April 23, 2016, 10:31:00 AM »
I'm not sure that student loan debt over $50, $100K, $150K can be considered "aid."  At some point, gigantic student loan debt becomes crushing debt that prevents a middle class lifestyle depending on income and job security.  If parents guarantee the loans, then the crushing debt can become multi-generational.  The alternative, not attending college, also inhibits a middle class lifestyle.  Even dual income households are unable to live the same lifestyle with the same retirement security that single income households were able to achieve 50 years ago.  This may be because they are not managing their money perfectly and overspending on their children but the reality is is that most people in every generation engage is less than optimal financial decision making.  The difference is that when you have retirement security via a pension, your dumb financial decisions made in your twenties, thirties and forties are not as pronounced.  Making bad financial decisions when you are young and invincible is simply human nature.  Foisting an economic system that ignores human nature will cause many more problems than it will solve.

First, about the 50-100k student loan balances: according to DOE student loan statistics, borrowers with the highest student loan balances tend to be the LEAST likely to default.  In most cases, these are students graduating with professional and medical degrees, so that level of debt is not typically "crushing" compared to the beginning post-graduate incomes those students are likely to earn (100k+).  75% of college students in this country graduate with less than 25k in debt, which is not at all "crushing" either.  The majority of the borrowers who have debt above 25k and are not professional or medical graduates made the choice to take debt out either for a private university degree or a for-profit college, which was a personal choice (and a poor one in my opinion).  Not attending college doesn't necessarily prohibit a middle class lifestyle; vocational and trade schools can provide a skill set that offers middle class wages typically in 1-3 years of training and apprenticeship.

Second stop with the retirement myth that 50 years ago everything was great.  In fact, retirement in this country was more bleak in the past than it was today.  Retirement ages didn't begin to drop until the 60s, when Social Security and Medicare benefits began to be widely available.  The old-age poverty rate was nearly 40% in the 60s, compared to less than 10% today.  Peak pension coverage was roughly 40% in the 90s, which still left more than half of the working-age population not covered by pensions.  In the "good old days of the 60s" less than 25% of workers had pension coverage, compared to about 34% today!  IRAs were not available to workers until 1974, and 401ks weren't available until 1978.  It is a choice workers make by not contributing to these tax-advantaged accounts, just like the choice students make by attending college and (in some cases) taking on ridiculous amounts of debt without considering career prospects.  People of each generation have made poor financial choices in their 20s, but as their careers progress through their 30s and 40s these choices become less consequential as their earnings begin to increase.


Wait wait wait... so we have much bigger houses, much better cars, cheaper, vastly more powerful technology, similar pension coverage, better educated populace, lower violent crime rates, better healthcare and long life expectancy - all on a similar income and LOWER tax rate!?  This sounds fantastic!  No wonder the boomers and gen xers have so little saved for retirement and are working until they drop; they had it much harder than the millennials! 

I think framing things this way really makes me appreciate not having to scrape by the way they did 25 or 50 years ago.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #134 on: April 23, 2016, 11:00:26 AM »
I'm not sure that student loan debt over $50, $100K, $150K can be considered "aid."  At some point, gigantic student loan debt becomes crushing debt that prevents a middle class lifestyle depending on income and job security.  If parents guarantee the loans, then the crushing debt can become multi-generational.  The alternative, not attending college, also inhibits a middle class lifestyle.  Even dual income households are unable to live the same lifestyle with the same retirement security that single income households were able to achieve 50 years ago.  This may be because they are not managing their money perfectly and overspending on their children but the reality is is that most people in every generation engage is less than optimal financial decision making.  The difference is that when you have retirement security via a pension, your dumb financial decisions made in your twenties, thirties and forties are not as pronounced.  Making bad financial decisions when you are young and invincible is simply human nature.  Foisting an economic system that ignores human nature will cause many more problems than it will solve.

First, about the 50-100k student loan balances: according to DOE student loan statistics, borrowers with the highest student loan balances tend to be the LEAST likely to default.  In most cases, these are students graduating with professional and medical degrees, so that level of debt is not typically "crushing" compared to the beginning post-graduate incomes those students are likely to earn (100k+).  75% of college students in this country graduate with less than 25k in debt, which is not at all "crushing" either.  The majority of the borrowers who have debt above 25k and are not professional or medical graduates made the choice to take debt out either for a private university degree or a for-profit college, which was a personal choice (and a poor one in my opinion).  Not attending college doesn't necessarily prohibit a middle class lifestyle; vocational and trade schools can provide a skill set that offers middle class wages typically in 1-3 years of training and apprenticeship.

