Author Topic: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.  (Read 10282 times)

HappyHoya

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
I suspect I am asking for facepunches with the title alone, but please hear me out. In a lot of ways, I was mustachian before this blog was started and before I knew there was anyone else like me. In high school and college, I worked hard at multiple part-time jobs and saved my money while pitying my peers who were spending money on clothes and gross booze then crying because they were at their parents' mercy for things they "needed." I am well versed in the philosophies of this lifestyle and it's served me well. I am all for being tough with oneself and critically examining what we think we need to get by (everything, basically). I recognize that modern life is, in many ways, exceptionally cushy and easy and few people have legitimate things to complain about.

I'm uneasy with the absolute confidence fellow adherents have about making good choices solving all our problems. The most recent post on the Financial Samurai blog (which I usually like so no hate towards the authors) really got under my skin. It was about someone making a lot of money at Google who bought a (beautiful) mobile home as a creative solution to the area's housing prices. I am not sad for this guy or for his family, who should be applauded for finding a wonderful solution to a tough situation a lot of people complain about. Far from just getting by, this option will let them save a lot of money and accomplish their financial and life goals. However, when he started talking about the appreciation of his mobile home, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people who don't make a lot of money for whom living in the mobile home wasn't an inexpensive option to allow them to save a lot of money, but really their only choice, made more expensive by the increases in value that make the voluntarily frugal wealthier. I suspect this bothered me, in part, because my husband and I recently seriously considered buying a very small studio condo close to my work. It was affordable to us, but at over $750/square foot, didn't seem like a good value. We were wiling to be creative, looked at creating lofts, considered all the things we could get rid of (we are in a small apartment already). As we were willing to go through all these efforts to consider living in that space, I couldn't help but feel very worried that while this was optional to us (and we ultimately decided against it), being in a situation for that option to be tempting is troubling. We have a much higher HHI than is average in our area--meaning a lot of people have fewer choices than we do. I can't help but suspect the apparent rise in popularity of voluntary frugality in recent years is the result of people (admirably) making the best of some really cr@ppy situations, and in such a way that risks perpetuating those situations rather than working to fix them. It's problematic for me that people who champion choice and personal responsibility don't seem to care that those virtues don't get you as far as they use to. I know MMM tries to stay apolitical, but it does seem to provide indirect support to a political ideology that loves to placate the middle class and turn hard-working people against each other as a distraction from underlying issues that are making it increasingly tough to get by in America.  I find frugality easier to handle if I approach it as an adventure and a challenge, but I wonder if we are just fooling ourselves. Does anyone else struggle with these thoughts? Do you worry at all about the bigger implications of your finances, or do you just worry about yourself and your family? Does frugality effect your politics at all?

Alex321

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 156
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2015, 10:42:32 AM »
You're not going to like this, but really, the only real factor that may be making it "increasingly tough to get by in America" is single-parenthood." All the statistics point back to that one factor.

Anyway, I get your larger point. Did you see the articles about the divorced college professor who created a project to live in a dumpster on campus?

HappyHoya

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2015, 10:46:26 AM »
I'm going to have to delve into the statistics a bit more, but I am neither single nor a parent and I will never achieve the security my parents or grandparents did. They worked very hard, but so do my husband and I. We have two income earners who individually put in more time than a sole provider did for families in previous generations. It seems to me that is a form of it being more difficult to get by, even if I reject a lot of the consumer crap they never thought twice about.

I did not read that article but I will look for it. Thanks for your thoughts!

Tjat

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 562
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2015, 10:48:41 AM »
I may not be fully understanding your post, but I have two thoughts

1) MMM is primarily targeted towards educated, moderate to high income folks who have the ability to forgo consumer luxuries in exchange happiness maximizing values and financial independence. It's not meant for the minimum wage single parent with 5 kids - though they can still benefit by ditching cable and expensive smart phones.

2) I'm not sure it's worth a guilt trip if you fit into that target mold. If the alternative of calculating your minimum living stipend and donating the rest is more appealing, go for it.  If that was my passion, I would defer that charity until I could at least support myself with FU money.

HappyHoya

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2015, 11:27:29 AM »
2) I'm not sure it's worth a guilt trip if you fit into that target mold. If the alternative of calculating your minimum living stipend and donating the rest is more appealing, go for it.  If that was my passion, I would defer that charity until I could at least support myself with FU money.

