The middle class isn't so squeezed after all
So says David Brooks in his Sunday New York Times column, summarizing a paper from the Democratic activist group Third Way:
The first myth, [says Third Way], is the myth of the failing middle class. It's true there are more households headed by young and old people, who tend to have lower incomes. But if you take households headed by people in their prime working years, 25 to 59, you find those people are not failing. Their median income is $61,000. If they are married, their median income is $72,000. Those are decent incomes in most parts of the country.You can read the entire Brooks column here. Brooks' point is that Democrats are crazy if they think American voters will respond to a "populist" economic message in 2008. But what he barely hints at is that even this report (read it here), from a decidedly centrist group, describes breathtaking economic changes since 1979. At one point, the report's authors compare the "old rules" of the economy to the "new rules" Here's a sampling:
Old Rule: "Success required a high school diploma."
New Rule: "Success requires a college degree."
Old Rule: "Climbing the ladder meant rising up the ranks within a single company."
New Rule: "Climbing the ladder means chasing opportunities with multiple employers."
Old Rule: "Wealth was managed on behalf of workers."
New Rule: "Workers need to manage their wealth."
Old Rule: "Most mothers expected to stay home."
New Rule: "Most mothers expect to work."
Old Rule: "Competition was limited."
New Rule: "Competition is fierce."
To sum up: The American economy offers you a much higher standard of living than it did in 1979. But to fully enjoy the fruits of this success, you'll need to spend four more years in school, be savvy about switching jobs, carefully manage your stock portfolio, and tap into two incomes, with all of the child-care worries that entails.
Update (2/13): This post is generating an amazing number of comments. For a quick summary of the debate--and some further provocations--check out my "Talking back" post today.
Wait a minute! In paragraph one, the source of the information is a "Democratic activist group." Later on, the same source is a "...decidedly centrist group." Would you explain how that's possible?
So, what will the Future Rules be:
Success requires a grad degree?
Climbing the ladder means chasing opportunities with multiple employers in many different countries?
Workers need to manage their wealth VERY well?
Most women don't expect to have children?
Competition is deadly?
how can you say that the middle class isn't failing if two people have to work now to equal one person of the previous generation. Thats twice the work to keep the same standard of living.
Well, yes. I do believe that is what that means.(except the women having children part) Are those bad rules? Should we instead give everything to people instead of make them work to achieve it? If hard work and education bring no rewards, where will the ambition come from?
Seems to be a very intelligent article.
The world has changed over the last five years. It sounds trite, but those who embrace change will tend to do better than those who resist it.
Companies will always need workers, but the day of the shelf sitter is over.
Just keep repeating that over and over. Why face reality when you don't have to.
How is income measured in this study. Does the definition of income only mean wages or does it mean wages and benefits. If it's the latter, then yes I would agree, people are "making more", but if it's the former, then this is the first study to say that.
We have no major centrist party. So, by definition, a centrist will be either on the right wing of the Democratic party or the left wing of the Republican party, no? Although the Third Way website says it is officially non-partisan, I think the former describes the organization pretty well.
Maybe I didn't drive the point home forcefully enough: Brooks seriously understates the challenges middle class Americans face. Although I wouldn't agree that the middle class is "failing," I do think the "new rules" are cause for real anxiety.
Are you insane? Two people making 72,000 a year is not what your dad was making back in the 60's. It's simple, honestly people are better off than they were even 30 years ago. I mean seriously, I make 17,000 a year while I'm in school and I live fairly well. I get to go out a couple of times a week, pay rent, have a car, pay insurance, eat, watch TV, and play videogames in my free time. Honestly....many people in other countries would kill for that, and I get to do that every day. Please, we live like Kings. Someone who makes just decent money can live and buy luxuries. Not every single cent of my money goes to just living today, as it is in many other places in the world.
Two people don't have to work, they choose to to support all of the things middle class family's didn't have years ago. Two cars, 3,4,5 TV's, microwaves, dishwashers, surround sound, air travel (once only for the rich). The list goes on and on. Middle class folks want to live like the upper class. Two people working makes that closer to reality.
I do not know what middle class you are talking about but everyone I know is having a harder time than they did 4-5years ago. you can't look at averages and median fiqures, you have to look at the indiviuals. You guys just don't get it!!!
Poppycock! What else would you expect from liberal activists? To them conjecture is truth and that is absurdly rediculous.
Glad to see a few other people see this report as a positive! Most women I know are stoked about their careers and their families, or more importantly that they can choose a career if they wish.
Democrats, get positive about the future and seize the momentum.
If I am reading the article correctly, the first paragraph refers to the "Democratic activist group" as the source that David Brooks was refering to in the excerpt. The "decidedly centrist group" that is refered to later is a second source that the author of the article is refering to in his rebutal.
The real problem here is that the article is not as well writen as it should be and is somewhat hard to follow.
There is not such a thing as Middle Class for a single individual, it takes two to live in middle class standards. Unless, you live in the middle of nowhere, where there is not culture!
Whine whine whine. Go get your welfare check.
To James in Austin,
Looking at a few individuals is exactly the wrong thing to do. Most of us know very few people compared to a 300 million person country like the USA. By collecting large volumes of data it is possible to overcome anecdotal evidence like "Well, my uncle lost his job last year..."
The present as well as future rules mean we all have to learn to work SMARTER, not harder. I see swellings of sideline businesses and passive income streams acting as the "third worker" in a two-worker household--if you aren't already on board or familiar with these concepts, I'd say you're in for some very rough rowing in the very near future.
BTW--how do you think "the rich" got to where they are now? They went into business, and opened up other income streams for themselves at the same time (rental real estate, etc.). What separates the classes is the degree of SMART work done, not how hard it was done.
Ask yourselves how smart you're working right now. If you work hard, it ain't very smart.
From where I sit, an income of $72,000 is hard to come by where such a salary amounts to a comfortable living. Outside of metropolitan areas, the cost of living makes this pay level seem modest at best for a family of four or more. In cities, the cost of housing alone can make a salary in the sub-six figure range seem paltry, and rural areas most often do not offer jobs that exceed $50K a year. My point: Whoever wrote this book clearly has an agenda they are trying to make their "data" support. The observations touted here are far too general to accurately or usefully describe any particular place.
To sum up the first poster's summary: all you have to do is successfully navigate the employment and financial minefields and you'll be okay! On the flip side, if you take the wrong job in attempting to move your career forward, make a wrong move with your retirement savings, or fail to take advantage of a second income, you're screwed.
And isn't this the same David Brooks who's been completely, utterly wrong about the Iraq war for the past 4 years? What if he's just as wrong about this?
I think the problem is we are earning more than our parents and grandparents but many of us have entirely lost their money management skills. My parents were middle class, and retired fairly well off, but you couldn't pry a penny from them when they had a house full of children. My father drove cars until they were embarrassing to look at. But they saved, saved, saved. Now, people trade their car in every three years just because they're bored of them, and get the latest 8 miles to the gallon monster-SUV. They think nothing about buy $5 beers all night at a bar, eating out a few times a week, buying $70 shirts just for a designer label, and carrying debt loads that would have made our parents faint. The money is the same or better, but the money management is worse.
This guy is a real loser to even print something like this. Everyone has so much money that over 40,000,000 of us do not have health insurance.
What an idiot.
Interesting time frame for the study. Who controlled the Federal Government in those years. Reagan in 1981-1989, Bush 1989-1993,Republican Congress 1995-2007. Democrats dragging feet all the time.
My husband and I have been a one-income family for the last 15 years. We don't "live" the typical middle class lifestyle, even though he brings home $50k+/year. We have no kids, no microwave, no plasma TV, no video game console, no second car, no house, no debt, and no closet full of designer duds and shoes that would make Imelda Marcos blush. We DO have a freezer and pantry full of food, cable TV, internet access (obviously), bills paid on time and in full, 4 IRAs and 1 401(k) account maxed out for contributions, and one hell of an emergency savings account.
The secret? Frugal living, buying wholesale, working the tax code, and knowing how to negotiate.
You are so full of it. I earn a gross income of $81,000 and support my disabled domestic partner. My NET income from this (taking taxes, insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Co-Pays for medical) and that trims the net down to 46,435. My partner and I live paycheck to paycheck, as prices have risen. The "money" specialists say we haven't had inflation. Tell that to me after I go to JC Penney and buy a new pair of workshoes, identical to the ones I bought last year and pay $21.34 more (and that was after a 10% discount coupon). There is inequality, those at the low end can get help, those at the high end don't need it. Those of us in the middle are suffering because we make too much to get help and not enough to save for anything.
Democrats can be middle of the road as well, think CDC, Ed Rendell
A middle class neighborhood today is a 2700SQ FT house, a SUV and a sedan in the driveway. Most likely a boat, RV, or other type of "toy".
People travel more frequently, have numerous electronics (Flat TV's, IPODS, Computers, Cell Phones, Etc.).
30 years ago it was a 1200 sqft house with 1 car and a tv! Just look at a middle class neighborhood from the 70's and then drive thru a middle class neighborhood of today! The standards of the middle class are MUCH higher today, and that requires 2 incomes to support and keep up with the jonses!
The death of the middle class is junk the democrats trot out every election year. Yet it still exists!?!
While $72G may not be a bad income in many parts of the country, the question is, how many of the sample live in more expensive areas where tha level of income is not so high? And the percentage of households making over $100G isn't especially relevant when taxes (AMT), healthcare, and cost of living have gone up disproportionately. And of course women moving in and out of the workforce ncreases volatility, but if we are going to have strong family values (whether liberal or conservative), we need to help families more with this challenge. We may not be doing badly, but the middle class, especially in the more populous, higher tax states, are on a downtrend, not an upswing, and fiscal and tax policy during the past 6 years has done damage, under the guise of tax cuts.
If we take the income risk/volatility premium into account, $72000 is not decent at all. Volatility was caused by globalization not motherhood.
Let�s see� My father worked, and my mother didn�t, but I and my wife have to work to maintain the same standard of living I grew up in� And my father had all his insurance costs covered by his company, but mine makes me pay �� And my father had reasonably good assurance that he would receive his pension and social security benefits, along with company sponsored health insurance augmentation coverage when he retired, while my wife and I hope to recover 50% of what social security indicates our payout will be, try to put 15% of our gross pay away for retirement, and who knows what health insurance will be (my company doesn�t foot a dime for anything once you leave). I guess the #�s look good if one applies the quoted inflation rates supplied by the FED., but frankly, I think they typically under report (I routinely find my inflation rate running about 2-3% higher, you know, around 5.5 � 7% (hey, that�s pretty close to what college cost increase at each year?)� And did I mention I have to put a child through college, where in my state, a state sponsored university will cost over a $100K for a 4 year degree�? If someone can answer this next question, I�ll be very happy � if 85% of all manufactured goods are imported to this country from off shore, and the cost structure of running OS OPS is approx. 15% of US labor rates, why is everything so darned expensive?
It would do good to remember that statements about the national economy can have little to nothing to do with your local economy. For example, if you live in Detroit, you may have a negative outlook on middle class prospects considering continued plans for layoffs in domestic auto production. From my perspective things have been looking very positive since 2001 and look to continue that way. Most of the middle class "under assault" have blindly bought above their means with credit cards and home equity loans. There needs to be more emphasis on that new rule: "Workers need to manage their wealth". I'm amazed that when people could be saving money with credit cards by using cash back programs, they instead carry monthly balances and pay absurd rates because they didn't have the money in the first place.
You fail to realize the amount of new taxes we are paying today versus 25 years ago. When you add the additional taxes, it takes two incomes to achieve a level of financial security a family could have achieved with one income 25 years ago.
The paper that was released was from the Democrat group....not the Democratic group...! There is a big difference.
To Greg in Boulder:
Hey guess what? $72,000 in 2007 is equivalent to about a $14k/year wage in the 60's! That was my Dad's wage!
I am technically in the middle class, with a college education and in my early prime years. However I am not seeing these average salaries in New York. To make such a broad statement of what middle class is, and how much better we are thriving is misleading the general American population.
Not that we are doing horrible, but it�s not as rosy as depicted in the article. We are not in better situations than our parents, job security is not existent and most employers are not willing to pay a person for what they are worth. However they do expect us to work longer days and have twice the company dedication while underpaying us the entire time. Most Americans feel guilty for taking vacations and work from vacations. This is not how our parent�s lived. They worked to live and most of us have to live to work and sacrifice our lives and sanity just to make ends meet.
I know someone will respond that a person should just switch jobs; if it was that easy to find a decent job with comparable income, I wouldn�t be writing this and the article we are responding to would have not been written in the first place.
Posted By Greg, Boulder, Colroado : 2:17 PM
Maybe less time in front of your video games and more time in class may improve your spelling.
Why does everyone always put the focus on higher education and degrees. It is becoming standard for everyone to go to college becuase the lower levels of school are only teaching students to pass tests and get into college not to live life in the real world. Our public education system and even private system, do not offer financial education. I dropped out of college because halfway through my degree I realized that every employer wants experience. Nearly anyone can get a degree (dont get me wrong, employers love degrees) but if you only have a degree you arent much use to a major company because you have no real world experience or application skills.
The focus needs to be on teaching our future generations more about financial education and less about how to pass a test, to get into a college, to get a degree, that may or may not get you a job somewhere 4years further down the road than where you could have started.
I am a successful 22y.o. mortgage broker and also own a consulting firm. At age 16 I found and joined a youth business program that can only be found at select schools in the U.S. and it helped me develope my skills and gain business experience before college. I gained more financial education in my 2 years in that program than I did in my 3years as an international business major in college. If you have a child, take the onus of the financial education of your child on your own shoulders and teach them what US schools will not.
Also don't forget the amount of time that we spent at work today vs before:)
Seriously people, those of you who think there is no or a shrinking middle class, wake up and flush the denial. Over 10 years in collections dealing with the majority of people who blame their problems on the government, or "the rich" when in reality it is a life style choice that in 90% of the cases caused the financial problems. I am middle class, my wife used to work, but now stays at home. We deal with college debt, and I worked my tail off to receive the promotions that got me where I am. I got so sick of hearing people say they couldn't take care of their financial obligations because they just returned from a 7 or 10 day vacation, and had no money to pay bills. I could do the same thing, but i accept repsonsibility, and take care of my obligations. There are too many people that think they are entitled to anything, just because. Well if you are not a member of the lucky sperm club, you have to earn the extras in life.
If you choose to go without the things people didn't have thirty years ago (cellphones, internet, computer, car with powerwindows and air, etc.), then you can do fine.
To live like a middle class seventies family you need a small three bedroom home with low ceilings, one or two used cars, and going out to eat once or twice a month.
Give up the luxuries and you'll live the same way.
You want culture? Live in the city in an apartment. You can't have it all (unless you're rich, and that's the point).
But, if there is anything that truely will destroy the middle class, it will be the cost of healthcare. It is rapidly outpacing inflation.
ah yes the classic middle class conundrum - You have are worse off than you were and if you are employed (maybe working 1.5 jobs yourself and your wife employed full time +) and have a family income of 60k+ you are considered by the pundents well off. I am no where near as well off as I was in 1999 I could afford much more on the same salary I have now. I was RIGHT SIZED out of a job, found another (no insurance) then found another carrer path and dropped back 10 years in income, so now I have to do outside consultations and other work to keep up. How is someone just out of school and new in the marketplace going to compete? On another front it costs over $400.00 a year in miscelanious charges to put a child in public school (another cost not considered when looking at our current economy.) Field trips are extra. Just look at some even more ancient history: In 1979 I paid 6,500 for a new car it is now 34,000. My insurance was lower my local taxes were only 25% of what they are now and I could get into a state park for free as a part of the COMMON WEALTH of our nation(and BTW thanks all you NO tax and spend conservatives for all the new USER FEES I now pay)Those fees add another couple of hundred dollars a year in hidden costs. My household income IS growing because my wife went to work full time not p/t. My salary has been frozen for two years and food and gas expenses have increased over 60% over the last two years ( I know - in economic surveys those dont count!) Well guess what, the Democrats do have it right there is a middle class crunch. A Georgia Repulican stated that Americans were spoiled and needed to pay more for what we have and guess what we are.
Mr. Brooks is the typical Wall Street conservative- in order to thrive or even survive in this new world economy you have to be exceedingly bright- street wise and business savvy. Seems like we have reverted back to the Gilded Ages of the late 19th century- the strong survive and the weak die off.
Mr. Brooks has been wrong on just about every social change in American culture- and has been wrong about Iraq for 4 years. His world sounds like the dreams of the Nazi's and their 'Master race'- fascism.
Somebody help me find a 72K a yer job with my college degree and 13 years experience in my field.....
