Author Topic: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?  (Read 16357 times)

jengod

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Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« on: March 09, 2016, 09:56:40 AM »
I need help staying on the straight and narrow. We have done well financially, but we still try to live very simply and frugally. It's mostly our nature and our preference, but there are times when I just feel ridiculous doing "extreme" (by American middle class standards) things like hanging out laundry to dry when we own a dryer, waiting for a bus when I could take an Uber and cashing in recycling for a few dollars.

Can you guys remind me why living the standard American financial diet is not good for your health? Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories? I see layoffs and huge debt loads all around me, but everybody plays it off like it's normal.

AZDude

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2016, 10:06:05 AM »
Also remember that this is not strictly financial. You are helping the environment and our future generations by not consuming as much as possible.

Thinkum

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2016, 10:18:10 AM »
One of the things I love about living a simplified life is that it allows for more "what-if" scenarios. In other words, it allows a huge financial, as well as lifestyle buffer. It is much harder to adjust to "lesser" lifestyle if you're so accustomed to a lavish/luxe one. Cautionary tales abound since the 2008 financial debacle. It is what gave rise to all the frugal and personal finance blogs. Tales of people who lived their lush lives on credit and lost their meaning of contentment to the glut of consumerism. However, personally, I do not just focus solely on the monetary side of things, my actions need to jive with my overall worldview and value system.

I am not a hardcore environmentalist, but I am definitely mindful of waste. We bought a drying rack and use it in conjunction with our dryer. We grew some of our own veggies, keep the thermostat at higher and lower temps than most people would, etc. It's really just preference and there is no accounting for personal taste. It does however, make me feel good since living simply requires less money and less "stuff" in general. 

rubybeth

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2016, 10:33:06 AM »
One huge factor for me is stress, which literally kills people every day--there's lots of evidence that chronic stress affects our ability to heal and fight off chronic illnesess.

Read "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" by Robert Sapolsky, or watch the excellent documentary 'Stress: Portrait of a Killer,' which also mentions Sapolsky's work (full documentary available online via YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs Watching this was a huge wake-up call for me; it influenced me toward earlier retirement more than any other factor.

In short, doing some physical labor like hanging up laundry outside or walking to the bus stop is better for you than tossing stuff in a dryer or catching a cab, because physical activity helps to regulate stress hormones in your body.

mskyle

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2016, 10:51:00 AM »
This is a really good cautionary tale, though probably pitched at people a bit younger (and more female) than the average person on this forum: A Story of a Fuck Off Fund.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2016, 11:19:26 AM »
Cautionary tales are everywhere but most people keep them pretty hidden. There's the young couple who can't afford ferility treatments because of their debt loads, or the parents to be who are heartbroken when they realize they're too house poor to afford a stay at home parent. There are the 70 year olds still working but driving newly financed vehicles, and the young 20 something who can't have the wedding they want because they blew all their extra cash on trips and new clothes. Very few people advertise their own circumstances as cautionary tales, but every one of us knows someone in a similar circumstance who can't see that if they had just made some different choices, things mt be very different.i

Inaya

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2016, 11:59:58 AM »
My mom will be 69 this December. Last year she said FU to her company (and I don't blame her because it was a very toxic environment--the owner "felt bad" and treated it as retirement rather than FU, but apparently didn't feel bad enough to fix the problems), but had no FU money. Due to her age, the job market is... challenging.

A fiscally responsible adult, my mother taught me everything I know about being frugal. Except she had to use her retirement monies and a HELOC for uninsured cancer treatments and a weeklong hospital stay a few years after that. For most of my childhood, she was restricted by a court order to only work part time (nasty custody battle), so savings were minimal. But she still saved enough for a down payment on a house, she drove reasonable vehicles inherited from her parents, and she made IRA contributions. She made what most would consider to be the right financial decisions--but something as uncontrollable as genetics can take away your financial security.

Moral of the story: Don't forget to account for debilitating medical expenses in your FIRE budget.

Cassie

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2016, 12:41:22 PM »
Even with health insurance an illness can bankrupt you.  I had good friends where the wife had 8 bouts of stage 4 ovarian cancer.  They had a paid for house and $ in the bank. She had chemo brain so bad she had to stop working and go on SSDI.  In order to pay their part of the medical bills they borrowed from their house.  Eventually they lost the home and had no $ even though he continued to work. Then he got a fatal cancer and died. Now at 64 she has Alzheimer's and her cancer is back. We are not treating it this time for obvious reasons.  Soon she will be out of savings and I will need to apply for Medicaid for her.  They did nothing wrong-it was just life happening.

Guava

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2016, 01:23:48 PM »
This isn't so much a horror story, but a tale of 2 cancer patients.

