Lifestyles and Expectations

And:

This is undeniable. But people’s lifestyles have changed, too, generating much higher expectations.

29 thoughts on “Lifestyles and Expectations

  1. Also, the meme talks about “on one income,” and he is talking about “median family income” (most likely with two working parents.) Not really a one to one comparison.

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  2. It still seems a gross misrepresentation. In most middle-class families the wife typically stayed home to look after the children. She might go (back) to gainful enployment later on when the last of her children reached school age. Is this a purely stereotypical image not supported by statistics? I remain very sceptical. More data is required re: numbers of one-income middle-class families WITH children vs double-income families also with children.

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    1. There’s something to this, definitely. One-income families used to be middle and upper-middle class. Now it’s predominantly working class families, so we are in a completely different range of families.

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      1. We are a one-income family. You can definitely still do it, even if if it’s not a doctor or lawyer income. It does require serious budget discipline, and no we won’t be able to afford to send the kids to college. We might be able to wrangle a house, at some point, if real estate comes back down somewhere sane. Retirement? No. I’ll go back to work when the kids are older, and we will both be working till we die, probably.

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        1. …but one thing people often don’t take into account is that they could live on a lot less, if they were willing to accept a 50s standard of living: cooking meals at home, no cable, satellite, internet, or smartphones, everybody gets one new outfit and one new pair of shoes per year at Easter, you can live with just one bathroom, and kids can share bedrooms– you don’t need a separate room for each kid. Do your own car maintenance (car manuals used to come with instructions on how to adjust the valve lashes yourself!) Probably a few other things as well– I don’t think shampoo came along until the 70s? Central HVAC wasn’t standard until at least the 60s. Automatic dishwashers weren’t really a thing until… the 80s? My grandfather was a man of the 50s, and his reaction to nearly any home maintenance issue was to dig up the water line, climb into the attic, or open up a wall and find the problem. Calling a repairman was last-resort stuff. Broken toaster/fan/mower? Fix it out in the garage.

          Too many people my age can’t even replace a P-trap on the kitchen sink or swap out their own car tire. If you have to call a plumber or roadside assistance for that… yeah, your lifestyle is really (unnecessarily) expensive.

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          1. My husband supported six people on one income, and without any debt other than the house payment. Everyone said we wouldn’t be able to do it, but the more they said it couldn’t be done the more determined I became to prove that it could. You just need to exercise a little common sense and restraint.

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            1. Yeah, avoiding debt is a huge part of it. We do not. ever. spend money we don’t have. Do without? Sure. Appeal to family? In an emergency. Put it on the credit card? Never. A car we have to make payments on is a car we can’t afford.

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              1. My mother who lived her whole life on credit, moving from one financial disaster to another, ended up being $1,500 short every month on living expenses that my sister and I will have to cover. Knowing all this, she’s been lecturing me for months that I need to buy a bigger house and a fancy new car. Mine and my husband’s policy is exactly like yours – nothing on credit, no car payments, etc. But some people never learn.

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              2. I was raised to think of debt as a bad thing, to be avoided whenever possible. I was shocked when I learned that many people think debt is a positively wonderful thing, because it allows them to live so much better than they ever could without it.

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              3. Like most things, credit may or may not be a good idea depending on the situation.
                I knew of a finance grad who bought a washing machine on credit after calculating that the interest payments would be less than the laundry service fees he was paying.

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              1. There was never anything to eat or to wear when I was growing up but there was a curtain in our window that cost 15 times my father’s monthly salary. And it wasn’t a particularly low salary, or anything like it.

                Can you imagine a curtain that costs 15 months of earnings? Is that not insane?

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              2. When I was growing up, I thought we were very poor. I had no clothes other than my school uniform, my shoes were always 3 sizes too small, there was never any lunch money and rarely any breakfasts. It was only when I grew up that I realized my parents both had very nice salaries. But all the money went into showing off.

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  3. You also have more people going to college and the cost of going to college increasing by far more than the rate of inflation, as well.

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  4. “people’s lifestyles have changed, too, generating much higher expectations”

    I’m reminded of what someone said about the British NHS… when it was created it didn’t need massive funding partly because… there wasn’t much they could do.
    Hospital beds and very basic medicines and procedures were doable – but now treatment costs have skyrocketed and the population is now less healthy overall and many have difficult even more-expensive-to-treat conditions….

