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Old 01-04-2008, 02:27 PM   #81
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WWI actually ended 21 years before the beginning of WWII, but your point is well taken.
....
This is something that people should remember when they laugh at France for capitulating in 1940. During WWI, almost 1.4 million Frenchmen were killed.
Oops, my math was really off there. Thanks for getting that right. I didn't realize the French lost so many in WWI. They did not really just give up in 1940. Don't know the casualty numbers but there was fighting.

I read a short article from the Economist recently that the French have a trust deficit. A couple of French academics surveyed the people and found that their was a lot less trust then in other countries. They even tied this to a loss of GDP. They believed the trust issues stemmed from WWII experiences.
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Old 01-04-2008, 03:37 PM   #82
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I am no expert, but apparently 90,000 Frenchmen were killed [Battle of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia].

If you'd like to read a vivid account of the French mentality at the time of the battle, I recommend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Flight to Arras (1942).
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Old 01-04-2008, 03:47 PM   #83
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Illiteracy Statistics
  • 42 million American adults can't read at all; 50 million read at only fourth or fifth grade levels.
  • The number of functionally illiterate adults increases by approximately 2.25 million each year.
  • 20 percent of all graduating high school seniors are functionally illiterate.
Source: National Right to Read Foundation


Grim Illiteracy Statistics Indicate Americans Have a Reading Problem -- Education-Portal.com

I wouldn't have believed this, but I spoke with the administrator of a technical high school the other day who told me that many of his kids can't read. He teaches the radio program, and students regularly get in to the studio and can't do a newscast, because they can't read the copy. His school used to be the creme de la creme, with specific grade-point average requirements and written reccomendations from teachers and parents, and you had to write an essay. The class of 2007 was the last class that had any entrance requirements at all.

I don't get how illiteracy happens. I recall everything from handwriting instruction to heavy reading practice, both in groups and individually, and written book reports and essays and all the rest, from third grade on. How does anybody escape basic literacy?
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Old 01-04-2008, 06:40 PM   #84
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If you'd like to read a vivid account of the French mentality at the time of the battle, I recommend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Flight to Arras (1942).
I put in a hold request at our library for this, thanks. I mentioned it before, but Alan Furst writes some nice spy fiction set in the Europe before and during WWII. He is American and lived in Paris for some years. I believe his background material is pretty authentic from what I know about history, but of course you cannot really tell with fiction.
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Old 01-05-2008, 10:38 PM   #85
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Thank you for the tip. I don't know Alan Furst, but have now ordered one of his books (Night Soldiers) from the library. I usually enjoy spy thrillers.

Flight to Arras (original French title: Pilote de Guerre) is fiction, but was based upon Saint-Exupéry's firsthand experiences as a reconnaissance pilot in the Battle of France. He was killed in 1944, flying a Free French P-38 on a solo reconnaissance mission. More information: Antoine de Saint Exupéry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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Old 01-06-2008, 04:13 PM   #86
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Milton, the bio on Saint-Exupéry's is pretty amazing. Seems light a romantic character looking back. Hope you like Night Soldiers.
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Old 01-07-2008, 08:09 AM   #87
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I'll let you know. Thanks again!
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Old 01-27-2008, 12:52 PM   #88
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I finished Night Soldiers on January 21st. I quite liked it, and have ordered a couple of Alan Furst's other novels from the library. Thanks again for the recommendation!
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Old 01-27-2008, 03:56 PM   #89
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Milton, I'm glad you liked Night Soldiers. I ordered Flight to Arras which just came in and is now on my shelf, the next in line. I'm just in the middle (slow reader) of A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. It's a classic and really very good so far. The copyright is 1939 so gives some feeling for central Europe from Istanbul to Paris just before WWII without the hindsight benefit of future developments. It's about a writer who develops a fasination to discover events leading up to a criminal's death. Not a war novel but very atmospheric.
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Old 01-28-2008, 02:29 AM   #90
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Actually the US has the most rigid social class system. Its very hard to move up the socio-economic ladder in the US
This is not what I have found. The US is still the land of opportunity. That's why they have waiting lists to get in ... and building walls to keep people out.
I have not found a country easier to move beyond your 'birth' socio-economic rung in life. Sure, there is still the 'old money' country clubs ... and they do try to keep out the 'new money' trash ... but that just illustrates the point.
Education and hard work beats out birth status here more so than in other countries. Check out who owns all of the wealth in Saudi Arabia ... for example.
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Old 01-28-2008, 02:58 AM   #91
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I bet most millionaires inherited their wealth.
? you've got to be kdding me? Ask the dozens of 'self-made/saved' millionaires on this forum.
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I think you've been drinking the cool aide if you think its easy to move up the social ladder in the US. Sure its not impossible, but a kid has to over come the terrible public education system first. The single most important tool to help a child progress is education and that's where the US fails. .
you sound embittered by some event in your life... for that I feel sorry for you. I agree that ONE of the most important tools is education.

