Author Topic: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans  (Read 216169 times)

Fishindude

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #50 on: April 20, 2016, 12:55:59 PM »
The term "middle class" is BS.   Ask just about anyone you know and I'd venture that they will tell you they are "middle class", and that anyone with 30% less income is low income, and anyone with 30% more is the upper class.

I see people at relatively low income levels doing quite well via frugal living and people at very high income levels living hand to mouth due to over spending.
Frankly, I'd rather associate with the low income folks that have their sh!t together.



TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #51 on: April 20, 2016, 01:01:20 PM »
Yeah, I mean, I keep hearing people complaining about how hard it is to be "middle class" now, compared to previous generations. But everyone seems to forget that the definition of middle class has changed. Several decades ago, middle class didn't mean you had a huge house, 2-3 cars, kids in private school, yearly vacations, multiple televisions/smartphones/computers/consoles, etc.

There are valid arguments with how ridiculously the cost of education has risen (although that can still be somewhat mitigated by choosing in-state tuition, community college, working through college, etc), but other than that... I just don't feel terribly bad for people who cry about how hard it is to be middle class.

One point you've made is worthy of extra discussion. You listed a bunch of luxuries, but you didn't use the word "and" or "or". The distinction is worth making.

A whole bunch of people who identify themselves as middle class make "and"-ish assumptions about consumptions. They don't limit themselves to just one or two indulgences, and make cutbacks and compromises elsewhere. They feel inadequate if they aren't indulging in several different and unrelated luxuries, and the idea of trading one off for another is unknown. This is a very new development.

Middle class, going back to when P.T. Barnum popularized the phrase in the early to mid-1800's, meant a very special thing. It referred to a family that was not financially independent and that had to have one or more breadwinner exchanging labor or services for pay, but that had both an income surplus and a time surplus. Middle-class people were sometimes small business owners or entrepreneurs, but sometimes worked for others by providing knowledge work or skilled labor. They did not necessarily own the means of economic production (and the distinction wasn't relevant to class until Marx and Engels emphasized it).

Compared to working-class families, middle-class families had more income than they needed to get by. The income surplus had to be big enough to allow the family to pay its expenses reliably, to save for emergencies, to cover the expenses associated with caring for young, old, or injured members of the family, to acquire movable property and possibly even real estate, and perhaps even to invest.

Compared to working-class families, middle-class families did not have to devote all their waking hours to earning a survival wage. The time surplus meant that the adults in the family did not spend every waking hour focused on their own survival or on caregiving for children or elders, and had time and resources available for recreation. Division of labor, for example, with women staying at home and investing their labor in the education of the next generation instead of working outside the home to earn income, was one luxury that became possible for at least some middle-class families. A middle-class family could therefore accrue, and potentially consume, more than a working-class family. These options were still unavailable to the laboring class, and would not necessarily have been legal under some of the really old-fashioned feudal legal systems that had (and enforced) consumption limits based on social class.

Distinctions existed between middle-class and upper-class families. In the upper class, a certain degree of financial independence was considered mandatory. However (and I'm using Edith Wharton for an example since her fiction was commended for its realism) there wasn't a minimum consumption level for the upper class. In "The House of Mirth", set in New York in the early 1900's, there were characters who belonged to the upper class who had only enough income from their investments to afford to rent a room in someone else's house. This-- and marrying someone else who had money-- was considered preferable to getting a job, and far more respectable. On the other side of the pond, Lord Byron and most of his social set were known for living in rented attic space when the literary income was sparse, rather than answering a help-wanted ad. Scaling one's consumption to suit income was in fact normal for all classes. It wasn't that unusual to see a lawyer whose income came solely from labor (as in, a member of the middle class) enjoying a higher standard of living and more financial stability than a member of an old-money family whose inherited wealth produced a much smaller income.

So, a person might see a middle-class family buying a house or sending their children to university, but not both at the same time. In fact, the family often had to choose which child got the education opportunity. Also, when a middle-class or conservative upper-class family spent money on something, they generally expected to have something to show for it. Conspicuous consumption in one area often required cutbacks in another, and only the extremely wealthy were expected to spend freely and not worry about the cost.

TL;DR version... as a society, we've got large numbers of people who could be financially stable choosing to overspend and overconsume. In fact it's become the norm. Part of the problem is that it's no longer customary to consider an overindulgence in one area as something that requires compensation in another area.

onehair

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #52 on: April 20, 2016, 01:03:30 PM »
My sister is a writer.  Granted she still lives at home and banks most of her checks received from stories and essays of hers that sell. We joke she is cheap but I know if she had to she could take care of herself.   She was working but quit to do her novel.  As my mom also writes mainly poetry in her retirement and this is a good working arrangement for her my mom and stepfather I have nothing to squawk about.  And why would I? I'd rather take care of my own business.

That guy however was living way way above his means.


CNM

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #53 on: April 20, 2016, 01:06:51 PM »
This article sparked a lot of interesting conversation at my house.  While I agree that, in many industries, wages and benefits are lower than they were in the 70s.  But that does not absolve the author of his financial woes.  He and his wife made some major flubs along the way, and seem to continue making them.  His inability to raise $400 can't really be blamed on some nebulous economic forces; it is a direct result of living beyond his means. 

