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Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:35 AM

What did "middle class" mean to you when you were 20-30 something?

One's 20's & 30's are usually the years when we all start to really pay attention as we build families/careers.

"Middle Class" was created out of thin air by the FDR/Truman policies that kicked in after WWII, so when it started, most of us old-timers (here) were just born or were quite young.

To MY parent's era, middle class meant:

Mom stayed home with kids
Family had A car (they could pay it off in 2-3 yrs)
Family could save up for a few years and could afford a house that they WOULD pay off in 20-30 years
Family had A phone
When stuff broke, they had it REPAIRED, or did without it
Family had a window A/C in the living room
Family had A TV (black & white)
Dad's salary supported the whole family
Kids could afford to go to college without loans
Families used Christmas Clubs at the bank to save for Xmas
NO ONE HAD CREDIT CARDS
Families took a vacation (driving) every couple of years
Families shopped at Sears, Penneys, Wards and "dime stores", and local businesses.

Middle Class denoted what you HAD and how you lived..not necessarily a "dollar amount", since money-talk was always taboo. The phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" was the norm then, as now, and all it meant was that people wanted to live as well as their neighbors (or a bit better), but since everyone was limited by their actual money earned, people pretty much had to live like their neighbors.

When my husband & I were first married (1970), we did NOT pick up where our families left off. We started from scratch..square one.. We used a laundromat for THREE YEARS.. had a black & white tv with an antenna that was coax cable attached to a neighbor's chainlink fence. We got our lawn furniture from someone's trash & we re-webbed them. Our furniture was hand-me-down. Our appliances were also nearly freebies.We rented for SEVEN and a half years. We rarely ever ate at restaurants or went to the movies.

We were definitely not "middle class" even though we CAME from middle class families.



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Reply What did "middle class" mean to you when you were 20-30 something? (Original post)
SoCalDem Dec 2012 OP
KharmaTrain Dec 2012 #1
liberal N proud Dec 2012 #2
orpupilofnature57 Dec 2012 #10
CrispyQ Dec 2012 #3
we can do it Dec 2012 #27
SoCalDem Dec 2012 #33
tjwash Dec 2012 #4
kentauros Dec 2012 #5
IDoMath Dec 2012 #6
RKP5637 Dec 2012 #7
Comrade_McKenzie Dec 2012 #8
Sherman A1 Dec 2012 #9
SoCalDem Dec 2012 #11
Sherman A1 Dec 2012 #12
appleannie1 Dec 2012 #13
trof Dec 2012 #14
SoCalDem Dec 2012 #18
Odin2005 Dec 2012 #20
slackmaster Dec 2012 #21
Proud Public Servant Dec 2012 #15
southernyankeebelle Dec 2012 #16
KansDem Dec 2012 #17
Odin2005 Dec 2012 #19
Heather MC Dec 2012 #22
hfojvt Dec 2012 #23
dotymed Dec 2012 #24
Yavin4 Dec 2012 #25
LWolf Dec 2012 #26
abelenkpe Dec 2012 #28
ann--- Dec 2012 #29
DaveJ Dec 2012 #30
tularetom Dec 2012 #31
Dustlawyer Dec 2012 #32
Left Turn Only Dec 2012 #34
mgardener Dec 2012 #35
dickthegrouch Dec 2012 #36
Nikia Dec 2012 #37
liberal_at_heart Dec 2012 #38
Skittles Dec 2012 #40
LeftInTX Dec 2012 #39
closeupready Dec 2012 #41
Skittles Dec 2012 #42

Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:45 AM

1. A Whole Different World...

My parents were Depression kids...growing up in the 30s and then my father served in WWII and Korea. My mother would say in her later years how the first third of their lives sucked...the second third was living as you describe above and the final third was trying to hang on to what they earned. I recall advice I got about how I should divide each paycheck so that the first week of the month went to paying rent/mortgage, the second week covered food/utilities, the third for car and house needs and the fourth week was there to cover whatever expenses came along...in theory you tried to have a little left over each week that you could put away. Never quite seemed to work that way in my life.

I've always referred to the "middle class" as the working class...as opposed to the ownership class as that's really how our society is now divided. There's been a steady race to the bottom since the "Raygun revolution" to dilute and distort the concept of the "middle class" and "American dream"...

Cheers...

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:46 AM

2. Middle Class means you are comfortable financially and socially.

When I was 30, I saw the middle class as being able to own your own home, 2 cars (a new one every few years), a descent job that allowed you to pay the bills and take a few weeks off every year and travel. Maybe a trip to a national park, or just a week at a lakeside/seaside resort and maybe a trip to Disney World while the kids are still small enough to enjoy it. And then afford to send the kids to college without either them or me going into debt for the rest of our lives.

