Stick ‘Em Up

Years ago I read Your Money or Your Life, and it startled me into awareness that money is the item for which I exchange my life energy. Essentially, every dollar I spend is a part of my life expended. I don’t get it back; thus, I ought to give consideration to how I allocate the money. After factoring the varying expenses related to my job (transportation, clothes, lunches) and deducting them from my wage, I was able to calculate my true hourly wage. When I went to the store and wanted to drop $12 on a book, or make-up, or magazines, I have the means to stop and ask: Do I want to exchange an hour of my life for this? Is it really something I want or need? It’s a big shift in thinking — most people don’t really consider that connection. We borrow and spend with impunity and then are saddled — no, entombed — with debt for years.

I would like to say that I practice this mindfulness and implement it fully, but alas, I struggle with my inner spendthrift still (though less often). Yet my attitude toward money did change to a degree — I started understanding that I was worth a good wage (that my skills are valuable and I’m not designated by Fickle Fate “to be a have-not”). I also stopped feeling there was something inherently repugnant about money. I do think that this attitude was, to some extent, the “sour grapes” defense I cultivated over many impoverished years. Not having the ease of money, I opted to cast myself in the light of “being a better person” for having “loftier” values. And now, as my fiancé teases, I’ve become comfortably bourgeoise. Twenty years ago I’d no idea this would be my life. I’m grateful for how it’s turned out so far.

Some facts on debt and bankruptcy in America

From DNC News: Turning the corner on ownership?:

Record Number of Households Filed for Bankruptcy.
In 2003, 1,625,208 households filed for bankruptcy, a 33% increase from 2000. Last year, middle class families faced record numbers of bankruptcies. [US Courts, Administrative Office, Bankruptcy Statistics]

One Household Bankruptcy Every 19 Seconds Last Year.
In the United States during 2003, 1 household every 19 seconds went bankrupt. [US Courts, Administrative Office, Bankruptcy Statistics]

Average Household Debt is $17,283.
In 2003, the average household debt in America was $17, 283, about 40% of family income. This is especially problematic when interest rates are poised to rise. A study by leading experts Alice Rivlin and Isabell Sawhill found, ‘Interest rates are likely to rise at least 1 percentage point, based on estimates from a variety of studies.’ A family with a 30-year home mortgage of $150,000 would see their interest payments go up $1,184 annually. [Rivlin and Sawhill, Restoring Budget Sanity, 2003 and Rubin, Orszag and Gale, ‘Sustained Budget Deficits,’ 2004; Federal Reserve, Consumer Credit Historical Data; Census Bureau]

Average Household Credit Card Debt is $9,205.
In 2003, American families were on average $9,205 in debt from credit cards. This credit card debt will also pose a significant problem for American families as interest rates rise in the coming months. []

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One Comment on “Stick ‘Em Up”

  1. orangeguru Says:

    Many economists and even activists like Noam Chomsky already dodumented years ago that the real income for the middle and working class has shrunk over the last 20 years – and not just America.

    In some way we are going back to the early 1900s, when labour was cheap and workers had hardly any rights.

    It’s weird to watch the digital generation to ignore/loose all rights and achievements of the early workers movement … and sinks into a slumber of brainless entertainment, consumerism and born again fundamentalism …

    Strange times.