I seriously can't get over that he told his wife he could provide for the family.  That was a HUGE lie!  And she continues to be out of the work force ... why exactly?  I am sure she could earn some money, even part time or a solo-gig.  And liquidating a 401(k) FOR A WEDDING?!?! That is crazy!! 

I got a distinct feeling that the author felt he was entitled to more, because he was/is A Very Important Writer Who Was Even on TV. 

celticmyst08

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #54 on: April 20, 2016, 01:15:05 PM »
Yeah, I mean, I keep hearing people complaining about how hard it is to be "middle class" now, compared to previous generations. But everyone seems to forget that the definition of middle class has changed. Several decades ago, middle class didn't mean you had a huge house, 2-3 cars, kids in private school, yearly vacations, multiple televisions/smartphones/computers/consoles, etc.

There are valid arguments with how ridiculously the cost of education has risen (although that can still be somewhat mitigated by choosing in-state tuition, community college, working through college, etc), but other than that... I just don't feel terribly bad for people who cry about how hard it is to be middle class.

One point you've made is worthy of extra discussion. You listed a bunch of luxuries, but you didn't use the word "and" or "or". The distinction is worth making.

A whole bunch of people who identify themselves as middle class make "and"-ish assumptions about consumptions. They don't limit themselves to just one or two indulgences, and make cutbacks and compromises elsewhere. They feel inadequate if they aren't indulging in several different and unrelated luxuries, and the idea of trading one off for another is unknown. This is a very new development.

Very good point; that was the idea I had in my head, but I neglected to make that distinction. Great write up.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #55 on: April 20, 2016, 02:06:42 PM »
His inability to raise $400 can't really be blamed on some nebulous economic forces; it is a direct result of living beyond his means. 

Living beyond his means was also clearly a choice for this particular individual because of his education, skills, brainpower, basic good health, and access to information. Everyone makes mistakes, but generally they learn from them instead of digging themselves in deeper.

druth

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #56 on: April 20, 2016, 02:12:52 PM »
What I was most bothered by (though there is a lot to be bothered by here) was "A family in the middle quintile, with an average income of roughly $50,000, could continue its spending for … six days"

Blows my mind.  Sure I have lots of broke friends, but I'm 26.  This is talking about 2 earner households with kids.  How irresponsible is it to be aware that if you lost your job you could last for less than a week before you couldn't buy food for your kids anymore.  This is saying that this is even after liquidating things like your 401k, so presumably your savings are just so non-existent or so outweighed by credit card debt that it's irrelevant.  I can understand people in poverty that can't put together savings, but if you are in the middle I don't see how there is an excuse.

Again.  I'm 26 and I could last TWO YEARS(longer than I have been out of college) if I lost my job.  I admit I'm a little higher than the middle quintile, but Jesus.

*breathes* /end rant


randymarsh

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #57 on: April 20, 2016, 02:17:03 PM »
His inability to raise $400 can't really be blamed on some nebulous economic forces; it is a direct result of living beyond his means. 

Living beyond his means was also clearly a choice for this particular individual because of his education, skills, brainpower, basic good health, and access to information. Everyone makes mistakes, but generally they learn from them instead of digging themselves in deeper.

That's the vibe I got as well. I mean I have sympathy for the kid from a super low income neighborhood who ends up with $200,000 student loan debt. But this guy? Eh.

Plus the fact that he's still making mistakes. I mean the kids are grown, yet he had to ask for money to pay the heat?

iris lily

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #58 on: April 20, 2016, 02:45:17 PM »
Nice summary, Grim Squeaker.

William Makepeace Thackaray highlighted some Victorian habits of people and their money in his great novel Vanity Fair where class and birth and finances didnt all line up. There were broke peole who were shrewed with money, rich peole who were stupid with money as well as ones wh,were good with it, and people who lived on credit. The latter situation was especially intersting.

The author of the article reminds me of several characters in Vanity Fair.

Posthumane

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #59 on: April 20, 2016, 02:49:03 PM »
I agree with what TheGrimSqueaker wrote and have on occasion said many of the same things myself. It's a reflection of the famous quote "You have have anything you want, you just can't have everything you want." If you want to have an expensive hobby (like I do) then go ahead and have an expensive hobby - but realize that means you won't be able to have as nice a vehicle or as big of a house, or won't be able to travel as much. You have to pick which if those is most important to you.

People complain that the "american dream" is impossible to achieve these days, but that's only because they've redefined the american dream. It used to be a modest house with one bathroom, a car for the family to get around in, occasionally going out to a restaurant for a special occasion, and an annual camping/fishing/hunting trip with some friends. Now it's a big screen TV in every room, a large truck/suv for each driver in the house, two week resort vacations at least once a year, eating out several times per week, etc.

One thing that stuck out at me about this article, though it's been mentioned a number of times elsewhere, is blaming the stangnation of real household income over the years. Why is a growth in real income important or expected? I understand that nominal income should at least grown with inflation, more or less, in order to maintain purchasing power, but it seems that many people are saying that growth in real income (i.e. inflation adjusted income) is necessary for success and they attribute that lack of growth to their failure. In my mind, if a person is continuing to do the same job as they were in the past, they should expect to get paid the same as they have in the past, no? I understand that median real income is lower now than it was during its peak in the mid 70's (depending on which data you use), but that period was a bit of an anomaly. It's still higher now than it was throughout the 80's and most of the 90's, and probably compared to the 60's as well.