My point: There's a lot of geography left ot of this equation.
I also believe that each state is different.What you can afford in one state when you making $72k you will never will be able to afford in other state. This is article is to general to discuss.
The solutions is to play the LOTTO!
The perfect position paper,(...you are better off than you thought...), as a set-up, for the perfect massive left wing income tax increase.
This change took place in Scandinavia 15-20 years ago. Today it is very unusual for a woman not to work and almost everyone in Scandinavia has a college degree. Downside is this: Birth & divorce rates will jump along with stress related deseases including alchoholism. A generation of youth will be raised by institutions rather than parrents.
Quit complaining, middle class America.
We have never had it so good. The origin of most of our angst is the rabble rousing media. If it is so tough here, why do so many around the entire world wish to be here? They are certainly willing to get the education and put forth the effort to succeed. Some are even ready to do it legally.
This is a ridiculous article, as many people have pointed out thankfully. To compare gross incomes of one generation to another, while ignoring such monumental facets of personal finance such as cost of housing, energy, taxes (especially property), and health care is neglectful at best and hopelessly ignorant at worst. Just look at every single one of those items and see how much they've gone up in the past 5 years. Ever wonder why everything seems so expensive, even when the government says inflation is low? Answer: real inflation is not low. They changed the formula back in 1995. Look it up. We have all been deceived. Trust your instincts.
And to anyone who makes a point that they are doing fine so the rest of society must be at fault - please wake up and imagine being in someone else's shoes. It's not about you. You really want to know what is going on you study the largest demographic in this country - working middle class families. Try to understand what it is like for them and why their money is barely getting them anywhere. Sure there is a lot of fiscal irresponsibility, and "gotta have it now" shopping mania, but those are not the overriding blame factors here.
What about geography? Most of the higher incomes correlate with areas of higher cost of living. Looking at data narrowly causes one to draw narrow conclusions.
I make $62,500 per year, and my wife has chosen to stay home. We live in a 1,250 sq. ft house, one car payment (Saturn VUE), no credit cards, no debt. And it is difficult to save, for various reasons. We moved here from VA, where the cost of living was higher, in relation to my salary. It's just as tough out there. Those studies and surveys just never seem to account for me. The numbers don't add up.
I grew up in the 70's. My parents from central NY told me that the only way to get ahead was to go to college. Today, college is the minimum to even put in an application in most real jobs, like mine. If you don't have it, you are automatically round filed. Highschool does not cut it any more. You have to prove that you have the ability to learn and college is where you do that. This is what gives you the ticket to move into the middle class. It has nothing to do with "just experience" if you can not even put in a Job application. Like I said, it gives you the ticket, if you choose not to use that ticket, that becomes your choice.
The definition of middle class is also very location dependent. Where my parent are 40K puts you into the middle class. Where I live, a middle class household (able to afford the median house of 450K) is 140K. I would suspect that this would be true for any major city, except San Fran + NY,NY. Since middle class is now defined by things, it is very much tied to income(or spending capability) and not how you feel, but if you want to move ahead, college is the only way to do that in a world where intelligence rules over brawn. If you want to fight with the masses in the brawn arenia, move to China or India.
Income is only one measure of wealth. You also need to look at what that income can buy. The standard of living of the "middle class" today is actually higher than that of the wealthy of the 60's and 70's. Think of all the stuff we have that our parents could only dream of. I have exactly the same job my father had (union delivery driver) yet I live better than he ever did. Productivity has not only improved business, it has actually lowered the cost of many items because it takes fewer workers to produce them.
Many of you argue that inflation is understated. You are correct. Look into "hedonics", which the government has been using to "adjust" inflation numbers with, increasingly so since 1996. For example, the gentleman who spent almost $22 more for the same shoes this year as last: According to the government, there was zero inflation there because you can still buy *some* pair of shoes at the same price you did last year, so there was no inflation. (I'm not saying this makes sense, I'm just pointing out what the government is doing).
Having said that, middle-class Americans do overextend themselves. The savings rate is now -1%, the worst it has been since the Great Depression; and means that Americans are living on credit cards. Many insist on 2700 sq ft homes and two brand new cars every 3 years. They have to have 4 TVs and Tivo. The list goes on.
It's a combination. People want to live unreasonably highly in our consumerist culture, so the spend more than they make. However, there are plenty of people who are being crushed by inflation that isn't being registered.
This is what I've been saying. Success is never easy. It requires work. I can't tell you how many middle class people I see driving Lexus's and Infiniti's. How many eat out at restaurants each week and the HDTV's! The middle class has lost its moral compass. It no longer wants to struggle for success but feels entitled. We've become consumers rather than producers, Debtors rather than savers and investors. All in all, your article fails to mention the mountain of debt the middle class has accumulated. That's why they feel troubled. But thats their fault no one else's.
The overall cost of ownership has gone way up my folks payed 16k for their house in 1969 its is now worth 465k. todays dollar doesn't buy what it did 10 years ago. the majority of americans are way in debt and continue to spend. I live on half of my six figure income and have invested 20% since 1996 and gottten 27% roi. Much better than a bank, Work smarter not harder
Bigger houses, bigger and multiple cars, finer clothes, high end electronics, lack of spending self control....these are the problems that are hurting the middle class. If they did feel like they had to put on an upper class facade and just enjoy life with what they have, that would settle a lot of the issues.
Well, let us redefine what middle class *standard* really is nowaday in a US-metropolitan. For me, making 72+K/yr doesn't put me any closer to my parents' middle class standards in the 60s or 70s. You may wonder why, with that income I am still living paycheck by paychecck with one car, one tiny place, one TV. After accounted for the tax, healthcare, social security, 401 and IRA, I also have mortgage & car payment, health club, insurances, and let not forget the outrageous amount of student loans that I have accumulated after 9 years of college. What is left?? Not much!
Simply put, we can't compare the middle class standards in 1960s with 2007. Due to multiple factors that are either unparalleled, incomparable, or unattainable.
Part of the challenge in talking about an issue like this, is that a lot of things get conflated.
1) Yes, people do have more gadgets, bigger cars and more floor space in their house than in the past. Yeah, in the US, we're materially better off than people throughout most of history.
That doesn't have much to do with the issue at hand: that regular people in the US today live in fear of how they'll be able to protect their families and maintain some security in their living situation. Pointing out that most people in human history lived in slums and hovels -- really doesn't address the issue at hand -- which is the growing level of financial insecurity in the US.
2) Read "The Two Income Trap." The main reason why middle class US families are financially strapped these days is the need to own a house in a good school district (so their kids can get good educations and successfully compete under the new Rules).
Most people aren't going bankrupt because of $3 lattes; they're going bankrupt because the job market is much more fluid and unpredictable, and because home prices/mortgages are much higher, and the need to educate their children in the best way possible, is more important than it's ever been.
3) It's a fact that job security has declined and income stability has decreased in the US. Both of these factors have had dramatic impacts on individuals and families.
Used to be, you had a job and it was unlikely you'd get fired unless you were a total screwup. And your next job would probably pay as much or more than your old job. Both of those realities are reversed now. You're likely to get fired through no fault of your own, due to corporate restructuring etc. And your new job will quite possibly pay you less.
So we're continuing to sign up for 30 year mortages in a situation where we increased uncertainty in our ability to maintain a consistent income stream.
4) There has been a fundamental shift of societal risk management from large groups back to individuals. Companies are pulling back from offering pensions and health insurance. The modern direction is to tell the individual that s/he is responsible for all their own life risks and costs.
That means if you're one of the unlucky bastards that gets a chronic illness, or specializes in a kind of work that suddenly goes away, or who is on the losing end of an investment (Enron company stock, anyone?) -- then you're screwed. A
nd as a society in the US, we're now saying that these people themselves are at fault. If only they'd eaten healthier...chosen a different career....gotten a job with better health insurance....been smarter in their investments...then they would have been *fine.* It's their own damn fault that their lives fell apart.
When the reality is -- most of us are only an illness away, or a lost job away, from a financial crisis in our own lives. There is no safety net, for anybody (other than extremely rich people).
So out of fear and denial -- we blame the unlucky for what is a system-wide structural problem: we are removing all society-wide mechanisms for shared risk and basic life maintenance, and leaving individuals to fend for themselves.
There's something wrong with this picture.
Brad in Cleveland, we'll see if you still feel that way after your company sends your job to India or gets rid of you for an illegal immigrant who climbed a fence from Mexico or an H1-B immigrant from India who takes your job for less than 2/3 of what you make and puts you on the street.
There is a War on the Middle Class. Get and read Lou Dobb's Book. Top executives are making *Billions*, including failing executives who have run companies into the ground and got a $300 million golden parachute as they left. And no, the workers aren't getting what they deserved. You r vice president got an $11 million tax *refund* last year. How much did he make?
Only a journalist can be so logical. Whoever pays this guy must believe in the tooth fairy too. LALA land is where these folks are from, maybe there are aliens on this planet.
The middle class is going the way of the dodo bird. I make 50K as a single guy in So Cal, and I'm barely able to save to buy a house and plan for retirement, let alone be able to go out and buy myself something nic. It's bad enough that almost a fifth of my money goes into retirement cause I can't count on SS once I retire. Yet those who are in this country illegally get to reap the benfits opf the money I've paid in taxes. Want to fix the problem, get rid of the illegal immigrants. If you don't live in So Cal, you don't see how horrible the situation has gotten in the past ten years. Watch out your community is next.
You people who can't live off 100k a year simply are trying to compete with the Jones'. Plain and simple. Top end fashion all the time. Different set of clothes for every day of the month. Eat out every night of the week. Alcohol every night of the week. 5 TVs w/ Cable. 3 cars. 2-3 Computers. Private schools. Private college. Every decoration and decor you can think of. The average American lives an extravagant lifestyle compared to the 60s & 70s and to most of the developed world. Stop using anecdotal evidence. Just because your JC Penny shoes cost $20 bucks more doesn't mean inflation is rampant. I just bought my wife a laptop that was 8x faster and 1/2 the price of a new out 3 years ago. The 32" TV I just bought is about 1/4 the price it was 5 years ago. The car I just bought was nearly identical in price in 2000. Heating bills are way down compared to last year. Gas is down to last year. Anyone who is worse off now than 5-6 years ago had their industry destroyed (airplanes, automobiles) or was living a dotcom fantasy land bubble that popped.
I'm sorry but the key thing here that nobody in these boards has brought up is that over the last 25 years there has been tons and tons of advances in our country (technology, education, manufacturing, etc...) The problem is that with all these new technologies, the people in these MSG boards who disagree with the article, don't seem to think all of that advancement would have changed what jobs are Middle class, and what jobs aren't any more.
Being a high school graduate working as a construction worker IS NOT MIDDLE CLASS anymore. Maybe it was in 1979, but in 2007 that is LOWER CLASS. The new "middle" class are young college grads, and people with Associates degrees, or technical school degrees.
You can't pretend that middle class jobs from 1979 are still middle class jobs. They're just not, they've changed just as technology and society has changed.
Iva, I'm sure you'd say I'm the exception to the rule, but I do not have a college degree (heavens, you might call me uncultured). My wife doesn't work outside the home and our household income is between $150,000 and $175,000 a year. I'd certainly consider myself middle class. Yet somehow we've been able to defy your definition of what it takes to be middle class. Is Metropolitan Detroit, the middle of nowhere? Maybe it's my lack of culture? By the way, I did not win the lottery or inherit money from my blue-collar parents. Could hard work and a determination to provide for my family be an explanation?
"There is not such a thing as Middle Class for a single individual, it takes two to live in middle class standards. Unless, you live in the middle of nowhere, where there is not culture! Iva from San Francisco."
I can't beleive the number of people who buy into this democratic party line that the middle class is becoming extinct. I won't dispute that the economy is changing but it is changing all over the world. It's called progress. As we make advances in one sector of theeconomy the opportunites available in the are going to change as well. This means some people win and some people lose. That's true in India, China, Europe and America. It's called the free market. Globalization has made this country copious amounts of money. It has also caused some sectors of the economy to shrink. This is inevitable. It can't be stopped. The 1950's are gone and they are never coming back. Get over it
Yes I too se alot of middle class families with the large home,SUVs etc. I'd also be willing to bet that a sizeable majority of them are in debt to pay for them up to their ears ! If one of them loses their job for any period of time hello bankruptcy.I also recently heard a news article on NPR that more people from the suburbs are using food pantries to make ends meet.Lastly,from a consumer standpoint it galls me to see clothes,such as jeans made in third world sweatshop being sold for $30-35,such as Levi jeans.Also as someone due to retire soon the cost of health care weighs heavily on my mind. Pat Regnier makes a lot of broad statments with no factual statistics to back them up.
Some of your points in this article are relevant and some are not. As for comparing the average income today with the previous generation, you definitely have not taken into account inflation. As for averaging incomes over the entire United States, you�re a bit lost. Obviously you have not looked at the affordability statistics the Real Estate Agents and Mortgage Bankers use. The average American in Los Angeles, CA, makes less income than that same person in Indianapolis, IN. At the same time only 1% of the American population can even afford to purchase a home in Los Angeles. Most American�s can afford a home in Indianapolis. As for Education, I look at it in terms of ROI (Return on Investment). Today we spend more for less of a return. Eventually we will get to a point were we will start questioning the value of that College degree. We American�s are competing against the world labor pool of the starving and destitute. I�ve been to India, I�ve seen the starving and exploited.
Our biggest problem is asset accumulation, or more accurately, the lack of it. Due to debt accumulation, the Generation X�er will not have the assets to take care of the Baby Boom Generation. They will have neither the education nor assets to keep America strong. And the type of education I�m talking about is not taught in schools.
My grandfather explained to me years ago why his generation did not fully develop a world economic system. The last time they tried it, the imbalances it caused, resulted in a World War.
What happens to the life style when one person becomes unemployed and the other can't pay the debt load by themself?
There is no middle class. There never was. If you have to get up and go to work every morning, you are poor and lower class. If you wake up in the morning and have money sitting somewhere earning more money to live on, then you are upper class. Case closed.
Face it... In this world it is every man for himself, with winners and losers. This is the world WE have created, through our system of government and capitalism. Everyone needs to take resposibility for their own situation, but be there to help out those who end up falling down through no fault of their own. It is the last part that we as a society seem to fail at more and more.
I beg to differ on the squeezing and the article never mentioned that now credit card companies can pretty much charge whatever they want to, thanks to the Republican administration. Why dont you find out how many folks are being bit by the "what if" analysis that the credit card companies are playing today, ever watch a credit card just from 12% to over 33% per month?
If everyone that is complaining about not making enough money would quit typing these comments on their bosses dime maybe then you would make 75K a year.
What a crock! Try being laid off your job at 57 years old and trying to maintain financially without spending all of your retirement. You may not remember retirement, but some of us had planned on it!
I wonder how much money Regnier was paid to shill this crap.
Scott (from Troy, MI): $150,000 per year in Detroit is on the upper end of middle class. In the Washington, D.C area, it would put you closer to the lower end of the middle class. The average house in Detroit sells for about $120K. The same house in Bethesda (a suburb of DC) would be over $500k. Sorry, but using yourself as an example of how easy it is to make on a middle class income is not realistic.
Hmmm, this would seem to NOT be good news for Dems running against the failing middle class. In fact, I'm surprised the Dems didn't bury the report. What now, Lou Dobbs?!
@Chris in Raleigh, NC:
Yes, graduate degrees are becoming a pre-req.
Yes, coporations have globalized. Employees are becomming commodities that can be "shipped" from country to country.
Yes, with the volatility in pensions and the thousands of investments options, it'll take an eagle-eye to properly manage your finances.
Yes, look at Eurpoe where populations are declining due to lack of children.
Not sure how to answer the last one.
Old Rule: Work hard, climb the ladder of success, and enjoy the fruits of your labours.
New Rule: I want it now. For free. With fries. Super-sized. It's not my fault. I'm being discriminated against. Someone must have planted those drugs, officer. How many vacation days do I get? You can't fire me! I'm not stealing, just downloading. If everyone else conserves, filling up my Hummer won't cost me as much. Can't you just give me a pill? What is morality, anyway? I deserve six figures right out of school. I saw it on Oprah. A kindergarten teacher should be paid as much as a CEO; after all, children are our future. Just because the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor doesn't mean we had to send our soldiers to die...
Middle class, a dream? Maybe. My wife and I both work, grossing 120k. I know for a fact , I was better off during the 70's. I paid cash for a nice 75 Olds , $7200, owned stock, and a house payment of $428 a month on a 3500 sq. ft. and 1/4 acre lot. Now we live in a 1800sq ft. house on a 9200 sq ft. lot. A Saturn Vue 2005 costing $405 a month. Gasoline is 4x what it was in 75. Bread is 3x. Meat is 4x.In 1975 we wer making $68,000 for similar work. Had better medical coverage with eyecare and dental.