The first is a separated mom of 4, 3 of which are under 18. She was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer and had to start a go fund me account to pay for her treatments and cover her bills while she couldn't work. She has never put aside a whole lot of money for savings. There was no emergency fund.

I am the second person in the story, and was about 6 months into my Mustachian journey but had always been a saver. I was diagnosed at stage 2 and had chemo and radiation. I worked for awhile during chemo but my savings allowed to me stop working altogether and not have to worry and pay all $8,000 of my medical bills in full as well as the mortgage and every other expense. You cannot predict health or debilitating car accidents (and I have another story about one of those) but keeping your spending and savings in line can provide you the freedom of not having to worry during those moments. I haven't worked in months and still have zero financial stress. That alone makes this journey worth it.

chemistk

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2016, 02:11:22 PM »
Recently, I realized that most of my family and my wife's family is working. I never thought much of this growing up, it just seemed normal that relatives in their 60's were still grinding away. I think I can count on one hand the family members who are completely retired and who have sufficient savings to stay retired. The crazy thing is, between our families, we have people who make little money to people who have 2 6 figure salaries - yet all are still working, and not because they want to, either.

To me, that's the biggest cautionary tale - if my wife and I want to have the future we desire, we have to deviate significantly from how we were raised (financially, anyway)

Urchina

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2016, 02:28:16 PM »
Every time I hang laundry on the line, or bike to work, or buy just the loss-leaders at the grocery store, or cook from scratch, or fill my travel mug with homemade tea, or figure out how to fix something myself, it feels like I'm giving a finger to The Man. I've never been what you might call rebellious, but I've gotta admit that bucking the "norm" in this way is very, very satisfying.

CindyBS

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2016, 02:36:50 PM »
"I use my frugality to buy my freedom" Vicki Robin - author of the famous FI book "Your Money or Your Life".




Fishindude

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2016, 02:45:14 PM »
It floors me how many very high income, middle aged couples / families have little if any net worth due to being house poor, automobile poor, vacation poor and credit card poor due to just keeping up with the Jones.  if they need to come up with cash for something, they can't do it, unless it's something they can put on credit.

infogoon

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2016, 03:08:35 PM »
When our first son was born and my wife quit her job to stay at home with him (and, eventually, his siblings), almost every one of her friends asked "how can you afford that?" Every one of these friends has a bigger house than us, in a better neighborhood, and a newer car. Some of them are still on parental financial life support in their thirties. None of them can afford to stop working. It's sad.

CindyBS

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2016, 03:21:42 PM »
When our first son was born and my wife quit her job to stay at home with him (and, eventually, his siblings), almost every one of her friends asked "how can you afford that?" Every one of these friends has a bigger house than us, in a better neighborhood, and a newer car. Some of them are still on parental financial life support in their thirties. None of them can afford to stop working. It's sad.

I never understood parental $$ life support for basically lifestyle inflation.

When I was 23 and struggling to find work and I had to ask my parents for a $250 loan.  I was sooooo embarrassed - truly mortified.   I paid them back in less than 6 weeks.

I can't even *imagine* asking my parents for money for a big house, etc.  Not only would it be unthinkable for me, they would probably laugh at the idea of it! 

jengod

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2016, 04:53:07 PM »
Thanks guys. I know all this I just sometimes feel like a huge weirdo for opting-in to stuff like minimalism and downshifting. My parents think we are out of our mind. Lots of our friends do parts of this lifestyle (cooking from scratch, or bikes, or environmentalism), but we still feel a little out of sync. Thanks for the support! It helps me feel like we are slightly less crazy!
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 09:20:28 PM by jengod »

zinethstache

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2016, 07:57:49 PM »
I have a HUGE warning! Be ready to handle medical issues.

I ruptured a disc in 2013. It was massive and required emergency surgery. I struggled for a year and a half after that. I had alot of pressure to quit work and take care of myself, both from doctors and my family, but I refused to go down with the ship. I had over 500 hours of sick leave saved up as this was my first major health catastrophe. I used it and short term disability with FMLA wisely. I was very careful to fill out all paperwork and for about a year I worked 95% from home. My boss at the time was VERY accommodating but I was also diligent at doing my job (I was only cleared to be in the office one 4 hour stretch per week). Altogether, It took countless injections, extensive use of gabapentin, minimal opiate use(I hated them), and 3 surgeries, the last being major (Spinal Fusion). I researched SSDI and accessing my 401k etc. in the event I would end up unable to work, and in the end I made it through.