It meant that when I turned 63, I would be able to retire and enjoy the things I want to do and not work for someone else.

So much for that dream!

Now that I am approaching 55, I would just like to not have to worry about slipping from that middle class, that I didn't have to worry about how my kids are going to pay those student loans and will there even be retirement.

They are crushing the middle class!


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Response to liberal N proud (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:11 AM

10. +1000

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:47 AM

3. I watch these young couples buying their first property on HGTV

& I laugh when I hear how everything needs to be updated. Some of the houses these young folks are buying are already much nicer than the one I've lived in for 20+ years & certainly bigger!

When we first got married I worked a job that paid every Friday, so Friday night was treat night. That meant we went to the animal feed store first, then the grocery store & if we had anything left over we stopped at the pizza shop on the way home.

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:42 AM

27. Not only updated, top of the line appliances, etc.

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Response to we can do it (Reply #27)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:56 AM

33. No granite countertops????

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:47 AM

4. Now...GET OFF MY LAWN!

Just kidding, well done!

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:56 AM

5. Your parents sound like my parents :)

And our whole neighborhood was pretty much the same, though it consisted of engineers and astronauts. Most of the furniture I own today were hand-me-downs, too.

I would put myself in middle class today, though. Not in the dollar amount as is being defined these days, but certainly in how I live. And I'm happy with that

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:57 AM

6. Primarily, I think owning a home

 

And my own transportation. Heck even now ill dumpster dive if the treasure is worth it.

Today, I define middle class as having what I need. Thus being poor is not being able to meet my needs and being rich is having more than I need. By those terms, I have never been poor.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:59 AM

7. More and more Americans today are in the lower straits of society financially, but many think

they are just temporarily disadvantaged financially not realizing they live in "the Matrix." In a fabricated space for serfs. And eventually they will all wake up, but it will be too late. ... because control mechanisms are possible today to hold them in that space ad infinitum.



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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:59 AM

8. In my family, we consider middle class rich... nt

 

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:05 AM

9. Bought my first house in 1977

and it was furnished in "Early Empty"(which I will tell you is incredibly easy to clean). I had bedroom furniture, one end table (still have it), a 13" B&W TV, clock radio and a desk that I moved from my parent's home and a old restaurant table & chairs for my kitchen. Bought the fridge (the folks who sold me the place left the old stove) and that was it. No A/C for years.

Eventually got a hand me down couch & chair from a co-worker's boyfriend a lamp or two and started to acquire more through the years.

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Response to Sherman A1 (Reply #9)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:16 AM

11. We bought our first one then too..and we lost sleep worrying

how we could afford $351.90 a month for that 1 yr old tri-level we paid $39,900 for little did we know....

I found that house on Zillow a while back, We thought it was HUGE.. it was 1090 sq ft..

of course the house we have lived in here for 32 yrs only has 1564..

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Response to SoCalDem (Reply #11)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:29 AM

12. Same here

I checked the mail each day expecting a letter telling me they were joking. My payment was $247 a month and I had no idea how I was going to do it. I was scared to death. It was a 2 bedroom brick built in 1927 that I paid $24.500 sold it 10 years later for $48000 and just drove past it last week. Checked on the web and it's up for $25K just over what I paid for it in 1977. Been rehabbed and I didn't like what I saw in the photos, but interesting none the less.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:32 AM

13. Growing up we were the middle class wanabee's.

My dad had worked at Rockwell as a drill press operator until Rockwell moved the plant to the south because his workers wanted a pension plan. Dad finally found work as a bartender and mom as a cook at a bar/restaurant. From that point on we lived on hand me downs and free food.
I quit school at 16 and got a job as a nurses aide. I walked 5 miles to work so I did not have to pay streetcar fare. Both my younger brothers were able to graduate, join the Navy and go to college on the GI bill. I got married twice and by 30 had six kids, his, mine and ours. We bought a huge old farmhouse in the country that we remodeled into a beautiful 5 bedroom house. We had a one acre garden and I canned all our fruits and vegetables, made all the family's clothes and got my GED. We bought a tow behind camper and went on weekend camping trips and saved all year for vacations to places like Disneyworld. When all the kids were in school I got a job as a police and fire dispatcher. Four of my kids went to college, one manages an international race team that last year won a world championship in the LMP II. class, one died and one is mentally challenged. All of my kids are hard workers and doing well. I like to think it is because of the example we set for them. I don't regret my tough upbringing. It taught me how to make nothing into something useful and to value and take care of what I have. And all of my kids are close even though they live all over the world. My granchildren are now teaching their kids values and the self respect one feels from earning and sharing. So at the age of 70 I have great memories. I know my hubby and I were outraged by Romney's 47% remark. We earned the right not to pay taxes on our SS and since we both paid into it with sweat and blood, we do not view it as a handout.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:54 AM

14. Our cable spool dining table...

Ours wasn't this nice, but you get the idea.