Many folks are harping about the 'need' for two incomes in today's economy. I think they are forgetting that in the 50's and 60's people only had one car, only one TV, didn't pay for cable TV, didn't pay the internet, etc... If folks want to have that lifestyle, they could easily do so on one income. If folks want annual cruises, two luxury autos, etc, well, you gotta pay to play!
The middle class is far from dead. Those who are willing to workhard, save, and plan are those who succeed.
I am 26 and my wife is 24. We make over 150k (not including bonuses) a year and we live outside of Chicago.
Despite having a great deal of college loans, we are able to save 10%+ of our after tax income, have a 2600+ sq ft home, two cars, and enjoy multiple vacations a year. And we're planning on investing in some real estate later this year.
The trade off, we both work (two incomes are always better than one), we commute further for work than our friends, and we're willing to work long hours. Is it worth it? Absolutely, we're willing to work hard now and enjoy ourselves later.
The world is changing and you have to change with it. Stop trying to blame others and focus on making what you have work. Adapt or Die.
Lou Dobbs is just another loony millionaire playing up to the dumbaz liberals to make himself even more rich..
One must remember everything is relative. When one says middle class, you are the middle compared to other groups, or by definition you would no longer be the middle. So when you say, how is the middle class doing, you have to compare the upper and middle, and the reality is the disparety in the relative wealth of the middle class relative to the lower and upper class...(there should be more concern that the lower class is completely stagnent) I think this chart shows it all very clearly, and there is concern the top lines will be moving exponentially higher while the others lag behind. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Income_1967.jpg
Also, one cannot say that because we can buy a plasma TV, we are in a better economic position than we were of years past....wow in the early 1900's the middle class couldn't even buy a TV. We must be in a much better economic position than even the loser upper class of the early 1900's? No, it's all relative, and relative to the era you live in.The middle class is concerned that they arent getting all that would be available to them in this particular era, and others are unfarily hoarding it.
I think that what the author is trying to say here is that the only constant today is "change". Living in a state that has been hard hit by job losses the reality of what the new economy requires is unfortunately hit some folks right between the eyes. The 100K a year assembly line jobs are a thing of the past. It amazes me when I see polls in Michigan about the people of this state's views on the necessity of getting a college eduction. Something like less than 20% of the residents think it is necessary. This is partly due to the high standard of living that was previously obtainable with limited education. The standard of living is much higher today than it was for our parents. The advancement of technology has lowered the price of goods over the years, productivity has been strong which raises the standard of living for all of us by keeping inflation low. I agree with other posters that the main problem that we have is that we have become a nation of consumers and not savers both on a personal and governmental level. I am amazed when I hear about people not being able to make ends meet on 150K a year. I don't care where you live. Between my wife and I we make 114K, respectable, certainly not upper class. However, I have always paid myself first, lived within my means, never carried credit card debt I could not pay off each month and managed my investments closely. I also maximize my tax strategy to our benefit so the government gets the least amount of my money to waste as possible. I still have a 2700 sqare ft house in a nice sub, 2 new cars in the garage every 2 years and I will be a millionaire when I am 50. Oh yeah, and the kids college fund will be fully funded. Life is good to those who plan.
the writers use only one measure of well being income-they ignore wealth
they say americans need to manage their wealth-guess what they are not doing it cause they dont have the skills
the top 5% control 60% of the wealth in this country
they top 10% control 90% of the wealth
the bottom 50% control about 2.5%
the savings rate has been negative for the past 2 years-the last time that happened was the great depression
I believe you can trace all of this back to the fact that there is no formal education on personal finances in the schools! Love the commments!!
I agree that location is key to the possiblity of maintaining the middleclass lifestyle that the WWII generation was able to finally achieve.
The middle class does live like the the lower class of generations ago... on the coasts. It is very difficult to have children, own a home and save for the future in San Francisco. This is largely a self inflicted misery. When one is unwilling to mix with the rest of the population, one must pay a premium.
With my architecture degree, I was unable to rent an apartment in Manhattan or San Francisco. I was subjected to long commutes and longer hours. A family was completely out of the question.
I now live in a university town, "in the middle of nowhere". My salary is significantly less than it would be on the coasts but, I am able to:
own my own house
walk to work
enjoy a 40 hour work week
travel regularly with 21 annual vacation days
raise children with or without a partner
spend freely for recreation and personal enrichment
retire early and well
I won't impress anyone with my address but, then that is a halmark of the wealthy. Perhaps if Eva were actually aiming for the middle class; she would hit it.
I didn't even graduate HS and i am making it just fine in the white collar work force at 24.
$125k a year. Love it.
Everything they said makes perfect sense. I was actually surprised at how high the income levels were.
Just one note about all those people above complaining about how life today REQUIRES 2 incomes. They forget that they are buying cars that even adjusted for inflation cost twice what their parents cars cost. They are buing $40K Chevy Tahoes when a $20,000 Accord would do just fine. And they are not keeping the car for 5+ years like their parents did.
Finally, the average family today is living in a house nearly TWICE as large as the one their parents were raised in.
Learn to live within your means (you don't NEED it, and you dont need it NOW) and 1 income is easy for someone of "normal" means.
How many people see that the average wage is 72k (if married) and have said "why don't I get that"? Learn what an average is! That average includes people 59 years old, presumably working for 25 years. How long have you been working...how does the cost of living compare in your area to national average (hint: California and New England are NOT average)? Try looking at the national averages and (big word alert) extrapolate to determine where you should fit in. Keep in mind that the average includes people in higher paying fields (doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers) as well as lower paying fields. Where do you fit on that scale...adjust your expectations accordingly.
Also, look at what was considered a need in the past and what is a need now. Cell phones, internet, big-screen TVs, and 1 car per driver are now "needs".
Lose that sense of entitlement, tailor your lifestyle to your income, and quit your whining.
I like what Rich in Trenton said regarding the fact that there is no such thing as middle class. If you have to work for a living and don't have some kind of passive income (from savings, stocks, bonds, real estate, royalties, etc), then you are WORKING CLASS or WORKING POOR, plain and simple. When people realize this, their lives will start to get better. It's being dependent on the job market that makes people feel poor. The best thing to do is live like a college student for as long as you can possibly stand it and save/invest as high a percentage of your salary as you can. If you can live like a college student for at least 5 years after you graduate from college, and live below your means after that, you can be financially fat by the time you're in your 50s, if not sooner.
Most people are not smart enough to get a four year degree. 50% of mothers are single mothers. These are the people that look to the Democratic party for help.
My main comment to this article and other postings would simply be this: I believe we are much better off than our parents, why does it not appear so? Because they did not need to go out and by the brand new Hummer or new 3 series BMW. They understood money went into the family first. We waste more of our money on "must haves" that are not needed. We have to much and all enjoy it! So let's decide what we want to do, enjoy life and spend or stay home and appear to be better off.
To Don Frederick:
The Germans didn't bomb Pearl Harbor. The Japanese did. Other than that, I agree with your sentiment.
For no reason my auto insurance rose ~26% this year; my health insurance co-pay on prescriptions used to be $10, now it's $50, the same prescriptions cost me a few bucks in Europe over the counter, health care inflation is 6% to 7% -- my raise this year 3.8%; it used to cost me $2 to cross the bridge, now it's $4; it takes an $85,000 income to afford the median home in the USA -- I don't make that much and have an advanced education; CEOs make 500 times the average worker -- it used to be 20 to 1, college costs are through the roof, because both parties sold out the middle class to the corporate elite ruling our country.
I don't recognize America any longer, it's a living HELL. The middle class has no representation in our government. We are ruled by corporate interests with the goal of destroying the middle class through rising expenses. The privatization and globalization must be stopped to stop the slide of the middle class. They are succeeding in destroying us. Thanks CNN you helped create this living HELL.
US companies now hire mostly based on gender and race and less on skills and education.
Averages are notoriously misleading, a topic covered well by others.
Life-styles have changed. My grandparents lamented my parents extravagant living style - color television, what do these kids want today? - the technology is rather cheap and small parts of the total cost of living. Currently inflation measures in the U.S. assume health care expenses are less than 7% of total household spending. The health care industry is described by the Economic Report of the President as a $2 Trillion industry. If total GDP is only 13 Trillion, health care is really closer to 15% of the cost of living. With its +10% annual inflation, and the loss of employer provided health insurance, the cost of living middle-class (as people appear to define it) is inflating very quickly compared to the U.S. Government measure of the average cost of living (CPI).
I am still amazed at the naive financial education given to children these days. I suppose now that everyone is supposed to go to college, there is no need to be 'independent' at 18, 20, or even 24 (now that graduate degrees are necessary). Most teachers have pensions and health coverage, so they do not understand the importance of personal saving. It would be hard to teach something that is not understood by the teacher.
It is well known that our economy is
consumer based...As long as there are people who want more...there will always be a whine about the trials of
the middle class..
It is either more time with your family and friends or more money and little time with them..I am sure the
media is full of those indiviuals...
My family taught me to find and
job that I love and don't worry about
the dough..I retired from a demanding job in which I was on duty protecting
the public a job that was great with
great people..for 24 years..now I work
as a grade school teacher (5th grade)
helping children see the greatness
that education can offer..and at the
same time showing them that they already know quite a bit..I drive my
35 year old beetle..no I did not sell
out to the ideas and ideals of the 60's
just re-arranged them..I will just have a simple meal..run my dog along
the beach and watch the sunset..
I am 35 and since graduating from college in computer programming in 1995. I have been tru 5 jobs. I realize that there is no more job security since my job has been oursourced to India or China. There is no sense in getting educated on the latest technology, by the time I finish studying a new technology, my job has been shipped to India or China, or the technology is obsolete. It is far better to spend the time to get financially educated.
I just read the report. I agree with 80% of everything in it....Most of the proposals are quite sensible.
Has the authored considered the rate of inflation and the higher cost of living, which is not tailed in this article? It is for this reason both men and women are expected to join the work force, since it a necessity for the couples survival considering they have children, of course. But all together, higher cost of living means the worker has to put in more hours or have to juggle several at once, yeah guess the middle class is not being squeezed enough? You be the judge?
I can see both sides of this. When I was a kid in the 1960's, my dad worked at a blue collar job, and we did OK. My mom never worked. But we had one car, never ate out, never went on a vacation, no boats or other expensive toys, no cable bill, etc etc.
That is a sharp contrast to my life. We have a house double the size I grew up in, eat out once a week, go on vacation, have 2 cars. So I am living a much bigger lifestyle than my parents did. I think this is true for many of us, if we would admit it.
Also, our idea of "must have" is way different from 30 years ago. For example, go through your house and count up all the electronics and what they cost. It all adds up....
Additional mega-trend: smaller houses of higher quality. Does a family of four need 3K to 5K square feet? To cool/heat/light it? No. Houses today are unnecessarily big and inefficient. Who are we trying to impress?
I grew up "dirt" poor in NH, son of immigrant parents. I started working when I was 11 (1970) making $1/hour. No one (including my kids) believes that to eat, we grew our own food and raised (and ate) our own livestock. (Heated our house with wood: didn't have money for oil.) I did really well in school, went to college (worked 3 jobs), graduated and went to work. My first after-college job paid $22K/year. I've worked hard all of my life and now make almost $200K per year. I've come to realize that "money doesn't buy happiness" but it doesn't "suck" either. What a country! From white trash in NH to a secure, respectable life. Anyone can do it! Most people that complain haven't figured out the "work hard" factor, even at lousy jobs, and the process of "working your way up" and persevering. I see too much of the "I want what I want now" mentality.
I agree with the "New Rules" to some degree. People do have to take some responsibility for themselves... education, wealth management, etc. Our government needs to help out more, though, which is what is slowly strangling the middle class. The number of blue-collar jobs that pay a living wage are disappearing due to outsourcing. Free trade agreements only work if all sides are equal. If you think the middle class has it so well check out the following website.
Bottom line: Until Congress (Republican & Democrats) step up to do something for anyone other than lobbyists, then everyone, especially the middle class, will suffer.
Sorry, me again. Read and wholeheartedly agree with Don Fredrick, Mount Prospect, IL. Way to nail it, Don!
How Much things cost in 1959 Yearly Inflation Rate USA 1.01% UK 0.9%
Average Cost of new house $12,400.00 Average Income per year $5,010.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 25 cents Average Cost of a new car $2,200.00
Movie Ticket $1.00 loaf of Bread 20 cents
Kodak Movie camera $67.50 Ladies Stockings $1.00
How Much things cost in 1979 Yearly Inflation Rate USA 11.2% UK 13.4%
Average Cost of new house US $58,100.00 Average Income per year $17,500.00
Average Monthly Rent $280.00 Gas per Gallon 86 cents
Sony Walkman $200.00 Jox Trainers $14.99
How Much things cost in 2001 Average Cost of new house $136,150.00 Average Income per year $42,350.00
Average Monthly Rent $7135.00 Gallon of Gas $1.46
Average Cost New Car $25,850.00 US Postage Stamp 34 cents
1 LB of Bacon $3.22 Ground Coffee per IB $3.06
Loaf of Bread $1.82 Dozen Eggs 90 cents
Share Indexes Average Rough Guide Dow Jones Industrial Average FTSE 100 Average 5500
You be the judge???
rick in trenton has it right
calling salary wealth makes you nothing but a wage slave and no matter how much you make people like micheal
dell can ship your job to india in a new york minute
im glad his company is going down like the titantic he deserves it
oh by the way median financial assetts in this country fell from 30k to 23 k
over the past 5 years
by the way the median financila assets
I'm confused. I work for USPS (not the guys in brown), so I see a unique perspective of the who, what, where, when, why, and how of my neighborhood and, I'm extrapolating, the world.
If technology can increase productivity,thereby decreasing the need for labor,and more college graduates worldwide are entering the workforce for which higher skills are necessary, how many careers will become redundant before other, "newer" skills and jobs are created? Thus, more technology will enter the world, perpetuating this cycle. When soldiers and surgeons alike can be replaced by robot,in THIS day and age, what will mankind of the future actually need to DO? And would money then become irrelevant, like the prophecy of the idyllic Star Trek Federation? Just a thought--let's not work ourselves or our careers--and hence, our posterity and our survival--to death.
How Much things cost in 1979 Yearly Inflation Rate USA 11.2% UK 13.4%
Average Cost of new house US $58,100.00 Average Income per year $17,500.00
Average Monthly Rent $280.00 Gas per Gallon 86 cents
Sony Walkman $200.00 Jox Trainers $14.99
---------------------- Below are some Prices for UK guides in Pounds Stirling -----------
Average House Price 19,925 Gallon of Petrol 0.79
Share Indexes Average Rough Guide Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average 838
Interest Rates Year End Bank of England 17.00% Federal Reserve 15.25%
How Much things cost in 2001 Average Cost of new house $136,150.00 Average Income per year $42,350.00
Average Monthly Rent $7135.00 Gallon of Gas $1.46
Average Cost New Car $25,850.00 US Postage Stamp 34 cents
1 LB of Bacon $3.22 Ground Coffee per IB $3.06
Loaf of Bread $1.82 Dozen Eggs 90 cents
Share Indexes Average Rough Guide Dow Jones Industrial Average FTSE 100 Average 5500
Inflation has eaten the middle class whole faster than you can say, who are they kidding???
Lets think about this piece for a minute. Competition is more fierce for that is the way of Capitalism. But the sole reason it takes two people to live well (whatever that means to each person on a micro-economic level) is because when BOTH spouses began to work, at first they had extra spending power known as economic rent to economists (above average earnings). But as Milton Friedman might explain were he alive, once individual families had two spouses working, they also consumed more and prices of relative goods and serivices, including homes went up based on consumer choices. Thus we cannot compare the past to the present. The spending power is now neutralized by the fact that marginal costs of living have increased by the marginal income and wealth effect of most homes having two people working. Why would anyone expect that costs would stay stagnant and everyone would earn above average income with no affect on costs? Personal choices for consumption patterns drove prices higher. For example, if everyone chose to save the extra funds from a spouse working, then at the macroeconomic level, not only would this country not have a huge national debt, but also prices would not have risen much and THEN you could compare to the time of "this is not my father's Oldmobile." A little economics 101 helps demystify this issue clearly. We are not the only ones in the world who want stuff. 2/3 (nearl 4 billion people) live well below even the poorest of Americans. Naturally when they get into the economic act, competition increases. Sorry folks, productivity comes from competitive forces. Since everyone here would likely pick up a gun to defend our countr from Communism, why then do we complain when the capitalistic forces we all defend and enjoy the benefits of don't always lead to each family at the micro-economic level winning. Life is a bell curve and not everyone is going to win.