Of all the crazy things, right before I was scheduled for fusion, DH was diagnosed with possible lung cancer and THAT was almost too much for me to handle. That took 2 surgeries for him in quick succession (the first failed to produce a diagnosis) all while my back was at its worse. I had to drive for 4 weeks, because he was on strict orders not to drive. I was just incapable of driving. We both maxed out our out of pocket medical for that year (2014) and that is the first time we've both had to deal with major medical bills ever. Just getting through all of our appointments during that time was daunting. Our family does not live close, so it was up to us to get it all worked out.

Amazingly we survived it all. DH has been diagnosed with a disease that is not friendly at all, BUT its not cancer. My fused spine is finally happy and we did not lose any progress toward RE. We were very far along on our FI journey in fact. We'd already accumulated enough passive income that by Feb of 2015 we officially called ourselves FI. But I chose to work as much for the stability and to sort of make up for the 2 years I wasn't able to be 100% at my job. I had a blast working all last year, saving more pennies to position us for me to exit the workplace in 2017(if not sooner).

On a side note about physical trauma: I am very, very glad that our brains are wired to forget traumatic pain. Burning sciatica pain day in and day out while my ruptured disc material pushed on my nerve reset my understanding of pain. Now I cannot even remember that feeling and I hope never to feel it again.

So back to cautionary tales. DH and I were both 45 when this all went down. We still diligently walk, do aerobics, lift weights, etc. all with the intention to get back to a high level of fitness like we once had but reality is we are getting old and slowing down. But we still keep on keeping on. So just be ready, stay calm and keep focused on the prize when scary medical stuff happens. You can and will get through it, if I could do it anyone can.

DH was already retired btw, he retired at 43. I am now in my final year of working my day job and because of both health scares we've changed our RE plans completely and plan to slow travel while we are young and capable because who knows when that ability will be taken away. We've had to reverse the order of things in life because of the strong desire to travel and see sights NOW. Originally we planned for me to work until minimum retirement age. MMM was helpful in showing us all of the great options to retire even earlier! 

Because of this new game plan, I am doing some educational things that will set me up to earn some side gig money after we are done traveling. These particular certifications I can use anywhere at anytime. DH will continue to manage our rental properties and I will of course assist, but I am going to be prepared to earn my own discretionary income to pay for my hobbies if needed.

I hope this "tale" is helpful to folks!


pachnik

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2016, 08:19:38 PM »
Every time I hang laundry on the line, or bike to work, or buy just the loss-leaders at the grocery store, or cook from scratch, or fill my travel mug with homemade tea, or figure out how to fix something myself, it feels like I'm giving a finger to The Man. I've never been what you might call rebellious, but I've gotta admit that bucking the "norm" in this way is very, very satisfying.

This is kind of how I feel too.  My husband and I choose not to have cable, buy most of our clothes at at the thrift store, use the library for our entertainment etc.   I have huge satisfaction in not being a consumer sucker.  I really enjoy this part of MMM. 

Okay, back to the thread of middle class cautionary tales: no one in my closest circle of family and friends.  However, a few more distant friends spend like there is no tomorrow and then wonder why goals are out of reach.  I don't say anything.  It is too awkward - especially when the person is older than me.


brooklynmoney

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2016, 08:24:30 PM »
Zinethestache what amazing perseverance and strength! So happy you and DH are healed and Fi

okits

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2016, 08:58:39 PM »
Thanks guys. I know all this I just sometimes feel like a huge weird for opting-in to stuff like minimalism and downshifting. My parents think we are out of our mind. Lots of our friends do parts of this lifestyle (cooking from scratch, or bikes, or environmentalism), but we still feel a little out of sync. Thanks for the support! It helps me feel like we are slightly less crazy!

If some of your discomfort is from wanting to conform and have social approval, can you pretend some of the stuff you're doing is a trendy, hipster thing?

(Re: bus instead of Uber.  I often walk one way of a round-trip to save the $3 bus fare.  If you feel weird, take comfort in my being weirder than you.)

SwordGuy

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2016, 09:04:02 PM »
We've always lived below our means, though the first 5 1/2 years together that was pretty darn hard since we were so poor. 

Fast forward 5 years and I'm finally making good money and the wife's in school.    My wife needed an operation, my daughter needed an operation, both cars died, the refrigerator died, and my son went to prison (and we had the legal bills).

That was a bad year on many counts.

It took about 4 years to pay all that off, but that was before we knew about MMM or Dave Ramsey.

Story #2:
=============

Guy in my mom's neighborhood retired in his 60s.  He withdrew his life savings to start a business and lost it all.  Now he does handyman stuff to make ends meet.   What the HELL was he thinking???   

Story #3:
=============
Parent's across-the-street neighbors some years back.  They and their small business had been struggling.
Grown son had bought some land and had built a fully-paid for house by age 25.

Wife wins $10 million dollars with a slot machine in a casino in Tunica, MS.   