Second stop with the retirement myth that 50 years ago everything was great.  In fact, retirement in this country was more bleak in the past than it was today.  Retirement ages didn't begin to drop until the 60s, when Social Security and Medicare benefits began to be widely available.  The old-age poverty rate was nearly 40% in the 60s, compared to less than 10% today.  Peak pension coverage was roughly 40% in the 90s, which still left more than half of the working-age population not covered by pensions.  In the "good old days of the 60s" less than 25% of workers had pension coverage, compared to about 34% today!  IRAs were not available to workers until 1974, and 401ks weren't available until 1978.  It is a choice workers make by not contributing to these tax-advantaged accounts, just like the choice students make by attending college and (in some cases) taking on ridiculous amounts of debt without considering career prospects.  People of each generation have made poor financial choices in their 20s, but as their careers progress through their 30s and 40s these choices become less consequential as their earnings begin to increase.


Wait wait wait... so we have much bigger houses, much better cars, cheaper, vastly more powerful technology, similar pension coverage, better educated populace, lower violent crime rates, better healthcare and long life expectancy - all on a similar income and LOWER tax rate!?  This sounds fantastic!  No wonder the boomers and gen xers have so little saved for retirement and are working until they drop; they had it much harder than the millennials! 

I think framing things this way really makes me appreciate not having to scrape by the way they did 25 or 50 years ago.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, but that was basically what I was implying.  Gen Y has it made!

ender

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #135 on: April 23, 2016, 12:40:30 PM »
People want the lives their parents have at 55 the second they turn 22.

Then they get annoyed that after a successful career their parents can have a better life than them..

If you want to compare yourself to your parents, do it at the time of their lives they were your current age....

SU

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #136 on: April 23, 2016, 12:47:38 PM »
The part of the article that is still irritating me days later is the whining about the taxes he had to pay in one year on his book advance(s). And yet he has no retirement accounts. So while he has seen the light on many of his past errors, he still hasn't clocked to the massive hit he took by not making the most of pre-tax savings that were available to him.

I've seen plenty of artists and entertainers with similar issues of variable income discussing their strategies for income smoothing. He's not the first person in the world to get a book advance.

His inaction on this and a few other points (not involving his spouse, paying for weddings) make me think it wasn't just a lack of information, but also some arrogance or entitlement about money and the obligation to manage it that got him into his current situation.

Paul der Krake

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #137 on: April 23, 2016, 01:12:07 PM »
People want the lives their parents have at 55 the second they turn 22.

Then they get annoyed that after a successful career their parents can have a better life than them..

If you want to compare yourself to your parents, do it at the time of their lives they were your current age....
This rings very true. The need to compare oneself to others causes a lot of heartache that really doesn't need to exist.

My parents have achieved a standard of success compared to their peers that my own family (or any of my siblings) will probably never reach. That doesn't mean I would trade places with them if offered the chance. We live in fantastic times.

ender

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #138 on: April 23, 2016, 02:39:13 PM »
People want the lives their parents have at 55 the second they turn 22.

Then they get annoyed that after a successful career their parents can have a better life than them..

If you want to compare yourself to your parents, do it at the time of their lives they were your current age....
This rings very true. The need to compare oneself to others causes a lot of heartache that really doesn't need to exist.

My parents have achieved a standard of success compared to their peers that my own family (or any of my siblings) will probably never reach. That doesn't mean I would trade places with them if offered the chance. We live in fantastic times.

I think it's more an expectation thing.

You spend 18-22 years of your life at a certain standard of living. Except you remember only the last few, but it becomes your expectation for what life is like. But you are still 22 (or whatever).

It's normal to do this because it is what we do - our parents lifestyle is what we think if normal because it's all we know.

Unless you consciously decide not to do this, it's hard not to do this projection of expectation. Especially if parents aren't supportive and press their expectations onto you, too. "You don't have a house?" Or "you don't have a new car?" Etc.

Tyson

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #139 on: April 23, 2016, 03:37:03 PM »
I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, but that was basically what I was implying.  Gen Y has it made!

