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Old 07-10-2013, 02:35 PM   #41
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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.
I think you hit the nail on the head regarding how things have changed. Back in the day, the path that the Neumanns initially took - landing a good job early on, was the key to achieving the American Dream, because those generally turned out to be jobs for life. The "haves" were the ones who got those jobs when they were young, and the "have nots" were the ones who didn't.

These days, the model has changed, and the key to achieving the American Dream is to be self-motivated, flexible, adaptable, and willing and able to learn without a lot of hand holding. Examples of this are the young programmers who are self-taught and landing good jobs. Or most of us on this forum who are self-educated regarding finance and other things relevant to ER. Just about anything that anyone could ever possibly want to learn is available for free on the internet. The key is knowing how to process that information.

The Neumanns were caught in the transition from the old to the new - their "job for life" turned out to be anything but that.
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Old 07-10-2013, 02:41 PM   #42
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I didn't see the program, but I would like to respond. During the 60's and 70's, it was easy for me, as a young student to find a job in the summer time. I worked as a: motel maid, peach picker, sales girl, insurance billing person, governess, and anything else that came along that would help me to pay the bills.

I also remember that my wage was anywhere from the high $2.00's to around $3.25 per hour. But, my rent was cheap - $25 per mo. for a room; I was able to work myself through a state college. It was not hard to survive, and I have always been able to find a good job after graduating from the university.

Today, the money-scape looks much different to me. I read that some fast food restaurants skip over the high school kids, and hire retired persons or college grads. Typical charges for a room around here (California) go for at least $500 per month. College costs have gone through the roof - students are graduating with mountains of debt. I also can't believe how expensive food is today.

It seems that the problems we see today are incredibly complex, with myriad causes. It would be much easier if everything were black and white!
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Old 07-10-2013, 02:45 PM   #43
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The TV show reminded me of my hometown, a small mining community in southern NM. When I graduated from high school in the mid 70s, I went off to college supporting myself with savings from working in a fast food restaurant in high school for two years, part-time and summer jobs mostly at the $2/hr minimum wage, student loans, etc. Many of my classmates married their high school sweethearts, he got a job in the mines starting at $15 an hour, and she stayed home and had kids. Many got subsidized housing from the mines - nothing extravagant but very reasonable rent. I remember being rather jealous at the time. But several years later the mines starting laying off and many lost their jobs. Quite a few of them got divorced. I'm friends with some of the gals on Facebook and they struggled after the divorce to go back to school and eventually got jobs with benefits but a so so salary. My family was blue collar and my parents raised six kids in a mobile home in the poorer section of town. But I was fortunate as my dad encouraged all of us to go to college and get employable degrees - three of us were able to achieve this. Also he did not have enough clout at the mines to get us jobs there after graduation or during the summers. This turned out to be a good thing.
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Old 07-10-2013, 03:16 PM   #44
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I think you hit the nail on the head regarding how things have changed. Back in the day, the path that the Neumanns initially took - landing a good job early on, was the key to achieving the American Dream, because those generally turned out to be jobs for life. The "haves" were the ones who got those jobs when they were young, and the "have nots" were the ones who didn't.

These days, the model has changed, and the key to achieving the American Dream is to be self-motivated, flexible, adaptable, and willing and able to learn without a lot of hand holding. Examples of this are the young programmers who are self-taught and landing good jobs. Or most of us on this forum who are self-educated regarding finance and other things relevant to ER. Just about anything that anyone could ever possibly want to learn is available for free on the internet. The key is knowing how to process that information.

The Neumanns were caught in the transition from the old to the new - their "job for life" turned out to be anything but that.
I also concur with you, especially in the manufacturing and union arena. Where I lived back in the 70s the local refractory plant would hire summer help from older high schoolers for $10 an hour. Many got on their after graduation and would live a great life. Until everything went off shore and now the plant has been empty for over a decade. I remember working in a union grocery store making close to $6 an hour in the mid 80s while in college. The produce manager had a college degree but never even bothered to look for a job then I remember because he was making close to $15 an hour with good benefits. Of course the store was closed up for good before 2000. I imagine the pay in union grocery stores have taken a severe beating over the last 25 years
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Old 07-10-2013, 03:19 PM   #45
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I finally watched the show and it was pretty much as expected (same story as Gary, Detroit, Youngstown and many more), but interesting nonetheless to hear each family members perspectives at intervals over 20+ years.

But the most interesting observation on this thread to me is how it appears ER members respective ideology lenses remain wholly unchanged, as reflected by their reviews of the Frontline episode. As journalism, no effect at all? Like so much journalism these days...yawn...
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Old 07-10-2013, 03:33 PM   #46
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I found it very interesting for them to have followed both families over such a long period and to see how the perspective on what IS middle class has changed. Also it hadn't really sunk in with me how many families live on such low incomes and without benefits.