They pay off the bills and give the business to the son, plus some of the money.   He hires his buddies at inflated salaries and then raids the cash till all the time for money.   Runs the business into the ground and, in the process, loses that paid-for-house, too.

Wife gets all high and mighty hanging out with the hoighty-toity and ends up divorcing her husband because she wants to hang out with important, rich people.   She spent all her share of the money (and more!) and/or her wealthy friends bled her dry with bad "investments".  She lost everything.

Husband was a nice guy.  Started drinking because his wife left him and son was off the deep end.  Passed out in his driveway one very cold winter night and died.

Daughter, whom I never met, was the only one of the 3 who kept her head.  Last I heard she was doing fine.  Bought a house for her mom to live in but kept the title in her own name.

Crazy, eh?

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2016, 09:14:55 PM »
Thanks guys. I know all this I just sometimes feel like a huge weird for opting-in to stuff like minimalism and downshifting. My parents think we are out of our mind. Lots of our friends do parts of this lifestyle (cooking from scratch, or bikes, or environmentalism), but we still feel a little out of sync. Thanks for the support! It helps me feel like we are slightly less crazy!

If some of your discomfort is from wanting to conform and have social approval, can you pretend some of the stuff you're doing is a trendy, hipster thing?

(Re: bus instead of Uber.  I often walk one way of a round-trip to save the $3 bus fare.  If you feel weird, take comfort in my being weirder than you.)

I was visiting a friend in SF a year ago. I was staying with her in the Mission, despite my allergies to her roommate's multiple cats. I wanted to see a museum while Friend was at work, and it was a nice day, so I set out on foot. I figured I could hop on a bus at any point. Walked all the way there, wandered around, and walked back (through the Tenderloin) despite my feet hurting.

I had to buy those little blister donuts for my toes the next day, all because I had heard the bus fare was prorated by distance and by god I wasn't going to pay for the whole trip.

My point is: you pay money to take the bus at all? Pshaw. Inexcusable extravagance.

I don't know if this counts as middle-class, but: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/we-are-family-unfortunately/
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 09:16:37 PM by MonkeyJenga »

EcoCanuck

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #22 on: March 09, 2016, 10:42:17 PM »
A friend of mine earning a solid wage worked for a company  that was bought. He had accumulated bout 10%(?) of the company stock since he was one of the founding employees. The value of his stock was about 1 million (can't confirm but what he told me) so he decided to call it quits and relax for a few years. He was not able to sell the stock for 1 year as part of the conditions. After 10months the stock dropped to pennys in value. They never recovered.

Thankfully my friend wasn't a complete idiot and had decent savings but his plan to semi-retire completely fell through. Mind you if he had a better savings rate he probably could be retired now. He just bought an uber expensive house (for what it is) so he's probably now comitted himself to a long career unless he stumbles upon some more career luck which from what I've seen is not out of the question... (bastard...).

EcoCanuck

ahoy

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #23 on: March 10, 2016, 02:55:33 AM »
All I am going to talk about is the "hanging out the laundry to dry"comment.  A lot of other countries do this!  I have to say for these people to see how Americans and Canadians (yes.. I'm talking to you Canadians as well) always seem to dry their clothes in a dryer is sheer madness! Even wealthy people in these other countries hang their laundry outside!  It's certainty not looked upon as a poor thing to do..  You just do it. 

Disclaimer... now, I don't want to get into trouble here, about as to why you can't hang your clothes.  I wouldn't either if I lived in a condo.  Extreme winters/high humidity summer can  be a problem.  But what is wrong with hanging out your laundry for the other seasons?  I have noticed Atlantic Canadians seem to hang out their laundry to dry.  I was very impressed with them. (ps: I also don't want to hear that your HOA won't allow a clothesline.  It just ridiculous. petition against that stupid rule! 

little_brown_dog

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2016, 06:24:25 AM »
All I am going to talk about is the "hanging out the laundry to dry"comment.  A lot of other countries do this!  I have to say for these people to see how Americans and Canadians (yes.. I'm talking to you Canadians as well) always seem to dry their clothes in a dryer is sheer madness! Even wealthy people in these other countries hang their laundry outside!  It's certainty not looked upon as a poor thing to do..  You just do it. 

Disclaimer... now, I don't want to get into trouble here, about as to why you can't hang your clothes.  I wouldn't either if I lived in a condo.  Extreme winters/high humidity summer can  be a problem.  But what is wrong with hanging out your laundry for the other seasons?  I have noticed Atlantic Canadians seem to hang out their laundry to dry.  I was very impressed with them. (ps: I also don't want to hear that your HOA won't allow a clothesline.  It just ridiculous. petition against that stupid rule!

