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Old 07-10-2013, 03:47 AM   #21
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I found it incredibly sad. These were very dedicated family oriented salt of the earth people with the "right" work ethic. Yes these people made ~some~ bad choices, but who among us hasn't? I know there are things that we did that, with 20/20 hindsight, were stupid or wrong or not well thought out. But thankfully we never faced real financial hardship or ruin. Some of that is just pure luck, or bad luck for some.
+1

It's hard to imagine these families and many more ever getting ahead on such subsistence earnings. There was a feeling of despair, particularly with the Neumanns. The most positive story was Keith Stanley, who clearly had an entrepreneurial and public service mindset. I hope he will have a bright future. The Stanleys are good parents.

Definitely not the American dream. Whatever happened to it?
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Old 07-10-2013, 05:58 AM   #22
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While I was watching I was thinking how, from 1979 to 2013, when I retired, I had the SAME GREAT job with Megacorp, with benefits, raises, etc, in an industry that rode out the ups and downs ( at least pay wise, and no lay offs....)

I was oblivious to the problems these two families, and others, faced, and I realize that I was LUCKY in a way I never really appreciated...

We ALL made/make mistakes but no one deserves, at @ 60 in a large American city, to have an old age goal of "getting a spot in a trailer park". When the one lady was in her old house looking at the rooms, it was almost too much for me....

I personally really need to get my nose out of the air when I see anyone working who may be "only" making minimum wage..I am not religious but the expression "there but for the grace of God go I" really fits here.

Really made me think.
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:31 AM   #23
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Definitely not the American dream. Whatever happened to it?
I didn't see the program, but looking at all the posts and the obviously bleak picture the program painted, I wonder what my parents would say if they saw it? They were a young married couple during the Great Depression and had three kids born between 1931 and 1936. They struggled to house, clothe and feed themselves and my siblings but, like millions of others, made it through and had a reasonably comfortable life. To them, the problems described here might look less dire than to those of us with a different base of experience.

My point is not to diminish how tough things are for many people or how bad luck or poor choices can lead to dire circumstances. History teaches us the 'American Dream' has not always been easy to achieve and there have been periods where things looked very bleak. Thankfully those times did not last forever and I'd like to think the circumstances described in this program will also improve given time - and the Bill Moyers of the world can focus on other gloom & doom topics.
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:36 AM   #24
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I personally really need to get my nose out of the air when I see anyone working who may be "only" making minimum wage..I am not religious but the expression "there but for the grace of God go I" really fits here.

Really made me think.
It sure did. There are a lot more good people out there than one may realize. And that want to work together.
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Old 07-10-2013, 07:53 AM   #25
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The show illustrated the importance of having a good job, long term in order to achieve the so called American Dream. Both families appeared to have had good work ethics but were hamstrung when they lost their higher paying manufacturing jobs. There but by the grace of God could go anyone, especially in this day and age when a college degree is no guarantee of good paying steady employment.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:03 AM   #26
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I watched it and the message I got was that "good" jobs were the key to a sustaining middle class. I define a "good" job as one that pays a living wage and has decent healthcare benefits. Sure bad choices are sometimes made, technology has an impact, the economy goes up and down, but when I was growing up (born 1950) jobs were plentiful and even 'lifetime" jobs were mostly the norm.

The American dream can be restored but it will require workers to begin to make decisions politically that bring about more of a balance between business and labor. The last 35 years have not been kind to most working Americans. I was able to ER simply because I won the lottery by having a "good" job with benefits, education was affordable, and worked in an era where employees were considered the companies most valuable resource.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:36 AM   #27
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As a childfree person, I dispute the label "American Dream" because it implies that those who are like me can't achieve it or choose not to achieve it. My own "American Dream" included a good paying job, owning my own place, and being able to retire early, all of which I did by age 45. Marriage and kids were not part of it, as I never had any interest in them.

