The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans: they can’t come up with $400 for an unexpected expense.
A couple of things. 1: a lack of funds should not be a source of shame. Shame connotes the idea of wrongdoing. Is the fact that you have no money the result of your own wrongdoing? Then feel shame. Otherwise, feel free to be poor with a guilt-free conscience.
2: “I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding.” That’s awkward. I know what it is like to be a daughter who knows her parents shouldn’t pay for her wedding. I explained it to my fiance, then prepared to explain to my parents, in the event that they attempt to do so anyway.
They knew better. They did pay for my wedding dress, a perfect compromise because the investment amount was unknown and yet still manageable. They certainly did not use retirement funds to pay for my wedding.
3: “I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.” Okay. I remember a time in my youth when my dad had to borrow a bit of money from me. Dad is accomplished, but also a man who puts principle and posterity ahead of his own prosperity. Rather than causing him to be a sympathetic character, his willingness to borrow made him a heroic character in my eyes.
4: Then, the writer wrote a lot of words, from which it is apparent I should have empathy for those with financial insecurity, financial fragility, and/or financial distress. I want to have empathy, but the wordiness and the statistics make it hard. Having lived a life of financial insecurity/fragility/distress, hearing that it is a “liquidity problem” makes me roll my eyes. Someone with a billion dollars of physical assets can still suffer a “liquidity problem.” The real source of a “liquidity problem:” the failure to live within your means.
5: The article continues with a lot more historical background about who can pay for what. Then, it theorizes that credit card debt the main culprit. I don’t doubt that credit card debt is huge, but I do wonder whether such debt is a cause or merely a symptom the real problem. Perhaps the real problem is a deeper cultural issue.
6: The article just keeps going. I can’t even. Given the fact that we can come up with $400 if unexpected circumstances require it right now, we must be considerably more successful than the article’s author? Perhaps it is geographical difference in expenses, or the willingness to drive a POS car. Or the fact that when extra money is coming in, we obsessively but unobtrusively hoard it. I dunno.
7. “And then, on top of it all, came the biggest shock, though one not unanticipated: college.” M’kay. Here’s the thing. I didn’t expect my parents to pay for college education any more than I expected them to pay for a wedding. And here we are today, a military family. The expectation is not that we parents will pay for college. Rather, we tell our sons: if you can’t get an athletic or academic scholarship, you can go ROTC or enlist and use the GI Bill or go “Seaman to Admiral.” Or . . . (seriously scandalous these days) you can attend a trade school and learn a skilled trade instead of college.
8. Thank you Neal Gabler for giving me a reason to post after a long hiatus. I hope you find a reason to take that brown bag off you and your family’s heads.
9. As a blogger that vowed not to disappear and yet did with no explanation, I have a real reason for shame. Fellow bloggers and other readers: I am so sorry. I loved writing yet never imagined how much I would love not writing. Not writing is both easy, and fun. Given this fact, I’m not sure when I’ll post next.