NESailor

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #60 on: April 20, 2016, 02:50:43 PM »
What I was most bothered by (though there is a lot to be bothered by here) was "A family in the middle quintile, with an average income of roughly $50,000, could continue its spending for … six days"

Blows my mind.  Sure I have lots of broke friends, but I'm 26.  This is talking about 2 earner households with kids.  How irresponsible is it to be aware that if you lost your job you could last for less than a week before you couldn't buy food for your kids anymore.  This is saying that this is even after liquidating things like your 401k, so presumably your savings are just so non-existent or so outweighed by credit card debt that it's irrelevant.  I can understand people in poverty that can't put together savings, but if you are in the middle I don't see how there is an excuse.

Again.  I'm 26 and I could last TWO YEARS(longer than I have been out of college) if I lost my job.  I admit I'm a little higher than the middle quintile, but Jesus.

*breathes* /end rant

I hear you on this one.  Damn.  I have 1 kid (another on the way) and this huge for me.   My wife and I have friends who have similar families and even incomes and we are baffled at their cash burn rates.  There really cannot be ANYTHING left for savings in their budget.  I can't imagine living comfortably knowing that an accident could put me and my kids out on the street.  Unless of course I didn't know that...being that most people are completely financially illiterate.  That's the only explanation.

Sid888

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #61 on: April 20, 2016, 02:50:58 PM »
What a mess of one bad financial decision after another because he couldn't simply say "no" to things he knew couldn't afford or would put him in a financial position that would cause me to lose sleep at night.  This guy could have been "rich" in retirement had he simply said "no" when important financial decisions were made.  Instead, he won't even be middle class.  he will be poor unless he hits a grand slam with his writing. 

That said, I'm not sure that MMM derision will really change anything - for him or others in the United States. The MMMers are a very small portion of the population apparently.  It seems to me that human nature will cause these types of problems over and over again if we don't alter the United State's financial system to require more savings for retirement and, at the same time, better provide for life's necessities like a solid public K-12 education, affordable housing in areas free of crime, lower costs for health care, child care and higher education. 

I'm really getting the feeling that there are many Americans just waking up to the fact - because they have no savings - that they are not middle class but instead working poor despite having significant material possessions and kids with diplomas from private schools.  I suspect that this financial awakening is what is driving voters to support both Trump and Sanders.  It's likely to get much worse before it gets better unless we change the system.

Jack

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #62 on: April 20, 2016, 03:16:28 PM »
That said, I'm not sure that MMM derision will really change anything - for him or others in the United States. The MMMers are a very small portion of the population apparently.  It seems to me that human nature will cause these types of problems over and over again if we don't alter the United State's financial system to require more savings for retirement and, at the same time, better provide for life's necessities like a solid public K-12 education, affordable housing in areas free of crime, lower costs for health care, child care and higher education. 

I'm really getting the feeling that there are many Americans just waking up to the fact - because they have no savings - that they are not middle class but instead working poor despite having significant material possessions and kids with diplomas from private schools.  I suspect that this financial awakening is what is driving voters to support both Trump and Sanders.  It's likely to get much worse before it gets better unless we change the system.

Exactly. We can blame human nature and poor microeconomic decision-making all we want, but that doesn't change the fact that the macroeconomic situation is unsustainable and will have to be resolved one way or another.

randymarsh

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #63 on: April 20, 2016, 03:26:25 PM »
  I'm really getting the feeling that there are many Americans just waking up to the fact - because they have no savings - that they are not middle class but instead working poor despite having significant material possessions and kids with diplomas from private schools. I suspect that this financial awakening is what is driving voters to support both Trump and Sanders.  It's likely to get much worse before it gets better unless we change the system.

Two sides of the same coin.

The strongest Trump supporter is a non-college educated male. As American manufacturing has been outsourced or delegated to robots, this group has effectively been left out of today's economy.

The strongest Sanders supporter is a college educated 20something. They borrowed and borrowed for the degree that they were told would get them a solid middle if not upper-middle class lifestyle. With loan payments, even on a decent income, they feel like they got a raw deal.

StarBright

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #64 on: April 20, 2016, 03:27:18 PM »

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.

opnfld

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #65 on: April 20, 2016, 05:11:35 PM »
I'm really getting the feeling that there are many Americans just waking up to the fact - because they have no savings - that they are not middle class but instead working poor despite having significant material possessions and kids with diplomas from private schools.  I suspect that this financial awakening is what is driving voters to support both Trump and Sanders.  It's likely to get much worse before it gets better unless we change the system.

Exactly. We can blame human nature and poor microeconomic decision-making all we want, but that doesn't change the fact that the macroeconomic situation is unsustainable and will have to be resolved one way or another.

Yes, I think you are right.  Rather than absolving himself and his decisions, this is the point the author is trying to make by illustrating his particular circumstances.  For a variety of reasons, half of the US population is making very bad financial decisions and that will have societal ramifications.

opnfld

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #66 on: April 20, 2016, 05:14:50 PM »
William Makepeace Thackaray highlighted some Victorian habits of people and their money in his great novel Vanity Fair where class and birth and finances didnt all line up. There were broke peole who were shrewed with money, rich peole who were stupid with money as well as ones wh,were good with it, and people who lived on credit. The latter situation was especially intersting.