You could make the example of gasoline prices. Everyone thinks they have a constitutional right to 1.00 USD per gallon. When it goes up they scream regulation! But we choose how much gas we use by the cars we drive at the individual level. The same example is the point the author is trying to make.
It is our personal responsiblity to compete or die. No one makes us do anything or live at any level. This country affords us the opportunity to rise to any level our abilities will take us to and spend at whatever level we wish. Stop blaming the universe and howling into the wind. We live in a Capitalistic system and competition for the best of all of it should come as no surprise to anyone.
This author is just a mouthpiece for Ted Turner and his corporate interests. Just this week we received an e-mail at work informing us of additional cuts to our pension benefits. And my company is one of the only ones I know that even still offers this benefit. Almost none of my peers do: social security is not guaranteed and 401k & IRA savings are subject to market fluctuations.
Globalization has been a net detriment to society, despite what the Keynesian capitalists teach in business schools. Notice how the author didn't mention real wage growth over the past 7 years or so? Thats because its non-existant. Tack on higher healthcare and education costs and grossly inflated real estate prices and taxes and the American "dream" is fading fast, becoming more like a nightmare.
The American middle class is very much in danger. My mother never worked outside the home and my father ended his work life in the mid 70's. His terminal salary of $22,000. is the equivalent of $100,000 today adjusted for inflation. Yes, my wife and I live well but health care, college savings for our daughters, and an accelerated mortgage schedule consume a large part of our take home pay; and no, we don't have a vacation home, time share, SUV, luxury car, boat, or Prada bag.
These statistics are bogus. If I were in a room with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the average income of the three of us would be billions dollars, yet I would still not be wealthy. Perhaps the "median income" of households households 25-59 years really is $61,000 but the vast majority make much less.
"Democrats, get positive about the future and seize the momentum."
On the contrary; the only thing many democrats choose to "seize" is a bigger and bigger portion of the American pay check. The only momentum these democrats build is an overstated negative case against a present problem or circumstance to justify their social-istic thievery. This glass always two thirds empty sophistry perpetuated by a left leaning media is why many or most of us fail to recognize that the glass is really two thirds or more full.
The dreaded alternative minimum tax is a perfect example of skewed thinking that de-mocrats have yet to take responsibility for. A generation ago there were about 150 "horri-ble" "rich" people who legally managed to avoid paying federal income taxes by taking advantage of such write offs as state income taxes, deduction for dependent children, etc. So the democratically controlled congress passed the AMT to thwart the evil rich people with out bothering to index the standard deduction and/or tax rates. A generation later some of the middle class folks that this study covers are about to fall prey to the "rich" persons tax. I'd like to say that the lack of indexing was a democratic accident but given the major battle Ronald Reagan had to fight with the democratically controlled congress to get the regular income tax brackets indexed to inflation, I don't think this is the case.
The financial problems of middle class Americans can have many causes, some of them self inflicted. But I can guarantee you that the most common cause of the problem is the average 40% we all pay in local, state and federal taxes. Add it up some time. Federal income tax; state income tax; social security and Medicare taxes...don't forget your em-ployer's matching contribution tax for social security and Medicare; state sales tax; taxes on your cell phone, cable/satellite bill, sales tax on top of the state and federal excise tax for a gallon of gasoline or a new set of tires; recycle tax for a can of soda; extra payments for AMT; property tax; death tax; etc...So, after eighty years of being an entitle-ment/welfare state, forty-five years of a war on poverty, and 40% or more of the middle class pay check being spent by the government, left leaning democrats still find the glass more empty than full�If you don�t believe it, just watch and listen as the 2008 election heats up and how much better off if again we just give them more money to get it done.
"carefully manage your stock portfolio..."
Please, who does this? Anybody doing this is going to get more BROKE faster. Stick with proper asset allocation and index mutual funds... buy it, set it and forget it. Spend less then you earn, stop going after 5/1 ARM loans for 400k McMansions, and forget buying the latest Hummer.
This article is for people who "want" these things. If you don't want these things, your middle class lifestyle will be better then you think.
Not only houses and but expensive toys (vactions, cars) are enjoyed by most Americans but home ownership is at a historic high. As a society, we do live better than our parents.
Its wrong that money will no longer be
distributed in the sameway as in the past. This adjustment will cause much
financial pain to the unfortunate people left behind. People have a right to be disappointed that the goverment and corporations sold them out. Jobs go to India because the exchange rate is 45 ruby for 1 dollar.
The haves are making more than ever and
the have nots will never no what happened .But they will hold out for something to prop them up. Forget it
there are not enough jobs in the world for the populations. If you listen to the television and the radio you get
very little news of what is really happening in the world. That of course is the plan and the rich are living
bigger and better than ever. Buckle up
because a 2 tier society will bring much more of a turbulent and dangerous future for the country as it has other places in the world
Geez lets see, 20 somethings don't save, and like many on here talk about maintaining the same standard of living as their parents. The standard that took your parents 30-40 years to achieve you want NOW. Debt and a lack of financial discipline is what is killing most people.
I went through Financial Peace- Dave Ramsey's class......will be debt free by the end of the year.........right now no financial stress one year out from a divorce....I cut up the credit cards, got on a budget....
Financial success is 80% behavior..
The U.S. workforce needs to modernize.
Case in point: Auto Workers in the 1980's
-Unions cause very high operating cost's driving jobs elsewhere.
GM and Ford present day
-The UAW is the albatross around their necks bringing them down.
Realization: The U.S. is entirely in the "Moshe" pit of business operations.
Solution: The American way, baby! Get more educated and find a way to earn money smarter.
Example: U.S. Gov't in Iraq
-Strategically it's the best plan ever
Larry M --
A little education in statistics is still worthwhile. Your story about Gates and Buffett is about MEAN incomes. The MEDIAN income, cited in the story (and in your comment) is the level where half are below and half are above. Your comment that "the vast majority are below" shows your confusion.
Of course, the politicians play on this confusion over and over. After all, why should the 50th-percentile family be satisfied with the median income when the "average" (mean) income is a lot higher? Gee, maybe we should tax that difference away and make the means and medians the same...
I hope everyone understands that there is a difference between median income and mean income. The article refrences median income but everyone keeps talking about mean income.
The part of the findings which debunked Democrat talking points about how hopeless is the situation for the American middle class was quite enlightening. Kudos to the writers, Democrats themselves, for staying away from class warfare and advising others to do the same.
The part that tried to claim that Reaganomics and conservative government fiscal policies are wrong and probably dead was way off the mark. Government spending charts which include military spending during times of buildup (ie, Cold War, 1st Gulf War, and War on Terror)while also taking credit for defense cutbacks during Clinton's era are misleading and tacky. Also, I have never heard anyone, Republican or Democrat, complain about government programs such as SEC, Federal Banks, or interstate highways. The writers make it sound like Republicans are conceding the need for BIG government because of the need for such programs. I'll let it pass as just a little indiscretion on the part of partisan authors.
Having said all of the above, in general this study is fair minded, minus the expected levels of pandering. Let's hope that reason can advance with this type of rational thinking.
Americans consume too much, period. Money once ran an article that a couple with three kids are making ends meet with an annual income of $150,000. That is serious amount of money. Another point is: Painting pictures like this will make people feel poor even they are not.
feel better about your net worth....
[Yes, I realize that some people will scoff at the information presented after they type in their yearly salary, but it is certainly an eye opener.]
Here's a brilliant idea--measure income growth in current dollars. Did you take economics?
Please check out http://www.faireconomy.org/ for a good analysis of the growing severe disparity of wealth in the U.S. The tax laws are working against the middle class and appear to be undermining Social Security, Medicare, the Pension Benefit Guarranty Corporation, and are partly causing the reduction of employer offered fringe benefits.
Warren Buffet, the second richest Billionaire in the U. S., stated in Fortune Magazine, October 31, 2005, page 84:
"What has gone on in this country in recent years is a huge benefit to the very rich and not much that relief to those below."
Summary: the Upper Class (10% of U.S. pop.) owns 70% of all stocks, bonds, real estate, businesses, and etc. See below chart.
Lower Class (50% of U.S. pop.) owns $8,000/person
Middle Class (40% of U.S. pop) owns $100,000/person (e.g.,family of 4 has $400,000 net worth)
Upper Class: bottom half: owns $350,000/person
Upper Class: upper half: owns $900,000/person
Top 1% owns $4,600,000/person (Top 1% uses the U.S. tax system to easily siphon off money from the middle class)
Middle class is getting squeezed more and more year after year. Our government continues to find new ways to spend our money. Worse, they continue to find ways to shoulder more and more tax burden to the middle class. And they refuse to do away with ridiculous tax codes like the marriage penalty, telephone tax (created long long ago for some other purpose), AMT, and the list goes on and on. Why? Because our government need to spend more and more on ridiculous programs like paying for illegal immigrants' health care, jail illegal immigrants, failed policies in controlling the spiraling health care costs... And when is the last time that you hear a corporation making billions and billions of dollars paying billions of tax; it is just none existent.
I used to live in Los Angeles, CA. There are quite a few comments directed at people choose to buy a home in a nice school district and big houses, thus, leading to a more lavish style of living. Guess what, in LA, unless you want your child to go to a school where teachers are teaching 3 - 6 years behind a decent school district due to the overwhelming illegals (by the way, we are paying for them to take up space in our education system) who can't catch up and mostly have no desire to, or live in a neighborhood where you have drive-by-shootings and gang infested areas, you are forced to find a decent area to live in and pay the higher premiums.
Our society, government policies, and the tax code is just not friendly to the middle class anymore. Too rich not to get support from the government and too poor not to stress over it.
Take action and get involved! Write to our congress. Make your voice heard. If the illegals can affect the economic well-being of the middle class, certainly the middle class can have a dramatic and overwhelming effect on our congress.
People who save their income for future are being punished. This might be one of the reasons that one choose not to save. You save for your children�s college; guess what you are not qualified for financial aid because of the asset you accumulated (If you spend every cents you make, you would not have this asset problem). You save for your retirement; you might not qualify much for Medicare (may be even Social Security) because of the so called income generated by your 401Ks and IRAs. Why should any one save at all, if the necessary condition for getting benefits is needs?
Middle Class? My wife and I work. We both hold masters' degrees. Our combined income is about 160,000. However, we can not afford to buy our "dream" home. Why? It is because today to be part of the middle class takes three times the work that it took in the late 70's. Where are we going from here? Who knows but one thing I know for sure is that my children might not be able to part of the middle class group.
who moved my cheese?
When discussing standard of living and cost of living as compared to the past, it is more telling to use costs as a percentage of income. The major cost for most is a home. A median priced home was approx 2-3 times median annual income since the 1950's until the mid 1990's, but is now 5-6 times annual income. We are simply achieving our "affluent" lifestyles with greater and greater debt, taking on a burden unknown in previous generations. This house of cards will eventually collapse as the interest to service the debt continues to rise faster than our incomes...
one must remember that "middle class" was possible in the 50-70s partially because govt. help with school loans ,mortgages(va @ 2%) ,the gi bill. i dont believe that
comparing todays challenges to years ago is valid.
the sweet spot in this country for the average person was the 30 years after wwII.will your grandkids be as well off or have the opportunities we all have had?
dont expect the govt. or business to became altruistic any time soon.you are on your own
Freedom to gripe about the mysterious middle class, priceless.
Without a college degree, I purchased a 1600 SQFT townhouse a year ago in the southwest, maintain 2 vehicles, older suv and new diesel powered sedan. I'm enrolled in a private college and will graduate by year's end and I make less than 50K a year. To top it off I'm a registered Republican and I've never had it so well.
As someone who grew up in another country I am amazed that Americans dont appreciate the good life they have. After the US won WW2 it made the USD the currency of the world. WHat this means is the US can import all the VCRs, TVs and automobiles and give just worthless pieces of paper (called dollars) in return. As there is nothing that can be bought with this paper the foreign schmucks who have slaved away to produce these electronics turn around and lend this money to the US govt almost interest free. The US govt then lends this money at low interest rates for mortgages (via Fannie and Freddie) so that people who could never have afforded houses in any other part of the world can afford houses. Basically the US has turned the rest of the world into its colony. Who do you feel sorry for - the chinese factory worker who works 12-14 hour days making a 100 nikes a day but could not afford to buy one even with 10 years salary or the American teenager whose Dad is a union truck driver (pretty low skilled work anywhere else in the world) but can afford to easily buy those Nikes. If it was a fair world the vast majority of the American workforce would not earn enough to eat forget about shelter and providing for kids but luckily for Americans its not a fair world. We got the rest of the world by the balls and they cant do anything about it. What refuse to take dollars? Then the trillions in their banks becomes useless. Force us to pay up with gooods? We got the biggest army. Trade amongst themselves without dollars? Sorry oil is sold in dollars and any country that tries to sell in Euros we will bring democracy to it with 165000 soldiers. Quit cribbing folks and enjoy the ride. You did nothing to deserve the free ride - it was the WW2 generation which won us this position but its not going to last forever. Once China's army is strong enough to demand real goods in return instead of paper dollars we will know hunger.
To Ed in Northridge
You said that it was a $100,000 to send your kid to a state sponsored four year degree.
According to cnn money.com
"The tuition at the top 20 most expensive public schools ranges from $12,500 to $10,200.
But for out-of-state students, the price tag can be far steeper and on par with the cost of many private institutions. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, for instance, charges $27,601 in tuition to out-of-state students, making it the No. 1 most expensive public school for out-of-state students."
So either your kid is in a out of state school, in which case for you it's not state supported. Or you are paying for your kids life style. Either way that's your choice, but not the cost of sending your kid to school.
And don't tell me it includes rent and food. Let your kid earn the money to pay for that.
If you are really spending a $100,000 for your kids college you are either not middle class or not making good choices.
Data might be correct but the conclusion is incorrect. 30 years ago, we didn't need to save money to send our children to college, cause they need it now to succeed. 30 years ago, we didn't need to eat out everyday because we have no time to cook, since both of us are working now. 30 years ago, we didn't need to worry about a retirement account, since social security is currently underfunded. 30 years ago, we didn't have to worry about getting laid off and have our jobs shipped overseas. 30 years ago, housing was affordable and kept with inflation. you get the point. this article doesn't address any of these questions as well as other pressing issues plaguing the shrinking middle class. whenever this centralist study address these in their report, i'll start taking this studymore seriously. how can people take this seriously? it takes a few facts and come to a conclusion not based on facts, rather personal opinion.
this is the type of crap being published by CNNMoney with no consideration or critiqued. Pat, give me a break. do your job. critique it . give me different sides, tell me the flaws and strengths of this article based on other studies. posting this message on your blog and allowing us to draw our own conclusion and do your work for you? work for that MONEY Senior editor title.
30 years ago, thinly mask bipartisan studies were criticized for being non-factual and unorganized, then again, maybe i'm just idealizing the past. Pat Regnier should be ashamed for not doing his job.
2 people working 70 hours a week on the new minimum wage will earn $52,000 a year. so everyone complaining that they don't make this much money probably needs to get a second job. we work 70 hours a week and make 4 times that...the money will not fall out of the sky people...you have to earn it through working, saving, investing, and starting a business. if you think you are going to make ends meet on 40 hours a week i suggest you move to france.
To Stephen Goldberg: You are right. When women entered the work force en masse, all it did was increase the speed of the tread mill that we're all on. It did that primarily by increasing the amount people were willing to spend on housing (aka a "bidding war"). I figured this out back in 1990 at the ripe old age of 20. I mentioned this observation to an older co-worker and she looked at me like I was from Mars. I felt vindicated when the book "The Two Income Trap" was published a few years ago and pretty much said the same think I said at age 20 and that Mr. Goldberg just said in his post. Maybe people will listen to the authors, who have PhDs. When I mentioned observing this trend, people thought I was nuts.
what about inflation!!!! how much did $100,000 get you in 1979. How much does it get you now?
Something seems ajar about the distrubution of wealth or lack of it for the common good? If their wasn't so much waste of US resources and production over false goals, there might be something left over for daycare centers, better health, and pensions.
C'mon folks, catch the wave, let's learn to look at spending from a different perspective!
1) Enjoy the process of investing your income in APPRECIATING assets: those of us with a penchant for spending can simultaneously gratify this desire and build personal wealth.
2) Avoid DEPRECIATING assets like the plague. My rule: if I can't turn around and sell it for more than I paid, I'm not interested!
So get out there and start SPENDING! Electronic markets like eBay and Amazon have made it a cinch to determine the market value of just about anything. Don't pay more!