Bought our first house in 1970, 2 br, 1 1/2 bth. about 1200 sq.ft.
$35,000

I got the cable spool for free from the phone company.
Shellacked the top. This was our dining table for 4 or 5 years.

Shelves were 12" pine shelving on white painted (very tasteful ) concrete blocks.
We were in the house for a year before we could afford to buy a couch and a couple of armchairs.
Our daughter's crib was a hand-me-down from a neighbor.
I did spring for a brand new mattress.


We kind of 'made do' back then.

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Response to trof (Reply #14)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:18 AM

18. Oh my.. you were fancy!!

OUP pine board shelves had scrounged brick from a torn down building

we used a $10 card table for a dining table for about 8 years..with 4 for $10 folding chairs (we still have one of them and the table too) The table got so wobbly we had to use clothespins to keep it from collapsing.. If you got up too fast & weren't careful half a clothespin would shoot across the room if you bumped it..

Our coffee table was an old foot locker with a piece of masonite on top

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Response to trof (Reply #14)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:36 AM

20. Cable spool tables are awesome!

When I was growing up my best friend's parents had one in their house.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #20)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:37 AM

21. I still have one

 

It's not my dining room table, but it does exist.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:07 AM

15. We thought of ourselves as middle class growing up

This would be the 60s and 70s. My father worked as a section chief in a factory -- white collar, but with an office in a cubicle on the factory floor; he'd gone to a commuter college in Chicago (Roosevelt U) on the GI bill. We lived in a neighborhood of post-war tract houses; our neighbors included other low-level white collar workers (salesmen, mostly) and blue collar workers with good union jobs (a garbageman, a construction worker, etc.). No mothers worked. Everyone drove big American cars and got new ones every 6-7 years. All the kids went to public school. We got central air and color television in the 1970s. My sister and I went on to good, private universities (most kids in our neighborhood did not go on to college, but that seemed to be more about choice and aptitude that family finances).

So what did middle class mean? I think, more than anything, it meant that you had enough money to provide basic comforts for your family and a future for your children. Once upon a time that was possible without having a college education or a high-level job. Today, it seems like you have to be upper-middle class just to afford the same quality of life that the middle class had 30-40 years ago.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:16 AM

16. How funny you should bring this topic up. I was thinking this morning and telling my

 

husband that I think that our parents who were from the greatest generation would be ashamed of our leaders today. I mean look at the leaders back then in both parties. JFK and Dole, Bush Sr. all fought in WWII got wounded or their plane was shot down. They did their jobs and came home and went on into politics. Todays leaders are bought and paid for by corporations. They don't give a damn about the middle class or working poor. You get guys like Corker saying today that little people will get hurt by congress sometimes. Well these aren't leaders I want in congress today. They ALL think about reelection and they get nothing done period. It would be nice for them to have a opinion and for them to put country before party. I don't see it. Yes Matt Damon is right when he says "it's rigged". We the people in both parties are losing to the extreme right. It seems so hopeless. Something has got to give. The left and the right need to march on Washington.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:16 AM

17. My next door neighbor was a blue-collar worker...

...who started his own business.

He owned a small electric-generator rewiring business. That business provided him and his family (wife and two children) a three-bedroom house with den in a suburb of LA county (CA).

I also knew of other blue-collar workers on the street who enjoyed smilier lifestyles. I grew up near the Macdonald-Douglas plant in Long Beach. It was a major employer and ran three shifts. When I moved away, I was shocked to discover that bowling allies, donut shops and gas stations weren't open 24 hours in other parts of the country! Or, at least, in other parts of the county that didn't have a major employer running three shifts. There were a lot of peripheral businesses that benefited from that one employer.

My stepfather worked for Matson Shipping in Wilmington/San Pedro. We weren't wealthy but we have everything we needed.

Middle class then meant to me you worked hard and enjoyed the fruits of you labor.

On edit: This was from 1954-1979.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:33 AM

19. I'm that age right now and to me "middle class" means...

Having enough income to have good health insurance and to save for retirement and vacations.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:37 AM

22. I always thought "A Raisin in the Sun" was a good example of moving the middle

When they bought the house in the end.