It seems to me that Keith Stanley's opportunity to go away to college made all the difference for him and he has made the most of it. That was the most encouraging part of the program, that and the fact that his parents continue to be so resilient. There are more good people in hard times than we realize.
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Old 07-10-2013, 03:52 PM   #47
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I just finished watching the show on PBS Web site. Had not planned on watching it, but out of curiosity from reading the comments here, decided to see what it was about.

Yes, the Neumanns (white family) are hard-working people. It's too bad their children are also strugging now, but then the children would do better without having kids that early, out of wedlock at that.

I found myself liking the Stanleys (black family) a lot for their positive attitude. While the Neumanns might have been well-intentioned parents, the Stanleys also knew how to put their good will into their child raising, and it shows. Yet, it's too bad that the Stanleys did not know better than financing their child's out-of-state college with credit cards. Why did the son have to go to Alabama University and not a Wisconsin school? They knew many good life practices such as hard work, having a positive attitude and teaching their children right from wrong, but their financial skills were lacking.

Finally, as we all know, in the past 2 decades, many families elsewhere in the US have prospered. These were not always college-educated or having nice highly-paid jobs. Included are many immigrants, whose language skills put them at a further disadvantage. If a TV producer wants to portray how many people were successfully raising their living standards during the boom years of 1990-2000, he would have no problems finding plenty of examples. Hint: it would be much easier for him to look outside of places like Milwaukee or Detroit, though I suspect examples do exist in those latter places.

The above brings to mind this observation. People stuck in stagnant areas are doing themselves a disservice by not uprooting and moving to places where jobs are. I could not help thinking how the Neumanns would do so much better if they would let their home get foreclosed 22 years ago, and go start a new life in places like Texas, Arizona, or Idaho, etc... People are still doing that today.
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Old 07-10-2013, 03:53 PM   #48
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But the most interesting observation on this thread to me is how it appears ER members respective ideology lenses remain wholly unchanged, as reflected by their reviews of the Frontline episode. ...
I don't know how interesting that is, I think it would be totally expected when the journalism is presented in select anecdotes.

Even if it was a straight factual report, people are likely to differ on the causes, and that reflects what they have learned (or think they've learned) from their own experience/observation. So if we talk about lower wages, one person sees that as a greedy corporation (but why wasn't that corp greedy in the past?), another sees it as the consequence of globalization.

And if one sees bad luck as a reason, and another says it depends on how you prepare and deal with bad luck - I would expect that view to come across in any comments on this story. Why wouldn't it? It would be more 'interesting' (and perplexing) to me, if their views were somehow reversed. Now that would be interesting - what would cause that, I would wonder.


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Old 07-10-2013, 03:54 PM   #49
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Old 07-10-2013, 04:28 PM   #50
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The above brings to mind this observation. People stuck in stagnant areas are doing themselves a disservice by not uprooting and moving to places where jobs are. I could not help thinking how the Neumanns would do so much better if they would let their home get foreclosed 22 years ago, and go to start a new life in places like Texas, Arizona, or Idaho, etc... People are still doing that today.
That's what I thought after watching the documentary. This was more about the decline of the rust belt as it was about the decline of the middle class as a whole.
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Old 07-10-2013, 04:52 PM   #51
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I finally watched the show and it was pretty much as expected (same story as Gary, Detroit, Youngstown and many more), but interesting nonetheless to hear each family members perspectives at intervals over 20+ years.

But the most interesting observation on this thread to me is how it appears ER members respective ideology lenses remain wholly unchanged, as reflected by their reviews of the Frontline episode. As journalism, no effect at all? Like so much journalism these days...yawn...
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I don't know how interesting that is, I think it would be totally expected when the journalism is presented in select anecdotes.

Even if it was a straight factual report, people are likely to differ on the causes, and that reflects what they have learned (or think they've learned) from their own experience/observation. So if we talk about lower wages, one person sees that as a greedy corporation (but why wasn't that corp greedy in the past?), another sees it as the consequence of globalization.

And if one sees bad luck as a reason, and another says it depends on how you prepare and deal with bad luck - I would expect that view to come across in any comments on this story. Why wouldn't it? It would be more 'interesting' (and perplexing) to me, if their views were somehow reversed. Now that would be interesting - what would cause that, I would wonder.
You're confirming my observation, whether you realize it or not. And it was my observation, others are welcome to their own...
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Old 07-10-2013, 05:02 PM   #52
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You're confirming my observation, whether you realize it or not. And it was my observation, others are welcome to their own...
My reaction was more sympathetic than my philosophy generally is. The people within my circle who have financial difficulties are ones who have spending problems, not income problems. I have also been exposed to my fair share of bums who will milk what they can from the government and not worry so much about working for a living. This group of people definitely causes me to have a sympathetic viewpoint for them. I have no solution, but I respect the work ethic and desire to work nonetheless.
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Old 07-10-2013, 05:16 PM   #53
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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...
Maybe he was not accepted in-state school. I know some here will say go to a junior college but its hard sometimes to convince other people when they believe that any state college is superior to a junior college. The person is doing well anyway and if he plays his cards right he can pay off his loans and build a nice nest egg.
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:13 PM   #54
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Did not watch the documentary. I do not watch or listen to anything the Moyers has a hand in. It is always a whine about something. Meantime he makes outrageous salary etc.. Perhaps he should donate half his income to all the poor saps he profiles and makes his living off of.