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      1. Many years back someone very close to me told me that if they find out they have cancer they will refuse treatment. It shocked me. Since then, someone else relatively close to me died of cancer. This person died in their 80ies, and lived with a completely untreated cancer (by choice) for 7+ years. I spent the last several days of their life with them and their dying was much more peaceful and, from what I have seen, less painful than other people I know who availed themselves of every treatment possible and impossible. Now I am thinking that perhaps throwing everything and a kitchen sink on every disease we have may not always be the best choice.

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        1. That is very much my own wish on that subject. I don’t know how I’d actually react unless/until it happens to me, and yeah, I’d probably try to hang in there until my kids are grown. But beyond that… dying really isn’t the worst thing that can happen. I’ve been watching my same-age cousin die of an inoperable cancer over the last five or six years, slowly and inexorably, unable to do much, whole life consumed by chemotherapy, acquired a drug addiction to deal with the pain… is it really worth all that? Maybe? Maybe not? I think if that’s all I had to look forward to, I’d just as soon not drag it out.

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  5. @Clarissa

    “When I was growing up, I thought we were very poor.”

    Oof!

    In some ways, we were the inverse. I grew up thinking we were middle class. Took me till I was over 30 to figure out that we grew up quite financially strapped, but that my parents’ resourcefulness and our extended kin/church/friend network blunted the effects to such an extent that we did not notice it. When I got married, and we had kids of our own, it was revelatory– that was when I found out that I already knew how to work this low-income game, and that this was not, in fact, how middle-class people typically did things.

    We grew up hearing stories from my grandmother and her siblings, who had lived in a tar-paper shack during the Great Depression and had stewed possum and gigged frogs to keep food on the table. According to them, “poor” was a state of mind, and no matter how little money they had, they were never, ever poor– because they were resourceful, thrifty, hardworking, and they helped each other. They looked down on “poor people” because to them, you weren’t really poor unless your daddy drank or gambled the grocery money, or you didn’t know how to fish, or you’d alienated all the relatives who might help you in a crisis. That was our benchmark for “poor”, and we clearly didn’t qualify! So what if we had our water and power turned off for nonpayment a couple times a year? Granny hadn’t had electricity or indoor plumbing at all…

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  6. @PaulS re: buying a washer on credit:

    That’s still rich-people thinking though. I would never use credit for a washing machine, because I would never buy a new washing machine. When I need a washing machine, I make a couple of phone calls: to my mom who knows everybody, and my brother who is an appliance repairman. Mom will put the word out among our relatives and church friends, to see if anybody is replacing an old washer, and bro will keep an eye out at work, and in the local FB listings. We can usually come up with a washer in a couple of weeks, for free, or for the cost of a part to repair it. I have an indestructible Maytag that’s older than I am, works great, and I didn’t pay a dime for it. But I do watch his kid for a month every summer.

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    1. Well, that’s the thing, for rich folks, time is worth more than money. Spending time on his finance career was worth far more than shopping around for a cheaper washing machine.

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      1. Yes, this is very sad. My oldest sister was like that– very successful, worked 60-80 hour weeks at the office because career advancement– paid people to do stuff for her because her time was $$. Died in an accident at 37. Her son has no memory of her, because she’d only ever had time to see him on weekends.

        That was a damnably expensive career.

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        1. It used to be that spending your life at the office was a guy thing. I’m not sure that there is any way to protect women from male privilege anymore.

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          1. oh, her husband did the same thing. He was 41 when they died, and no, their kid doesn’t remember him either– he was raised by an aunt and uncle. I don’t think it’s a good thing for anybody– man, woman, or child. Valuing money over time with people you love may be a good way to financial stability, but those are crap values. Not everything is worth trading for dollars.

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          2. “It used to be that spending your life at the office was a guy thing. ”

            I don’t think a penis is necessary to enjoy working in an office. I enjoy it greatly, and I’m definitely not a guy.

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            1. I didn’t say enjoy time at the office. I mean spend time at the office to the point of neglecting time with your family.

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