Much of it has to do with convenience. My washer is right next to my dryer, it is easier just to move the wet stuff over one foot and press power. It is also less labor intensive- if I want to line dry my clothes, I need to pack up the wet stuff, truck it up stairs, take it out, put it on a line (that we had to install), if it rains I need to rush out to take it in (rains a lot around here), sometimes the wind blows it down into the mud and then I need to rewash it....Obviously this is complainy pants sounding, but when you compare all of that with just popping it in the dryer, it is totally understandable.
Now I actually do line dry some of my stuff, but when you account for all the extra time and effort it takes to put it out there, it really isn't that huge of a cost saver. So those Americans that do line dry often do it for other reasons, like the environment, the act of engaging in slower tasks for mindfulness, for the fresh smell, or because it is gentler on the clothes. When you consider that most homes nowadays have a washer and dryer when you buy them, it's just easier to use the dryer.

Line drying, like cloth diapering, was something I really liked the concept of until I actually tried to commit to it. Ah the fresh smell, the sheets blowing in the breeze, a return to slower, simpler living! Too bad I forgot to factor in fiddling with clothespins for 15 minutes, watching my sheets blow off into the mud, or finding hidden spiders in my clothes :)
« Last Edit: March 10, 2016, 06:34:58 AM by little_brown_dog »

Inaya

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #25 on: March 10, 2016, 07:15:53 AM »
... or finding hidden spiders in my clothes :)


Welp, never line-drying. Ever.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #26 on: March 10, 2016, 07:42:55 AM »
My mother is 59 years old and has been an RN BSN for ~37 years. She's currently working one full-time job and two part-time gigs. Her full-time position pays $66k/year salary. On top of that she brings in $100 a week from part-time job #1 and a variable amount typically ~$150/week from part-time job #2. Through a combination of compulsive shopping, hoarding and poor financial decisions, she has almost nothing ($20k at most) in retirement savings, and her home has become unlivable and nearly worthless after decades of neglect. She claims that she works the part-time jobs for "the kids" (my much younger brother and sister), but the reality is that her house is unlivable and she never wants to be there. Even though she has no emergency fund, she continues to spend frivolously every week.

When my much younger brother and sister need help with a major expense, she never has the money. I had to buy my baby sister a car so she could get to her college courses. (She's attending tuition-free because she's still in high school but has to provide her own transportation. There's no public transportation, and the commute isn't feasible to walk or bike.) Our mother buys them all sorts of frivolous consumer crap, but when they need something important (school fees, automotive repairs, etc.) she has no means to help them. It's incredibly frustrating.

infogoon

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #27 on: March 10, 2016, 08:33:09 AM »
I never understood parental $$ life support for basically lifestyle inflation.

When I was 23 and struggling to find work and I had to ask my parents for a $250 loan.  I was sooooo embarrassed - truly mortified.   I paid them back in less than 6 weeks.

I can't even *imagine* asking my parents for money for a big house, etc.  Not only would it be unthinkable for me, they would probably laugh at the idea of it!

I know several people who have received houses from wealthy grandparents or parents as a wedding gift. Most of them end up remortgaging them to spend a bunch of money on shit. I don't get it either.

Guava

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #28 on: March 10, 2016, 08:51:10 AM »
... or finding hidden spiders in my clothes :)


Welp, never line-drying. Ever.

This is why I never line dry outside. Ever. That and the birds that love my clothesline.

ketchup

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #29 on: March 10, 2016, 09:19:18 AM »
I know at least two families whose financial plans completely fell apart when Enron collapsed.

rubybeth

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #30 on: March 10, 2016, 09:25:53 AM »
I will add that my father worked his entire career with disabled people, and he always encouraged my sister and I to select careers that we could do even if we became physically disabled (like wheelchair bound), because so many of his clients worked in fields where they were unable to work at all once they had an injury (construction, retail, etc.).

Your odds of becoming partially or fully disabled at some point in your life is really high. You might make lots of healthy choices and then one day, get hit by a bus or fall off your backyard trampoline and break your neck. Many of the people my dad worked with had good incomes but after their injuries, couldn't work and so tapped their savings and retirement accounts, and some ended up on social security disability.

http://www.disabilitycanhappen.org/chances_disability/disability_stats.asp

maco

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #31 on: March 10, 2016, 09:28:06 AM »
Thanks guys. I know all this I just sometimes feel like a huge weird for opting-in to stuff like minimalism and downshifting. My parents think we are out of our mind. Lots of our friends do parts of this lifestyle (cooking from scratch, or bikes, or environmentalism), but we still feel a little out of sync. Thanks for the support! It helps me feel like we are slightly less crazy!