I'm not looking for sympathy, although I'll admit that my experiences inform how I feel about the trajectory the US is on. I fit the MMM reader mold in the sense that my family has a high HHI and are looking to maximize happiness, but I don't feel like I fit the MMM mold in the sense of what I realistically expect the payoff of that to be (due to specific life circumstances I don't need to elaborate on here, I am MMMing for a pretty normal age retirement--likely older than my parents or ILs who have ridiculous pensions and retired "on time"). Most of the time, I recognize that I am lucky. On bad days, I am exhausted by how hard some of these choices are and how it is getting increasingly difficult to do everything myself and forgo a lot of comforts I thought were stupid luxuries when I was younger and felt healthier. This is a temporary state for me, but it does give me empathy for people who are in situations where they have fewer choices to make. Like most MMMers, I am always up for critically examining my beliefs and decisions so I wanted to explore this. But my post isn't about feelings for their own sake, but as it informs financial decisions. Responsibility is a tougher sell when the rewards feel uncertain compared to immediate creature comforts. I struggle to provide good advice to motivate my youngest sibling (12 years younger than me) because I can't know that I would have made the same decisions if I knew then what I know now. If the goal is to maximize happiness and freedom over your lifetime, I am concerned that the US is approaching a point where rationally maximizing happiness is not consistent with financially responsible behavior for a lot of formerly middle-class people.

squeakywheel

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 45
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2015, 11:35:43 AM »
I was having similar thoughts recently, wondering why the explosion in recent years of the movement to spend less, save more, and retire ridiculously early. I was thinking that it is likely due to the bifurcation of the earnings spectrum in the US, and the diminishing/disappearance of the middle class. Those of us who are lucky enough to be on the upper end of that spectrum now are realizing we have choices that for our parents would have been impossible (or much more difficult). My DH and I live a very nice lifestyle, although of course much "below" many of our peers. The size house that we live in with our two kids would have been average 40-50 years ago, but now causes folks to pity us and wonder what is wrong with our finances. The answer is, we will retire 10-20 years before most of our friends. Yes, both of my parents have pensions, and we definitely do not, but they also both worked until near 70.

Alex321

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 156
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2015, 11:37:52 AM »
"I am neither single nor a parent and I will never achieve the security my parents or grandparents did. They worked very hard, but so do my husband and I."

Then you must be doing something that's particularly non-remunerative. That's both a choice and a luxury because, based on your writing abilities alone, you are clearly capable of earning a solid middle-class income.

norabird

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8200
  • Location: Brooklyn NY
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2015, 11:42:57 AM »
I do think there can be blinders on MMM about the economic position of most Americans and blaming those who struggle. But there's no reason you can't be very liberal/progressive and still save actively. I also have a lot of interest in the giving what you can pledge; there is no rule you have to use your excess savings for FIRE. I think the anti consumerism and having control of one's spending are great principles that should be deployed as you feel comfortable and according to your values.

HappyHoya

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2015, 11:55:06 AM »
"I am neither single nor a parent and I will never achieve the security my parents or grandparents did. They worked very hard, but so do my husband and I."

Then you must be doing something that's particularly non-remunerative. That's both a choice and a luxury because, based on your writing abilities alone, you are clearly capable of earning a solid middle-class income.

False. Like I said, both my husband and I earn a good salary and combined we have an above-average HHI (nationally and for our area). While in hindsight I can see some decisions where I could have ended up in a more lucrative field, those were unknowns at the time. I've consistently made ambitious-but-conservative career decisions. I have performed well and am, in a lot of ways, ahead of what would reasonably be expected early(ish) in my career.

It seems like my biggest financial mistake was when I was born. For just some of the available data on this, see: http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/412766-Lost-Generations-Wealth-Building-among-Young-Americans.PDF. Regardless of whether or not you agree with that particular article, they cite to generally regarded as reliable and uncontroversial sources.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 01:03:15 PM by HappyHoya »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3057
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2015, 12:08:57 PM »
I don't think your premise is correct. Nearly all of us are more secure in our health, access to food, access to information, and general well-being than any previous generation. That's true in the United States, but it's overwhelmingly true globally. Most growth right now is going to the third world right now and improvements to the standard of living of most residents of rich countries are currently real but small. What we don't see is that global poverty and starvation have fallen precipitously within my lifetime - and I was born in 1989.

It's worth remembering that one person being rich does not necessarily impoverish anybody else. Economics is not zero-sum when transactions are voluntary.

If you worry about inequality in this country, fight the credentialism and NIMBYism that continually pulls social mobility out of reach of the poor. Question the need for strict zoning regulations keeping neighborhoods near city centers low-density. Question the need for state licensing of more and more professions (interior decorator? More common than you would think!), and for degrees being required for more and more jobs. Question the intensely long sentences handed out to criminal defendants which prevent them from every generating wealth from themselves, and question the imposition of policies that cause more violence and harm than they eliminate.