As MMM notes - life is an exploding volcano of awesomeness :P

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #140 on: April 24, 2016, 05:10:39 AM »
Even $150K is not insurmountable. DINKS (w/ kids delayed to the future) live on one income and put the other ~$50K income towards the student loan debt. Gone in 3-4 years. Is that so impossible?

All it takes is determination to accomplish this.

Same with paying off a mortgage.

Sure, this delays kids, prohibits fancy things and trips for a while but then a person has the rest of their life to live without years of the financial debt storm clouds hanging over their heads.

Oh I know, we're supposed to delay the debt and pay into investments for that extra 3-4 years of compound interest but really, I'd rather have less worry and stress about the debt. 3-4 of investment compound interest vs 3-4 years of debt interest.

We got serious at one point about $9K worth of debt and paid it off in two months. Eating in and watching TV. We ate good, had fun, etc.

A system that requires marriage (and not having children) to pay off student loan debt seems a bit broken to me.

My system or the American economy? Nope - neither are ideal but why not try to make the best of an imperfect situation.

Does everyone have kids immediately after marriage and/or graduation? Delay. Instead of going out and spending money, take a more MMM approach and pay down the debt like mad.

Sure I want lower tuition and a 35% raise. Until then I shall remain a creative problem solver...

I can't imagine what it must be like to have college debt when a person's own kids start college b/c the debt was not a major priority in the parents' budget early on.

I won't quibble with your micro-solutions because they are technically correct.  However, it's a little like arguing that we should all have to rent out our spare bedrooms so we can afford a tax hike to pay school teachers more or lower class sizes to better educate our children (or lower higher education tuition).  Yes, we can do it, but man, it ain't ever gonna happen.  Most of these micro-solutions sound good but they typically only work in a controlled environment or come with a catch - like having 3 loud roommates while working in a job that you hate to go to every, single day - and tend to fall apart in the real world.

That said, when you look at the big picture these types of micro-solutions, while technically correct -and likely popular amongst the over 40 crowd sipping chardonnay and remembering their own ramen noodle type sacrifices - are much more like holding the wing of a jet liner together with duct tape so it can fly.  Sooner or later there's going to be a big problem and hopefully you won't be on that jet liner (and up 40,000 feet up in the air) when the wing falls off.  Designing an economic system that overburdens students with loan debt so they can't lead somewhat normal lives after a reasonable period of sacrifice and make the predictable mistakes of (a) not liking their jobs, (B) changing careers or where they live, (c) making a few dumb financial decisions, (d) not finding or losing a job, (e) choosing a field that doesn't pay enough (remember that $40K a year sounds like a fortune to a high school senior from a financially illiterate middle class family) or  (f) simply getting sick, injured or having a medical issue that slows them down from wreaking havoc with their finances is simply a bad system. 

The higher ed system that boomers and Gen X had did not overburden students with debt and could be solved by small sacrifices - like eating ramen noodles and living with roommates for a few years out of college or graduate school.  As result, boomers and Gen X had more freedom to take risks and make mistakes in their youth and more opportunity to explore different career paths.  Millennials and Gen Z, unless the system changes, will have to pay much more to obtain their educations than prior generations and their opportunities and freedom to fail will be highly restricted.  Is this fair?  Hell no.  More importantly, is this dumb policy?  Hell yes.  We are just starting to see the negative ramifications of unaffordable higher education costs and gigantic student loan debt: delayed home buying, delayed marriage, less children, less wealth building, less opportunity, less social advancement, more insecurity, more inequality, and more anger.   When you combine these macro problems with our nation's DIY retirement system, it is truly a recipe for the erosion of the middle class and eventual financial disaster.

Life is hard, and it has been for every generation. Previous generations did not solve the cost of college problem with "small sacrifices." They didn't just eat ramen and that fixed everything. They worked while in school. They doubled, even tripled up in rooms. They drove junky old cars (or didn't own one). They didn't go on Spring Break trips or summer backpacking tours in Europe. They worked, scrimped, saved. It was hard then, just as it is hard now.