If some of your discomfort is from wanting to conform and have social approval, can you pretend some of the stuff you're doing is a trendy, hipster thing?
Yeah, "well, we're not quite ready to move to a hippy commune, chuckle but we try to do what we can for the environment!"

maco

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #32 on: March 10, 2016, 09:38:41 AM »
I will add that my father worked his entire career with disabled people, and he always encouraged my sister and I to select careers that we could do even if we became physically disabled (like wheelchair bound), because so many of his clients worked in fields where they were unable to work at all once they had an injury (construction, retail, etc.).

Your odds of becoming partially or fully disabled at some point in your life is really high. You might make lots of healthy choices and then one day, get hit by a bus or fall off your backyard trampoline and break your neck. Many of the people my dad worked with had good incomes but after their injuries, couldn't work and so tapped their savings and retirement accounts, and some ended up on social security disability.

http://www.disabilitycanhappen.org/chances_disability/disability_stats.asp

And a good wheelchair (one you can push without help, that won't hurt to sit in for long stretches, etc.) runs about $6000. I've considered that I should have $6000 set aside in a savings account or normal taxable account for if/when I can no longer safely walk. (Due to a genetic disorder, I can no longer safely run, so this isn't an unreasonable concern.)

chetmanly

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #33 on: March 10, 2016, 10:50:20 AM »
Even with health insurance an illness can bankrupt you.  I had good friends where the wife had 8 bouts of stage 4 ovarian cancer.  They had a paid for house and $ in the bank. She had chemo brain so bad she had to stop working and go on SSDI.  In order to pay their part of the medical bills they borrowed from their house.  Eventually they lost the home and had no $ even though he continued to work. Then he got a fatal cancer and died. Now at 64 she has Alzheimer's and her cancer is back. We are not treating it this time for obvious reasons.  Soon she will be out of savings and I will need to apply for Medicaid for her.  They did nothing wrong-it was just life happening.

This is exactly why when someone gets cancer they need to seriously consider doing nothing. What good did it do to fight back? Four times even?

ooeei

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #34 on: March 10, 2016, 11:00:03 AM »
Even with health insurance an illness can bankrupt you.  I had good friends where the wife had 8 bouts of stage 4 ovarian cancer.  They had a paid for house and $ in the bank. She had chemo brain so bad she had to stop working and go on SSDI.  In order to pay their part of the medical bills they borrowed from their house.  Eventually they lost the home and had no $ even though he continued to work. Then he got a fatal cancer and died. Now at 64 she has Alzheimer's and her cancer is back. We are not treating it this time for obvious reasons.  Soon she will be out of savings and I will need to apply for Medicaid for her.  They did nothing wrong-it was just life happening.

This is exactly why when someone gets cancer they need to seriously consider doing nothing. What good did it do to fight back? Four times even?

Of course it doesn't make sense when they die soon anyway.  The problem is you don't know when that will be the case.  My aunt has had cancer for around 15 years off and on, they've always gone with treatment and she's pulled through.  She got to see her kid grow up.  Sure it would've been cheaper to just give up after the 3rd or 4th occurrence, but so far it's been well worth it to them.

jengod

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #35 on: March 10, 2016, 11:41:11 AM »

If some of your discomfort is from wanting to conform and have social approval, can you pretend some of the stuff you're doing is a trendy, hipster thing?

(Re: bus instead of Uber.  I often walk one way of a round-trip to save the $3 bus fare.  If you feel weird, take comfort in my being weirder than you.)

It's not so much that I want to be cool (although that sounds fun), it's just that sometimes mustachianism is a bit lonely IRL. I hope the cult spreads so I can discuss more at Christmas parties. I have a couple of dear friends who get it completely, and you guys, so I'm going to work on being grateful for that!

Kaydedid

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #36 on: March 10, 2016, 12:11:30 PM »
Not quite a horror story, but a MMM-saved-our-bacon story.

DH and I are frugal by nature, and after getting into MMM became even more so.  Decided it was time to start a family. 

Baby was born with a birth defect that will have serious lifelong physical repercussions.  There aren't any medical daycares here for him, so we're on one salary until school.  Kid needs medical supplies, equipment, medication, and could require neurosurgery at any time.

It is incredibly expensive-our medical costs are more than housing and vehicles combined, and kid's been relatively healthy.  Many many parents of disabled kids we know personally or through blogs struggle hugely with finances. 

When we first got the diagnosis (halfway through pregnancy), the first person we talked to was surprised that we were going forward with the pregnancy, since most folks didn't.  She reported the three main reasons as potential child's suffering, inability to afford it, and not being able to handle it in non-financial ways(note: this is not a pro-choice/life commentary).

For us, having kiddo just meant that RE in our forties probably wasn't an option, which is totally worth it to us.  We'd been simplifying so many things (not just financial) that we were ready and able to handle this huge change.

