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Old 01-24-2013, 04:53 PM   #41
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Old 01-24-2013, 07:42 PM   #42
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RANT ALERT!: Is it just me?

IMHO the "middle class" died decades ago. All that's left is inertia and a dream; some romantic notion of a steady job, your own home, kids planning for college and two weeks at the seashore.

Fifty years ago you could do that being a milkman (as my milkman did!). Now, you need to be an executive making $200K to pull that lifestyle off.
.
I would have to disagree with this a milkman with college age kids in the sixties would have been 20 and buying his first house in the forties. He would be looking at about 1,000 sq ft. no AC, one electrical outlet per room, one bathroom, closets that were tiny. He probably owned 2 pairs of shoes 3 pairs of pants.... I could make a long description of his lifestyle but I am to lazy. The point is you are looking at the past through Rose colored glasses. What you call subsistence living today is miles above the lifestyle your milkman had. If the middle class of today lived his lifestyle they would be able to do the same things he did. I think there has been a lot of lifestyle creep in the last 50 years that you are not accounting for.

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Old 01-24-2013, 08:36 PM   #43
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Next up could be 3D printing and affordable $500 desktop printers that people can use to print actual objects:
I think this is going to drive a huge number of small businesses. While technology is elimination some jobs (truck drivers I think is going to be the next big category) there's always new things that pop up.
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:40 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by marko
RANT ALERT!: Is it just me?

IMHO the "middle class" died decades ago. All that's left is inertia and a dream; some romantic notion of a steady job, your own home, kids planning for college and two weeks at the seashore.

Fifty years ago you could do that being a milkman (as my milkman did!). Now, you need to be an executive making $200K to pull that lifestyle off.

So what is the middle class nowadays? An income of $75K? Here in the North East, that's almost subsistence. If you've got a few kids, you're just hanging in there with two incomes of $150K total. $250K?....careful, you're the greedy rich.

Meanwhile, expenses that weren't there 15 years ago: cellphones, cable TV, Netflix, computers, school fees, etc etc are draining an extra $500 to $900 a month away from you while the tax man camps out in your driveway with his hand out.

And when you do turn on that TV you see stories about (in this State), 19,000 'lost/unaccounted for' EBT cards each month but nobody is accountable and nothing gets fixed.

Seriously, in 1965, my milkman was able to own his own home, send 4 kids to college (paying full freight) and rent a cottage on the lake each summer...with a SAHM. What happened to that?!

Is there a middle class? Or is it now just a bunch of lame drones who plug away paying their bills along with everyone else's with some vague hope of getting ahead of it all, believing in a long, lost dream?

Sorry for the rant...hope I didn't offend anyone.
I imagine I would suffer from severe sticker shock in your area, if 75k is almost subsistence. Although all my income included is more than 75k, I live on under $4k a month and feel like a King. I fly to Vegas 4-6 times a year, ski once, usually a trip to the island each year, golf membership, eat out once a week, go to sporting events, concerts, and also have a mortgage and child support payments to boot. Living in rural "fly over country" area, I guess is a lot cheaper. Now I don't stay at the Wynn, but I am the king of deals, so my buck does go further due to my extra free time to find them.
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Old 01-25-2013, 07:24 AM   #45
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I would have to disagree with this a milkman with college age kids in the sixties would have been 20 and buying his first house in the forties. He would be looking at about 1,000 sq ft. no AC, one electrical outlet per room, one bathroom, closets that were tiny. He probably owned 2 pairs of shoes 3 pairs of pants.... I could make a long description of his lifestyle but I am to lazy.
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hmmmmm.... not knowing each other, I won't discount your experience with the same certainty as you did to my experience.

My point (and personal experience) was this: In the 60's and early 70's, a guy could have a relatively unskilled job (milk/delivery man, factory/production worker, grocery/store clerk) with a stay-at-home wife and two kids and still be able to own a ranch-style home in a suburban subdivision on a quarter acre lot. A new gas powered lawn mower bought 'on time' at Sears. Maybe a 4 year old car and one or two weeks in the mountains for vacation. Kids maybe in parochial school and planning for a state college.