Unless you acquire money in an immoral way, there's no need to question your own accumulation and use of it. Remember that investment creates opportunities for others - if others weren't able to generate wealth off of your investment, you wouldn't be able to either.

morning owl

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 231
  • Location: Canada
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2015, 02:23:02 PM »
Here's one couple's solution to this issue, below. I think about this sort of thing too. Saving so intently for my own family and our future seems very narrow minded. It would probably be more freeing to feel like I'm helping others, too.

http://qz.com/515655/this-couple-lives-on-6-of-their-income-so-they-can-give-100000-a-year-to-charity/


2ndTimer

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4616
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2015, 02:24:46 PM »
It's problematic for me that people who champion choice and personal responsibility don't seem to care that those virtues don't get you as far as they use to. I know MMM tries to stay apolitical, but it does seem to provide indirect support to a political ideology that loves to placate the middle class and turn hard-working people against each other as a distraction from underlying issues that are making it increasingly tough to get by in America.  It's not obvious to me how I could change this if I cared about it.  It is very clear to me how to change my expenditures so the they are less than my income.  I prefer to put my time and energy where I can see a result.

Axecleaver

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3389
  • Location: New York
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2015, 02:39:55 PM »
Well, first of all, I read that Financial Samurai post and he said he made 100k on his house just because someone else bought a smaller house in the trailer park for more money. That is not how real estate works. And, he doesn't even own the land, so he has a much smaller pool of buyers than someone with a traditional situation.

Second, your post is about the death of the middle class, and what we can do about it. Yes, things are in many ways more expensive and harder today than they were 30 years ago for people making a median wage. There are no more defined benefit pensions, or cradle-to-grave jobs, healthcare expenses are higher, nursing homes are ruinously expensive, terrorism sucks, and so on. All that is true. But so what? That doesn't mean you give up. It means you make the best choices possible about the things that are within your control.

And we see examples of that on the board every day. So, don't lose faith, and don't worry about the things that are beyond your control. Show up, work hard, make good choices, and live your life as a good example to others. This is how you change the world.

Kris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4509
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2015, 03:18:58 PM »
I suspect I am asking for facepunches with the title alone, but please hear me out. In a lot of ways, I was mustachian before this blog was started and before I knew there was anyone else like me. In high school and college, I worked hard at multiple part-time jobs and saved my money while pitying my peers who were spending money on clothes and gross booze then crying because they were at their parents' mercy for things they "needed." I am well versed in the philosophies of this lifestyle and it's served me well. I am all for being tough with oneself and critically examining what we think we need to get by (everything, basically). I recognize that modern life is, in many ways, exceptionally cushy and easy and few people have legitimate things to complain about.

I'm uneasy with the absolute confidence fellow adherents have about making good choices solving all our problems. The most recent post on the Financial Samurai blog (which I usually like so no hate towards the authors) really got under my skin. It was about someone making a lot of money at Google who bought a (beautiful) mobile home as a creative solution to the area's housing prices. I am not sad for this guy or for his family, who should be applauded for finding a wonderful solution to a tough situation a lot of people complain about. Far from just getting by, this option will let them save a lot of money and accomplish their financial and life goals. However, when he started talking about the appreciation of his mobile home, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people who don't make a lot of money for whom living in the mobile home wasn't an inexpensive option to allow them to save a lot of money, but really their only choice, made more expensive by the increases in value that make the voluntarily frugal wealthier. I suspect this bothered me, in part, because my husband and I recently seriously considered buying a very small studio condo close to my work. It was affordable to us, but at over $750/square foot, didn't seem like a good value. We were wiling to be creative, looked at creating lofts, considered all the things we could get rid of (we are in a small apartment already). As we were willing to go through all these efforts to consider living in that space, I couldn't help but feel very worried that while this was optional to us (and we ultimately decided against it), being in a situation for that option to be tempting is troubling. We have a much higher HHI than is average in our area--meaning a lot of people have fewer choices than we do. I can't help but suspect the apparent rise in popularity of voluntary frugality in recent years is the result of people (admirably) making the best of some really cr@ppy situations, and in such a way that risks perpetuating those situations rather than working to fix them. It's problematic for me that people who champion choice and personal responsibility don't seem to care that those virtues don't get you as far as they use to. I know MMM tries to stay apolitical, but it does seem to provide indirect support to a political ideology that loves to placate the middle class and turn hard-working people against each other as a distraction from underlying issues that are making it increasingly tough to get by in America.  I find frugality easier to handle if I approach it as an adventure and a challenge, but I wonder if we are just fooling ourselves. Does anyone else struggle with these thoughts? Do you worry at all about the bigger implications of your finances, or do you just worry about yourself and your family? Does frugality effect your politics at all?

This is why one of the things I don't agree with MMM on is the low-information diet.  I have it good, and like you, I am in a position th make these decisions because my husband and I make good salaries and are able to live well and still save lots of money.  And I do understand that there are a lot of people who could do this, as well, except that they are soaves to blind consumerism and that their unwillingness to take a good look at their mindless spending is costing them a lot of financial freedom and ultimately a much better wuality of life.