This article is designed to make everyone who does not feel 'better off' like it is their fault...
Recently retired from a large Uni- have seen grad-school enrolment increase from 200 (10+yrs ago) to 3,000 in 2006-the future is here; credentialism, consumerism, its all a drug for the masses - everything is made in China - the new world power - while most americans/westerners sit oblivious to the 'future' ...makes the cliche 'middle class' somewhat redundant...
Great article! however one major point that Pat missed. $100k does not buy all that much in a world of $125 month cable bills,runaway property taxes and nearly $3 dollar loafs of white bread. Thats the problem.
As you dissect the studies, first remove the incremental costs associated with generating the higher median wage and then see if the 'take' home/disposable income after inflation adjustment is higher and the myth become more than a reality.
this guys ideas look good on paper but the game is not played on paper
manage your wealth well lets see
the average american spends 122 for every dollar he makes
the savings rate is negative
median financial assetts fell from 30000 to 22000 in the last 5 years
only 13% of millionaires work for someone else
money poured into stock mutual funds the year the market topped
money poured out of stock funds the year the market bottomed
people were wiped out during the crash by keeping all their wealth in their company stocks
escalades-mcmansions-plasma tvs no problem its on the house
dont have a house-no problem
bad credit no problem-we have a nice arm for you
does this sound like good wealth management
Brooks is entirely misleading when he uses salary to gage success. In order to buy a lower middle class home here in Maryland with a slightly better than average school district one needs at least a $100k annual income. Whereas in Northern Michigan one only needs about $60K for the same quality of life.
Be aware that all this is entertainment, not journalism.
The author definitely does not live on $72,000 or even $100,000. If you live in the state of New Jersey and are making this kind of living you are struggling. There is basically nothing left to save when you get done with all of your necessary expenses. When you factor in the cost of a modest home, the high property taxes, utilities, transportation costs along with your ordinary day to day expenses such as medical, clothing, food (a family of 5 can expect to spend between $500-$600 alone on this for a month), insurance payments,car repairs, car payments etc. all necessary items that no one in this day and age can live with out you are left with nothing. These expenses all need to be paid for after the government gets done with their federal, state and any other tax they can think of putting on the middle class. It would be very interesting if the author, all of these wealthy people and politicians were required to live on this income for just one year like the ordinary "Middle Class" person. I'd like to hear from then.
I love the way this clown just tags on "with all of the child-care worries that entails." like it's a small part of the story. Mr. Reginer, it's a very big part of my life, my concerns and my money and you are someone who just doesn't get it. If this guy is a senior editor at Money magazine I'm looking somewhere else for my financial advice.
When gas prices have doubled, home prices have doubled, insurance costs have risen, income and state taxes eat 50% of your income, banks are paying little or no interest, and families are in debt up to their ears would dictate this article is ridiculously stupid. A combined income of $70,000 goes nowhere with a mortgage, car payment, food and gas, and taxes. The writers need to sober up before they try to write again!
Equating income to happiness is an old game. All things being equal, having more money is nice; do you really think Bill Gates, on his deathbed, is saying: "I made billions?" Seems to me the point of the article is the Dems shouldn't make "woe is me" their charter for economic policy. Make the world safer, make it greener, a little more gentle - and quit strategizing over household income.
"Globalization" is not a good thing - I don't understand why people talk about it like it is a silver bullet.
Our economy is not the same as India's economy or China's. In those countires, you can pay a computer engineer about $400 a month, (and many of our companies here do) and that is a reasonable, living wage FOR THEM that allows them to buy a house and pay all their bills and out their kids through college - because of their economy. A high school kid living with their parents could barely get by on $400 a month in the US - let alone someone who has a family and is trying to live on their own.
This issue is that our workers are being forced into direct competition with workers from the poorest economies on the planet. And since we living in one of the richest economies, our workers simply cannot compete on that scale. Hence, we are bleeding millions of jobs annually.
And we have massive illegal immigration along with huge foreign worker importation progrmas called H-1 and L-1. So we have an overabundance of cheap workers, both overseas and here in the US. Simple economics, the rules of supply and demand apply. Too much supply, demand falls, and so do wages.
STOP the outsourcing and importation of cheap foreign labor. Secure the border.
Also, how about we start manufacturing again here in the US? Right now, we don't manufacture anything we buy - a TV, a DVD player, a computer, or an ipod here. Maybe if we did, our people would have jobs. Instead we send all that work overseas and enrich those economies instead of our own.
Eventually, India and China might catch up. But they have hunderds of millions of workers who can continue to work alot cheaper than we can in their economies for a long, long time, and they certainly won't catch up in our lifetimes.
"Globalization" - it's the single biggest reason why our middle class is being eliminated. Why don't people see this??
the article says $100K grew 12.7% ... without accounting for the fact that inflation itself over 20 years can already more than create that effect without any increase in "real" wealth
I have always beena nnoyed by people complaining that they cannot live on one income like their parents did as proof of how bad things are. Most houses in the 70'2 and 80s were under 2,000 square feet, you did not get a new car every 3 years, 78 inch TV in the living room, smaller TVs in all the other rooms, 50% of meals eaten away from home, huge gomet kitchens they do not use, and my favorites are the monthly bills:
His & Hers Cell phones $75
Internet Access $40
Satelite Radio $10
People feel like they cannot keep up becuase they have no self control. It is their choice, they have no right to get all pissed that they cannot keep up. You can keep up if you make better choices.
Middle Class today is what Upper Class was in the 50s and 60s if you define it in terms of materialism. Today it's common for a "middle class" family to spend $200 or more a month on cell phones, cable TV, payments on their plasma screen to watch the cable, high-speed Internet and all the technology that didn't exist when the "boomers" were kids. It's common for a "middle class" family today to vacation in Disneyworld, ski in Colorado or send their high school senior on a graduation trip to the Caribbean or Europe. It's common for a "middle class" family to have $10,000 or more in credit debt, beside their mortgage, so they can pay for the lifestyle they have chosen. Schools need teach how to responsibly budget an income at all levels - $30,000 a year or $90,000 a year. Those differences in income are here to stay. Life isn't fair. Get over it!
So sad to see people really look at the individual rather than the whole. The fact is that people associate the middle class as the ability to live in a nice suburban house with several kids a good car and the ability to buy nice clothes. Wrong! The middle class is for people who can have a decent way of life (hence the middle). They can't go out to restaurants everyday, they can't go out and get new clothes every month, they can't get a new car every five years, and they might not be able to buy that home with the 1/4 acre yard. We forget that there will and is disparity. I just helped a friend of mine with his financial problems. He makes $500 a week and is $5000 in debt. He has no college degree. We were able to set aside $50 a month to start a retirement fund, $300 a month towards his debt, $150 a month for health insurance, $ 290 a month to start building an emergency fund and contribute to a once a year vacation, and allot $400 for entertainment per month including eating out. The rest of the money was in necessities like utilities, rent, and groceries. It's not about how much you have, it's about using it wisely. Many of the 40mil people without health insurace are just like my friend who didn't have heatlth insurace and don't think they have the money. After we sat down his exact words were, "I didn't realize how much money I actually made. I knew I was bad with money, but I didn't think I was that bad." Eating out 3 times a week by yourself can equal $150. That's enough money to buy groceries for a half a month. We are a wasteful and gluttonous society. It's sad.
I feel the middle class is going away. Working for a corporation is a waste of time...unless it's your own. Otherwise your just a piece of meat.
why would anybody believe David "the shill" Brooks or any politician of either stripe ??
This is a Centrist attempt to shed the "Woe is us" negativity that marks typical grass root Democratic rhetoric. As such, it will fail to move "the base" which can be mobilized only through dread and angst.
I respect David Brooks, but the fact is a non-technical undergraduate degree does not get a young man as far as a high school diploma would back in the 50's.
I don't want a hand out. I just wish necessary 'things' to cost so damn much.
Weekly grocery shopping for the family in 1997 cost roughly $75-100 per week. In 2007 it's at around $250 per week.
Cost of a fill-up in 1997 was about $20. Cost now is $37.60. (I take the bus to work to save on the gas and $200/month parking.)
Benefits used to be covered 100%. Now I pay @ $350 per month AND have to deal with claims/higher deductibles.
I work more and do not get paid what I'm worth. I'm a college grad continuing my education. My husband is a contractor (you wanna talk about wage volatility - YIKES!). We do well. Have no credit cards. I'm the only one with the retirement accounts. Have a 529 for the kiddo. Pay $160/month total for our vehicles. Cancelled cable to save another $50/month and STILL live paycheck to paycheck.
I'm not blaming others for my challenges. However, I do feel disgusted when my company posts a 47% earnings increase and then offers it's employees a generous 2% "Merit Increase" wage pool for us to fight over like dogs.
I'm making less this year than last year and I'm a high performer.
Just one more member of the middle class giving my story.
I wish people would step back and admit that one cannot paint people with broad strokes. Our country is about individuals living how they want and can and having the freedom to choose. Unfortunately, our choices are becoming more and more narrowly defined.
I wish the partisan attacks could have been avoided in this discussion. The finger pointing detracts from any otherwise reasonable/intelligent point the poster intended to make.
Has anyone ever purchased a house and was shocked to see the final payout after 30 years over 3 times what they have paid? The rich are rich becasue of this same principal...compounding interest. There are mutual funds which have made over 15% average annual return for no less than 10 years. Take $400 a month...at 15% return...and adjusted for inflation it is a million in 25 years. My kid is 20 and saving $400 a month...even if he only gets a 10% return...he will be better off then me regardless of his education or income level...because he started to compound interest earlier. The rich do not work for thier money...they invest for it...the poor stay poor because they make every excuse not to invest...not to manage thier 401k. I an employer has a 401k, most middle class or poor have no idea the individual stocks in thier employee 410k mutual funds or the fund managers name and background. Ask them to take an hour a week...learn about what they can do with thier money...to earn a million extra dollars...and most will not do it.
Where I live 70K a year is bad news.
My wife and I are living on about 160K and we still cannot afford to buy a new car. We still get into fights about food bills and heating bills. A lot of families around here make 200-250K. I do not consider myself middle class just working class.
The autors of "third way" are nuts if they think the middle class isn't squeezed today. In fact, all the old/new rules they propose indicate that having what generations past enjoyed is unattainable unless we jump through hoops to get it today. Talk about contradicting themselves in their very own report.
I read theses peoples feedback and I cant help but look at who is in denial and who has never been outsourced or laidoff. If you look , it is very easy to read these people.
To you all here are your Governments numbers.
The United Stetes hit the $642 BILLON DOLLAR MARK in OUTSOURCING the last quarter of 2006. U.S Companies are planning to OUTSOURCE 1 Millon 500,000 jobs in 2007 at a savings of $52 Billon in Salaries and Benefits.
If $52 BILLON is 1 Millon 500,000 jobs, how many jobs is $642BILLON ????
Obviously some of you have not made it onto the outsource ladder as of yet. In 2007 Companies will be Outsourcing the following departments, Human Resources, Financials,Administrative,Healthcare and any other department that is a cost of doing business or can be done remotly and results given through email.
I recently went to have an Xray taken. Only to find out that the MRI machines were recently hooked up to the computers and all Radiolist MD's that start out at 250K a years and the radiolist techs are all laidoff. The Hospital hired all new employees in Australlia for less than half the money. When your MRI is read it is sent through email to Aurtrallia where the person reads it and emails the results back.
Welcome to the rest of your life, if you deny these facts your a fool and in denail and will probably become one of the outsourced statistics.
Ask yourself this question.
Why do the Governments and Wallstreet's jobs created report never figure in the amount of jobs lost per month to outsourcing. Because the number outsourced would dwarf the jobs created year aftr year and month after month.
Dont take my word, look up www.monsterindia.com and do a search for any fortune 500 IT job, there are hundreds of thousands.
Have a nice life, or what's left of it.
This report comes right at the time we've managed to acquire a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. Can you say more justification for tax increases ladies and gentleman?
I'm 47, single, college-educated, making $70,000/year. I own my own home free and clear, have no debt, max out my 401K contributions every year, and have accumulated over $500,000 towards retirement. How? I don't own the latest gadgets, don't own a 3,000 + square foot house, don't trade in my car every 3 years, don't take high-priced vacations, and pay all current bills. So unlike many of my co-workers, I don't have the money worries (like how am I going to pay my next mortgage payment). From what I've seen, at work and in the media, most of the middle class is more interested in living like the rich, but without the salaries. And just answer me this: why do two people with no children have to own a 3,500 square foot house with professeional landscaping? Enough said.
I think folks are just doing whit it takes to survive - and that means two incomes in many cases. Today's tax burden is higher than it was in the sixties. But with both parents working, I can't say the standard of living is better. Money isn't the cure for today's social ills.
Mark in SC-
Perhaps part of your problem is that you are paying $34000 for a car. Sorry, but if you are spending that much I have a hard time feeling sorry for you and your middle class dilemma. If you would manage your money more wisely perhaps you too could be "wealthy". Also, I wonder how much you paid in 1979 for cell phone, internet, cable, plasma tv, computers, and your atari back in 1979. I am willing to bet you have most of these luxury items now. Sounds to me like you are doing pretty well, and just need some common sense spending restraint. Quit whining and own up to your irresponsible spending.
The people who are writing in talking about fiscal restraint and responsibility have hit the nail on the head. More and more people in this society think they can spend there entire salary on luxury items and go into credit card debt. They want a middle class lifestyle that took my dad 25 yrs to accomplish, but they want it NOW and are not willing to save or invest.
GET A CLUE all of you irresponsible lazy people.
What an irresponsibly oversimplistic assessment of the nation's economic health! Let me give you some perspective from the "real world." I have a law degree (on top of a 4-year college degree) from a top University and five years of experience in a "prestigious" Federal job. My salary just surpassed $90K this year in Dallas, TX. This was great money in 1979, very good money in 1989, okay money in 1999, and just ain't cuttin' it in 2007! Oh yeah, and that law degree cost me about $120K!!So, when you say that the number of people earning over $100K climbed a measley 12% between 1979 and 2005, you need to also show how much the overall population increased during that same period (much more than 12%!!). Thus, the percentage of people earning over $100K as a proportion of the population is shrinking, not growing, notwithstanidng the fact that today's CEO makes 500 times as much as his company's average worker, versus 1979's CEO who made about 25 times as much as his company's average CEO. Unfortunately for you right-wing, unfettered capitalists out there who feed this garbage to the masses, some of us in the masses are well-educated and not falling for it anymore!
For many in the middle class, it is NOT a matter of simply managing their money better. Mr. Regnier clearly has an agenda - in my opinion he is saying that yes, the middle class can afford higher taxes.
Here in Maine, my husband and I make $58,000 a year - we pay $1480 for our mortgage, and over $500 a month for health insurance. Included in this is over $4000 in property taxes we pay a year. We have *zero* credit card debt, and do not subscribe to cable tv. We are also clobbered by an insane local and state tax burden. We are able to save very little for retirement, and even less for our sons college education. If we weren't trying to take care of sick and elderly family members, we would leave this economic nightmare in a heartbeat.
Democrats will be clammoring to raise taxes as soon as they are able to do so. Mr. Regnier wants to convince Americans that the middle class is more than able to afford such an increase. What a bunch of crap.
to Larry M. Boston, MA
Mean is the average
Median is the center point.
So... if the median income is 61K that means half of the people are over the number and half of the people are under. Thus the "vast majoirty" is not under, just half.
Where are the jobs at that pay $61,000 a year? All the salary websites say I should be making $40,000 at least but I'm making $13.50 an hour. Last summer I was laid off my job with great benefits, if lousy pay, and had to take a job that pays the same but with no benefits. I can't find anyone who actually pays these salaries you speak of! Unless you live near a large city or are willing to drive several hours a day, the pay just isn't there! I'm taking on-line classes so I can get a better paying job so I might be able to move out of my single-wide into a 'real' house. Fancy living that!!
What a crock! I'm in my earning years and married, but have considerably less than my parents did. Every time I change jobs I go for months without income that they don't take into account. I don't save for retirement anymore. Now I save for the next time some company downsizes me even though my performance is rated excellent. I risk losing everything while looking for the next job watching my savings evaporate to meet day to day expenses. Not to mention those same companies now expect me to pay for what used to be basic benefits. Increase income by 5% while increasing medical costs by 25%. How can I possibly get ahead?
I think that this resistance to the belief in the affluence that Americans experience is simply a romancing of the past. For example when I was a young child my father would routinely turn the home thermostat to sixty-five and the carbureted car wouldn�t easily start. My sons will never experience those golden gems of hard knocks simply due to better technology. Any hardship that we imagine is what we impute upon ourselves from the sirens call of highly produced marketing campaigns that imply you are less if you don�t own our widget. How much did you spend on higher education last year reader? There is no substitute for knowledge and wisdom no matter where you live or the amount of zeroes in your account.
