I will not get into a political discussion in this post. I ask that no one comment to this post in any political way. Political comments will be deleted. Anyone who is honest with themselves knows that the current poor economy was not brought on by any single individual or political party.
Over the past decade, the middle class has shrunk – dramatically. There are many contributing factors, and this post will not address the cause. Rather, it is the result I would like to discuss and how it has affected me personally – and millions of other Americans.
I have always considered myself in the middle of the Middle Class. I worked hard all my life and I began saving money when I was a teenager. I began investing as a very young adult. I had money taken out of my paychecks before I ever saw them to be sure I wouldn’t spend it.
I always worked full time jobs, making decent money. My investments had done pretty well, and I thought I was on track financially for my retirement – until about 10 years ago. At about that point, the economy (as it affected me directly) began its downhill run. I saw my investments declining, several times losing as much as $5000 in a single month. Within two years, I was laid off two jobs in a row (one with the Federal Government, another in my State Government), and the job market in my small city was practically nil. The nearest large city is 90 miles away.
Then, the company where my husband worked went out of business. In his industry, men in their 60’s were not very desirable. He qualified for unemployment for a while, and then went on Social Security.
Unable to find a job, I began working at home, beginning first with a typing service, and then I entered the network marketing industry. I earn a decent income with my current home business, but not the often quoted “six-figure income.” I have a retirement income from a job I’d left years earlier, and I too now qualify for Social Security. We have a couple other small sources of income, so we actually are earning more than when we were both working full time.
Today our everyday expenses make a much larger dent in our income than ever before. Using our net income as a gauge, and even though our investments are finally growing again, I now see myself as much closer to lower middle class. I don’t know the actual numbers that differentiate between upper middle class and lower middle class. I am basing it on our lifestyle.
We certainly are not poor. Our bills are paid every month, and we always have food on the table. We do not have credit card debt. However, with the income we have today from various sources (many like to say “multiple streams of income”), we should be quite comfortable. We are not. Trips that we once took regularly are now few and far between. We do not have premium TV channels or top-of-the-line cell phones. We do not spend extravagantly. We are fortunate to have a very low mortgage compared to most homeowners. Our increased costs are normal living expenses – groceries, gasoline, utilities, our mortgage, etc. Groceries and utilities, in particular, have increased dramatically.
Compared to many people, I know that we are very fortunate. We have money coming in to pay our bills. There are millions far worse off than we are. However, at this time in my life, after working hard and investing throughout my life, I did not expect to be concerned about my finances.
I know my husband and I are not alone. Most people I know are in the same situation, or worse. This post is simply a real-life story about how the economy has affected my husband and I – and my guess is, most Americans. I would like to hear how the economy has effected some of you as well.