But that does not mean that I think everything is hunky dory and that anyone who is not able to retire at 35 is just a lazy sack of shit.  There are serious injustices built into our political and economic systems, and I refuse to let my relative wealth allow me to turn a blind eye to that.  So, what do I do? I vote, I talk to people, I teach my students to think critically, andI give money and time to causes that try to address these inequalities and injustices.

Mr Money Mutton Chops

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 37
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2015, 04:13:11 PM »
None of what you said is incompatible with a low information diet. A low information diet doesn't mean you don't pay attention to the world, it merely means you filter what is relevant. For example, I don't pay attention to UK politics because there is nothing at all I can do about it. And although I follow a low information diet myself, I follow Canadian politics, activities my university is engaged in, and so on, because I can influence them.
I don't disagree with you our system is corrupt, but a low information diet does not necessarily mean not paying attention to it.

kendallf

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1068
  • Age: 53
  • Location: Jacksonville, FL
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2015, 04:40:30 PM »
There are serious injustices built into our political and economic systems, and I refuse to let my relative wealth allow me to turn a blind eye to that.  So, what do I do? I vote, I talk to people, I teach my students to think critically, andI give money and time to causes that try to address these inequalities and injustices.

I was thinking about this as I re-read "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World", Harry Browne's opus to personal freedom, this week.  He speaks extensively in the book of choosing actions for yourself, rather than predicating your freedom on others' actions.  I agree with this, and am trying to act on it.

However, I think that as I get more secure as a result, I am free to also work for better conditions and results for others; choosing wisely for myself and working hard does not mean that we cannot feel for the plight of those who are less fortunate.  The current mean spirited trend of picking an anecdote where someone's abusing the welfare system, or blew their money on stupid shit, and then concluding "Fuck 'em all!  Take all of the benefits away!" is a sad failure of ethics, IMO.

Ironically, it appears Harry Browne came to some similar conclusions late in life; he ran for President as the Libertarian party candidate twice, leading to accusations within the party of being a sellout.  :-)

SwordGuy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5930
  • Location: Fayetteville, NC
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2015, 07:28:51 PM »
The USA is chock full of opportunity.  It's all over the place!  And the Internet makes getting information incredibly cheap and convenient with education on a wide variety of useful and lucrative topics free, too.

If you can't see that opportunity, that's your fault.  It's not the fault of the country, your fellow citizens, or anyone else.

I know a young man in my community that legally sells houses he doesn't own and makes good money doing it.  And the home owners thank him for it, too!  Don't know how he does it?   Go learn.

Shucks, people in this country routinely hire people to cook them breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.

They hire people to walk their dogs.

They hire people to wash their cars.

They hire people to cut up their produce, deliver the produce and instructions on how to cook it.  That's right!  They charge people to cut up their carrots for them and photocopy a cookbook page.

They routinely buy new cars that cost two and a half times as much as a new car has to cost in this country.  And they do so 2 to 4 times per family!

I could go on and on with a litany of other examples.

But that sure as hell doesn't sound like people have it worse than prior generations.  That's a bucketful of luxurious consumption.   Hell, even our poor are fat.   Try to find fat poor people elsewhere in recorded history...

OP - stop whining and recognize that you make good money.  You and your family are alone responsible for how you spend it.  You can waste it or you can use it productively.   MMM shows how to use it productively.  Use the knowledge or don't.  But don't blame someone else if you don't.

 

tanguera

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2015, 08:33:54 PM »
I feel similarly (to the OP) and I like's Kris' solution. I've seen pretty convincing statistics that middle class median income earners are earning less, comparatively, than they did 30 years ago while incomes for the upper middle class have climbed

Just because some people here are very libertarian doesn't mean everyone is. While I believe in personal responsibility to an extent, I also recognize how much a middle class background; involved, educated parents; ambitious peers; and inherited IQ have had to do with where I am today. I take what's useful to me from the MMM philosophy and comments on the forum and leave the rest.

If there are specific causes you're interested in, get involved with service or advocacy organizations. And while the political process isn't perfect, one person's voice can mean a lot - especially on the local or state level. It often only takes one person to get state senators and reps to take up an issue. For all many people's complaining about the political process, few get involved and those few that do can have an outsized impact.

mr_orange

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5612
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Round Rock, TX
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2015, 08:54:53 PM »
I run meetings locally for entrepreneurs that literally have come from nothing and have worked their way to success.  The problem I see with our country is that too many people are laser-focused on optimizing how they trade the labor for money and very few focus on learning to generate wealth on their own.  People lack sales skills and have zero idea how to run businesses.  Since schools don't really teach the skills needed for entrepreneurship people never bother to seek out these skills.  People also mistakenly think that index funds and investing in other people's ventures are the only ways to generate wealth. 