Yes, housing and healthcare are vastly more expensive than they used to be. But this is a free market, and things will cost whatever the market can bear. The government has no business regulating prices or giving out excessive freebies. That's what is happening here in Venezuela, as they transition to "21st Century Socialism." America truly is the land of opportunity, which means you've got to be smart as well as ambitious if you want the good life. It is somewhat tougher to be middle class in today's economy, but far from the gloom and doom that some have portrayed. All you have to do is look at the line of visa applicants in places like Caracas to understand why so many people want to go to the USA. In their home country there is little opportunity to achieve success and wealth, but in America, they can make it happen.
These articles are put out there to make the businesses and politicians feel better about themselves. Inflation has gone up by a larger perecent then income has. You get less for your $$ than you did in the past. Sales Tax, property tax, gas, housing... If you actually do the research and not listen to what your neighbor tells you then you will come to the same conclusion. They have a reson for raising everything. The fact is that one hand washes the other when it comes to business and politicians. There has always been a master plan by both of them and it is rediculous that here in America you have to earn 7-8 times the amount as people in other countries to live the same lifestyle.
I've read a few articles by David Brooks in the past. He's generally clueless.
You don't need two incomes to survive. You may think you do because the American dream tells you that you need an SUV and the biggest house you can afford in the suburbs; but really you could raise a family in a 900 sqft place and be just fine. In fact, your kids might actually turn out good and not so selfish.
People only live for themselves and our families are breaking down.
Success requires a college degree? What would you say to Michael Dell or Bill Gates or any number of entreprenuers? "Success" may require a college degree if you are like everyone else in the world, get up at 6 am, go to a job you hate but have to because of your huge mortgage and car payments, work like a robot, come home be a robot with your family, repeat. But were we all really meant for the kind of life our school systems program you to be? I don't think so. Fear holds a lot of people back from doing what they were built to be doing.
So Brooksie would have us believe that the Middle Class is alive and well. Poppycock. Those numbers quoted are raised by the fact that a few earn so much. The Middle Class is being squeez3d at all ends by extremely high housing costs, high energy costs, high health insurance costs and to achieve that cherished 4 year degree, ever higher loans being taken out to afford school. There isn't anyone I met who is doing better. Sure we have items and toys not available to prior generations - 90% of them made in China, but that isn't exactly wealth. How come more and more people have more debt than in any other time in USA history? Why are foreclosures at an historical high? The middle class affords their 'higher' standard of living by taking on more debt.
My wife and I decided after we got together that we would live on one income and save the rest since we wre in the airline industry in 03. Thanks goodness we did as we both have had surguries, job changes and yet we've been ok. If I had my way, mortgages would be passed on one income only. Otherwise this is terribly unfair to single folks and would lower the cost and size of housing.
Education in and of itself is not the answer. A large number of people with college degrees are currently unemployed. There also must be jobs, and jobs that pay a decent wage. And entry level jobs are not supposed to require a doctorate degree.
I saw recently that colleges are reporting massive drops in enrollment for IT curriculum. Duh. There are no IT jobs.
Also, there has been a trend in recent years where companies post jobs locally with ridiculous requirments, ie 3 - 4 years experience with 7 different languagues and another 5 tools for an entry level job - then they act amazed when they can't hire anyone. Then, of course, they hire someone from overseas who doesn't have the skills they advertised for anyway, but who will work for less than 2/3 of what a local person could afford to.
So the lobby groups are now taking this information and using it to say that we need to import more foreign IT workers, because we have a shortage of skilled workers and a lack of kids being trained. This is how they've perverted the system.
New flash - If you want kids to choose IT as their future, there need to be jobs or a reasonable assurance that there might be a job for them down the line. Right now, that's not the case, with IT and with several other fields of study.
This is what's happening to our middle class.
Robert in Greensboro, just stop for a second and consider that maybe 100k doesn't go as far in some places as it does in Greensboro.
I make 100k and have no debt besides my mortgage but with a new baby at home, 6k in property tax and a 300 monthly train ticket, life is a break even proposition right now.
It takes alot of self control and frugal living to not pile in the debt in this area on 100k
Funny how phrases like "Work smarter not harder" catch on because someone in a suit and carrying a BlackBerry coins them. What do they mean? "Work smarter, not harder" means "Do more work in less time, because we are not going to hire anybody else to share the load, and we are not going to pay you more for putting in more time."
I think we need to start thinking about the impact of the peak oil situation that is creeping up on us. Oil is not going to be plentiful or cheap like it was in the past. Most of the worlds oil reserves have been found, and all the big oil fileds are in decline. The newer oil fields that would come online in the next few years will not be able to meet our demands for energy. Most of the New "alternative" energy sources are either dependent on using Oil in their production, i.e. agriculture - oil, fertilizers, and pesticides.This would be for ethanol and biodiesel production. Electricity requires coal and Oil. It takes Oil to mine and transport coal. Not to mention the toll Coal takes on the environment. Natural gas is declining in production, yet we use it to generate electricity. The worst thing we are doing with natural gas is allowing the oil companies to use it to extract an oil-like substance from the oil sands in Canada. It takes more energy to extract the "oil" from the sands than what you will get in return for the energy invested in getting it out. All of this is going to drastically effect how we live in the future. As the cost of energy increases, the lower your living standards are going to be. So, getting an education is not really going to matter if you're out growing your own food and trying to survive. Learn to live like the Amish.
R--You miss a key point. You and your wife are working hard and doing well. But what happens IF you get divorced, or one of you gets a catastrophic illness, or becomes disabled? You'd better hope your investments all pan out, too, or you may find yourself in the hole with the rest of us mere mortals.
I'm a middle class dropout. For now. I managed to live rather frugally for several years, making a decent wage in an area that has a lower cost of living than a nearby metro area. Now I have the time and financial ability to put myself through college (skipped that to get in on the IT job explosion) and really kick my career into gear in the next year or two. Careful planning and rolling with the punches in a changing world are necessary. If you find yourself in the whining part of the wage earners out there, address the issues and make steps to either make yourself financially satisfied where you are now or work to make yourself more valuable.
The comment that the middle class isn't failing must be made by someone wealthy. I was going to do fine on my income until the greedy millionares and billionaires needed my one's and five's. The wealthy run this country and make rules for people, but they have no idea of how these people have to live. My monthly bills are just lunch money to them.
What I want to know is WHO wanted this Propoganda posted and WHY?
What's wrong with you people?
My husband and I are raising two kids on his $40,000 salary & doing fine in a university town "in the middle of nowhere."
Our cars are old but they're paid-off & they run, & we may not go out to dinner or the theater every night, but we can make our own - much cheaper - fun going to parks or museums & free concerts (even in the "middle of nowhere").
No one NEEDS these huge McMansions I see most of my peers (and even some family) living in, and no one needs big fancy plasma tvs & Ipods & SUVs.
We live in a small (cozy!) house, but I would hate living in a big house with empty rooms that are never used (and have to be heated and cooled - and cleaned!!).
I think other people only want to live in them (big houses) because "the Joneses" live in them - but owning stuff can't make you happy.
People have to stop comparing themselves to their co-workers and neighbors (who are probably up to their eyeballs in debt & more stressed and unhappy than their parents ever were ...)& stop spending money they don't have.
TWO ANYONE WHO MAY READ THIS ARTICLE,MAKE NO MISTAKE THE TRUE HAS BEEN TOLD.SOME MAY SAY, NO! BUT THOSE OF YOU WHO DO NOT HAVE A DEGREE . I FEEL VERY SORRY FOR YOU. YOUR INCOME WILL BE LIMITED. SO PLEASE TAKE WHAT IS SAID VERY SERIOUS. PAST THIS MESSAGE ALONG TO YOUR KIDS.
I agree most of the points in the article. But what to define a middle class? Is it $100k/year family income that needs to support the two elderly parents and a couple kids considered well-to-do family? With the increasing medical and long-term care expense, I don't think $100k is much. But for some working couples making $100k per year should do okay.
BTW, I agree on comments from Chris, Raleigh, NC.
This may be hyperspecialation takeing place, a type of economics that details that the socail sum of people (variants) try and become more specilazed in the field of service or production of supply. IE. more children are probably going to be cared for by an independent contractor than a stay-at-home mom.
This can be seen with the stable prime rates on the 90's and also in Japan, where prime rates are almost near .2% to .3% today. Current value = .238%, In other words, there is so much specilazation going on, that people who's personality is to search for new land (Expantinism) can't do so\; the country must grow inward then.
I have personally witnessed a drastic change in the cost associated with reaching the 'Middle Class'. I have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA. My job as an IT consultant has been outsourced twice by Fortune 500 companies. Outsourcing combined with an influx of H-1B visas have essentially kept my income from rising above 50k even with over 10 years of experience.
Did the study note that the middle class is having fewer children? If family and personal time is measure of happiness, we are not better off. If having multiple TV's and cell phones is important, we're doing great.
The assumption is that you can afford college. Tuition at most 4 year schools is currently running around 25,000 a year on average. By the time you finish school, your 72,000 salary doesn't mean much when you have piled up 100,000+ in school loans. And why is it that you have kids if you don't want to raise them yourself. Maybe for the tax deduction?
I understand the old/new rule ideas, I understand we are better off than in the 60's. I don't know where Mr Brooks gets his money figures for the middle class. I can't find figures to support a family median income of $72,000. The current figures from the census bureau indicate median and average of about $50,000. Incomes of $70,000 and over are in the upper 15-20% of income workers. Anyone have a website(official to back Mr Brooks claim?
$72K a year for a family of four that own a house is a disaster. If you are poor and do not own a house, you will end up having a better life taking into consideration the government aid and free health care. A $72K is a $60K after tax which is 5K a month, out of which 50% goes to mortgage and property tax. Let alone inflation, commuters pay double what they used to pay 5 years ago. You go figure.
Somebody on the Democrat side has obviously figured out that raising taxes on the "wealthy" or "rich" isn't going to raise as much money as they want to spend. By claiming that the "middle class" are doing just fine, they set the stage for saying that raising taxes on the "middle class" is a good thing.
I tend to agree with the fellow from Trenton. I don't really have the option of not going to work today, therefore I'm poor.
By the government and/or tax code definitions, I've been "rich" some years and poor others. While the AMT has applied to our household several times in recent years, we've never been so "wealthy" that we could afford actual private schools or the full college bills for our children. We've also have never spent a spring vacation skiing in the Alps or owned a luxury car. We do have 3 cars right now but none are under 6 years old.
There is a vast difference between "wealthy" and having a "high income" for a particular year. As long as we continue to allow politicians to blur this distinction, we'll see lousy proposals from them.
It's a lot like the difference between the national debt and the annual national budget deficit. Another difference they'd probably like us to be ignorant of.
There's a lot here that I agree with but also some I don't. But the big picture seems to be that the politicians need the "rich" for their money and need the lower middle class, the poor, and the retired for their votes. They don't seem to need the working "middle class" to upper class for anything. That makes them the perfect group to tax and potentially wipe-out. Besides most in that group are too busy working to be able to take out enough time to stop the politicians. The fact that without this group's innovation and drive the country would be doomed seems to be missed by those more interested in being re-elected than doing what is right for the country.
The economic future of this country doesn't look promising to me right now.
Ron from Pittsburgh was right on target - it's not lack of income that's holding the middle class back today, it's money management - and expectations.
My parents started out with a mobile home, paid that off, upgraded to a 30 year old 1,000 square foot house, paid that off, upgraded to a 1,500 square foot house, etc, until they could afford to build their dream home. A lot of couples today go straight to the 2,000+ square foot house, put 5% or less down, then when they get a little equity they refinance to finance other debt. The average middle class American family is paying thousands of dollars per year in interest on houses, cars, & credit cards.
I live in Seattle, make about $50k per year, and live in the same 2 bedroom condo and drive the same 1987 car (car is paid for, house is almost debt free)I bought 10 years ago when I was making $30k and put away $20k per year towards savings and retirement.
It's not that people don't make enough now, it's that "living within your means" seems to be a forgotten concept.
I am so sorry about my first posting.
It was very harsh & smug and self-satisfied.
I forgot that when I worked (and already had a mortgage and one school-aged child)I was under tremendous (and probably self-imposed) pressure to dress in nice, fashionable clothing and keep my hair done & wear make-up every day - and we were drowning in credit card bills!
Now that I stay home with my toddler, I never need or want to buy new clothes or new anything. I can just be myself in my jeans and tees, and I don't have to worry about "presentation." And I know I'm really, really lucky.
Even worse, we could never have gotten out from under all of that debt if my parents had not helped us (and here I am preaching!!!).
Without their help, our bills felt like a prison.
Even though we both had college educations and worked full time in professional jobs, just making the minimum payments on our credit cards ate up all of our pay.
It was horrible - so horrible that I'd start feeling resentful and eventually rack up more debt buying the things I "deserved" because I worked so hard & had so little free time. But it only made me feel better for about an hour.
Now I feel no need to spend, we have no bills (and have had none for five years) & no stress & we even have some savings.
I know that's only because my parents took pity on us, though, and I know I'm very lucky.
I Guess that makes me feel a little smug sometimes, even though I have no right, and I apologize.
Its obvious Pat Regneir has no idea what he is talking about.
I have no idea what the rules & strategies of water polo are, but I don't pretend to know.
You have no idea what the middle class is going through, so don't fabricate your knowledge.
My wife chooses to stay at home and raise our children, we sacrifice a little finincially, but we feel if simplifies our life and removes a lot of stress. The advangtage is we can spend lots of time with our kids. When they get older my wife will go back to work and we'll catch up on the retirement savinigs.
My second comment here. A few here have commented on inflation rates seemingly higher than what is reported. I want so share something with everyone on that topic.
Duing the 90's the governemnt realized that it had a problem on its hands with funding entitlement programs such as social security and Medicaid due to the rising costs of inflation. It therefore needed a way to curtail inflation to keep these costs down. Its solution was to to appoint the Boskin Commisison in 1996 to reformulate the way CPI is calculated, in favor of a lower CPI.
The main recommendations of this commission were:
1. Publish two indexes - the CPI and the core rate, which excludes the cost of energy and food. This way when the core rate is reported it is almost invariably reported as lower than the CPI. The politicians like to trout out this number, though it is fictional only since I don't know anyone who doesn't have to buy food or energy (which by the way is the same thing).
2. Change the fixed weight formula for a geometrically weighted one for CPI goods - this has the effect of giving a lower weighting to those items that are rising in price and a higher weighting to those falling in price.
3. Introduce substitutions into the index - if people couldn't afford to buy beef, then they would switch to chicken, if chicken got too expensive, then they would select fish, and so on and so on...until maybe we all will be eating berries in the woods.
4. Introduce seasonal adjusmtents to smooth out price fluctuations - like home heating oil spikes in the winter and summer gasoline price spikes. Only problem is that price spikes are not recorded, whereas sharp declines are so that the CPI gets adjusted lower.
5. Manipulate prices through hedonics, which essentially adjusts prices based on the increased pleasure derived from a product (look on the web for examples.)
If you have taken the time to read through all of these changes to the CPI calculation, and thought about it, you will realize that ALL of them have the intended consequence of lowering the CPI. As a result, the CPI that is reported by the media bears little resemblance to the real world and our experiences, hence people's frustration and inablity to grasp why there is such a disconnect between what they see and what they hear. The "true" CPI, by the way, I've been told should be closer to 6-7%. I belive that's more in line with what folks are seeing out there in the real world.
Please pass this knowledge on. It is important to understand how the government controls through its disinformtaion strategy. Getting the truth back is our only recourse.
Do you feel angry now? I know I do.
After helping a neighbor in the foreclosure process, she asked me how I could afford to do such a thing. I told her that we had done very well saving and investing over the years and that, while not rich, we didn't really have to worry about money. She said "Wow. You guys don't live like you have money."
You know, that's the problem. She equates wealth with spending. I live exactly like someone with money. I'm obsessed with capital preservation. Generally, after benevolences, I only give my money to people who can help me make more of it. That means, no fancy cars, no TV, no extravagant vacations, no consumer debt. We pay ourselves first. It's not how much you make, it's how much you keep.