The Neumanns (the white family), made some bad choices which hurt them financially and in other ways (i.e. their divorce). Form the timeline I was able to figure out that they had their first kid when she was 20 years old and soon had two more kids within a few years of that. Then they bought a house, further putting pressure on their finances. Nowhere in their saga did they build up any emergency fund of savings - it all went to raising their growing family and to the house they could not really afford. These pressures led to their divorce which only hurt them more financially (she lost the house). And their two sons, neither of whom are doing very well financially, have had children out of wedlock before they have turned 30. Only the daughter is doing reasonably well and that is in large part to her having avoided (or delaying, we don't know) having children. She has held a steady job with benefits although housing remains a struggle for her and her boyfriend.

The Stanleys (the black family) had 5 kids which put a lot of pressure on their finances. Their kept their marriage together, to their credit, although they were falling into a debt spiral with the high-interest credit cards. Some of their kids are doing okay but are all struggling to various degrees. I forget if any of them have kids out of wedlock. Sending one to a costly out-of-state school was not a good idea because they could not really afford it (that's where the debt spiral seemed to have formed). No emergency fund with this family, either.

Both families made some really bad choices financially which caused lots of problems and prevented them from getting ahead. They made themselves vulnerable to something external (job loss, medical issue) which only made things worse, a lot worse. Sorry, but I have trouble finding much sympathy for them.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:46 AM   #28
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Based on this thread I set my DVR up to record it, but the comments so far seem to me to reinforce my long-held belief that the minimum wage is too low and needs to be gradually increased. While I'm no fan of unions, at the same time I think the pendulum may have swung too far to the employers and there are too many employers who take advantage of low income employees who are relatively powerless except in good economic times. I concede that there are problems and issues with an increased minimum wage as well.

I recall a non-union private company client of mine back in the late 70s who had a large number of low skill workers but still treated them quite well, had very good relations with the employees, and made money. It was a win-win for both the company and employees.
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Old 07-10-2013, 09:28 AM   #29
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The Neumann's obtained their mortgage ( probably ay 18% plus, when the father had a good job. It took them 20 years before their combined wages equaled his wage when they were married.
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Old 07-10-2013, 09:36 AM   #30
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As a childfree person, I dispute the label "American Dream" because it implies that those who are like me can't achieve it or choose not to achieve it. My own "American Dream" included a good paying job, owning my own place, and being able to retire early, all of which I did by age 45. Marriage and kids were not part of it, as I never had any interest in them.

The Neumanns (the white family), made some bad choices which hurt them financially and in other ways (i.e. their divorce). Form the timeline I was able to figure out that they had their first kid when she was 20 years old and soon had two more kids within a few years of that. Then they bought a house, further putting pressure on their finances. Nowhere in their saga did they build up any emergency fund of savings - it all went to raising their growing family and to the house they could not really afford. These pressures led to their divorce which only hurt them more financially (she lost the house). And their two sons, neither of whom are doing very well financially, have had children out of wedlock before they have turned 30. Only the daughter is doing reasonably well and that is in large part to her having avoided (or delaying, we don't know) having children. She has held a steady job with benefits although housing remains a struggle for her and her boyfriend.

The Stanleys (the black family) had 5 kids which put a lot of pressure on their finances. Their kept their marriage together, to their credit, although they were falling into a debt spiral with the high-interest credit cards. Some of their kids are doing okay but are all struggling to various degrees. I forget if any of them have kids out of wedlock. Sending one to a costly out-of-state school was not a good idea because they could not really afford it (that's where the debt spiral seemed to have formed). No emergency fund with this family, either.

Both families made some really bad choices financially which caused lots of problems and prevented them from getting ahead. They made themselves vulnerable to something external (job loss, medical issue) which only made things worse, a lot worse. Sorry, but I have trouble finding much sympathy for them.
While your points are very valid, and I won't dispute them, the soft spot in me tends to be more sympathetic though. These people got caught up in a changing world of our economy. Applying the work models of the 70s and 80s did not translate to today, and their feet got swept out from under them. If I had chose the manufacturing lifestyle, I very well could have been a poster boy for this show, also. One thing is for sure; Papa Stanley is a fit looking 60 year old. The man could pass for 40, and if I was an employer I would definitely hire him in a heartbeat.
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Old 07-10-2013, 09:39 AM   #31
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Old 07-10-2013, 10:23 AM   #32
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...