Stop complaining about how hard things are and stop comparing your social mobility to that of any other generation.  Take accountability for your future and gather the necessary skills to get where you want to be.  There and tens of millions of people that want to enter first world countries to gain access to that which you are summarily taking for granted. 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”

SwordGuy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5930
  • Location: Fayetteville, NC
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2015, 09:13:48 PM »
Just because some people here are very libertarian doesn't mean everyone is. While I believe in personal responsibility to an extent, I also recognize how much a middle class background; involved, educated parents; ambitious peers; and inherited IQ have had to do with where I am today. I take what's useful to me from the MMM philosophy and comments on the forum and leave the rest.

So why is it that we have policies that pay people more money if they have children they can't afford?

Why have policies that pay people to stay where there are no jobs?  That's probably one of the biggest reasons that poor folks don't get out of poverty! 

Why do we have educational systems that prioritize carrying a football over educating people in useful life skills?

And why it that the standard liberal response is to whine about it and hand out money to people who are doing it wrong, instead of teach those who are doing it wrong the right way to succeed and hooking how much help they get to how much effort they put into it?

I'm a liberal and all of that pisses me off!

I would gladly pay more in taxes to teach people how to succeed, help them follow up on what they were taught, and hold them accountable for doing so.   

If there are specific causes you're interested in, get involved with service or advocacy organizations. And while the political process isn't perfect, one person's voice can mean a lot - especially on the local or state level. It often only takes one person to get state senators and reps to take up an issue. For all many people's complaining about the political process, few get involved and those few that do can have an outsized impact.

Very wise and true words.

I would add to that to volunteer to serve on local city or county citizen advisory committees or boards of directors.   There aren't many applicants and you can really have an impact on local governmental actions.


BigBangWeary

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 117
    • The Great Canadian Housing Bubble Co.
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #20 on: October 22, 2015, 01:24:32 AM »
The world is becoming flatter. That sad truth for those of us in the Western world is that the rest of the world is growing a middle class, and that means we don't get as big of a piece of the pie. But how great for them. We have millions in China, Brazil, Nigeria, India, etc. pulling themselves out of abject poverty.

I remember growing up in the 80s in Canada. Every mother on our street was a stay-at-home mom. Most of our dad's worked at the local factory or small-town business and had the family home paid off in 5 years or so. Those days are gone and it is worth admitting it. I think some of the older generations still think the world is the same. It doesn't help anyone to pretend it is.

True, a great deal can be done through hard work and ingenuity, but a generation ago it took a lot less. Fair no, but life is never fair.

happy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5433
  • Location: NSW Australia
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2015, 05:20:54 AM »
Quote
I remember growing up in the 80s in Canada. Every mother on our street was a stay-at-home mom. Most of our dad's worked at the local factory or small-town business and had the family home paid off in 5 years or so.
Sheesh really?, we in the "lucky country" were paying mortgage rates of 17% in the 1980s.

OP, I think you're feeling sorry for yourself. Snap out of it. Most of the excuses offered up in this thread are cop-outs. Not saying everyone can do what MMM has done,  however  life is not tougher, but rather expectations are higher.

jzb11

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 139
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2015, 05:54:27 AM »
The fact is that for the manual/unskilled laborer, life is becoming more difficult, and this is the big challenge we will need to confront as a society. As not all manual laborers will convert to knowledge workers.

Knowledge workers are doing well for themselves (engineers, accountants, medical professionals, project managers, etc).

Great blog post on the issue here:

http://www.joshuakennon.com/the-secret-most-of-the-occupy-wall-street-folks-havent-realized-is-the-struggle-is-not-between-the-rich-and-poor/

Alex321

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 156
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2015, 05:54:48 AM »
"I am neither single nor a parent and I will never achieve the security my parents or grandparents did. They worked very hard, but so do my husband and I."

Then you must be doing something that's particularly non-remunerative. That's both a choice and a luxury because, based on your writing abilities alone, you are clearly capable of earning a solid middle-class income.

False. Like I said, both my husband and I earn a good salary and combined we have an above-average HHI (nationally and for our area). While in hindsight I can see some decisions where I could have ended up in a more lucrative field, those were unknowns at the time. I've consistently made ambitious-but-conservative career decisions. I have performed well and am, in a lot of ways, ahead of what would reasonably be expected early(ish) in my career.

It seems like my biggest financial mistake was when I was born. For just some of the available data on this, see: http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/412766-Lost-Generations-Wealth-Building-among-Young-Americans.PDF. Regardless of whether or not you agree with that particular article, they cite to generally regarded as reliable and uncontroversial sources.