Scott (from Troy, MI) said "The same house in Bethesda (a suburb of DC) would be over $500k." I live in the Maryland suburbs in a less prestigious county and bought my 3000+ sq ft home for half that a couple years ago though it is now worth close to $500k. There are many more affordable places to live here but people choose not to so their struggle is self inflicted because they do not want to live around the working class and lower middle class and minority communities. The middle and upper middle class majority all crowd themeselves into their preferred enclaves in the area and then want to complain about the $699k housing costs to live there. All the Alpha people live in one place and put all their Alpha kids in one place and then wonder why other local schools dont do as well when they have left all the Beta and other kids in those systems. If your parents income did not determine what school district you went to the whole country would be better off and more school systems would have better stats and people woudl have a wider variety of neighborhoods to buy into and lower prices. I do not feel sorry for people that choose to isolate themselves when a few miles away they could have a home (and probably a larger nicer one) for way less than that. The middle and upper class in the DC area are very elitist about what neighborhoods they live in and because of that they deserve to struggle under the weight of their mortgages. I am a early 30s single minority female lawyer (first in my family to go past high school...grandpa was a factory worker and grandma was a maid; parents havent done much of anything)making $150k+ involved with a government worker who makes $45k (who alone could not afford to buy a parking space around here). I am constantly asked by non-minority colleagues why I dont move to these higher status neighborhoods since I can afford to. The only way I could afford to is by taking on significantly more debt and limiting my financial freedom. I want to eventually be able to walk away from a job and be OK for years. I cant get there paying a $600k mortgage. I used my equity to buy an investment property for rental income which pays the mortgage for me instead of buyign a bigger house in a better 'hood or buying a fancier car or anythign similar wasteful. I drive a car I bought used with 30k miles on it for $15k that is paid for. Social pressures say I should be driving a Mercedes or BMW or Lexus or Porsche. I'm a lawyer after all. I dont buy into that crap as I have a bigger plan for my life than to be a slave to a job and paycheck forever. I have six figures in student loans that enabled me to have the career that I do. I save and invest. I dont feel overwhelmed but if I had a mortgage in the neighborhoods that other lawyers feel the need to live in and the car most feel the need to drive...I would feel overwhelmed...and many of my colleagues do. Well except for those with trust funds and parents who gave them six figure downpayments.
As much as it pains me to have to say this from absolute personal experience, women having to work is a GOOD thing. The income is nice, but certainly NOT where I am coming from on ths issue. I have had it up to my eyebrows with women trusting that the men in their lives are as attuned to her long term needs and welfare as we wish they were. That sort of altruism may exisit in rare cases but generally, it is pure Hollywood fantasy! First, it is enevitable that relationships end -- it's only a question of when. Sometimes they leave, sometimes you leave, sometimes someone dies. The more dependent we are, the tougher the consequences and the longer the recovery time! I witnessed a stay at home mom with six children say good bye to her husband as he left for work one day, and he never came home -- he was killed four hours later in a crane accident. She had no education, no credit -- nothing with debt and six kids to feed. She eventually had plenty from lawsuits, but that took about five years of incredible pain and struggle. It was ugly but telling. Then consider the is the husband who appears to be handling the money well, until the bill collectors start calling. The wife then starts looking at things and the panic sets in. $18K in savings gone -- where? You discover that he spends his lunch (and then some) every day (and some evenings) giving the family income to local casinos...and this has gone on for years. I could go on but the message is clearly this -- the ability for a woman to make a living and be in the workplace is often critical to her survival and that of her children (and sometimes even her husband). No one else can or will do it for you forever......
I would just like to state the obvious. My father retired in 1989 and he was making 77K/yr on a highschool education, my mother did not work. Today, my wife and I, both college educated make between 75-100K/yr. We are saddled with student loan debt for the next 20yrs, have no children and live in a starter home. We have two cars because we both commute in opposite directions to our jobs. I had a lot of trouble finding a decent job when I graduated, as a matter of fact, my job isn't even related to my degree. The only reason we can afford a decent life style is because of the cheap cost of imports and two wage incomes. I would definately say that my lifestyle has not kept up with that of my fathers. Adjust income for inflation and I should be making more than I do. Wages have not kept up with inflation and neither have benifits. Every year my costs for health benifits goes up while my raise doesn't begin to cover the difference, no to mention that the health benifit gets smaller in choice. Explain to me how things have gotten better when I see all of the above and also have to worry about outsourcing?
I must say, I agree with SO MANY points on this board it's hard to know where to start. First of all, the 'gadgets' everyone is referring to did'nt exist back then, thats why they were not purchased. My family had a 'PONG'. Does anyone remember PONG? It was a box connected to your tv that a small white dot would go back and forth and you woul try to.....well anyway you get my point. My family also had a VCR in 1979, which I think my father paid $1700. for.
One thing is for sure......The current methods of spending, not saving, and healthcare cannot and will not sustain itself long term. It's impossible and the numbers just will not support it. I am 36 and in 15 yrs. will be 51, I am very interested and very scared to see where this country is at that point. If I had to guess, the movie has a very bad ending
We all consume much more than we need with the feeling of entitlement generating many of these extravagances. My wife and I raised a family-2 children-paid their way through college, own a nice home, and have in excess of 1.5 million in the bank. We have traveled extensively throughout the world and have never made huge salaries. Money management is the key.
One comment, if you want a better lifestyle in retirement, SAVE SAVE SAVE, learn to speak spanish, then renounce citizenship and retire in central or south America. There you can live a more relaxed life while watching the waves roll in on the ocean beaches and your maid does the house cleaning. All of this is possible for the middle class American outside the USA. Funny how we see ourselves as the Land of Opportunity when we have to retire outside of the country if we want a more lavish life.
As I read these posts, people are complaining about not being able to make ends meet in one sentence, then talking about health club fees, "dream homes" and $34,000 cars in the next!
The sense of entitlement, materialism and consumerism is running rampant in this country. Debt is killing the middle class! And it's a self-inflicted wound!
Yes, the cost of everything is going up. In fact, my health care costs went up this year too! But don't you think the same jumps happened from the 1920's to the 1950's?
I am a divorced, no kids, white female, 39. I have a college degree which my parents (single income, blue-collar, Mom was a housewife) so graciously paid for. But I didn't go out of state, I stayed "in-state". And I didn't go to the big "state" school, but one if it's "sister" campuses. I didn't live there, I lived at home. To afford gas and other expenses, I worked in college...first at a McDonalds then on campus.
After getting my first job ($20k in 1990), I saved enough to by a condo, then a townhouse on my own (my finance, soon-to-be-ex-husband, did not help). The townhouse is a 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths with more square footage (1400) than the house I was raised in (the house my parents STILL live in), in the Baltimore suburbs, in decent area. I spent $126,000 for this house which is now worth $300,000. I owe $115,000 on the house and will be refinancing to a 15 year mortgage come Jan 2008.
In 2003-04, when I didn't get a raise for two years at my job (as a computer programmer at a private company), I cut expenses. I raised my roommate's rent. I cut down to basic cable (which I shopped around for). I eliminated all the call features on my land-line and made it a limited number of call plan (I would have gotten rid of it all together but I needed DSL for work - which my job pays for). I raised my deductibles on my insurance policies. I cooked at home more. I stopped buying things I "wanted" and only bought what I needed. But most importantly, I stopped running up credit card debt and started living below my means. Then something incredible happened...I started SAVING!!! At first it was $50 a paycheck (now $100 a paycheck), after a few years and a few tax refunds, I now have over $8400 in an emergency fund, $2800 in cash, $10,000 in an IRA (rolled over from previous jobs) and over $78,000 in my company's (excellent) 401k. I also tithe to my church (over $3000 year) and support two other ministries ($780 year each).
My credit card balance...about $300 (which will be paid off next month). I have a $8,000 HE LOC and $3,200 left before my 2003 Ford Escape is paid off in October.
How much do I make?
$78,000 per year.
STOP KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES' AND LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS!!
* You don't need a new car every 2 years, 3 years or 5 years. All cars are built better than they were, even US produced cars. Hell, you don't even need a NEW car. Get a good, reliable vehicle at CarMax for $15,000 and pay it off ASAP!
* Stop dining out every night. Once or twice a week MAX. And when you do, look for cheaper alternatives (restaurant.com), use coupons and gift cards. When you grocery shop, use coupons, warehouse clubs and know when a sale is a bargain. Buy generic paper towels and toliet paper at those warehouse clubs. Buy store brand when you can.
* Don't pay for call waiting or any other extra feature. Hell, if you have broadband access and a cell phone, drop your land line all together. And speaking of cell phones, evaluate how many minutes you are using and buy the cheapest plan.
* Raise the deductibles of your car & homeowners/renters insurance (only if you have the funds to cover them).
* Buy clothes off of clearance racks and from your local warehouse club. (I buy a majority of my clothes from Target's clearance racks, running shoes from Sports Authority clearance racks and clothes from BJs.)
* Eliminate all but basic cable.
* Get a programmable thermostat and set it at 66 in the winter and 74 in the summer.
* Send the kids to college at a community college for the first two years. Then send them to an in-state "second tier" university. Same paper at the end.
* SAVE, SAVE, SAVE...even if you can only start out at $20 a paycheck...do it! Drop it into a high yield account such as ING Direct or Emmigrent Direct. When the car breaks down or the dishwasher goes up or some unexpected expense comes up, you should have enough money in this account so you don't have to use credit cards (3-6 months of BARE BONES expenses).
* Separate NEEDS from WANTS. If you want something, put it on a list and buy it only when you have a little extra to pay CASH for it.
And if you can't cut anymore and STILL can't make ends meet then move to someplace cheaper, downgrade your house or get a roomate. Or, get a job that may pay less but have better medical benefits.
Don't forget to downgrade your car as well!
All this expense cutting and frugual purchasing, has allowed me to continue to enjoy a few of life's "upgrades"....a big screen TV, season tickets/PSLs to the Baltimore Ravens (two seats) and multiple vacations to Las Vegas (which is a great bargain get away).
I have a great life and I'm CONTENT. I'm WORKING my way to a great retirement, no debt but still enjoying what's important, family and friends, with a FEW "upper middle class" things along the way.
As for "I saw recently that colleges are reporting massive drops in enrollment for IT curriculum. Duh. There are no IT jobs."...BS.
Check Money's "Top 50 jobs" (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bestjobs/top50/index.html). You'll find 2 IT positions in the Top 10 and job demand will go up for these position (#2 & #7 on the Top 10 Fastest Growing Jobs). The key is to find a non-Fortune 500 company. They may pay less and there will be less opportunity to "ladder climb", but a private, local company (or local government) isn't going to outsource your job. The year-after-year 3% raises suck, but I have job security, great medical benefits (with FSA) and a great 401k. (And I telecommute 2 days a week..at my company's suggestion & dime!)
LIFE IS GOOD!!
Mr Brooks views reality through a special brand of thick rose coloured glasses.
I agree with previous post about overseas living, the standard american dream (S.A.D.)is becomming more reachable outside U.S. than here. My cousin in Italy makes 18 dollars an hour and has a nicer house than I do at 65.00 an hour
Just one example of the income/cost-of-living disconnect: my income (salary+bonus) increased 12% between 2005-2007. For the same period, my medical (health insurance) contributions increased 209%! (Oh btw, I switched to a lower cost plan for 2007, which helped keep the increase from breaking 300%.)
Everyone is talking about HD TV's. Well for the price of taking a family of four to a major sporting event 3 times you can buy a nice HD TV. 40 years ago you could hit the ball park as a family for a few dollars now it can be $40 per ticket 20-50 for parking and god help you if you want a beer or hot dog.
It is these costs that have increased like going to a zoo with the family $20+ per person not to mention parking , gas etc. the day trip can run well over a hundred dollars in any major city. Family outings just cost alot more and it makes it much harder to spend those quality times with the family at those outings.
Under the "old rules" one hard working high school graduate could provide a modest, middle class living for a family of four. Today the average hard working high scool graduate can barely provide a lower class living for him or herself; much less a family. This is a fact. It is possible, however, to put a positive spin on this by pointing out all of the material benefits of adhering to the "new rules". Nevertheless, even a bachelors degree and a dual income will provide you with far less today than they would have 30 years ago. Analysis of data related to the employment of college graduates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the number of openings in jobs requiring a degree relative to the number of job seekers with degrees has been steadily declining since the 1970s. As a result, a growing proportion of college graduates are being forced into lower paying jobs that do not require at least a bachelor's degree.
The problem started in the 70s when it became profitable for companies to outsource many of the blue collar jobs held by middle class workers. However, now that many previously undeveloped nations are undergoing industrialization and increasing in wealth and education levels, this phenomenon is affecting the white collar sector as well. For example, some companies have outsourced their entire accounting departments to India where accountants are paid less than their U.S. counterparts. Just as consumers benefit from competition between companies that provide them with goods and services employers benefit from competition between potential employees. Globalization is increasing the elasticity of demand for domestic employees. The larger the pool of potential employees the more competition there will be. The more competition ther is the lower wages will be relative to demand.
On the one hand, globalization forces domestic producers to compete with forgein producers; which tends to reduce price levels and benefit domestic consumers (the middle class). On the other hand, globalization also forces domestic workers to compete with forein workers; which tends to decrease wage levels. Unfortunately, it is generally easier for employers to obtain inexpensive foreign labor than it is for workers (consumers) to obtain inexpensive foreign goods and services. This applies particularly to necessities such as groceries, housing and healthcare. So ultimatly the middle class consumers lose. They must generally spend more time and money on education, work harder to keep their jobs, enjoy less job stability and less time with their children.
The economy is changing into something that has never been seen before. The world is becoming a global arena in which all who wish to make a living must fight like gladiators to survive.
A college degree is now always best. I have a high school diploma and make triple what my husband with 2 undergraduates and 1 masters makes, AND I don't have the student loans to match. He will be 60 years old when they are paid for unless we get some kind of windfall. Most of my friends brag about how they've done it on their own...but they don't realize how much having their parents pay for the college education, weddings/honeymoons, down payments on houses have helped them....they think that's normal and that they are entitled to it! And of course they can afford to have kids, their parents help babysit, with college and gifts. I wish my husband hadn't gone to college, there's a couple of kids right there!
Middle Class DWF...
You make $78,000/year and all you can save is $100/check? The median individual income is $44,000/year, and the highest median *household* income in any State is $57,400 in New Hampshire. You are substantially above the median; thus, you're really not in a position to claim other people "just aren't trying hard enough". I agree that people need try harder at saving and investing, but it's also quite difficult at the median income, even the median household income. Add a couple of kids in there and see if you can make it work.... especially as a single mother (median income of $30,650).
To all the crying liberals. We(on the right) do understand the the concept of shared risk in a society. But first you must take that risk. 3-5yrs on wellfare is not any risk.
To the true middle class please try to live within your means!
And to all the people saying the numbers are skewed b/c of the incomes at the top, go back to school and take a statistics class please! You are making us all look bad, especially the 9 yr olds in China. Who are planning to take over the world.
Middle class status is harder to achieve. I'm not talking about buying a $600K home with $40K SUV's. When a worker gets a 2-3% pay raise, their electric bills go up 24% a year; car insurance goes up 10% a year; property taxes go up another 5-10% a year, and we haven't even touched the issue of health care, food, or gasoline. The dynamics of Workplace America has changed. There is no job security. If you're over 50 and unemployed, its almost a sure bet you'll take a salary cut.
The problem is people are expecting to have the same opportunities that our parents did in the 1950's. By far, their generation was the luckiest in having a defined pension plan, and more stable living costs. Perceptions and time have changed. We have to revamp our thinking if we are going to LIVE, not merely survive.
The economy is changing and we need to be change with it. We can't rely on having one job for a lifetime. People need to work hard and SAVE MONEY. We must have a cushion os savings and don'r accumaulate debt. I suggest everyone check out a man named Dave Ramsey nad his ideas on saving and investing. I think we would all be a lot happier.
If I remember correctly back to my college Political Science courses, an oligarchy is when a small percentage of the population controls a majority of a nation's wealth. In the 70's, it was said 2% of the population controlled 40% of the wealth. I read somewhere, that 2% of the population now controls 80% of the wealth, thus, we are living in an oligarchy. Correct me if I'm wrong. Doesn't this mean that it makes very little difference which party is in power or who's elected? Are the Democrats and Republicans simply pawns occupying two slightly different country clubs on the same hill? What I'd like to know is who are the faceless "mega-wealthy" that really control our destiny? That being said, I have come to believe that in America, with the proper financial discipline, there's something wrong with you if you can't succeed. However, success is largely centered around "wanting what you have," making the most of it, and being thankful for it.
Technically, an oligarchy is when a small group of people control a nation. I've been saying that we're living in an oligarchy since I wrote a paper on totalitarianism in 8th grade and took a long hard look at how our country was run (versus the totalitarian USSR of the time). The U.S. is an oligarchy... it was never anything else. It has just gotten more definitive in the past 100 years and will continue to do so. Socioeconomically, we're backtracking and probably will for another 40 years. You can see this if you look at things from a very broad, historical perspective. The top 1% is the oligarchy, the next 9% is the merchant class, and the rest are left to live in the slums. This shouldn't leave you in despair.... it ought to motivate you to learn what you need to join the merchant class (the top 1% is pretty much locked in).
