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the secret shame

April 25th, 2016 at 09:47 pm

I read the article in the atlantic. It's here. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/

It's really well written. Yes the author makes a ton of excuses. The author really couldn't afford his lifestyle ever. He was a writer who probably should have lived somewhere cheap. This article on vox discusses people moving because they don't make enough. http://www.vox.com/2016/4/25/11503040/midwest-savings-atlantic

He's one of those people. He's someone who probably would have had problems even if he had moved but perhaps it wouldn't have been so severe.

I can't imagine hitting up my parents for their life savings for my kids to go to college. I can't imagine later paying for a wedding when I couldn't afford to pay for college. I can't imagine hitting up my grown child for money to pay my heating bill in old age.

But it happens. I had lunch playdate on Sunday at my friend's Ms DB. Her family is the one that made $300k last year and saved nothing. Her husband makes $200k/year and they save nothing. She said the only saving grace is the fact they don't use CC and only buy what they can afford.

But she said they are trying for the first time to budget. She said she took out $400 cash for 2 weeks of grocery shopping. They have no idea where to start but they are trying to see where all their money goes. Seriously making $15k/month gross and not saving a penny. I'm curious where their money goes too. $3k goes to rent she said and assuming $4k taxes and $1k medical premiums. That's still $7k/month unaccounted for.

I suggested mint.com but since they don't use credit cards she said it wouldn't work. They just use debit cards. Her husband when she brought it up said "we don't have CC debt so we're fine." But they can't find a way to save.

I suggested to her that they just maybe deposit $5k into a "Spending"account and use a debit card and that's it. Maybe they don't have to track every penny since I doubt her husband will. But maybe just set preset "saving" levels and with their income it won't matter.

But here's the truth of what I observed going to their house for the first time. And I really this she's a nice person and will make a good friend.

She's got 4 kids 8, 6, 4, and 2. The 8 and 6 year old each have flat screen tvs in their rooms. They both have ipads and kindles, and the 8 year old an xbox in his room. They have 2 big screen tvs in the two family room areas. There were toys everywhere and the house was very fun and cool. But I'm going to guess that their spending on the kids and stuff is more than 2x what I spend on my kids even though I have 2 kids to her 4. I don't think they proportionally spend double, more likely if i had to guess 4x as much.

I admit to being indulgent with our spending. We could very well cut many, many luxuries and have a very lean budget. But I know where my luxuries are and I'm okay with it. I make a conscious decision for each of my dollars giving it a "name."

I think that's why no matter what you earn you have to save. That even when you can outearn stupid you can still fall into the trap of living a lot higher off the hog if you don't. I didn't tell her but with a similar incomes our "burn rate" previously and now is about 1/3 what they are "burning" through every month. But I wouldn't expect her or her family to do that. She admitted it's shameful they can't seem to save.

I think that going into extreme savings mode would be to depriving. I think for them probably saving 15% is would a struggle and something they have to work up towards. I think starting out with maybe 5% and every 2-3 months increasing it would help easy the pain. And maybe for the rest of their lives they never go above 15%. It would still be better than nothing.

I know that she's trying to change. I maybe naive, but I'm crossing my fingers that they are able to turn things around. At least they aren't in debt.

In a funny turn of events DH has a call with a recruiter tomorrow. I am not sure it's a match. At least he is getting interest already and it's boosting his confidence. I have faith he'll do great. This week is hiring day so we shall see. Cross your fingers. We're about to find out if we gambled wisely or poorly. (as I type this I hear in my head the end scene of Indiana Jones and the last crusade)

9 Responses to “the secret shame”

  1. VS_ozgirl Says:

    Maybe you can suggest instead of saving a percentage they aim to save a certain amount? Eg starting with $500 then increasing to $1000? Sometimes you need to see the dollar figures to get motivated. Now that I save I can't imagine not saving, the whole idea of going to work and having nothing left over because it's gone on "stuff" annoys me - you pay bills and then spend the rest on "stuff" that will one day be rubbish, what is left for future you?

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    I had some of those similar thoughts reading the article, too.

    @ VS, I like how you think!!

    Fingers crossed on the job. Smile

  3. creditcardfree Says:

    Just noticed, that MyMoneyBlog has a blog post on the same article!
    http://www.mymoneyblog.com/open-talk-money.html

  4. pjmama Says:

    Just wanted to mention that you can still use Mint even if all you have are debit cards! And it's absolutely fantastic.

  5. MonkeyMama Says:

    Good luck on the job front!

  6. CB in the City Says:

    Well, I have to admit I only skimmed the article, but it seemed to me it was dancing around the truth at the bottom of it -- the writer's sense of entitlement was too large, and his income too low to meet it. You have to live within your income, it's just common sense. Why have so many people completely lost that concept?

  7. MonkeyMama Says:

    CB nails it on the head.

    I was just depressed when I saw the article that Rob linked (the short version of the Atlantic article). How depressing to frankly be so priveleged and yet to *feel* so poor and option-less.

  8. Jenn Says:

    Agree with CB too on the article. He admits to stupid choices but then portrays himself as a victim. One telling fact was that when a publisher asked for the advance payment back when he missed a deadline, he felt wronged! Because "deadlines are commonly extended". A sense of entitlement indeed.

  9. livingalmostlarge Says:

    He was way too dependent on expecting everything to go his way and never preparing.

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