The authors of that article draw the wrong conclusions. The reason younger adults are not building as much wealth as their parents did at a similar age (assuming that's even true) is because they take a lot longer to grow up these days, and they get married a lot later, if at all. Blaming the housing crash and the Great Recession is ridiculous--if anything, both of those factors favor the young by making both real estate and stocks more attractive as purchases.

If you're both making good incomes, as you say, why do you feel insecure? Surely not because of that article.

mr_orange

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5612
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Round Rock, TX
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2015, 05:59:23 AM »
Blaming the housing crash and the Great Recession is ridiculous--if anything, both of those factors favor the young by making both real estate and stocks more attractive as purchases.

I'm not sure how this would be ridiculous from what you wrote.  How would they afford to pay for stocks and real estate if they didn't have jobs or the income from their job to do so?

People that graduated around the '08 time frame certainly didn't have an easy road.  Tucking tail and whining about it won't make it easier though.  Those that embrace the "flatter world" can use it to their advantage to deliver value to society instead of investing all of their time competing in the labor market with those who are willing to work for 50% or less of what they work for. 

fa

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 233
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #25 on: October 22, 2015, 06:11:02 AM »
The world is becoming flatter. That sad truth for those of us in the Western world is that the rest of the world is growing a middle class, and that means we don't get as big of a piece of the pie. But how great for them. We have millions in China, Brazil, Nigeria, India, etc. pulling themselves out of abject poverty.

I think this hits the nail on the head.  If you only consider the Western world, the middle class is stagnant.  But if you take a global perspective, and include the millions (maybe billions?) lifting themselves out of poverty into the middle class, the global middle class has grown at an astonishing rate.  Worldwide, it has never been easier to become part of the middle class.  In fact, the level of global prosperity is becoming insane.  What the middle class in the West complain about is that they essentially are having to share their wealth with the poor, particularly in Asia.  They may complain here but the poor in Asia are counting their blessings.  Those easy well paying manufacturing jobs of the past have moved on.  They won't return unless we somehow become competitive again.

There are still plenty of opportunities for success.  But they require more intelligent work than the old "go work at 18 in the factory and you are set for life" mentality allowed for.  That is what really separates the new propserous middle class (such as MMM) from the old shrinking middle class.

midweststache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 471
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #26 on: October 22, 2015, 06:38:17 AM »
I feel like OP is coming under some pretty heavy fire for expressing concerns about a lifestyle we've all gladly hopped onto. OP's concerns are not a bad thing, and reading something like this forces us all to grapple with our own justifications of this lifestyle. From this board, it's apparent there are many different approaches to MMM and broader economic inequality, some of which I hope OP has found useful for his/her concerns.

I also think there's a difference between whining and grappling with the very complex nature of our individual role in a broader society and our individual financial/economic position relative to national/global economics and economic inequality (like a MMM existential crisis). We'd all be a bunch of sanctimonious jerks if no one ever stepped back and said, "Yeah, MMM is great, but what about...?" These conflicts--ideological, practical, etc.--keep this forum alive and keep our outlooks fresh.

RE OP: I struggle with the same type of thinking (particularly re: my aspiring minimalism, which seems to be a pretty bougie movement right now). However, I've been thinking that rather than struggling with my own privilege in this situation, I should simply move forward. I'm aware of that privilege, and if it comes up I can speak to it. But I'm also making a conscious choice about my life and how I want to live it (and indirectly showing my more consumer-minded circle that one can have a happy life without three closets full of clothes or *GASP* without a big, fancy car).

When my students ask me how they can solve all of the problems in all of the world (kind of your concerns, economically), I say, "Do what you can to make your corner of the world less shitty. If we all did that, we'd have a much better world."

Matt_D

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 171
  • Location: Virginia
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #27 on: October 22, 2015, 07:10:25 AM »
I feel like OP is coming under some pretty heavy fire for expressing concerns about a lifestyle we've all gladly hopped onto. OP's concerns are not a bad thing, and reading something like this forces us all to grapple with our own justifications of this lifestyle. From this board, it's apparent there are many different approaches to MMM and broader economic inequality, some of which I hope OP has found useful for his/her concerns.

I also think there's a difference between whining and grappling with the very complex nature of our individual role in a broader society and our individual financial/economic position relative to national/global economics and economic inequality (like a MMM existential crisis). We'd all be a bunch of sanctimonious jerks if no one ever stepped back and said, "Yeah, MMM is great, but what about...?" These conflicts--ideological, practical, etc.--keep this forum alive and keep our outlooks fresh.

RE OP: I struggle with the same type of thinking (particularly re: my aspiring minimalism, which seems to be a pretty bougie movement right now). However, I've been thinking that rather than struggling with my own privilege in this situation, I should simply move forward. I'm aware of that privilege, and if it comes up I can speak to it. But I'm also making a conscious choice about my life and how I want to live it (and indirectly showing my more consumer-minded circle that one can have a happy life without three closets full of clothes or *GASP* without a big, fancy car).