The author of the article reminds me of several characters in Vanity Fair.
Sounds good.  Thanks for the recommendation.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #67 on: April 20, 2016, 05:15:51 PM »
Sure - cars and TVs are cheaper but health insurance is insane.

I teach my daughter to divide things into needs, wants, and nice-to-haves.

Since the 1970s, nice-to-haves such as cars, TVs, electronic doodads, instant food, and real-time long distance communication are far cheaper per unit than they were before, however the maximum amount people can spend on them has exploded. People will always find a way to spend a shocking amount of money on entertainment or conspicuous consumption like gigantic televisions or extra living space. A household's average fraction of spending on such items probably hasn't shifted much; people just get more bang for their buck.

Most needs, however, are far more expensive. Medical care, shelter, child care, and education sufficient to get legally marketable skills have more than doubled in price even taking inflation into account. Some other "need" items, such as high quality food, are actually harder to get for the average person because of a decline in cooking skills and the fact that all of the processed instant junk crowds it out of the marketplace.

The "wants", however, are kind of in the middle. These are the things people consider decencies, or in some cases the minimum necessary consumption for a person in their situation. I'd say that, overall, the price per unit has dropped but people's consumption rate has increased to more than compensate. Most clothing, for example, falls into this category.

The Consumer Price Index is deceptive because it doesn't differentiate between necessities and luxuries.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #68 on: April 20, 2016, 05:23:45 PM »
Nice summary, Grim Squeaker.

William Makepeace Thackaray highlighted some Victorian habits of people and their money in his great novel Vanity Fair where class and birth and finances didnt all line up. There were broke peole who were shrewed with money, rich peole who were stupid with money as well as ones wh,were good with it, and people who lived on credit. The latter situation was especially intersting.

The author of the article reminds me of several characters in Vanity Fair.

I love that book. Another good one for Victorian money habits is Middlemarch.

JLee

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #69 on: April 20, 2016, 05:28:21 PM »
I think the primary culprit is that we are steeped in mass media which 24x7 projects an aspirational image of "middle-class" that is beyond the means of people who would previously be considered middle-class. So people feel poor if they don't drive new cars, or don't take a fancy vacation every year, or don't have the latest clothing styles, or the latest gadgets.

Yup

People surround themselves with social media.  People only project "coordinated" posts on social media that portray a certain positive image.  Therefore, when you look at your feed of your "friends" you think everyone travels, eats out, gets new cars, etc. all the time.  however, this photo pretty much sums this up.



Plus people could be leveraging themselves up to their eyeballs or they could be saving heavily in one area of their life to spend in another.

I feel bad for today's society growing up especially those who are not 100% secure and confident within themselves.

Haha, that made me wonder how much of a "successful consumerist lifestyle" projection I could present on social media with careful structuring of pictures. :P

Making Cookies

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #70 on: April 21, 2016, 09:13:18 AM »
The economist quoted pretty much summed it all up, despite missing his own point:

"According to Johnson, economists have long theorized that people smooth their consumption over their lifetime, offsetting bad years with good ones—borrowing in the bad, saving in the good. But recent research indicates that when people get some money—a bonus, a tax refund, a small inheritance—they are, in fact, more likely to spend it than to save it. “It could be,” Johnson says, “that people don’t have the money” to save. "

People spend money they don't have, and then say "I don't have money to save." Yeah, no kidding...you spent it all on discretionary goods.

I can almost guarantee if you ask any 20 or 30 something on the street if they have money to save and they say no, that they also have an iPhone.

Not necessarily. At one point early in our marriage each "windfall" (tax refund, cash gift) seemed to be spent on a set of tires for the family hauler (which is still many years later the family hauler) or an appliance replacement/repair or knocking the debt down.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2016, 09:42:01 AM by Jethrosnose »

rob in cal

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #71 on: April 21, 2016, 10:26:31 AM »
   Wondering about the details about the wedding and how much money they took from the 401k to fund it.  Also, did the wedding couple know that they were doing this for them?  Also, how did the conversation go about the grandparents funding the grandkids college.  How much did it impact their finances?

FINate

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #72 on: April 21, 2016, 10:39:26 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.

CNM

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #73 on: April 21, 2016, 10:52:03 AM »
... 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.

I agree with you.  I attribute that to the elimination of pensions and life-long health care in most industries and erosion of safety nets in general. 

infogoon

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #74 on: April 21, 2016, 11:02:40 AM »
... 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.

I agree with you.  I attribute that to the elimination of pensions and life-long health care in most industries and erosion of safety nets in general.

Agreed. I live the same lifestyle as my parents at my age -- used cars, modest house, wife is a SAHM -- despite the fact that I make significantly more money. Dad's job came with excellent lifetime medical coverage and a full pension he started collecting when he retired in his mid-50s. I've got to foot the bill for all of that myself.

NESailor

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #75 on: April 21, 2016, 11:07:52 AM »
... 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.

