Middle Class Squeeze – Who’s Fault is it Really?

by Darwin on October 9, 2010

We are seeing the demise of the middle class but one has to wonder how much of this is self-inflicted.  I mean, I grew up in a 1000 sq ft, 2BR, 1 bath home.  I shared the bedroom with my brother who was 5 years older than me, so when he was older and had girlfriends, I was definitely crimpin’ his style.  But we were middle class, probably upper-middle in fact (statistically) given the cost of living in north Jersey compared to the rest of the country.  This was the old middle class just one generation ago.  In today’s society, many families would consider this type of living arrangement to be poor or equate this to the middle class being squeezed.

We’re middle class now with our own family and admittedly, our way of life and expectations have changed from what we had as kids.  Our home is more than double the size of the one I grew up in and we literally have the smallest home of everyone my wife and I are friends with from work, college and highschool days.  They all have 3000+ square foot homes and they’re very nicely decorated I might add.  We also drive the least expensive cars and don’t have expensive hobbies.  Yet we hear everyone – friends, family, the press, co-workers, all saying the middle class is being squeezed. But are they?

Here are a few questions for the “Squeezed” Middle Class:

  • Do both parents work because you HAVE TO or because you chose to take on a $650,000 home with $15,000 taxes so 2 incomes are needed to foot the bill?  Or could you have lived like us on one income?  The horror!
  • Are you squeezed because you HAVE TO lease a BMW and can’t drive a practical Honda for 10 years?  Works fine for us, why not you?
  • Could you survive without BOTH having iPhones with expensive data plans or could you get by like people did for so long before smartphones with a simple voice plan?
  • Do you NEED $200 designer jeans, $300 Coach purses and a closet full of shoes that I can’t even begin to contemplate the cost?
  • Are you really unable to put anything aside for your kids’ education because of how “squeezed” you are?  Really? Or did you just prioritize other things over your kids’ 529 plan?

Look, for people who are out of work or have played by the rules all these years and some tragedy has befallen them, I get that.  That’s the exception though.  What I see portrayed in the press is that people are mourning the loss of the American middle class when much of it just has to do with:

People’s Priorities are Screwed Up!

Everything in life is about choices…risks…decision-making.

People seem to make poor decisions and then look back and find ways to rationalize their poor choices to themselves while blaming others for their predicament.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Is the Middle Class Really Being Squeezed By America?

Or Are People Impairing Themselves with Poor Decisions?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

jeff @ sustainable life blog October 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I think you’ve brought up a great point. Many of todays must haves did not exist 1 or 2 generations ago. Cell phones, satellite tv, computers and broadband internet are all new.
The middle class needs to learn they need to cut back. They are the MIDDLE class, and need to stop living like they are upper class.


D October 9, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I agree with Darwin’s assessment. The definition of middle class has changed dramatically — everyone’s expectations now lie with being upper-middle class rather than just falling somewhere in the middle.

Our new middle class concepts are skewed — beyond anything that our parents or grandparents could have hoped to have in their lives. They aspired for things that were clean, safe, sturdy, lasting, healthy, and wholesome. Meanwhile we want new, envy evoking, shiny, flashy, super-sized and designer.

I refuse to shed a tear for anyone who foolishly over-leveraged themselves to get in a McMansion — and now find themselves in foreclosure hell. I hope every massive SUV owner loves driving around in a living room on wheels now because they’ll be eating cat food in their old age.

We lost our way and are acting like entitled brats waiting for the government to save us. What a sad state for a what was once a great nation.


Darwin October 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I just think back to what my parents had, what I had and now, what kids today have. And granted, we’re guilty too of giving our kids stuff we didn’t have. But we can afford our lifetstyle. Many are choosing CRAP over security, schooling and retirement. It’s going to be real interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming decades.


Financial Samurai October 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I blame you Darwin for why i don’t make a million bucks a year!!


Darwin October 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm

You can’t complain, you took that vow! Plus no kids- they’re rough on the budget. But hey, you’re helping us make $1 Million thru Yakezie 🙂


Kevin @ Thousandaire.com October 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Great post Darwin. There are so many people that don’t understand the difference between a “want” and a “need”. My parents definitely didn’t understand that, and now my step-dad is unemployed, both parents are over 50, and have zero savings for retirement. They are going to learn the difference between a want and a need the hard way, and I’m sure there are a lot of people in the same situation.


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