[turn soap box on]
IMO, it is NOT entirely the 'systems' fault for poor education.
I believe that you have to look closer to home. As someone on this thread had posted, it is easier to overcome poor parents than bad parents. People have to take some responsibility for their environment and their children and their childrens lives. I take full blame for all the bad habits that my children have acquired, but I also take the credit for the good adults and parents that they have developed into.
IMO the proper mentoring and encouragement of your kids lead them to develop into fruitful, productive, and successful members of society.

Shame on the parents that blame the government, the school boards, or the teachers for their kids failings. If you don't take personal responsibility for things that happen to you, you are giving someone else the ability to control your life.
[turn soap box off]
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Old 01-31-2008, 11:20 PM   #92
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A bit of history here... Well I can confirm that about 9-10 million people died in Europe during WWI, including 1.4 million Frenchmen or about 17% of all enlisted soldiers and 22% of all enlisted officers. That represents about 900 Frenchmen dying everyday. There were also 3.5 million Frenchmen injured during WWI. So more than 1/10th of France's population was either killed or injured during WWI (France's population at the beginning of the war in 1914 was about 40 million people). In a single battle (for Verdun in 1916), it is estimated that about 460,000 Frenchmen and 300,000 Germans died over a period of 5 months. To crown the all thing the flu pandemic of 1918 killed about 410,000 more people in France alone. This double whammy essentially wipped out an entire generation of Frenchmen which partly explains the French unreadiness for WWII. Basically, many of the young men who died during WWI, died before having the opportunity to have kids. Those kids would have been in their late teens and early twenties in 1939 when WWII started. They would have constituted the bulk of France's armed forces in 1939. In fact in 1939, the number of 20-25 year old Frenchmen was only about half what it was in 1914.

As for the debate about the US' social class system, I must say that especially compared to Europe, it is much easier to climb the social ladder in the US, IMHO. While in Europe money alone does not buy you a place in the upper class, in the US, money is the great equalizer. You can start with nothing and make it all the way to the top. Sure you still have the old money/new money divide, but what matters to most people here is the size of your bank account, no your last name or ancestry (well in the Northeast, where the Kennedys, Vanderbilts and Carnegies live, it maybe a bit different). While I would have never dreamt of one day making it to the upper class in Europe, in the US I know that it is possible and within my reach. IMHO, high taxes in most European countries are what prevent people from moving up the social ladder. You get raped by the government if you start making any decent amount of money.
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Old 02-01-2008, 10:07 AM   #93
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Anecdotal evidence and meandering to follow...

My earliest memories of time with my dad are of him reading me the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. Reading was highly encouraged in my house; we went to the library several times a week and participated in the summer reading program at the library every year.

I was fortunate enough to start college when I was 15 and fall right in with the coursework there.

Half of my teen years were spent living below the poverty line. I know very well what goverment cheese and powdered milk taste like and I have no intention of going back. I'm now solidly in the 33% tax bracket and plan to ER by the time I'm 40 so I do feel like I was able to move up the economic ladder.

Oh, and I was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade. I firmly believe that my parent's interest in my education allowed me to get to where I am today.
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Old 02-02-2008, 11:12 PM   #94
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....Bill Gates, Warren Buffet ....

Bill Gates did not come from humble or down trodden roots. His family was already well connected back in Seattle. That's why he went to Harvard.
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Old 02-03-2008, 12:06 PM   #95
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As for the debate about the US' social class system, I must say that especially compared to Europe, it is much easier to climb the social ladder in the US, IMHO. While in Europe money alone does not buy you a place in the upper class, in the US, money is the great equalizer. You can start with nothing and make it all the way to the top. Sure you still have the old money/new money divide, but what matters to most people here is the size of your bank account, no your last name or ancestry (well in the Northeast, where the Kennedys, Vanderbilts and Carnegies live, it maybe a bit different). While I would have never dreamt of one day making it to the upper class in Europe, in the US I know that it is possible and within my reach. IMHO, high taxes in most European countries are what prevent people from moving up the social ladder. You get raped by the government if you start making any decent amount of money.