Was this the middle class? Maybe. I think so. A bit romanticized? Maybe, but I think a lot of people can relate.

What happened to that? Can the clerk at Safeway live that way now? I don't think so. If true, what now defines 'middle class'? Each part of the country has different expenses so an income range can't define it.
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Old 01-25-2013, 08:50 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by marko View Post
RANT ALERT!: Is it just me?

IMHO the "middle class" died decades ago. All that's left is inertia and a dream; some romantic notion of a steady job, your own home, kids planning for college and two weeks at the seashore.

Fifty years ago you could do that being a milkman (as my milkman did!). Now, you need to be an executive making $200K to pull that lifestyle off.

So what is the middle class nowadays? An income of $75K? Here in the North East, that's almost subsistence. If you've got a few kids, you're just hanging in there with two incomes of $150K total. $250K?....careful, you're the greedy rich.

Meanwhile, expenses that weren't there 15 years ago: cellphones, cable TV, Netflix, computers, school fees, etc etc are draining an extra $500 to $900 a month away from you while the tax man camps out in your driveway with his hand out.

And when you do turn on that TV you see stories about (in this State), 19,000 'lost/unaccounted for' EBT cards each month but nobody is accountable and nothing gets fixed.

Seriously, in 1965, my milkman was able to own his own home, send 4 kids to college (paying full freight) and rent a cottage on the lake each summer...with a SAHM. What happened to that?!

Is there a middle class? Or is it now just a bunch of lame drones who plug away paying their bills along with everyone else's with some vague hope of getting ahead of it all, believing in a long, lost dream?

Sorry for the rant...hope I didn't offend anyone.
While no one could easily dispute your central point re: the erosion of middle class, your $ estimates compromise your credibility. With all due respect, is it possible your perspective is distorted from living in an oceanfront community outside Boston where COL is 145% of national average (many areas are less than 100% obviously) and housing is 204%? I doubt your milkman lived in Beverly Farms MA.

And income inequality trends have exacerbated the problem.

While it's certainly tougher, one can do very well on far less than you claim out here in (the vastness of) "flyover country" where most people still live. I know lots of people who have managed to live the life you describe from the 'good old days' with all the luxuries & technology of today on $75K/yr or less, well within reach for dual income families.
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Old 01-25-2013, 09:07 AM   #47
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While no one could easily dispute your central point re: the erosion of middle class, your $ estimates compromise your credibility. With all due respect, is it possible your perspective is distorted from living in an oceanfront community outside Boston where COL is 145% of national average (many areas are less than 100% obviously) and housing is 204%? I doubt your milkman lived in Beverly Farms MA.

And income inequality trends have exacerbated the problem.

While it's certainly tougher, one can do very well on far less than you claim out here in (the vastness of) "flyover country" where most people still live. I know lots of people who have managed to live the life you describe from the 'good old days' with all the luxuries & technology of today on $75K/yr or less, well within reach for dual income families.
My perspective could be skewed. I think the regional cost differences are real...the so-called $250K 'rich' live well but aren't all that rich around here.

I always marvel at folks on this forum who can live on $50K-$75K quite nicely, flyover country or not.
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Old 01-25-2013, 09:27 AM   #48
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hmmmmm.... not knowing each other, I won't discount your experience with the same certainty as you did to my experience.

My point (and personal experience) was this: In the 60's and early 70's, a guy could have a relatively unskilled job (milk/delivery man, factory/production worker, grocery/store clerk) with a stay-at-home wife and two kids and still be able to own a ranch-style home in a suburban subdivision on a quarter acre lot. A new gas powered lawn mower bought 'on time' at Sears. Maybe a 4 year old car and one or two weeks in the mountains for vacation. Kids maybe in parochial school and planning for a state college.

Was this the middle class? Maybe. I think so. A bit romanticized? Maybe, but I think a lot of people can relate.