For reference, I arrived 1965. Age 17. First real job, made 75 cents per hour. In a few months saved up enough to buy a bicycle, thus able to ride insetad of walk the 6 or so miles to work. Next job, $1.25 per hour. in a few more months saved enough to buy a used car. All the while paying $15/week then $25 per week to my brother and SIL for room and board. Oh and I did have to go to the local high school to get working papers. A school which I never attended.

Next job US Army. $65/month. full room and board


As you might guess I have no sympathy for the poor families.
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:39 PM   #55
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It's a very rare person that updates their ideology when presented with facts that conflict with it. People are much more likely to go through pretty extreme convolutions of logic to conclude that they were right in the first place.

Most people have pretty basic models in their head about the way the world works and tend to discard any information that doesn't fit into that model.

I didn't watch the show, so I saved myself the trouble of discarding its information.


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I finally watched the show and it was pretty much as expected (same story as Gary, Detroit, Youngstown and many more), but interesting nonetheless to hear each family members perspectives at intervals over 20+ years.

But the most interesting observation on this thread to me is how it appears ER members respective ideology lenses remain wholly unchanged, as reflected by their reviews of the Frontline episode. As journalism, no effect at all? Like so much journalism these days...yawn...
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:46 PM   #56
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I don't know how interesting that is, I think it would be totally expected when the journalism is presented in select anecdotes.

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What else could possibly be expected out of Bill Moyers and NPR? Certainly not a critical analysis. They specialize I heart strings, not brain appeals.

Ha
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Old 07-10-2013, 07:35 PM   #57
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You're confirming my observation, whether you realize it or not. And it was my observation, others are welcome to their own...
Of course I realize it - that was my point. I don't find it particularly 'interesting' to see people react consistently with their previous posts.

To me, this is like finding it interesting that the beverage of choice for a oenophile convention dinner is wine. It fits hand in glove.


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What else could possibly be expected out of Bill Moyers and NPR? Certainly not a critical analysis. They specialize I heart strings, not brain appeals.

Ha
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Old 07-10-2013, 07:57 PM   #58
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The person I felt bad for was Keith, the son who went to college. I'm guessing they had no idea that state colleges were less expensive. He was the first male in each family to graduate from High school. His mom said he had a 3.5 in high school - did he bomb the ACT's? What about financial aid, like PELL grants? 5 kids and minimum wage - surely he'd get something.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:21 PM   #59
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Just finished watching it off the internet. For some reason I couldn't find it on TIVO in Southern Cal on Verizon FIOS. I thought it was very well done, and certainly a reminder of how difficult life can be, and how fortunate I've been over the years to have all that I do.

I find it fascinating that this documentary was started over 20 years ago, and it made it all the way through to today and saw to being distributed. I don't think I've ever seen a documentary that someone intentionally started and kept working on for 20 years before showing it to the public. It was so sad to see so many of the kids growing up, and instead of prospering from their adversity, they ended up having their own kids at an early age and settling for low wage unskilled labor. I guess that's the way it goes sometimes, but I was hoping that there would be more Keith's in the final outcome. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Without a doubt, relying on manufacturing or other industrialized, low skill labor to live the American dream was a tragic mistake for many Americans over the past few decades. So many things have changed in the world over the past 30 years to make these jobs undesirable that these people almost didn't have a chance. The America where you could go work for GM for 30 years and have great pay and benefits is over. Without a degree or specialized skill life can be very hard for many, as this documentary clearly illustrates.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:25 PM   #60
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The person I felt bad for was Keith, the son who went to college. I'm guessing they had no idea that state colleges were less expensive. He was the first male in each family to graduate from High school. His mom said he had a 3.5 in high school - did he bomb the ACT's? What about financial aid, like PELL grants? 5 kids and minimum wage - surely he'd get something.
She said the cost at Alabama State for him was only $7k. That's really cheap for out-of-state. I'd have to imagine he got a scholarship or something from them that made it about the same price as in-state, which the 7k figure seems much more on par with.

The family didn't seem to know much about high education, it doesn't seem too hard to imagine them not knowing a single thing about grants or financial aid aside from scholarships from specific schools.
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