No generation has had the luxury of liking their jobs - most boomers don't, they stick with it because it pays the bills. It's called "work" for a reason. No generation has had a free pass on making dumb financial decisions - lots and lots of people in previous generations paid the price for making dumb choices. I know someone who went to a prestigious private college right out of highschool. She was there for a couple of years before deciding to change her major and ultimately, her school. Very few credits transferred, and she was already $40,000 in debt. That was in the mid 1990s. It set her back a number of years, but she eventually recovered. What she didn't do was complain about it being unfair, because it was the result of her choices.

I graduated with a Computer Science degree in 2001, right when the tech 1.0 bubble popped. It felt like the world was collapsing around me for 4 years. It felt very unfair, but what can you do but keep charging ahead and hope for the best. Eventually things turned around. There were cohorts of boomers that graduated into terrible economies, stagflation, war (and the draft), and so on. Life is hard.

The average student loan debt load now stands at about $35,000. That's the price of a new mid-sized car. Has this gone up in recent years? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No, it's doable. This can be paid off by working a few years full time wil living as cheap as possible. Also, that's the average amount owed. The median among borrows is closer to $15,000 because there's a small percentage of borrowers skewing the results on the high end, so for the majority of college students their loan burden is really very manageable.

In 1985, when a new car cost $15,000, college tuition at my state university was about 20% of that cost or $3,000.  In California, public university tuition was about 10% of that cost or $1,500 per year.  Private school tuition was even cheaper than a car - at about $8 or $9,000 per year.  Tuition was even cheaper in the 1960s and 1970s.  In the 60s, 70s and 80s, you could realistically flip burgers and make it through college without any debt.  From 1960-1990, there wasn't nearly as much credentialism that pigeon holes certain majors into certain jobs and mandates (via law or business practice) a diploma to even get an interview as there exists today.  If you borrowed money, you could work it off fairly easily even if you didn't use your degree for a job.  The car example is a good one to demonstrate the impact of higher education inflation on Millennials and Generation Z and how their debt burden is much more significant than previous generations.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 05:12:17 AM by Sid888 »

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #141 on: April 24, 2016, 05:41:20 AM »
The higher ed system that boomers and Gen X had did not overburden students with debt

And yet the median student loan debt is THOUSANDS of dollars LESS than the median price of a new car...

And I see people celebrating getting new cars all the time...

So how can student loans be so horribly bad for most people?

And, just for the record, the higher education system does not burden students with debt.  They do that to themselves.

I think when you take into account the rise of credentialism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credentialism_and_educational_inflation) in the United States, I'm not sure that current higher education students should be blamed for taking on debt to pursue a career.

I'd agree with you more about the car analogy so long as students, like car owners, could simply shed their debt in a Trumplike manner, via US Bankruptcy court.  So long as US students are not protected by laws that other debtors can use when they hit a problem, you really can't compare a consumer debt to a student loan debt.

When you have an economic system with unchecked consumer credit, an unchecked advertising industry that promotes consumer spending, tugs on the heart strings of parents and promotes worship of bling, an underfunded public education system where all of the participants have a different retirement system (pensions) than do the parents of the students  (and the students when they graduate) that seems oblivious to the need for serious financial literacy education, and a higher education industrial complex that has priced itself out of the range of the middle class without student loans granted irrespective of ability to pay, you will create a system with horrible runaway inflation, terrible personal financial decisions, high debt, bad economic consequences and ultimately massive financial problems for many highly educated individuals who didn't have the good fortune to be born into a family that could pay their tuition.  We are creating a nation of haves and have nots by allowing this massive student loan debt.  You can micro-engineer all day long but your work is both incredibly inefficient and likely to be discarded by those with the debt any way because it ignores human nature and does not take into account the current economic system we have created.  The system is broken and it's time to cut the Gordian Knot to fix it.

JR

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #142 on: April 24, 2016, 06:27:22 AM »
What I really found disturbing is that he convinced his parents to pay for his daughter. No way would I let my kids do that to me or no way I would have ever asked my parents.  I hope they have $ in their old age.

And the one daughter did many years of school and is a social worker.  Who are great people, but make very little money.

plainjane,
The earning potential of social workers increases dramatically at the masters level. My wife went from earning $26k/yr with a bachelors in social work to nearly $70k/yr with a MSW and LSW the year she finished her degree. If she does the 3000 hours of clinical work for her LCSW (like the daughter in the article) she could do private practice and charge $50-$70 per hour in our area. LCSWs are also going to be able to diagnose clients soon in our state which could potentially increase the earning potential of LCSWs here.