Don't keep up with the Joneses. That's where I will start. I know people hate Walmart because of the healthcare issues and the way they treat thier employees...but just think how much you would save if you bought everything(clothes) from Walmart/Target/Miejer...Shopped at USED CD stores, ate LEFTOVERS (I know so many people that don't). Take advantage of the massive portions that restaurants give you and TAKE IT HOME! Like somebody said on here, if you live like a college student (or just be frugal) for 5-7 years after you get that decent paying job, you'll be better off. Inflation is not going to stop. It will cost 170,000 to send my future child (one of them) to my almamater and that's instate tuition (room and board also) AND in Indiana. I couldn't imagine living on the Coasts...financially that would get old REAL quick. I'll just settle for this lil' ol beach off of Lake Michigan.
P.S. Don't marry somebody who doesn't know how to make money work for them. That's just keepin' it real. If not, your spouse will be spending money on "classy" things and leave you in the "middle" of a rock and a hard place.
Hey DWF, the same people who wrote this crap about the middle class also wrote that article about the 50 best jobs.
The ITAA will also tell you how hot computer jobs are. But those of who work or have worked in that field know the truth. The ITAA is a mouthpiece for big business. They will keep on telling you how hot these IT jobs are, and they're lying through their teeth. Their only goal is to increase H1B quotas and make a bigger case for more outsourcing, even of government jobs, since they say "we don't have enough qualified people here." Who's BS'ing who?
Hey Bill W, many of those jobs are coming back to the U.S. as companies figure out that off-shoring I.T. jobs to India isn't saving them much when all is said and done. My former employer spent a boatload having American staff de-bug bad code coming from overseas contractors. On top of that, they were paying to have American staff on-call 24-hours a day because of the time difference. (There's nothing like having the cell phone ring at 2:00 a.m. because they've lost the internet connection in Bangalore!) Hang in there. Information Technology is still lucrative for many U.S. employees, but we have to prove we're worth it.
Get your education/training, work hard, and be flexible.
If you're missing one of these, you may have someone else controlling your life.
You are responsible for your situation....do something about...no one else will.
I am in IT. I agree that there is lack of qualified tech workers. There are job requests all the time. Go check those job sites on the Internet. People should ask why they can't get them. It doesn't mean that they should be qualified if they have wroked in IT. Maybe just their expectation is too high. People need to improve themselves and to meet the market demand.
"Middle Class DWF...
You make $78,000/year and all you can save is $100/check?"
Nope. I also save 7% in a 401k (plus 3% match by my employer) and save other bonuses, refund and windfalls. And considering I just started saving 2 years ago, I don't think I'm doing too badly.
NTM, paying for a house, a car plus dealing all the higher electric bills & health insurance.
How much do YOU have in the bank and your 401k, Brandon W?
BTW, you missed my point. It's not the amount you save, it's that you save SOMETHING! And if you are struggling, stop spending on things that you don't need.
Bill W, maybe you need to move from PA (like the tons of Steeler fans have) to find IT jobs. There are TONS in the Baltimore area. And I've been at my job 10 years. Obviously, you are looking in the wrong place. The IT jobs are there.
Bill W is right about ITAA being a mouthpiece. They sell California tech job shortage just like California agriculture jobs were described in The Grapes of Wrath.. the fruit is rotting on the ground for lack of workers to pick it.
To DWF, Glen Burnie, MD:
Right on!! AND you are a Ravens fan!! :)
QUIT 'WORSHIPPING' YOURSELVES IDIOTS!
Middle class families do have a tougher time now then 30 years ago but they can still make it if they stop buying needless things on credit.
Our parents even without good financial management skills, today are receiving pension, social security, and medicare. Middle class today have to work harder, invest for themselves, and compete with those in other countries earning $10 a day. Today we need to work smart, invest smart, and STOP buying things you really can't afford!
I am a 37 year old, married, stay home wife, 2 kids, no college degree but did spend a lot of time reading books on how money works. I save and invest with current net worth over $1 mil. I drive a used Ford truck and my wife got a cheap reliable used sedan.
DWF, my point was this:
Could you do what you're doing if your pay was $34,000/year LESS? (Remember, median income in the US is $44,000). What if you were a single mother with a child and you made the median income for a single mother ($30,650)? I highly, highly doubt you could. Do you even know how much day care costs? (about $750/mo/per child in my area).
You save $100/check and $210/check for your 401(k), which would be about $8100/yr, if you get paid every two weeks. That means you make $69,900/year not counting your savings. In other words, if you made the median income, you would not be able to save anything and you would be $25,900 short of maintaining your current lifestyle. What if you also had a child?
Your point about "saving something" was understood. What you're missing is that you couldn't do it if you made the median income. You would even fall short if you made 50% above the median income. Consider that, when you insist that people just can't handle their money.
What is just terrific about all these spoiled people on here and what they really don't realize that once they drop dead it won't matter how much money they had or what kind of home they lived in. At that time they will have to smack themselves in the face when they realize their greed and how much it no longer matters.
Americans are largely a spoiled and crybaby people. If they don't make 100 K then they can't deal with it. Why don't some of you try to be the recent college grad in business just starting out at 30 K per year and trying to get by. Not a easy feat even in the Midwest.
The bigger issue is NOT income. It's the intelligence of their financial mind. If people cannot stretch $72k, for most people it's because they view their 2-3 $500+ car payments; $100 Time Warner package; $100 cell phone; $150k home; and 9 credit cards as "necessities". Take away your luxurities, work hard, and strive to improve your situation and you WILL do wonderful in this country.
Your local middle-class accountant
There are several main driving factors that are hurting jobs in the $30 to $80K range:::
- Income tax breaks to corporations for off-shoring operations (mainly to "help" poorer countries - Hillary sponsored the extension of the Puerto Rico extension for pharmaceuticals)
- The diminished productivity per labor dollar spent when utilizing a Union (believe me its proven time and time again)
- Tort law that allows unlimited liability for goods/services is restricting R/D spending in the United States
- Low trade barriers allow competition, which is good if your a poor country but not if you are a wealthy country.
If Americans fail to acknowledge or understand these realities you can kiss your $50K jobs goodbye. Someone in India will take over shortly. We need a political party policy to prevent this, which would make us unpopular internationally (what's new?) - but allow us to hoard our own wealth. We were isolationists until recently, it prevented early intervention in World wars and probably increased our overall wealth afterwards.
Democrats want to protect the people - not business (which drives PEOPLE'S jobs). Government need give incentives to employ Americans - like the Irish do.
Republican's want to fight the world's battles for them. Which is good in history if your objective is to conquer and take, but not if it is part of an overall charity plan.
If we are true capitalists and we want to be wealthy we need to keep money in the USA and make it profitable for businesses to do so, sorry EU....
I'm a single female, born in 1953.
For me, my life in these United States has become kind of surreal and sad.
I don't think it's possible to actually live like a human being any more and enjoy it, free of fear.
The only advice I have is: Don't try to have anything.... or enjoy anything.
Live at poverty level, and hold on to the reserves in anticipation of the totally unexpected. Accept life at the bottom of the barrel, hang on for dear life to what you've got, and pray you make it to the next (unrewarding) job.
I think the article does a nice job highlighting what the risks that the middle class faces and I don't see it getting any brighter.
A few things to think about:
1. Corporations are taking more and more from the middle and lower class for health care costs
2. CEO's get expentially more than the average worker, in which the fruits aren't being distributed down the corporate chain.
3. The cost to purchase a house has increased dramatically over the last 5-7 years.
4. So much for defined benefit pension plans; 90% of America is ill prepared to know how to manage their finances.
5. Gas prices continue to go up.
6. The difference between the have and the have-nots has widened to the largest time in modern day America.
My father was a 29 year old accountant with a graduate degree when he bought his first house for 24k in 1963. At the time he was making 10k per year. The house was a small 3BR ranch on 1/4 acre with a 1 car garage. When my sister, a 32 year old accountant with a graduate degree was house hunting several years ago, that same house had recently sold for over 400,000. My father's pay was 40% of the cost of the house in '63. In order for that ratio to hold, my sister would have to be making 160k. Doesn't sound like middle class money to me. Also, to come up with the 5k down payment in '63, my mother worked for a year and they saved all her take home pay. To duplicate that trick now would require saving 80k in take home pay. In one year. So to duplicate what my very middle class parents accomplished 40 years ago would require a couple of under-30 year olds to each find jobs that pay in the neighborhood of 150k. And for those who say, "well, things change," I would like to point out that we're talking about the same house, the same level of education, the same career, and that the career in question is still valued, and is even on the "Best Jobs" list (my sister was an accounting manager).
If two-income households are having a hard time getting by on $72K+ a year, what about individuals who are single? Are they expected to work two jobs just to surive, financially?
In 1976 I had a job painting for a contractor in Boston making $9.00 an hour. I think gas was around 50 cents a gallon. Perhaps someone can refresh my memory about the prices of cars and houses during that time period. I remember being able to bank about $100 a week. Granted, my lifestyle was fairly frugal at the time. The buying power of 2007 dollars is considerably less then 1976 dollars. Today, if one goes on craigslist anywhere around the country, perspective employers offer $9- $15 an hour for painters. 30 years later! The same is true of many trades. The middle class is disappearing. Just ask anyone who has watched the value of their skills plummet due to greedy employers who outsource to India & Pakistan ( anyone had the pleasure of Dell customer support? ) and the employers who hire illegals. For the smug folks who think their college degrees or their technology specialty will keep them immune to this, you can be replaced too.
Glenn, calculating for inflation, $9/hr in 1976 would be equal to $34/hr now. $15/hr now would equate to about $3.80/hr back in 1976. If you want to be a millionaire, you would have to have $4 million today to equal what $1 million was worth in 1976. You need $8.15 million today to equal $1 million from 1950. I laugh when I hear about how many "new" millionaires we get each year; a million bucks ain't what it used to be.
72k on average is more than enough to live on in the middle class. Now some people out there are argueing that they cannot live on this in there area, but lets just remember that this is AVERAGE, middle class income is not going to be the same in west virginia as it is in NYC. Also our society is completely different than it was in the 70s. In those days you HAD to have at least 20% down on a house...today the majority of people aren't even required to put 5% down. Savings is down to an average -.5% where as in the 70s it was 10-15%. This is not because we don't make enough money its because as a nation we believe we are entitled to a brand new car, the nicest house on the block, and 10 credit cards along with it!! We simple just have no idea what middle class is and most of us live well outside of our means. In the 70's people excepted that being in the middle class meant not having a brand new car that costs 2x their yearly income couple of years. Today we are just simplely not willing to except that middle class does not have all the luxuries we want.
The sad truth is that Corporate America has become more greedy and fraudulent. This is not subjective opinion... this is fact that can be supported empirically. The greed and fraud have trickled down to the middle class in terms of more limited opportunities. The United States middle class must fight the corporate greed by innovating and becoming less dependent on corporations.
OK, I make 200K a year and I have three kids in Nassau County Long Island. I drive a ten year old car I fix myself, have a house with a leaky roof that I do my own repairs that I bought prebubble, don't take vacation, don't eat out, don't have babysitting, don't go out at alland cooks all meals at home. My TV is 20 years old and I can't afford high speed internet. I don't have maid service, lawn service and buy mud coffee off street vendors. Why you ask - because in the age of no pensions, no financial aid, sky high taxes and people getting laid off in their 50's you have no choice. Every purchase is made as if you are out of work next year.
There is a reason that optimism about globalization and technology has
America is richer than it was a generation ago, but most families haven�t shared fairly in this bounty. Pay and benefits lag far behind productivity growth. Mothers� hours of work have increased to keep up � by 500 hours since 1979 for middle income married couples with children.
Inequality has increased. In 1979, the average income of the richest 5
percent of families was 11 times that of families in the bottom 20 percent. Today, it is nearly 22 times as much.
Productivity has increased 71% since 1979. By comparison, in 25 years
median household income has been flat for 25 to 34 year olds, risen 12.6%
for 35 to 44 year olds, and 16.4% for 45 to 54 year olds.
Don't know what those "Third Path" Democrats are celebrating!
To Scott: Yes. Two need to work to pay for a larger home, two or three cars in the driveway, big screen TVs, home theaters, designer clothes, digital cameras, iPods, cable TV, etc.
The problem is not what middle-class Americans earn but the way they define standard of living or, for that matter, happyness.
you have to look at income growth in terms of "real dollars". If household incomes over $100k rose 12% from 1979 to 2005, what is a 1979 $ worth in 2005?
70 cents? 80 cents? I would say closer to 70, in which case they are fewer household incomes over 100k. Also, the 25-59 age group is huge. I would like to see a breakdown from 25-35, 35-45, 45-55.
I agree with the conclusion. In Boston, high paying jobs are everywhere. While homes may be selling a little slower, prices are near their high. Once people figure there is no housing bubble, real estate will hit new highs. Things are good. The current administration has done an excellent job on the economy.
Expensive school? Go (or send your kids) to schools in other countries with lower cost of living. I know a few people who earned degrees outside the US but getting paid more than $115/yr.
Illegal Immigrants? The image that the US is showing (advertised) in the movies creates a "craving" to come here. They get shocked though after a few months how life is really here.
Jobs moving out? Capitalists in the US are attracted to cheap labor outside. It's a global world now because of faster communication and faster travel. No one can stop that without stopping capitalism itself.
Not making ends meet? Stop spending beyond your means.
Health Care? Sneezing, a natural body reaction to pollen is prescribed a drug ... natural aging is called Alzheimer's ... and so on. Try practicing preventive medicine ...
Try thinking global ... Americans still have a lot of things better compared to others in terms of oppurtunities and choices.
I am not intelligent enough to spout economic terms. Living in the midwest, I see much going on that would be considered a downward trend. It seems to be a snobbish attitude to say others should do this, cut out these items, etc. My husband has a college degree, actually from one of the finest, and was let go with 100 other executives in 1985, out of work for almost two years, and went back to work for $30,000 ........oh, three sons were in college also. It has been most difficult since then, and he is now looking for work again, at age 72. We haven't lived "high off the hog" as some people seem to say about others. The type of positions that the majority of the middle class seek are just not there for them. We did save, but two years of unemployment goes thru that pretty quickly. Even George Bush has finally admitted the middle class is hurting. Why does everyone need a college degree? Could it be that we have diminished the first 12 years of education that we must go on for at least four more?
Judging others without adequate information is also unfair.
What is the definition of "middle class" for a single person?
No one ever wants to define that...
When we look back at a generation ago we often find our mothers staying home taking care of our children, not strangers. Surviving on one salary and keeping a family together makes better families. Corperate greed has made us slaves to rich. It's no wonder why less and less people volunteer to protect our country. People only protect things worth saving and its a shame that there are so many special interest that are chewing off their own feet and taking everyone down with them.
People who do make the 50 to 100k a years think they are broke. Give me that salary and see how I live. Money is the single goal in this country today and nothing else matters. Ask anybody who's got it. John from Atlanta also said it in a question, "where is the middle class as a single person?"
are you high? my middle class neighbor does notting but work from 4:00am to 7:00pm six days a week give break with your inaccuracy information. you and both know what going on lets be real. were do live fantasy land.
NY Times last year ran an article that said 200K is the new 100K. Ten years ago, you could join a country club, buy a new american car every three years and send your kids to college relatively easy. Now you need 200K to do what 100K did ten years ago.
The secret of success in politics is to get the money from the taxpayer without disturbing the voter.
I am 53,middleclass I guess,some college,alittle time in the USN,my wife and I both work..we make around 55k..and we live paycheck to paycheck almost..I own a 2004..have one child.. tried the old junk heap bull..but repair bills on american metal is high and constant..needed newer for dependability..the trade agreements killed us..two lost companies..shipped overseas.. starting over at entry level jobs over and over again..sucks..so much for the retraining for displaced workers..and designer what, I wear pocket tees and wal mart work slacks..we are made to believe that those not living as we do, can actually judge how we live..healthcare should be paid in full by our taxes as well as education..take our leaders off their self inflated automatic raises and paid goverment healthcare..then those in the goverment might smell the roses..and really change the system..once a long time ago in a job I really liked and had fun at..my income was 22k but after five years and many insurance company changes,by the company, to lower my health insurance cost, I had to quit to find better insurance because $7,840.00 a year,out of my pocket, to have Health insurance for my family was killing us..welcome to america.. soon to be reopening as a third world country
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