Main point- life throws you curveballs.  Frugal/simple living gives you so much more of a buffer zone, and makes so many more options available.

Cassie

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #37 on: March 10, 2016, 01:20:10 PM »
To those that say why fight the cancer she was diagnosed the first time 14 years ago and this is the 8th occurrence. She had a lot of good healthy years in-between and wanted to live. Now that she has Alzheimer's she does not want to live.

Abe

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #38 on: March 10, 2016, 03:45:56 PM »
Cancer can behave in different ways depending on the type. There's a whole group of cancers of the muscle and fat that can be removed completely, only to recur several years later. They rarely kill the person, however. Others can be very aggressive, completely removed, and then recur years later with slower growth.  I think starting it up again is valid, if the cancer responded to treatment before. The truth is, however, that for most cancers that will not respond to chemotherapy, it is quite obvious to anyone objectively examining the patient's course. However, people may do it to delay death for a specific reason. Then it can be worth the money.

I think this is important for middle-class people because cancer of some type is quite common as we get older, and causes a lot of lost productivity due to the nature of the treatments, and the effects of cancer cells themselves. By age 70, one has an approximately 10% risk of developing some type of cancer. We prepare for much less likely scenarios than that!

Rufus.T.Firefly

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #39 on: March 10, 2016, 07:03:41 PM »
Some doctors now consider "Financial Toxicity" a side-effect of cancer treatments:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-high-cost-of-cancer-care-may-take-physical-and-emotional-toll-on-patients-1455592260



ohsnap

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #40 on: March 12, 2016, 02:41:27 PM »
All I am going to talk about is the "hanging out the laundry to dry"comment.  A lot of other countries do this!  I have to say for these people to see how Americans and Canadians (yes.. I'm talking to you Canadians as well) always seem to dry their clothes in a dryer is sheer madness! Even wealthy people in these other countries hang their laundry outside!  It's certainty not looked upon as a poor thing to do..  You just do it. 

Disclaimer... now, I don't want to get into trouble here, about as to why you can't hang your clothes.  I wouldn't either if I lived in a condo.  Extreme winters/high humidity summer can  be a problem.  But what is wrong with hanging out your laundry for the other seasons?  I have noticed Atlantic Canadians seem to hang out their laundry to dry.  I was very impressed with them. (ps: I also don't want to hear that your HOA won't allow a clothesline.  It just ridiculous. petition against that stupid rule!
It's not just HOAs.  We lived in a neighborhood one time that didn't have an HOA, but had deed restrictions which included no clotheslines! 

JLR

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #41 on: March 12, 2016, 08:04:31 PM »
finding hidden spiders in my clothes :)

Found a red back and a huntsman in my clothes when taking them off the line last week. I'm terrified of spiders, but was back out there again this weekend, hanging our clothes on the line. It's just the way things are done here in Australia. We have a clothes dryer (as most people here do), but save it for emergencies.

dess1313

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #42 on: March 13, 2016, 12:35:12 AM »
I was 3 years into working post graduation from university.  lucked out on a cheap house and with parental help was able to buy.  was cheaper than renting.  lifestyle had inflated a bit, but i come from a reasonable spending family where cash is king.  I was working hard, doing good, had a small emergency fund (seemed huge at the time) then while on a vacation (my first big vacation) i hurt my knee.  I ended up off work for 5 months, and luckily in canada our medical expenses are covered, but the employment insurance sucks. I couldn't imagine living in the US and having that happen.  My emergency fund saved my ass.  I declared then and there i wasn't ever going to feel that pinched or worried about money again. Made a lot of changes after that.  Fast forward 2 or 3 years and i'm in great shape financially and physically.  I just found MMM less than a year ago.  Now i've made even more changes and still am working on others. 

11ducks

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #43 on: March 13, 2016, 06:30:51 AM »
I line dry, and just give th clothes a good shake as they come off the line. And as you take them out of the drawer before you put them on (Qld- we get a lot of huntsman spiders).
Last year I had one the size of my hand on the towel I used after getting out of the shower (grabbed the towel, wiped y face, wrapped it around me and the spider ran from the towel onto my shoulder. I've never naked-leapt so high in my life).  I stopped using the dark brown/black towels after that!

Mongoose

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #44 on: March 13, 2016, 08:20:16 AM »
We line dry too...but without any danger of poisonous spiders. Yikes! Winter is too wet for outdoors drying so we have clothes racks in the house and dry there. We have a dryer but use it for emergencies only. It is more convenient and not that expensive to run, but every penny saved on the electric bill helps us. And, other than carrying wet clothes upstairs (that counts as weight lifting right?), I enjoy hanging out the laundry. Although we were a bit weirded out when a lady who runs a classical Montessori school said that they felt weird about having the kids hang up the napkins to dry because "nobody hangs out laundry anymore".