Definitely not the American dream. Whatever happened to it?
Can we really evaluate the status of the 'American Dream' based on a couple anecdotes plucked for a TV show?

Did the American Dream ever exist for the en-slaved and many of their following generations? And now, global competition is making it tougher to support high wages here in America, but that is helping to fulfill some dreams for others in the world. Is that a bad thing?

As I look at my kids and nephews, the ones that have applied themselves are doing well. The couple that have not had their nose to the grindstone would be more likely to be featured on a TV show - and they could easily point to some bad luck as part of their problem.

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Old 07-10-2013, 10:47 AM   #33
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... especially in this day and age when a college degree is no guarantee of good paying steady employment.
? When was this magical time when a college degree 'guaranteed a good paying steady employment'? I see a waterfall of revisionist history in this thread.

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... They made themselves vulnerable to something external (job loss, medical issue) which only made things worse, a lot worse. Sorry, but I have trouble finding much sympathy for them.
I didn't see it (judging from the comments here), but that seems a common theme. Allow yourself to get in a vulnerable position, and any little thing can get you in a downward spiral. Often (not always), a little planning can help reduce that vulnerability.

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I recall a non-union private company client of mine back in the late 70s who had a large number of low skill workers but still treated them quite well, had very good relations with the employees, and made money. It was a win-win for both the company and employees.
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... Applying the work models of the 70s and 80s did not translate to today, and their feet got swept out from under them. ...
Right, it is not the 70's. Times change and we need to adapt. I saw it in the early 80's, when a local manufacturer had major lay-offs, and guys in their 50's had not kept their skills up-to-date and couldn't find equivalent jobs (seeing their faces as I handed those guys resumes back to them at our job fair was a major influence in my decision to be prepared for FI).

With global competition, I think it would very difficult to pay low-skilled workers 'very well' today. But if you think it can be done, maybe you should help get a firm up and running.

As far as employers having too much power, if that's the case, I'd rather see that power regulated than to strengthen unions or raise minimum wage. IMO, that is a better way to fix the source of the problem (if it exists), the others are band-aids that will have other consequences or unfair work-arounds.

-ERD50
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Old 07-10-2013, 10:56 AM   #34
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I watched this last night and had mixed feelings. I spent part of my childhood in a basement apartment in what can only be described as a ghetto (after my father lost his job). That is what led me to become interested in becoming FI. Living there made me very aware of the disparity in opportunities available (especially for children) and I can understand the struggles. My father studied hard and passed the PE exam, which led to a new career. He knew that a sustainable career was the key to changing our lives. The effects of not having that was really on display in the report.

Part of me though, was disappointed in the choices made. My wife and I put off having children when we were young. Why? Because we knew we couldn't afford them. I'm not sure when it became a right to have as many children as you want without regard to the costs of that decision. It was also pretty easy to predict the outcome of some financial moves (e.g. buying the building to start two new businesses, choosing an out-of-state school when an in-state would have been 1/2 the cost).

I wish there were more opportunities, especially in poorer areas, for life and money coaching/mentoring. That is a real gap. I have been considering joining such a program in my area and this report convinced me to go forward. Maybe I can help a future Neumann or Stanley...
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:09 AM   #35
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...With global competition, I think it would very difficult to pay low-skilled workers 'very well' today. But if you think it can be done, maybe you should help get a firm up and running.

As far as employers having too much power, if that's the case, I'd rather see that power regulated than to strengthen unions or raise minimum wage. IMO, that is a better way to fix the source of the problem (if it exists), the others are band-aids that will have other consequences or unfair work-arounds.

-ERD50
Please note that I said they were treated very well, I didn't say paid very well - they were paid fairly IMO. On the second part, I'm sorry, but I'm retired.