When I was a kid I thought anyone making over 50K was Middle class in my home town 50K use to go a long way.
Of course my parents didn't make anywhere near that much. even though they both had fulltime jobs and side businesses.

What I find most destressing is watching how hard they worked with such little reward. It really irks me when wealthy men get on TV and speak of the poor as lazy. My parents worked their asses off far from lazy, yet far from rich or Middle Class

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:38 AM

23. my family was sorta upper middle class

but there were five kids and my parents saved a lot, so we lived somewhat cheap, rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses. Dad had a credit card, but I remember us having to search for a gas station that took it, because not all of them did.

Our house was small by today's standards and the basement was unfinished. I can still remember dad laying the tile in the basement and building a wall to separate the kids play area from the laundry/shop area. Our first TV was black and white and we had a party line phone. The rooms got carpeted one at a time and the house got expanded. A screen porch was added in the back as well as a 2nd garage, although our driveway was a single lane that widened and not a two lane. Dad drove an old station wagon, but in 1976 bought a "new" one - last year's model at a discount, but still used the old one. The new one mostly sat in the garage and was used for vacations. Dad sold it about seven years ago and the exterior was still mostly in mint condition.

For some reason, a family room was added in 1980 even as I, the 2nd oldest was graduating. As I remember it though, I was sorta planning to goto Germany with the German class, and had that happened, it would have eaten up that money for the family room. However, with all of these expansions to the house, dad did a good portion of the work himself. Even my little brother did a lot as he was taking industrial arts at the time. I mostly remember doing a lot of hauling - of concrete blocks and packs of shingles.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:39 AM

24. I'm 51. When I was 15

I started on a framing crew making $12 an hour. After college, when I was 28, I got a job in the remodeling business (I had my own business previously) making $8 an hour, raising 4 kids and had a stay-at-home wife. I worked 12 hour days, no benefits, purchased a condemned home and worked on it every night until til about 12pm. Within a year, it was one of the nicest homes in the (decent) neighborhood.
Anyway, from 1976 until 1986, I saw the real wages for working people decline dramatically. It has continued. Thankfully, after many years, I joined the Carpenters Union. I finally made a living wage and had health insurance for the kids and I. Now, after health-related retirement, I am witnessing the further decimation of the carpenters Union. What will the wages be for my children? Any health benefits? BTW, while working in the Union, I had to work harder than ever before. There were about 200 people on the out-of-work list most of the time. If I didn't pull my weight, one call to the hiring hall and I was replaced.
I didn't join the Union for so long because I believed the propaganda spread by the owners of the construction companies. Live and learn. Too bad the next generation will not even have that chance...

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:40 AM

25. What Makes You Middle Class Is Your Net Asset Value (NAV)

NAV is calculated as how much you own minus how much you owe. For most Americans, home ownership is the conerstone of their NAV. It is their greatest asset.

If you own your home, then most likely you are middle class.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:42 AM

26. People who were secure

and didn't have to scrimp from paycheck to paycheck.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:45 AM

28. My parents grew up in a time when one could

Graduate from high school, get a steady job, get married, buy a home, raise a family, and retire in comfort with a pension on one salary. They were solidly middle class.

All of the kids in my family have excelled in school, gone to college, been saddled with years of student loan debt (because even when one receives scholarships it doesn't pay your entire way), need two working parents in order to get by and none have come close to living at the same level as our parents generation. Elisabeth Warren had a great lecture online outlining the information in her book the two income trap that shows how families today pay far more for the basics than our parents did. Millenials have it worse. They are lucky to find work (and it certainly isn't secure), and are saddled with more debt.

Nothing either side is proposing will recreate the world our parents grew up in. True economic recovery has to grow from the bottom up with workers in steady secure well paying jobs with the promise of retirement after a life of work. Secure in the knowledge that one illness won't wipe them out and leave their family in debt for medical care. That they can send their kids to college so they too can succeed. We need a new new deal and discussions centering around how little or how much we will cut are a sad surrender to the wishes of banks and wall street at the expense of everyone else.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)


Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:48 AM

30. To me being Middle Class meant you worked hard, and were compensated.

I was incredibly naive growing up, very sheltered, and and thought that work, combined with some smarts, equaled success. Or that striving to better the world around you could only mean good things.

Hahahaha

Everyone now knows that hard work and financial success are wildly unrelated to one another, which is enforced by corporate fascists. In fact, hard work and financial success are inversely proportional. The harder you work, the less you have in this economy.