I guess we may be a middle class cautionary tale but I'd rather consider us as "trying to avoid becoming a middle class cautionary tale" if you don't mind. We did save for retirement so we aren't as bad off as most of our friends but we did get nearly simultaneously downsized (from different companies too...like winning the anti-lottery or something). We went from high 5-figures in take home to our current $14,400 per year in stable income. We did have a bit of a cushion though so, again, we weren't totally paycheck to paycheck. But we did have to downsize our lives so much that it is painful. Hopefully we'll get the career changes etc. going well enough in time to avoid becoming a statistic. And then you can bet all the money we can squeeze out of the budget is going to the FI fund.

Daleth

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #45 on: March 13, 2016, 08:47:48 AM »
I line dry, and just give th clothes a good shake as they come off the line. And as you take them out of the drawer before you put them on (Qld- we get a lot of huntsman spiders).
Last year I had one the size of my hand on the towel I used after getting out of the shower (grabbed the towel, wiped y face, wrapped it around me and the spider ran from the towel onto my shoulder. I've never naked-leapt so high in my life).  I stopped using the dark brown/black towels after that!

Omg that's HORRIFYING. That right there is all the reason I need never to set foot in Australia! :)

SnackDog

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #46 on: March 13, 2016, 08:49:23 AM »
Good tips so far on health. The most common financial disasters I have seen regard divorces and property ownership.  Divorces are obvious as, in addition to emotional trauma and stress on health, they split the pot in half, at best, and may leave the primary breadwinner with no savings at all in the worst case.  I know many friends who worked an extra 10 years after a messy divorce. I hope in the end they were happier with the divorce, new spouse and second round of kids in their 50s.

Property ownership and transactions also carry significant risks.  I have seen friends also have to work an extra decade or so after getting into legal problems related to home purchase/sale and related to catastrophic insurance claims.  My former boss was forced to pay the full value of a house to a woman after getting in a legal mess related to a sale. He had to work until 60 as a result.  My parents had a very expensive foundation disaster with a home which required years of litigation with the insurer to get a claim paid.

Be careful out there!

Mongoose

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #47 on: March 13, 2016, 12:36:05 PM »
Unfortunately I can add a new one in the making. A good friend who had little savings last I knew decided to forego health insurance in the remaining five years before Medicare kicked in because the penalty was cheaper in estimation. He just had a heart attack and triple bypass. No idea what the fallout from this will be yet but I can't even imagine how awful it must be to have that added stress.

Secretly Saving

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #48 on: March 13, 2016, 05:53:23 PM »
I have a HUGE warning! Be ready to handle medical issues.

I ruptured a disc in 2013. It was massive and required emergency surgery. I struggled for a year and a half after that. I had alot of pressure to quit work and take care of myself, both from doctors and my family, but I refused to go down with the ship. I had over 500 hours of sick leave saved up as this was my first major health catastrophe. I used it and short term disability with FMLA wisely. I was very careful to fill out all paperwork and for about a year I worked 95% from home. My boss at the time was VERY accommodating but I was also diligent at doing my job (I was only cleared to be in the office one 4 hour stretch per week). Altogether, It took countless injections, extensive use of gabapentin, minimal opiate use(I hated them), and 3 surgeries, the last being major (Spinal Fusion). I researched SSDI and accessing my 401k etc. in the event I would end up unable to work, and in the end I made it through.

On a side note about physical trauma: I am very, very glad that our brains are wired to forget traumatic pain. Burning sciatica pain day in and day out while my ruptured disc material pushed on my nerve reset my understanding of pain. Now I cannot even remember that feeling and I hope never to feel it again.


I had back surgery in the 90s  (Two ruptured discs.)  Totally understand your pain and all that you went through (I know injections, gabapentin, etc very well.  It is a long process and I still deal with it.  Glad to hear that you've been on the mend!

Lance Burkhart

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Re: Do you have middle-class cautionary tales/horror stories?
« Reply #49 on: March 13, 2016, 06:24:14 PM »
Here's a horror story.  Despite its illegality, the only people being laid-off at my work in recent years are 50 and over.  I work in tech.  Many have saved nothing and are now trying to get by on 50% of their previous income if they were brought back as contractors whose hours are always "flexed" .  They also have to pay for their own benefits.  They have all cautioned me that you are expendable when you are over 50.  Actually, you are always expendable as profit margins soar when costs are brought near zero, and executives see employees as costs.

I talked to another guy yesterday who looked 60 and said he just needed "10 more years" to put his last kid through college and save a little more for retirement.  Even if our company is around that long - which is a big 'if' - hardly anyone is in the workforce as you pass 70.