My personal experience, having lived in Europe, the US and Canada, generally supports what you say. However, take a look at this study....
http://www.suttontrust.com/reports/I...alMobility.pdf


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Same here. 19th Century authors strongly influenced my desire for Financial Independence, as that was a highly desirable state in that period. For women (and plenty of men), it was more a case of an inheritance or dowry that provided income for them to live a gentry (i.e. non working) life.

No inheritance or allowance from a relative? - than you had better marry for money (men too), or god forbid, you would find yourself working which mean an instant and severe drop in social status.

One nice thing about 19th attitudes was that they respected "gentlemanly" (or lady) pursuits possible due to leisure time - interests in science and natural history, art, politics, charity, etc. It wasn't all socializing and family - although there was plenty of that. Although, you could also say that the lack of respect for honest work was a rather sick thing. The pendulum swings.....

Even though our culture neither celebrates FI nor respects non-recreational leisure pursuits (if a hobby is not making money it gets no respect), it is obviously much more possible to achieve FI than it was in the 19th century due to far more egalitarian property rights and far fewer constraints on social mobility for the individual.

Audrey
(in the SWR in the 19th Century thread)

Art reflects life. As Audrey points out, the concept of ER, or not having to w*rk for a living, was considered a desirable state a couple of centuries ago in Britain (and in other parts of Europe). What's different now is the ability to earn it.
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Old 02-04-2008, 10:49 PM   #96
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Meadbh,

very interesting study and it does outline one major factor I did not think of: the cost of higher education in various countries. It is certain that in many European countries, one can attend higher education institutions at a much lower cost than in the US. I have friends who got Masters degrees without having to pay a single cent in rent or tuitions for 6 years. They had grants, free lodging and food allowances provided by the government. This system allows everyone, no matter what their socio-economic background might be, to have the opportunity to get an advanced degree and move to a higher socio-economic class. So yes in that respect upward mobility is greater in some European countries than in the US. At least it is easier in Europe for lower class people to move upwards.


The following is based on my personal experience and on 23 years living in Europe. This is just my opinion, and it might not necessarily reflect other people's experience. The problem I see with some European countries (especially those that have less liberal economies), is that the system was conceived to bring the poor into the middle class but that very little thought went into how to move the middle class upwards (If I was cynical I would even say that the upward mobility of the poor came at the expense of the upward mobility for the middle class, kind of a "robin hood" policy, rob the rich and give to the poor). I really think that many people in Europe believe that ideally there should be only one middle class, no lower or upper middle class. In many european countries salaries for people with advanced degrees are much lower than in the US, yet they are taxed far more. When I got my advanced degree, I got a job offer in Europe for $30K per year and a job offer in America for $55K. Given the kind of taxes I would have to pay on the 30K, it's no wonder I chose to stay here. Low salaries and high taxes make it harder (though not impossible) even for someone with an advanced degree to climb out of the middle class. Once you get a good degree with a (relatively) good income to match, you are hammered with income, SS and VAT taxes. If you are able to save some money and buy a house, your estate could be taxed every year (wealth tax). And when you die, guess what, your estate get taxed... again. It almost feels like the system is designed to prevent people from becoming rich either by keeping net incomes low or by penalizing trans-generational transfers. Maybe it's just the way I feel and it does not reflect reality, but in America I fdon't see a lot of obstacles for people to move from the middle class upward.
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Old 02-04-2008, 11:40 PM   #97
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Art reflects life. As Audrey points out, the concept of ER, or not having to w*rk for a living, was considered a desirable state a couple of centuries ago in Britain (and in other parts of Europe). What's different now is the ability to earn it.
One difference I've found is that ERs today are not doing it for status, but for freedom. In fact, we definitely drop in status through LBYM or just having to keep to a budget, (and a reasonable amount of status in the US is conferred by a high-powered job). But the end result is the same: lots more time to pursue interests and a sense of having graduated from the rude exigencies (how's that for 19th century-speak?) aka daily grind that face most of the population.

