Monday, April 25, 2016

Financial Confessions Of A Middle-Class Writer

Financial Insecurity

Money Talk: It is far easier to talk about anything in America than about money, Neal Gabler writes for The Atlantic: “So I never spoke about my financial travails, not even with my closest friends—that is, until I came to the realization that what was happening to me was also happening to millions of other Americans, and not just the poorest among us, who, by definition, struggle to make ends meet. It was, according to that Fed survey and other surveys, happening to middle-class professionals and even to those in the upper class. It was happening to the soon-to-retire as well as the soon-to-begin. It was happening to college grads as well as high-school dropouts. It was happening all across the country, including places where you might least expect to see such problems. I knew that I wouldn’t have $400 in an emergency. What I hadn’t known, couldn’t have conceived, was that so many other Americans wouldn’t have the money available to them, either.”
Image Credit: Hugh Kretschmer
Source: The Atlantic

An article, by Neal Gabler, in The Atlantic says that almost half of Americans suffer financial insecurity, and it more than likely that a good number feel some sense of shame and failure about it, perhaps thinking that they are in poor company.  In “The Shame of Middle-Class Americans” (May 2016), Gabler writes:
Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.
I also know what it’s like, joining million of others in the U.S., Canada, etc. Like the writer of this article, I, too, used to earn a decent living as a for-hire writer until about 2008, when assignments became harder to get and fees plummeted—the Internet changed everything for freelancers. What was previously considered a rewarding yet precarious profession suddenly, and without warning, became an unsustainable and unrewarding one.

So, yes, I understand. I have made similar confessions of the difficulty of being a middle-class writer on this very blog, starting five years ago, even though at first I did so with some hesitation and a great deal of reluctance. Life, however, became worse, more precarious. Against your will and your noble ideals on the value of hard work, you find yourself being dropped into the rabbit hole of a parallel universe, where the reality is foreign and unknown. Truth be told, it takes time for the new reality to sink in, to permeate through the lies and fictions, to take root in the fertile imagination of desire that well-paying gigs are not at hand and are not likely to ever hit your inbox. Eventually, the anger, the denial and the self-abasement ebbs, since it serves no real purpose. Self-doubt and fear turns to quiet acceptance.

Even so, it is not easy to admit that you are failing, that you are not winning the fight against poverty or financial insolvency. That you have no savings, no retirement income, no money for children’s college. It is hard to admit that your higher education hasn’t saved you from the embarrassment of not having a full-time job (or its equivalent) the last number of years. Most of all, it is not easy to admit to your children. Or to your community. (What do you do with your time? some people ask. Most avoid the subject altogether.)

But, then you read more articles and find out that few are winning, that many are losing, despite their best efforts. The middle-class is finding out what the working poor have known for decades. The shame is that there ought to be no shame. The more that articles like this are published, the greater awareness there will be of this long-term problem. (It will not go away soon, not with any new American president or Congress, since a known reality is that no one has any genuine interest in fixing a broken system that favors only the wealthy.) The fault lies elsewhere: in a system that is no longer able to keep the promises it made long ago. It is no longer sustainable. Here is a fact worth thinking about: There are not enough (bread)winners to keep it going.

Isn’t that shameful?
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For more, go to [TheAtlantic]