I agree with you.  I attribute that to the elimination of pensions and life-long health care in most industries and erosion of safety nets in general.

Agreed. I live the same lifestyle as my parents at my age -- used cars, modest house, wife is a SAHM -- despite the fact that I make significantly more money. Dad's job came with excellent lifetime medical coverage and a full pension he started collecting when he retired in his mid-50s. I've got to foot the bill for all of that myself.

So what you are saying is that you are not doing better...but you are also not doing worse. Same lifestyle, more money, fewer benies so you put the extra money to create a safety net for yourself.  Net result is the same, right?  Supports the notion that life is NOT harder today than it was 50 years ago.  People just happen to expect much more for the same amount of effort and end up getting in trouble via overconsumption and misusing credit.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #76 on: April 21, 2016, 11:14:19 AM »
... 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.

I agree with you.  I attribute that to the elimination of pensions and life-long health care in most industries and erosion of safety nets in general.

Agreed. I live the same lifestyle as my parents at my age -- used cars, modest house, wife is a SAHM -- despite the fact that I make significantly more money. Dad's job came with excellent lifetime medical coverage and a full pension he started collecting when he retired in his mid-50s. I've got to foot the bill for all of that myself.

So what you are saying is that you are not doing better...but you are also not doing worse. Same lifestyle, more money, fewer benies so you put the extra money to create a safety net for yourself.  Net result is the same, right?  Supports the notion that life is NOT harder today than it was 50 years ago.  People just happen to expect much more for the same amount of effort and end up getting in trouble via overconsumption and misusing credit.

And, the first world is simply a better place to live in today than in the 1970s or 1950s. People are healthier, have much more access to information and entertainment, and we're safer as well.

StarBright

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #77 on: April 21, 2016, 11:20:25 AM »
... 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.

I agree with you.  I attribute that to the elimination of pensions and life-long health care in most industries and erosion of safety nets in general.

Agreed. I live the same lifestyle as my parents at my age -- used cars, modest house, wife is a SAHM -- despite the fact that I make significantly more money. Dad's job came with excellent lifetime medical coverage and a full pension he started collecting when he retired in his mid-50s. I've got to foot the bill for all of that myself.

So what you are saying is that you are not doing better...but you are also not doing worse. Same lifestyle, more money, fewer benies so you put the extra money to create a safety net for yourself.  Net result is the same, right?  Supports the notion that life is NOT harder today than it was 50 years ago.  People just happen to expect much more for the same amount of effort and end up getting in trouble via overconsumption and misusing credit.

If my husband and I are doing twice the "work" for the same amount of comfort I'd say that we are worse off. On top of that, my father had a 40 hour a week job, with a few busy weeks a year. Hubs and I are both working 50 hours a week regularly with many weeks requiring more.

Yes childcare is outsourced 7 hours a day but cooking and cleaning and life management are still handled by us (which would have been handled by my stay at home mother).
 
It's definitely more effort than my parents were putting in at the same age.

MrMoogle

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #78 on: April 21, 2016, 11:42:13 AM »
... 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.

I agree with you.  I attribute that to the elimination of pensions and life-long health care in most industries and erosion of safety nets in general.

The argument against this is seeing all the pensions that aren't delivering on what their companies promised now.  They weren't funded properly, so it was never a stable solution, and now that we know how much funding is required, no company is willing to spend it.  The workers gave up responsibility to their company, who wasn't responsible enough to make it work. 

I don't have a society level solution though.  Personally MMM, but most people don't/won't choose that.

Both Dems and Repubs see certain realities, but ignore the realities that the other side sees.  As a conservative, the more I think about this, the more I like SSI the way it is.  It basically says, "Be responsible, if you're not, society will give you just enough money not to starve."  A threat and a safety net, but not a big enough of one to reward irresponsibility.  Only if someone would word it that way so everyone was aware of what is being promised.

infogoon

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #79 on: April 21, 2016, 11:45:06 AM »
Agreed. I live the same lifestyle as my parents at my age -- used cars, modest house, wife is a SAHM -- despite the fact that I make significantly more money. Dad's job came with excellent lifetime medical coverage and a full pension he started collecting when he retired in his mid-50s. I've got to foot the bill for all of that myself.

So what you are saying is that you are not doing better...but you are also not doing worse. Same lifestyle, more money, fewer benies so you put the extra money to create a safety net for yourself.  Net result is the same, right?  Supports the notion that life is NOT harder today than it was 50 years ago.  People just happen to expect much more for the same amount of effort and end up getting in trouble via overconsumption and misusing credit.

Another consideration is that I have three college degrees, including a graduate degree, while my father was able to support his family with a high school diploma. Fortunately, I was able to do that with minimal debt; but for the majority of people who have no or only some college, it's hard to keep up.

NESailor

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #80 on: April 21, 2016, 12:22:07 PM »
Agreed. I live the same lifestyle as my parents at my age -- used cars, modest house, wife is a SAHM -- despite the fact that I make significantly more money. Dad's job came with excellent lifetime medical coverage and a full pension he started collecting when he retired in his mid-50s. I've got to foot the bill for all of that myself.