As for moving up the ladder, I wouldn't want to do it anywhere else. I've lived in several countries and the US makes it easier by far. My wife was born in China, immigrated here as a girl and now lives and has lunch with and is warmly accepted among the fanciest folk in our waspy Northeast suburb. Might happen elsewhere but much harder to imagine.
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Old 02-05-2008, 07:00 AM   #98
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We're hoping to raise our children to already be in ER as they start work. By putting everything they earn into savings/investments, and living off of only the interest.
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Old 02-05-2008, 08:45 AM   #99
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Myself,
Do you worry that their work ethic will be challenged? I think having to find and immerse yourself in a career is a great opportunity and wouldn't want to do anything to take that away from my kids. Having a financial need to work is a good way to ensure they take it seriously. I had a friend who knew that at age 40 he was going to come into a big inheritance. He never really got his career started, despite going to a great business school, etc. He just had a little PC consulting business that he'd had ever since college and bumped along waiting until age 40. This lack of need to focus, and lack of accomplishment undermined his self-esteem, estranged him from his peer group, and left him too much time for 'hoosgowing'.

When age 40 came around, he discovered to his great dismay that the hoped-for inheritance had been largely frittered away by ill-fated investments made by his father/trustee. Around the same time he contracted a terminal illness and died in his mid-40s, possibly hastened by his fast-lane lifestyle.

I know your approach is that the kids have their savings early and directly, so that is better, I think. But if they were truly FI/ER right from the get-go, it could have undesirable consequences, unless they use that financial cushion as strong shoulders to stand on to reach even higher. Examples might be using it as money to start a company, or buying an apartment in a city where they can get into a high-achievement career or something along those lines. One way it could work is that the child could go into a low-paying but highly meaningful/satisfying avocation, without having to sacrifice a nice lifestyle. But any way you slice it, I think the kid should be urged to take career preparation and pursuit seriously for their own happiness. That is what we're trying to do with our kids (who will also start life with a nice nestegg, mostly from their grandparents, though, and not their own hard work)
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Old 02-05-2008, 09:06 AM   #100
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Myself,
Do you worry that their work ethic will be challenged? I think having to find and immerse yourself in a career is a great opportunity and wouldn't want to do anything to take that away from my kids. Having a financial need to work is a good way to ensure they take it seriously. I had a friend who knew that at age 40 he was going to come into a big inheritance. He never really got his career started, despite going to a great business school, etc. He just had a little PC consulting business that he'd had ever since college and bumped along waiting until age 40. This lack of need to focus, and lack of accomplishment undermined his self-esteem, estranged him from his peer group, and left him too much time for 'hoosgowing'.

When age 40 came around, he discovered to his great dismay that the hoped-for inheritance had been largely frittered away by ill-fated investments made by his father/trustee. Around the same time he contracted a terminal illness and died in his mid-40s, possibly hastened by his fast-lane lifestyle.

I know your approach is that the kids have their savings early and directly, so that is better, I think. But if they were truly FI/ER right from the get-go, it could have undesirable consequences, unless they use that financial cushion as strong shoulders to stand on to reach even higher. Examples might be using it as money to start a company, or buying an apartment in a city where they can get into a high-achievement career or something along those lines. One way it could work is that the child could go into a low-paying but highly meaningful/satisfying avocation, without having to sacrifice a nice lifestyle. But any way you slice it, I think the kid should be urged to take career preparation and pursuit seriously for their own happiness. That is what we're trying to do with our kids (who will also start life with a nice nestegg, mostly from their grandparents, though, and not their own hard work)
Well, by saying I want them to be FI/ER right away is simply a goal. Put it this way. I'd rather them do something that they enjoyed. Whether it's giving back to the community through volunteer work, or working on a personally fulfulling career. We aren't trying to fund trust funds for our children, but trying to put it in their head that saving from work that they have done, and living off of the interest can be very beneficial (to them as well as any charities that they choose to donate to).
As for injecting a healthy living lifestyle into their minds, we always mention how most things in moderation are acceptable. Which doesn't limit them from eating ice cream, merely eating ice cream every other day.
Also keep in mind our oldest 2 are 7 years old (and earning 10¢ for each of the chores they do around the house), while the youngest two are only 3 & 2.
We started having kids a little late, can you tell (since I just turned 44 today).
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