What happened to that? Can the clerk at Safeway live that way now? I don't think so. If true, what now defines 'middle class'? Each part of the country has different expenses so an income range can't define it.
Ok maybe I was a little confrontational, condescending or arrogant. Let me try again. If we can't define middle class as an income level, lets try defining it as having the generally accepted average lifestyle. So my contention is that the generally accepted average lifestyle today is much higher today than it was. Things that didn't exist then are considered necessities today. Even going back to the seventies things were much different. My dad has a decent job but my mom still made some of our clothes. We only got one pair of school shoes and the old school shoes became play shoes. My point is that people could afford to raise a family on a factory or production job if they we were willing to accept the milkman's standard is living. I am not saying that that standard is bad it is just unrecognizable today. Imagine telling a 26 year old today to get rid of their smartphone, a couple of TV sets, their computer and anything else that wasn't commonly available to the milkman.
So to tie all this rambling together, I think that while the jobs and pay have remained relatively flat, people's expectation of a minimum lifestyle has grown by leaps and bounds.

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Old 01-25-2013, 09:50 AM   #49
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So to tie all this rambling together, I think that while the jobs and pay have remained relatively flat, people's expectation of a minimum lifestyle has grown by leaps and bounds.
"Minimum lifestyle" expectations undoubtedly make the squeeze seem more acute, but real pay has not remained even flat -the middle class is actually losing ground now despite a decade of relatively mild inflation. And the US Census Bureau chart below includes everyone - if you were to remove the top 20% who have done far better, the slide for the middle class is even more dramatic.

The erosion of the middle class, in income (and numbers), has accelerated. A scary prospect.

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For American households in the middle of the pay scale, income fell to $49,445 last year, when adjusted for inflation, a level not seen since 1996.
Middle-class income fell in the last decade - Sep. 21, 2011
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:58 AM   #50
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"Minimum lifestyle" expectations undoubtedly make the squeeze seem more acute, but real pay has not remained even flat -the middle class is actually losing ground now despite a decade of relatively mild inflation. And the US Census Bureau chart below includes everyone - if you were to remove the top 20% who have done far better, the slide for the middle class is even more dramatic.

The erosion of the middle class, in income (and numbers), has accelerated. A scary prospect.

Middle-class income fell in the last decade - Sep. 21, 2011
This subject fascinates me. If I could start over and study this I would. How is inflation separated from added value? Are prices going up because of inflation or are things worth more because they are better? A car in 1968 was a box on wheels with a radio. A car today is more advanced that the Apollo rockets (maybe a slight exaggeration) and they cost millions to build. Does that mean when we compare wages today with wages then we all have a million dollars worth of buying power? Just going back 10 years cars have added multiple air bags, accident avoidance, adaptive cruise control and more. So is it inflation or more value we are paying for? Even things that we don't see the extra value in have some. Gas prices go up but how much is due to reformulated gas, ethanol, limits on drilling? These thing may not be valued by you or I but they are deemed a value to society. So are we really seeing a decline of wages against inflation or are we seeing an unprecedented growth in product value coupled with a population that is unwilling to live on the back end of the value wave.


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Old 01-25-2013, 11:21 AM   #51
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I know I'm gonna regret sticking my nose between you two, but here goes.

Marko said
Quote:
I always marvel at folks on this forum who can live on $50K-$75K quite nicely, flyover country or not.
People who can do the above can distinguish between "need" & "want". And it is MUCH easier to do in "fly over country".

Not My Fault said
Quote:
Even going back to the seventies things were much different. My dad has a decent job but my mom still made some of our clothes. We only got one pair of school shoes and the old school shoes became play shoes. My point is that people could afford to raise a family on a factory or production job if they we were willing to accept the milkman's standard is living. I am not saying that that standard is bad it is just unrecognizable today. Imagine telling a 26 year old today to get rid of their smartphone, a couple of TV sets, their computer and anything else that wasn't commonly available to the milkman.

My father was an engineer that certainly made middle income. Our house was on 1/4 acre/3 bedroom/NO a/c/1500 sq feet 1 & 1/2 bath for Mom/Dad/3 kiddies/1 car. I think many will in the near future the current standard of housing [houses 2500 sq ft & up]unsustainable as energy prices rise.