So what you are saying is that you are not doing better...but you are also not doing worse. Same lifestyle, more money, fewer benies so you put the extra money to create a safety net for yourself.  Net result is the same, right?  Supports the notion that life is NOT harder today than it was 50 years ago.  People just happen to expect much more for the same amount of effort and end up getting in trouble via overconsumption and misusing credit.

Another consideration is that I have three college degrees, including a graduate degree, while my father was able to support his family with a high school diploma. Fortunately, I was able to do that with minimal debt; but for the majority of people who have no or only some college, it's hard to keep up.

Once again I'm not convinced.  I realize I may be coming across as some conservative (BOOTSTRAPS!) guy but I'm anything but.  Are you certain that you consume the same amount as your parents?  You may think it's a "similar" lifestyle but if your used cars are a class above that your parents had (and you have 2, vs. their 1) and you have multiple TVs, cable, and a cellphone for you and each of your two kids - you are simply NOT leading the same lifestyle as your parents. 

I'm making lots of assumptions, I know, but I want to make sure we are comparing apples to apples here.  I could say that I'm leading a lifestyle similar to my parents in that I have used compact cars a small house and a no frills yard with no landscaping.  But that would ignore the fact that I have 2 cars that are far superior to their 1 car they had.  My small 1500 sq foot house is a whopping 50% larger than their 1000 sq. ft house.  I have only 1 TV but it's a 49inch 4K TV and even without cable I have 100x more programing available (Internet + Netflix).  My wife and I both have cellphones and my yard is 10 times the size of my parents' yard when I was a kid.  Small differences add up to 5-10K of consumption annually which is not insignificant when you compare consuming at a 30K level vs. a 40K level (33% increase!).

Regarding education - as much as I'm a fan it's still a form of consumption.  If you choose to get multiple degrees that you know (or should know) will not result in significant increase in earnings potential that's on you - not life being more difficult.  I only have BS in Accounting on scholarships, and part time work (state school + being an RA for reduced housing) and that investment had a STELLAR ROI.  My sister had to get a BA and an MS (psychology) and she still earns significantly less than I do when you adjust for COL.  I also know a whole lot of HS Diploma guys who outearn me when you account for the opportunity cost of my B.S.

Basically, what this keeps leading me back to is that we consume ourselves into trouble.  Many of us on this page are living quite well on 30K/year for a family of 3-4 people and that's quite a bit less than the median household income.  I just can't understand why I keep hearing about how tough life is compared to what it used to be.  If we all lived a life "the way it used to be" I think our balance sheets would look much healthier.

Sdeeze

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #81 on: April 21, 2016, 12:29:26 PM »
So the Atlantic is doing a feature where they have "leading scholars of the American middle class" read the feature story and react to it. Kind of a cheesy premise but they seem to know more about the situation than the author did. Whether you agree with his or her point of view is another matter.

http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/all/2016/04/what-factors-are-driving-american-financial-insecurity/478575/

Some are pretty interesting. To wit on the earning patterns of the last 40 years:

"The ultimate culprit is wage stagnation, occurring now for over 40 years (average real wages peaked in 1973). This translates into income stagnation. For a while (until about 1990 or so) families compensated for stagnant wages by the increased participation of wives in the labor force. Once this opportunity was exhausted real incomes also stagnated. Indeed, according to Census data, median family income in 2013 was less than it was in 1997."

I agree with most people here on a basic level that even moderate MMM reforms in a person's life would alleviate almost all of this, but it's interesting to look at the structural causes of when/why these things come to a head.

Tyson

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #82 on: April 21, 2016, 12:37:40 PM »
What's' clear to me from the article is that the author needs a complete mental reset.  A paradigm shift, to borrow from Khun.  Until that happens, he'll just keep making different variations of the same mistakes over and over again (as he is still doing).  I know, because I used to be like that.  It took long term unemployment and finding MMM to make that shift for me.  I feel lucky.  And I feel sorry for this guy and his family.

infogoon

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #83 on: April 21, 2016, 12:44:19 PM »
Once again I'm not convinced.  I realize I may be coming across as some conservative (BOOTSTRAPS!) guy but I'm anything but.  Are you certain that you consume the same amount as your parents?  You may think it's a "similar" lifestyle but if your used cars are a class above that your parents had (and you have 2, vs. their 1) and you have multiple TVs, cable, and a cellphone for you and each of your two kids - you are simply NOT leading the same lifestyle as your parents. 

I'm not sure what you think I'm trying to convince you of, I don't believe I said anything about how things are getting harder for the middle class. That said, my parents drove a Ford Granada and an AMC Hornet when I was a kid. My cars are a class above by default. I don't think I could buy something that shitty now if I tried.

Cassie

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #84 on: April 21, 2016, 12:52:29 PM »
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.

doggyfizzle

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #85 on: April 21, 2016, 01:26:24 PM »
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.

Just make a conscious decision to not participate and teach your kid perspective.  People need to accept that most likely their kid(s) are going to be average, and there is nothing wrong with that at all.  I've got a two-month old, and I have no hopes or dreams for him curing cancer or becoming president, but I'd be thrilled for him become an electrician or accountant and be able to lead a life anywhere in the US (or elsewhere) he wants to one day.  Maybe he'll be a college athlete like his parents, maybe not.  Will my wife and I do as much as possible to foster creativity?  Certainly!, but not with the expectation that if he doesn't take to athletics or early computer programming classes he will be doomed to poverty.

mm1970

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #86 on: April 21, 2016, 01:39:54 PM »

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.
There are some really good points in here too.  As a member of the lower class growing up (poor, rural family), it was expected to do with less, and to do it yourself.  Very mustachian.  Started as necessity but was a matter of pride.