Oh course I will agree that the daughter in the article didn't need to go to the schools she did. My wife earned her bachelors and masters degree from the local state university.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 06:36:41 AM by JR »

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #143 on: April 24, 2016, 07:52:45 AM »
What I really found disturbing is that he convinced his parents to pay for his daughter. No way would I let my kids do that to me or no way I would have ever asked my parents.  I hope they have $ in their old age.

And the one daughter did many years of school and is a social worker.  Who are great people, but make very little money.

plainjane,
The earning potential of social workers increases dramatically at the masters level. My wife went from earning $26k/yr with a bachelors in social work to nearly $70k/yr with a MSW and LSW the year she finished her degree. If she does the 3000 hours of clinical work for her LCSW (like the daughter in the article) she could do private practice and charge $50-$70 per hour in our area. LCSWs are also going to be able to diagnose clients soon in our state which could potentially increase the earning potential of LCSWs here.

Oh course I will agree that the daughter in the article didn't need to go to the schools she did. My wife earned her bachelors and masters degree from the local state university.

Why do you need a Masters degree to do this work and earn this income?  I suppose that an advanced degree is nice to have it but why is it absolutely essential as opposed to alternative paths like simply working in the field or being very smart and having a different degree?  Why should a piece of paper serve as a roadblock to prevent others from competing?  My bet is that the social worker lobby passed a law requiring the additional degree and credentials to artificially lower competition.  The education lobby, I am certain, was very happy to provide testimony on the essential nature of their diplomas before ANY person should be even considered for employment is they very important job...This is a perfect example of credentialism driving up the cost of higher education, deflating the value of a batchelor degree (and HS Diploma) and skewing the marketplace.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 11:26:52 AM by Sid888 »

JR

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #144 on: April 24, 2016, 08:11:29 AM »
What I really found disturbing is that he convinced his parents to pay for his daughter. No way would I let my kids do that to me or no way I would have ever asked my parents.  I hope they have $ in their old age.

And the one daughter did many years of school and is a social worker.  Who are great people, but make very little money.

plainjane,
The earning potential of social workers increases dramatically at the masters level. My wife went from earning $26k/yr with a bachelors in social work to nearly $70k/yr with a MSW and LSW the year she finished her degree. If she does the 3000 hours of clinical work for her LCSW (like the daughter in the article) she could do private practice and charge $50-$70 per hour in our area. LCSWs are also going to be able to diagnose clients soon in our state which could potentially increase the earning potential of LCSWs here.

Oh course I will agree that the daughter in the article didn't need to go to the schools she did. My wife earned her bachelors and masters degree from the local state university.

Why do you need a Masters degree to do this work and earn this income?  I suppose that an advanced degree is nice to have it but why is it absolutely essential to alternative paths like simply working in the field or being very smart and having a different degree?  Why should a piece of paper serve as a roadblock to prevent others from competing?  My bet is that the social worker lobby passed a law requiring the additional degree and credentials to artificially lower competition.  The education lobby, I am certain, was very happy to provide testimony on the essential nature of their diplomas before ANY person should be even considered for employment is they very important job...This is a perfect example of credentialism driving up the cost of higher education, deflating the value of a batchelor degree (and HS Diploma) and skewing the marketplace.

Sid,
Are you suggesting that anyone with a HS diploma is capable of being a clinical therapist? I don't think the insurance companies would be okay with anyone with a HS Diploma being able to bill insurance for clinical therapy. Psychologists have a similar certification called the licensed professional counselor, and the NASW most certainly does not lobby on their behalf.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 08:16:35 AM by JR »

ender

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #145 on: April 24, 2016, 08:17:33 AM »
What I really found disturbing is that he convinced his parents to pay for his daughter. No way would I let my kids do that to me or no way I would have ever asked my parents.  I hope they have $ in their old age.

And the one daughter did many years of school and is a social worker.  Who are great people, but make very little money.

plainjane,
The earning potential of social workers increases dramatically at the masters level. My wife went from earning $26k/yr with a bachelors in social work to nearly $70k/yr with a MSW and LSW the year she finished her degree. If she does the 3000 hours of clinical work for her LCSW (like the daughter in the article) she could do private practice and charge $50-$70 per hour in our area. LCSWs are also going to be able to diagnose clients soon in our state which could potentially increase the earning potential of LCSWs here.