I'm not quite sure what sort of regulations you have in mind, but an increased minimum wage is one form of regulation.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:33 AM   #36
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I'm not quite sure what sort of regulations you have in mind, but an increased minimum wage is one form of regulation.
IMO, it's better to do something to reign in the excess power (on either side), and then let the market decide. IOW, we may not have a very free market if one employer has a monopoly on jobs in an area/industry. Better to do something to make that industry/area more competitive than to try to micro-manage all the things that competition naturally brings about.

I just have not seen an area where price-fixing ever really worked in the long term - have you? Minimum wage is price fixing. It may be done with good intentions, but it will have consequences that may be unwanted.

From what I recall reading, a pretty small % are actually dependent on min-wage jobs. Many of those jobs are filled by high school or college kids, or people looking for part-time or a second job, or are second earners in a family and want (or only qualify for) a low stress, non-skilled job.

My kids worked min-wage jobs. As long as the business can fill those jobs at that price, why not? How much does a high-school bus-boy need to make? Should diners expect to pay more for their dinner, to meet someone else's idea of what is 'fair pay'?

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Old 07-10-2013, 12:02 PM   #37
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From what I recall reading, a pretty small % are actually dependent on min-wage jobs. Many of those jobs are filled by high school or college kids, or people looking for part-time or a second job, or are second earners in a family and want (or only qualify for) a low stress, non-skilled job.

My kids worked min-wage jobs. As long as the business can fill those jobs at that price, why not? How much does a high-school bus-boy need to make? Should diners expect to pay more for their dinner, to meet someone else's idea of what is 'fair pay'?

-ERD50
It hasn't been like that for a while in my area. In high school, we were expected to be volunteers or interns, because minimum wage jobs are for people who've been laid off and recent college grads before they could find something. high-school bus boys aren't much of a thing when people who have experience need a job instead.
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Old 07-10-2013, 12:32 PM   #38
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I wish there were more opportunities, especially in poorer areas, for life and money coaching/mentoring. That is a real gap. I have been considering joining such a program in my area and this report convinced me to go forward. Maybe I can help a future Neumann or Stanley...
I struggle with this too. I think our local, state and federal governments would serve society much better if they put more effort into teaching ideas about saving/investing/FI versus many of the hand-out programs that currently exist. I realize some good programs are out there but we don't seem to be making much progress in this arena.

I'm a firm believer that nearly everyone can save 10% regardless of how much (or little) they make. All of us know somebody who makes 10% less than we do and they are living their lives. Hence, you can save 10%. Okay this may not apply to poverty level wages but both families in this program were not in poverty early in life. Had they saved the 10% early in life and made better decisions in subsequent years I think the outcomes could have been quite a bit different.

It's obvious to me after seeing this program that we (society/government) are not very successful in our quest to end poverty. Something fundamental has to change before we begin to see improvement in the living conditions of poverty and lower middle-class workers. I don't think we can simpy continue the programs we have in place, or spend more money on the existing programs, and expect a better result.

In that regard, I've facilitated several classes on Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I'm optimistic that some of the attendees at the class will likely improve their financial situation. Unfortunately, some attendees at the class seem to fall for the trap that they will never become FI because they don't make enough money. I try to encourage people that make little money by telling them they will be FI with a much smaller nest egg than somebody who makes (and spends) six figures.

Let us know how you decide to proceed with your teaching/mentoring.
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Old 07-10-2013, 01:05 PM   #39
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An alternative way to look at the Neumann's would be to ask why someone with little skills right out of high school could land such a high paying job. Having that job and then losing it caused many of their problems.
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Old 07-10-2013, 01:55 PM   #40
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An alternative way to look at the Neumann's would be to ask why someone with little skills right out of high school could land such a high paying job. Having that job and then losing it caused many of their problems.
DW said something similar. DW noted that both couples in the Frontline program were making 50% or more than she and I were making at the time. The couples in the Frontline program are similar in age to DW and me. DW and I both had professional jobs - we believed our salaries were above average pay at the time - yet somehow the couples in Milwaukee, who made much more money, had a dramatically different outcome than us.
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