So, for example.  My father was an auto mechanic and fixed our cars.  And those of relatives.  We did our own house repairs, like painting the house (and of course all of the other things that are outsourced these days, like yard work, growing food, canning, etc.)  You found ways around problems because you had to - like our windows were drafty, so we thumb-tacked plastic over them every winter to bring down heating costs.  Our shower didn't work, so we took baths.  Dad tried to fix the shower, created a gas leak, and my sister passed out.  (Then we got a pro to come in.)  Our appliances were old, but they didn't break as often.

My brother in law fixes most things at home himself, and he helps other people with stuff like new windows, new siding, etc.

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.


Giro

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #87 on: April 21, 2016, 01:58:12 PM »
As a kid, we had no air cond, no cable, one car, and only one guaranteed meal a day.  We had a giant garden and had to can food for the winter.  I never wore a new piece of clothing until I was 17 and then only because my boyfriend bought me a sweater for Christmas.  I never went to the dentist until I was 21 years old.  (not a single cavity either, because I never ate sugar).  No restaurants (not even McDonalds), no vacations, and my mom didn't sit down with me and help with my homework.  I'm pretty sure we were poor, but to say life is worse....HAHAHAHA. 

Even the very poor families today have all of those amenities. 

pbkmaine

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The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #88 on: April 21, 2016, 01:59:55 PM »
My mother grew up in a row house in West Philadelphia that her father bought for $1200 in 1915. I grew up in the same house. 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, maybe 1000sf. After my mother's death in 1986, it sold for $30,000.  My parents had an antenna TV and a rotary dial phone. Aside from TV, their main entertainment was books from the library. They did not belong to a gym - they went for a walk. My own life, though modest compared with some of my peers, is orders of magnitude more luxurious.

doggyfizzle

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #89 on: April 21, 2016, 02:16:29 PM »
... 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.

I agree with you.  I attribute that to the elimination of pensions and life-long health care in most industries and erosion of safety nets in general.

Actually, most people never were covered by a pension; peak coverage was only about 40% of the working population in the early 90s.  Safety nets in this country really are at an all-time high (Medicare coverage, SS coverage, Medicaid coverage, etc).  What the middle class today has to contend with is nothing different than what the middle class has had to deal with in the past.  Middle class 25 years ago: rising college/healthcare costs, tumultuous unemployments/economy of the 80s, Cold War, Wall St crash of 1987, Savings and Loan Crisis.  Middle class 50 years ago: fluctuating unemployment due to end of WWII, 1960s, stagflation in the 70s and OPEC oil embargo, Cold War. 

50 years ago a middle class family had one car, a small 1000-1500 sq foot house, and food on the table.  As baby boomer women entered the workforce, two cars became the norm for a middle class family.  Food, shelter, basic transportation, and the ability to save and invest in the prosperity of this country through the stock market (or other means such as real estate) is available to the middle class of today just like that of 25 and 50 years ago.  Yes, college has become more expensive, and yet the median graduating student loan balance is only about $12,800, which results in a starting salary increase (HS grad vs BS/BA) of roughly the same amount!

One major difference of the middle class of today vs 25 or 50 years ago is the ease of consumer access to debt.  Credit cards were non-existent in the 50s, and had not reached consumer saturation in the 80s.  So much of the middle class' financial issues can be attributed to poor use (and misunderstanding) of debt - maybe in some degree due to the relative abundance and stability this country enjoys compared to past times of scarcity (40s-50s during after WWII) or uncertainty (70s-80s Stagflation and near-peak of the Cold War during Soviet Afghanistan incursion and Abel Archer).



One Noisy Cat

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #90 on: April 21, 2016, 04:16:18 PM »
I would like to know how much their family makes and what they spend it on. How much on the wedding they tapped the 401(k) for.

I don't have any children or nieces/nephews. But is it really necessary to send your kids to private schools? I am four years younger than this guy and growing up in the 1960s in upstate New York my public schools were great for elementary and junior high and okay for high school. The valedictorian got into Dartmouth and while he struggled to find himself after graduating (very intense guy, needed to try different things) is now a successful lawyer. The salutatorian went to Harvard and is successful as a political advisor. The guy who was probably third went to Brown, Columbia  Business and Yale Law (always joking about how Harvard never saw the light) and was successful on Wall Street before dying of a sudden heart attack a few years ago. It's great parents will do things to make their kids successful but is private school really necessary? Couldn't you get some books from the library and have additional home courses if you feel the public school is inadequate?  Coupled with living in the Hamptons, I shudder to think of the mortgage he has.

plainjane

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #91 on: April 21, 2016, 05:32:43 PM »
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.

hernandz

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #92 on: April 21, 2016, 05:57:31 PM »
The author was on public radio's Marketplace to discuss the article.  Sadly, he had nothing to say about what steps he was taking to try and improve his situation. The host commended him for his honesty in disclosing, but I think was a little surprised that the author remained pessimistic about his financial situation. 