The current middle class certainly has more stuff & gadgets. And many kids starting want to have the same living style as their parents[who likely spent 20-30 yrs rising to that living style.
But material stuff is lots cheaper now that it was 50 years ago. For example a tube color[and really not very good color] TV with 25" screen would run $500[$3600+ in todays dollars]. Quite a chunk out of a $12,000 salary. One can get a plasma 42" for $525 or LCD 42" for $400. The same is true for all appliances & phone service & vehicles & sporting equipment.

Nope, a kid starting out on a $40k can have just a good life as a kid starting out in 1965 with a $5k income. They just needed to have learned about "wants" vs "needs".

I didn't learn that lesson til I was 30. While I was making VERY GOOD income working in a job I hated*. I was living in an apartment overlooking the pacific ocean, driving a bimmer, fancy clothes, out clubbing & dining ALL the time. In effect spending twice my income, because all that stuff/crap was going to make me happy. It doesn't & didn't.
So I started over moving to fly over country & started my own business/built my own house FIREd [though I barely qualify as I was 60 when I retired].

* mebbe it was just my job. But my experience that most mid level corporate jobs have lots of responsibilities but never enough authority/power to fulfill the job's responsibility. A situation like mine build lots of stress.
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Old 01-25-2013, 11:27 AM   #52
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So are we really seeing a decline of wages against inflation or are we seeing an unprecedented growth in product value coupled with a population that is unwilling to live on the back end of the value wave.
My vote is for the bolded portion of your statement. Methinks the majority of the population equates need & wants. Those that distinguish the difference can retire early & populate boards like this one.
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Old 01-25-2013, 11:42 AM   #53
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I always marvel at folks on this forum who can live on $50K-$75K quite nicely, flyover country or not.
Ha, interesting. We gross about $150k-190k depending on if my wife is full time or not (not now, caregiver for our son) and even with a mortgage in a high COL metro area, we spend no more than $60k/yr. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
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Old 01-25-2013, 11:47 AM   #54
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My vote is for the bolded portion of your statement. Methinks the majority of the population equates need & wants. Those that distinguish the difference can retire early & populate boards like this one.
This is a good point, but is a cell phone and cable TV a need or a want?

Ok, it is not a need to keep yourself alive, but it is hard to not have one without "going Ted Kaczinski"

As I noted elsewhere above, cell phones can add $400 a month to a family of 4's budget, cable another $120 (without special channels) and locally, they're charging a $800 fee for high school kids to play football.

So, yes, things are better and no, I wouldn't want a car without A/C and power windows but as NMF notes there are costs to these things.

Maybe we've 'evolved' electronically that the things they were measuring 30 years ago against what we pay for now is no longer a fair comparison?
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Old 01-25-2013, 11:56 AM   #55
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This is a good point, but is a cell phone and cable TV a need or a want?

Ok, it is not a need to keep yourself alive, but it is hard to not have one without "going Ted Kaczinski"

As I noted elsewhere above, cell phones can add $400 a month to a family of 4's budget, cable another $120 (without special channels) and locally, they're charging a $800 fee for high school kids to play football.

So, yes, things are better and no, I wouldn't want a car without A/C and power windows but as NMF notes there are costs to these things.

Maybe we've 'evolved' electronically that the things they were measuring 30 years ago against what we pay for now is no longer a fair comparison?
OTOH we spend $30-35/mo for voice/text/data on our 2 semi-smart cellphones, and $59/mo for satellite TV (HD, DVR, 3 TV's). What you describe is (well) beyond needs outside your neighborhood...
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:05 PM   #56
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Good grief, those are NOT needs at those rates - look outside your neighborhood, there's a whole 'nother USA out there. Not to mention a host of other countries...
It's not what I pay; I"m on pay as you go...niece's family of four (hardly wealthy) pay $99 each for their precious iPads (or whatever) with unlimited data etc. Of course, that's one of the reasons they're 'hardly wealthy'.

I guess that there are just a lot of temptations out there today to spend money (Sirius XM anyone?) that didn't exist years ago.
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:14 PM   #57
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This is a good point, but is a cell phone and cable TV a need or a want?