When my students ask me how they can solve all of the problems in all of the world (kind of your concerns, economically), I say, "Do what you can to make your corner of the world less shitty. If we all did that, we'd have a much better world."

Yes, this.

alexrcraig

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Lansing, MI
    • Have a Rich Marriage
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #28 on: October 22, 2015, 10:16:46 AM »
Hear is my take:

There is nothing I can do about politics (to an extent). I cannot make the laws directly, but only indirectly by voting. Aside from that there is not much I can do. With that said, I try not to worry about politics too much. But yes, the laws have made it increasingly difficult for the middle class.

You are either forced into a poverty life or a life of wealth.

I think the problem you are running into is that frugality can only get you so far. I support frugality and everything it stands for, but it can only get you so far. The lowest I have been able to spend is $12,000 per year between my wife and I (I live in a small town in the midwest).

It came to the point that every effort to save another dollar, cost a lot of personal sacrifice. It meant eliminating something like car insurance and opting to ride bikes. It could have been anything like this. It might have meant practicing fasting (not starving), but fasting to save money and because of our faith.

There comes a time when you can no longer focus on frugality and need to focus on earning more money. The only reason that guy at Google is doing good is because he is making so much money.

If you want to save money you need to spend less than you make. Many of us focus on the spending part, but very few people even talk about the earning more part.

My wife and I learned this lesson the hard way. My wife and I used to share toothbrushes [Mod Note: Spam link removed.] when we first got married, but I stopped making frugality my number one priority. I still worked hard on cutting my spending, but I was more concerned with earning more.

I started a personal journey of learning valuable skills that people would pay for. I learned to program and went through an entire MIT project of mathematics. I found work in a field that paid more than the field I was in.

I still focus on frugality, but I am more concerned with the money I make. There is no cap to how much I can earn, but there is a limit to how much money I can save.

« Last Edit: November 08, 2015, 03:45:00 PM by arebelspy »

winostache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Location: NE USA
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #29 on: October 23, 2015, 01:07:43 PM »
I can understand the OPs thinking.  While I'm not at that level of savings, you can extrapolate that some MMM practices can use up the supply of something that poor (rather than frugal) people may need.  For example, optimizing housing is a common theme, which for most people means spending less than they used to.  With rent in the US trending upwards while fewer people are buying houses, poor renters are facing big rent increases.  If every renter on this forum downsized to cheaper apartments voluntarily, we would be adding more demand and pushing rents higher.  On a broad scale, I know that supply would eventually match that demand, but it still means poor people in the short term would be forced into a tough spot because of our actions.  I don't know the solution for that.  I guess I would suggest the OP get involved in some charity or advocacy effort.  That would move the responsibility away from the individual to the larger community.

One angle of MMM that I really like is that we're all trying to live the example of frugality, hopefully normalizing it for everyone.  For example, as more frugal people bike to work, they will push their cities to expand bike paths and lanes.  If poor people were able to live and work without needing cars, I think we would all call that a win.  In that way, you're helping poor people at the same time as yourself, rather than the above housing example which is more about offsetting your impact.

PaulMaxime

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 202
  • Age: 56
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Absolute power doesn't corrupt, it reveals.
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #30 on: October 24, 2015, 12:00:20 AM »
I think that we are conditioned to think that things are getting worse. I contend that things are way better for us today than they were for our parents. We live longer, have great technology, better health care and longer life expectancy.

This is an interesting take on this from a writer I personally respect: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/29/50-reasons-were-living-through-the-greatest-period.aspx


mr_orange

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5612
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Round Rock, TX
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #31 on: October 24, 2015, 07:32:58 AM »
I think that we are conditioned to think that things are getting worse. I contend that things are way better for us today than they were for our parents. We live longer, have great technology, better health care and longer life expectancy.

This is an interesting take on this from a writer I personally respect: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/29/50-reasons-were-living-through-the-greatest-period.aspx

That is a fantastic article and puts things in great perspective.  Thank you sincerely for sharing it. 

mareofnight

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #32 on: October 24, 2015, 11:07:56 AM »
The economics of this (increase in demand for frugal stuff) is.. complicated.

It sounds like a similar effect to gentrification - wealthier people start moving into an inexpensive neighbourhood, and it stops being inexpensive. (Though in the case of neighbourhoods, there are sometimes cases where the new neighbours are able to improve the place for the old residents who remain, by convincing the city to take better care of the neighbourhood and bringing job opportunities.) Though, with real estate, the supply is fairly inelastic - you (usually) can't make more land, and building more housing on existing land takes a lot of time and investment.