That was very disheartening to hear.  I very much hoped that the author would reveal that having faced his financial situation, he was taking some, any, steps to improve or that he would have suggestions for others in a similar situation.   

galliver

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #93 on: April 21, 2016, 08:31:26 PM »
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.

I don't think it's a terrible thing necessarily to stretch yourself for your kids' education; my parents rented in some expensive neighborhoods on a postdoc researcher's salary...because they had 3 bright kids (objectively, we all took advanced classes and got A's) and private school x3 adds up faster than the rent premium. We genuinely utilized what the good school district(s) offered (particularly: AP courses), and if we hadn't, one of the surrounding districts would probably have been just fine for us. But since they weren't minimizing rent, they kept everything else down. Not quite the barest of bones; they lived life and supported us living ours, but given the choice between a camping trip and upgrading the TV...they'd choose camping trip. No all-inclusive Disney packages or horseback riding camp or 16th birthday cars here!

I'm with those who advocate that "middle class" is an "or" lifestyle not an "and" lifestyle. To live a life with ALL the trimmings in these sorts of areas, you're upper-middle-class at least. Maybe you're in a nicer area, but in a smaller house, or condo, or even apartment. Maybe you don't get new cars, and regardless whether or not you do, you wear them out. Maybe your nice cell phone lasts you 3-4 years, not 1-2. Maybe you send your kids to public school, or cut down their extracurriculars from 5 to 1 or 2 (especially if they are older and know their interests). Maybe you vacation to a resort or cruise...once in 5-10 years, not annually, and drive to the nearest lake/mountain/national park the other years.

jody

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #94 on: April 22, 2016, 05:26:33 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?


2Cent

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #95 on: April 22, 2016, 05:59:55 AM »
The term "middle class" is BS.   Ask just about anyone you know and I'd venture that they will tell you they are "middle class", and that anyone with 30% less income is low income, and anyone with 30% more is the upper class.
It is always funny to hear Americans talk about the middle class as it is actually a Marxist concept and means something very different than middle income.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #96 on: April 22, 2016, 06:56:34 AM »
The term "middle class" is BS.   Ask just about anyone you know and I'd venture that they will tell you they are "middle class", and that anyone with 30% less income is low income, and anyone with 30% more is the upper class.
It is always funny to hear Americans talk about the middle class as it is actually a Marxist concept and means something very different than middle income.

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.

Prior to the late 1800s, going back to the Romans at least, class had more to do with what family you were born into. What a person did for a living, and the source and quantity of his or her income, was considered more an effect of his or her class than a determining factor in which class he or she belonged to. But starting in the 1800s the American and European notions of class started to deviate sharply. I don't know that the Marxist interpretation was ever fully embraced throughout Europe but I do believe it was more intuitively understood.

Americans tend to use the Barnum model rather than the Marx model for two reasons. First, any American who was around during the McCarthy era or the Cold War was terrified to actually read Marx for fear of prosecution or blacklisting from his or her job. That level of social censorship, not all of which was necessarily enforced by government, wasn't a common thing in most of western Europe. (By contrast, in eastern Europe, reading Marx was kind of mandatory, but due to state enforced censorship they didn't go in for a lot of Barnum-esque culture.) Second, the USA never had organized means for class enforcement in the plebian/patrician sense or the feudal sense, except for the institution of slavery. When slavery was abolished the last means for using the law as a means of class enforcement collapsed.

Not having a means of class enforcement eventually created problems with class definition. The USA lacked a strong guild tradition which was never entirely replaced by unions. Land was never apportioned by a central feudal authority due to lack of means of enforcement on a large scale, and the government was deliberately set up without a means of granting hereditary titles or political authority. After a generation or two, all that was really left to exclude people from one clique or another were money and regional ties.

Europe, by contrast, has had mechanisms for class enforcement throughout most of its history. Some persist to this day.

iris lily

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #97 on: April 22, 2016, 07:24:29 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.
The author of this article is a self entitled bore who is too old to learn new (frugal, MM
M) tricks.

I think the point above that needs not wants are now more expensive than in the past is good, but also there are shrewd ways to manage them.

I am a baby boomer and did fine, of course, due to the prevailing thought that we got it all on a silver platter.  :)

But I am amazed that our younger generation of neices and nephews are doing fine financially as well. Some are better than others (the chem engineer husband and wife team with MMM habits will beat everyone hands down!)  but I know if only one who receives economic outpatient care from his grandfather, and that is for a medical condition.

Of course none of us live in the Hamptons. Maybe thats a place to start, Mr. Author.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 07:27:54 AM by iris lily »

Hadilly

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #98 on: April 22, 2016, 07:28:39 AM »
I'm glad to see this discussion. I heard the interview on NPR and then read the article. My ultimate take away was how vitally crucial it is to live below one's means. If that is a guiding principle in making decisions, then you avoid all these cumulative disastrous choices, unlike the author.

Gotta say, I find the 47% figure appalling. It is one thing to run your checking account so tight you don't have $400 (that would be me), but that's because the excess gets transferred to Vanguard. I honestly would have thought the percentage would have been more like 10% or 15%.

Metric Mouse

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #99 on: April 22, 2016, 07:37:12 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!?