Saturday, October 15, 2011

Middle Class

I grew up poor. It isn't debatable. No one can claim having used an outhouse and a tin tub for bathing for three years and argue about being poor. We had nothing. And except for the occasional embarrassment about my clothes, I had a great childhood. My parents taught us to work hard and to enjoy life. My dad could make anything into a game. So while there is no debate that we fell squarely into the lower class, I have wondered where Jon and I fall now. Then I received the Reader's Digest in the mail. It had a very interesting article that has me thinking.

"Being middle class is the very heart of the American Dream. In practical terms, it's having a job (or two) that pays enough so you can own a home and a car (or two), save for college and retirement, take a vacation once a year, and enjoy a few luxuries without worrying too much. Statistically, for a two-parent, two-child family, it's having a household income in the range of about $50,000 to $122,000 a year. But perhaps the most important of all, it means believing, against all odds and in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, that our children can have an even better life than our own."

It goes on to say that the assumption is made that you will owe loans on all of your cars, a mortgage and typically at least one other loan (student, credit, etc.).

How depressing! It does let me know that I am in middle class. Although I'm not statistically typical because our family doesn't owe anyone anything. But to feel so tied and stuck, with the vague hope that your children will do better. The article also has responses from people who are bitter because they have lost that "middle class" status or resigned because they have no hope for ever getting above that class. 

There are two reasons this is depressing. Most of America (in my humble opinion) are going about this from the completely wrong direction. And it IS true that they'll never get anywhere going the direction they are. The second is that these people don't realize that someday the wealth that they are longing for isn't going to matter anymore. We are the children of the wealthiest "man" in the universe. So as long as we are alive we have no reason to complain. If God gifts us with more money than we need, then it's our responsibility to be good stewards and use that money as He would.

Back during our car issues I rode with the car rental guy when picking and dropping off my car. The guy was mentioning that his house was for sale. He owns (mortgage free) a three bedroom, 2 bath home that he inherited from a family member. But he and his wife have just had a baby and they want a bigger house. So he is willing to have a small mortgage and use the money from the current home to have a larger home in a "nicer" neighborhood. He told me where he lives. It is a very nice neighborhood. This guy works at a car rental place in a small town. He can't be making a ton. And yet he's willing, in this economy, to go from no mortgage to mortgage.
I recently read a facebook status where a person was complaining of being so tight that they had to go without grocery money occasionally. Then a few weeks later they posted how excited they were that they were able to purchase a large flat screen. Aside from the TMI, I'm going to assume that they didn't pay cash for that tv.
And people wonder what is wrong with America. We see something we want and we want it NOW. We can't wait until we've saved up enough money to get it. We are willing to jeopardize our future to have instant gratification. We are also, because we borrow money, paying at least twice what the object is worth. 

I completely understand this mindset. When I decide that I want to get something for the house or my family I can't wait. I've realized that we "need" it and I want it now. Thankfully I was raised by parents with a hatred of debt and I married someone with the same mindset. But I have to wonder how much better off the entire world would be if we could change our way of thinking to include patience and sharing with others. We might not make certain purchases if we had to save a long time for them. And we'd have more money to help those less fortunate.


  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the reality check. Your family has the right mindset to get through the "stuff" in this life.
    I too am smackdab in middle class but sometimes our mindset is above what we can do. It is hard adjusting our eyes lower, but we doing it with God's help. He sent us to Dave Ramsey's program and it has helped tremendously. Still not where we want to be but plodding slowly.
    Thanks again for sharing.

  2. We have dealt with similar issues... it all goes back to Dave Ramsey's saying about knowing you are doing things right when broke people are making fun of you. ;) I know that my poor husband gets made fun of for his vehicles. The guys around him have nice new cars, all the time. "Poor" Jeremy keeps being blessed with cars that we pay very little for that just keep running. I am sure quite a few women have had a chuckle at me for only having 3 pairs of shoes (that was actually to my face. LOL) or because my house is definitely a minimalist style. Oh well! Because of all of our moves with the military, we don't own our house, but we also don't owe anyone and are saving for the day when we won't be moving anymore. I am trying very hard to instill in my children that you don't buy something until you can afford it. Miss you, Tima!