Used goods can probably get "gentrified" in the same way as real estate, since there's a limited quantity. High prices might encourage people to sell, and support more craigslist businesses that save things from the curb and re-sell them, but eventually there's enough of a shortage that prices go up. On the other hand, you might not see the same effect for things like cheap groceries - if more people want to buy rice and beans, more farmers will grow rice and beans instead of other crops.

I haven't done the math, but I suspect that the effect of increasing demand for things that poor and frugal people buy is probably less than the amount of money you'd save by doing so. You could probably come out on top financially and ethically (assuming you're a consequentialist) by living in cheap housing and donating some of the money you save and/or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. (But try to figure out the math before actually doing that, since I might be totally wrong here.) If you don't mind being less direct, putting some of your reduction in housing cost toward helping poor people in a lower COL country have good homes (Give Directly sort-of does this, and other organizations probably have more targeted approaches) might work out even better.

letired

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 823
  • Location: Texas
    • Needs More Glitter
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #33 on: October 24, 2015, 11:37:15 AM »
OP, this is also something I think about. For me, it separates into two avenues of thought.

1. I am much happier and am making choices that make me happier when I focus on what I alone can do to improve my situation/fix my problem. It has taken me (what feels like) a long time to get to where I am, and much of that effort has paid off in the last two years, both financially and emotionally. When I was less focused on the 'action' I could take, I was a lot unhappier and not really getting anywhere. In some ways, this feels like moving away from my (flamingly liberal/socialist) roots, but the fact is that I have a (semi-) limited sphere of influence, and my brain (like many human brains) doesn't handle feeling helpless very well. At this point, I mainly think of my MMM-inspired financial efforts like an airplane crash. I am making sure I have my breathing mask on so I can help my fellow passengers as much as possible instead of floundering along with them.

2. In my free time, I split my effort between things that improve my own specific life (DIY, crafting, friends) and things that I can do to improve the lives of people who have fewer ridiculous privileges and opportunities. I'm not great at the last one, but I do donate to causes that I think are helpful and in a smaller way, I try to lend some measure of support to friends who don't have the same kind of blood-family support structure that I do, and I try to pay attention to local civic matters, as that is where I think I can have the most impact.

Noodle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1206
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #34 on: October 24, 2015, 05:38:16 PM »
I think that we are conditioned to think that things are getting worse. I contend that things are way better for us today than they were for our parents. We live longer, have great technology, better health care and longer life expectancy.

This is an interesting take on this from a writer I personally respect: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/29/50-reasons-were-living-through-the-greatest-period.aspx

I try to think of the present as a package. We don't get the good stuff (well enumerated in the article) without the downsides. If the downsides didn't exist, the upsides wouldn't either. I think part of it is that we are not wired to notice what is *not* happening...for instance, that kids are not getting sick with awful childhood illnesses, that the kind of awful racism and sexism of 50 years ago is not acceptable, and so forth.

Big Boots Buddha

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • Age: 38
  • Location: NE China
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #35 on: October 24, 2015, 10:55:16 PM »
You're not going to like this, but really, the only real factor that may be making it "increasingly tough to get by in America" is single-parenthood." All the statistics point back to that one factor.

Anyway, I get your larger point. Did you see the articles about the divorced college professor who created a project to live in a dumpster on campus?

On spot here.

People are making terrible, horrible choices. Not just a few, but the bottom half of society. Single parenthood, studying sociology and getting into 80,000 in debt, smoking, drinking, buying tons of clothes, buying new phones and tvs, new cars with a bad car loan.

Yes, its not 1965 anymore. My dad told me when he graduated high school in the upper Midwest, his first job paid so much after a few years he bought a sports car, motorcycle and house. The USA made 50% of the "stuff" - everything made - in the whole world.

That was aberrant. Its never going to happen again. The rest of the world just was bombed into oblivion from WW2 while the USA loaned money to the world, then the world used that money to buy USA made things. Its never going to happen again. Get over it. Just because its not like that again doesn't mean companies hate us. It just means people need to be reasonable. High school dropouts cant work at GM and buy a house, a cabin, a boat, cars, RV, all while wifey stays at home.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2015, 10:57:05 PM by Big Boots Buddha »

lucky-girl

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
  • Location: Maine, USA
Re: Anyone Else Struggle with the Mindset? Losing Faith in the Dream.
« Reply #36 on: October 25, 2015, 05:47:06 AM »
I've been thinking quite a bit about this recently- and as a result I'm wanting to connect my work with my passions to create a sense that I'm contributing to a better world. I've also been looking for volunteer and board opportunities again after 5 years of no volunteering to speak of (this period, not coincidentally, started with parenthood). I used to volunteer quite actively.

I want to find ways I can contribute without getting lost in the guilt about all the ways I am not contributing. I think that to do that I'll need to get pretty specific about what I feel needs changing and what my sphere of influence is. Not there yet, but excited to be getting off the proverbial couch.