Oh course I will agree that the daughter in the article didn't need to go to the schools she did. My wife earned her bachelors and masters degree from the local state university.

Why do you need a Masters degree to do this work and earn this income?  I suppose that an advanced degree is nice to have it but why is it absolutely essential to alternative paths like simply working in the field or being very smart and having a different degree?  Why should a piece of paper serve as a roadblock to prevent others from competing?  My bet is that the social worker lobby passed a law requiring the additional degree and credentials to artificially lower competition.  The education lobby, I am certain, was very happy to provide testimony on the essential nature of their diplomas before ANY person should be even considered for employment is they very important job...This is a perfect example of credentialism driving up the cost of higher education, deflating the value of a batchelor degree (and HS Diploma) and skewing the marketplace.

Sid,
Are you suggesting that anyone with a HS diploma is capable of being a clinical therapist? I don't think the insurance companies would be okay with anyone with a HS Diploma being able to bill insurance for clinical therapy. Psychologists have a similar certification called the licensed professional counselor, and the NASW most certainly does not lobby on their behalf.

+1


MissNancyPryor

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #146 on: April 24, 2016, 09:13:44 AM »
Well shit, the author said it all when he said "I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous" at the beginning of the article.  What a complainypants dumbass; that single phrase really sums it all up for him and so many in his situation.  Looking good was far more important than actually paying for what they could afford or swallowing one morsel of pride by living within their means.     

This guy has actually been on TV and written for major publications but never got his shit together.  I can't bring myself to shed a tear for his stupidity and I absolutely do not want to hear about how he now thinks we should build more crap into our government to protect idiots like this from themselves. 

He lives in a time with an embarrassment of riches (quality of life, health standards, and available knowledge) and is instantly above 99% of the rest of the world by the life lottery of being an educated American, and yet he still makes stooopid choices, over and over and over again, trying to look like far more than what he really is.  But no, it is not his fault according to him (his repeated lament about "I screwed up" is an obvious literary tool--if he started with that idea he wouldn't have written the article at all and hammered how it is society's pressures that caused this).  Moron.         
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 09:20:01 AM by MissNancyPryor »

Tyson

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #147 on: April 24, 2016, 11:06:04 AM »
Well shit, the author said it all when he said "I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous" at the beginning of the article.  What a complainypants dumbass; that single phrase really sums it all up for him and so many in his situation.  Looking good was far more important than actually paying for what they could afford or swallowing one morsel of pride by living within their means.     

This guy has actually been on TV and written for major publications but never got his shit together.  I can't bring myself to shed a tear for his stupidity and I absolutely do not want to hear about how he now thinks we should build more crap into our government to protect idiots like this from themselves. 

He lives in a time with an embarrassment of riches (quality of life, health standards, and available knowledge) and is instantly above 99% of the rest of the world by the life lottery of being an educated American, and yet he still makes stooopid choices, over and over and over again, trying to look like far more than what he really is.  But no, it is not his fault according to him (his repeated lament about "I screwed up" is an obvious literary tool--if he started with that idea he wouldn't have written the article at all and hammered how it is society's pressures that caused this).  Moron.       

So true.  I went through a period of extended unemployment recently and I pretty much gave up any idea of "keeping up appearances".  Went into hardcore frugal mode.  It was interesting that I found out I could still be happy (more or less) even with a greatly reduced income.  So many people never learn this, and the idea of even a small reduction in lifestyle sends them into a panic.

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #148 on: April 24, 2016, 11:54:09 AM »
What I really found disturbing is that he convinced his parents to pay for his daughter. No way would I let my kids do that to me or no way I would have ever asked my parents.  I hope they have $ in their old age.

And the one daughter did many years of school and is a social worker.  Who are great people, but make very little money.

plainjane,
The earning potential of social workers increases dramatically at the masters level. My wife went from earning $26k/yr with a bachelors in social work to nearly $70k/yr with a MSW and LSW the year she finished her degree. If she does the 3000 hours of clinical work for her LCSW (like the daughter in the article) she could do private practice and charge $50-$70 per hour in our area. LCSWs are also going to be able to diagnose clients soon in our state which could potentially increase the earning potential of LCSWs here.