Now, in our nation founded by "Puritans" it's just common knowledge that financial success is a game of selfish pursuit.




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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:50 AM

31. I thought we were after we bought our first home

We were able to do so with no money down under VA financing. It was 1967 or 68 and I would have been 26 or 27 years old. We paid $18k for the house and our payments were about $150 per month. We drove a 10 year old car that we didn't owe anything on. We had two kids under 4 and my wife didn't work.

Our annual income was probably less than $12,000 a year.

We weren't really very well off but we were to dumb to realize that. And there were a lot of people who were worse off than we were.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:53 AM

32. Things are like they are now b/c the rich and corporations bought their politicians.

That is why their income has skyrocketed these last 30 years and everyone else's went down. We need COMPLETE CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!!! Hell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce started their own newspapers that are free outside our jury assembly room. They have rigged all of the games, our legislature, court system, and yes, even our President to some extent! You do not get to the Presidency without owing some favors. BP happened to be Obama's biggest supporter in 2008, it paid off well for them. He blessed the imaginary 20 billion dollar fund and the supposedly "Independent" Ken Feinberg. There was never 20 billion in a fund and the Judge ruled that Feinberg was not Independent, and had always been BP's representative. They even got to tell the Coast Guard to spray the Corexit to sink the oil so it could not be sucked up and counted for the purposes of fining BP by the barrel for the leak. I know this rambles, but I am pissed, and sick and tired of all of the corruption! People need to wake up and see that we do not have representative government. An honest politician cannot remain that way in D.C. He/she either plays ball or they are gone!

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 11:02 AM

34. Middle class?

I'm not sure where "middle-class" begins or ends, but I'm damn sure $250,000/year is way past middle-class.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 11:21 AM

35. Married in 78

We both had good jobs and made enough money to bank one pay check and like on the other!
We saved and had the concrete and wood plank book shelves and used furniture.
Then our kids came along.....
We scrimped but took a vacation every year.
We are OK now that my husband is retired and I am disabled.
Knowing what I know now I wished we had saved more. And bought a lot less.
I do buy on credit but pay it off almost immediately. On line banking is great for paying down bills/debt.

We were lucky. We moved to a rural area and were not so caught up in the rat race and having to have bigger and better.
Know we did it right by our kids, all 3 told us that have everything thing they need and not to buy them Christmas presents!!!!

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 12:55 PM

36. I'm struck by an amazing thought reading this thread

Many responding seem to be in their 50's as am I.

The striking thing is that our so-called leaders are mostly in their 50's too. They must have wildly different experiences from us to be "leading" us into such untenable territory.

How many of us went to school with one of these idiot "leaders"? How much can we use the "old-boy" network to bring them down to earth again?

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 04:18 PM

37. My father's family was dual income in order to live more middle class

They lived in a somewhat large old house that is worth roughly twice the median home value in town. They had a microwave and an air conditioner. They went on vacation in their camper nearly every year. They did hold on to their stuff and fix it. My grandmother made some of their clothes. My grandfather was a police officer and my grandmother was an accounting clerk.
We are "poor" because we aren't dual income. I still make more than two dual income minimum wage workers though so it could be worse. I think that if I made $60,000-$80,000, we'd be middle class. It might be possible if I was actively looking for those jobs and willing to move anywhere. Many of those anywhere are low cost of living areas. If my husband worked too, we would probably be in that range, but would have to worry about day care since the kids aren't in school yet. We are in our 30's.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 04:21 PM

38. right now I'd consider being middle class being able to pay my insurance premiums and copays

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Response to liberal_at_heart (Reply #38)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 05:35 PM

40. I would add something to that

being able to pay my insurance premium copay AND save for retirment

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 05:05 PM

39. My story is hoo-hum, but my grandparents did not believe in mortgages

They saved their entire lives and finally bought their house when they were in their late 70s. My great grandfather also pitched in.

My grandmother was a world class penny pitcher. She bartered everything until her dying day. She could talk anyone down. It was amazing to see her in action.

(They were born in the late 19th century)

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 05:38 PM

41. A new modest car every three years.

A ranch house in the suburbs.

An annual vacation in the summer to California or Florida or Bermuda.

Putting a child through a 4-year college without debt.

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Response to SoCalDem (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 05:39 PM

42. I was brought up by a depression era survivor and a WWII survivor

these were people who did not just THINK the worst could happen - they KNEW it could.......frugality was the rule of the day; I realize now that they taught me well

to me, middle class means you don't live paycheck to paycheck and are saving for retirement

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