Ok, it is not a need to keep yourself alive, but it is hard to not have one without "going Ted Kaczinski"

As I noted elsewhere above, cell phones can add $400 a month to a family of 4's budget, cable another $120 (without special channels) and locally, they're charging a $800 fee for high school kids to play football.

So, yes, things are better and no, I wouldn't want a car without A/C and power windows but as NMF notes there are costs to these things.

Maybe we've 'evolved' electronically that the things they were measuring 30 years ago against what we pay for now is no longer a fair comparison?
A cell phone replaces a land line so its a need. TV always a luxury.
+1 Midpack's response to the cell phone bill in your reply.

If cellphones were around when I was growing up; my parents would have have me on the virgin mobile $20 month to month plan. If I whine that the phone wasn't an iphone--"TOUGH!". If I whined that 200 minutes a month wasn't enough--"Tough! use your paper route money to pay for more time."

Oh I'd rather have crank windows. They never broke. I'm with you on A/C though I drove decades in vehicles without a/c or broken a/c. But a/c is a want.
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:14 PM   #58
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Marko, sounds like you need to spend some time examining your spending and your options.

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As I noted elsewhere above, cell phones can add $400 a month to a family of 4's budget...
Yikes!

Cut your bill in half without giving up anything. Spend $600 or so to purchase four very good android phones and you can get all the bells and whistles (talk, text and data) for $45/month per phone. Check out Virgin Mobile and other pay-as-you-go services.

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...cable another $120 (without special channels)...
Check out DirecTV. Under $100/mo, especially in the first year of a two-year deal.

EDIT: Cross-posted with marko. Too bad your relatives aren't as frugal as you.
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Old 01-25-2013, 02:05 PM   #59
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EDIT: Cross-posted with marko. Too bad your relatives aren't as frugal as you.
I'm wondering if my young (20-somethings) relatives' spending is an indication of where things are headed.

They spend no money on clothes, food (eat crap food and frozen pizza; standing up), drive junk cars and live in a dump. BUT...they have every conceivable Apple product, Xbox, the max cable subscription, Netflix, etc. etc. (oh! and tatoos) I've gathered that this runs them about $800 a month total.

They have low pay jobs but their priority seems to be their free time, meeting friends and hanging out at the coffee shop. Work is just something you do to keep body and soul together while you're downloading the latest app.

I've commented that they're spending their money and time on all the wrong things but I"m reminded that just their clueless old uncle.
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Old 01-25-2013, 02:08 PM   #60
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There is some truth to this, but it is also true that the bottom 70-80% of our society are rapidly loosing ground. It's not just "lifestyle creep."

New jobs come in two types--

$10/hr or less, with no benefits, with minimal skills required, or

$30/hr or more, with a college degree in an in-demand major required.

You can't recreate the milkman's lifestyle at $10/hr and no benefits. The 1000 sqft ranch homes from the 50s are $100k now. You aren't going to get in that house, heat it, and keep a car running and food on the table for $20k/year, much less add a child to the costs.

It's never been a better time to be a smart, well-educated, hard-working, and talented person in this country.

It's not so great for everyone else, though. And it's pretty clearly going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

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Ok maybe I was a little confrontational, condescending or arrogant. Let me try again. If we can't define middle class as an income level, lets try defining it as having the generally accepted average lifestyle. So my contention is that the generally accepted average lifestyle today is much higher today than it was. Things that didn't exist then are considered necessities today. Even going back to the seventies things were much different. My dad has a decent job but my mom still made some of our clothes. We only got one pair of school shoes and the old school shoes became play shoes. My point is that people could afford to raise a family on a factory or production job if they we were willing to accept the milkman's standard is living. I am not saying that that standard is bad it is just unrecognizable today. Imagine telling a 26 year old today to get rid of their smartphone, a couple of TV sets, their computer and anything else that wasn't commonly available to the milkman.
So to tie all this rambling together, I think that while the jobs and pay have remained relatively flat, people's expectation of a minimum lifestyle has grown by leaps and bounds.

NMF
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