Oh course I will agree that the daughter in the article didn't need to go to the schools she did. My wife earned her bachelors and masters degree from the local state university.

Why do you need a Masters degree to do this work and earn this income?  I suppose that an advanced degree is nice to have it but why is it absolutely essential to alternative paths like simply working in the field or being very smart and having a different degree?  Why should a piece of paper serve as a roadblock to prevent others from competing?  My bet is that the social worker lobby passed a law requiring the additional degree and credentials to artificially lower competition.  The education lobby, I am certain, was very happy to provide testimony on the essential nature of their diplomas before ANY person should be even considered for employment is they very important job...This is a perfect example of credentialism driving up the cost of higher education, deflating the value of a batchelor degree (and HS Diploma) and skewing the marketplace.

Sid,
Are you suggesting that anyone with a HS diploma is capable of being a clinical therapist? I don't think the insurance companies would be okay with anyone with a HS Diploma being able to bill insurance for clinical therapy. Psychologists have a similar certification called the licensed professional counselor, and the NASW most certainly does not lobby on their behalf.

Of course not, but why should an intelligent person working as social worker - and who can do the work - be automatically be excluded from advancement because they lack a credential that is often obtained simply by expending money and showing up (see credentialisms twin brother "grade inflation")?  If the laws are changed to not require credentials, then the insurance rates will not be impacted so long as qualified people are hired.  That's how it worked in the 1960's, 70s and 80s.  Insurance rates may even go down if folks are hired based on quality of work rather than on producing a piece of paper.  Keep in mind that under our current credentialism  system, Sigmund Freud would not have been qualified to do clinical therapy.

My point is twofold.  First,we should not chastise Millennialls and Gen Z for "choosing" to incur student loan debt when their profession requires an ever increasing amount of higher education in order to advance because of credentialism.  I also offered this point because I think credentialism is one of the reasons why higher education has become so expensive over the last 50 years.  We keep piling on educational requirements to qualify for a job interview and the colleges know it.  As a result, they adjust their prices accordingly.  If credentialism was curtailed, the costs of higher education would be reduced. At a time when the cost of an undergraduate education at a public university is climbing over $100,000, I think rolling back some credentialism is worth examining as a part of a solution to reduce the costs of higher ed and lower student loan debt.

More on credentialism here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credentialism_and_educational_inflation

For instance, in the late 1980s, a bachelor's degree was the standard ticket to enter the profession of occupational therapy.[21] By the 1990s, a master's degree was expected. Today, a doctorate is becoming the norm. This change was due to the explosion of bachelor's degrees spurred by the rise in knowledge exchange—hinged on population growth and technological innovation. With the advent of globalization, recent years see the Ph.D. taking over the role of the master's degree—especially professional degrees. Universities are currently reporting significant renewed interest in their graduate programs, with a particular focus on Ph.D. study, as candidates consider retraining or adding new skills to their resumes that will benefit them if the economic situation improves. What once was considered to be specific training for the academic profession and open to a minor assemblage of individuals absorbed in research has become a benchmark for some job-entry positions. This change is forcing individuals to push for more advanced degrees to be considered for some positions.

The creeping-credentials phenomenon has resulted in the growth in the higher-education industry, with institutions expanding their offerings beyond the traditional graduate degrees. Offerings now include increasingly narrow, job-specific training courses. Degrees aimed at working professionals often come with very high tuition pricing.

Another consequence of credential creep is the increased time spent in school, with the resulting deferment of career establishment.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 12:08:41 PM by Sid888 »

BTDretire

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #149 on: April 24, 2016, 12:34:58 PM »
"He knew it and did it anyway."

Without THIS, we would have no novels, no King Lear (!), no entertaining thought-provoking self-created tragedies.
Life would be calm, smooth, zen.
On some level, people always DO know it, and do it ANYWAY.
They go home with that person, they postpone that call, they buy that car, they marry that person, they take that job, they let their kids get away with that one thing . . ..
There is a small voice inside saying NOOOOO, but it's surprisingly easy to shut that voice UP.
"Pipe down, voice of reason!"
And then it gets harder to hear it the next time.
People gotta turn off the phone/internet/what have you and settle down by themselves long enough to hear that voice. But they don't.
So they "know it and do it anyway." Very human.

 Having the knowledge about the right thing to do and doing the right thing,
often have unequal value in the mind of the decision maker.