I often refer to the dozen-plus magazines that I subscribe or subscribed to at home, and the dozens more at work. Here’s the scoop on what some of those magazines are.
Prior to launching Middle Class Guy, my primary thought about blogging or setting up a website was some variant based upon my love of reading like “The Avid Reader” or “The Reading Man” or “What I Read” or “The Reading Guy” or, hopefully, something a little catchier that would also attract the attention of younger demographics than mine, such as the millions and millions of Millennials.
Also, part of the purpose of my blogging was as an outlet for ideas that I came upon myself or, in many cases, things that I read about, heard about or saw in print and online magazines, blog posts, trade publications, academic journals and the numerous financial items that I read.
So it has come to pass that I, somehow, accumulated hundreds and hundreds of magazines at home, many of which were stashed in large piles under the two dressers in our bedroom.
Being at home this Sunday afternoon, I thought it a good time as any to take a few photos, tear out some articles that piqued my interest, and generally cull the collection. Knowing myself as most in their late forties should, I suspect that the collection may grow again, but with my long-time subscriptions to The New Yorker,The Atlantic, Better Homes & Gardens and Real Simplehaving lapsed last fall, I now receive more than eighty less magazines per year than in the ten or so past years.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I have replaced those four with others including Time and Money which I subscribed to together for very cheap, like $10 for both for two years, and Inc., which was a cheap $10 subscription. I have been purchasing others, like AARP, Architectural Digest and Rolling Stone by single issue, which is very costly, each one nearly the same price as a year-long subscription, but I figure that I do not need to subscribe to ten more magazines.
My wife questions purchasing of AARP, me being “only” forty-six years old and retirement just a distant dream. My reason is that I do actually want to be retired at some point but, more importantly, the AARP organization, which stands for the American Association of Retired Persons in case you did not know, has expanded its base to include all those 50 years and older, and I intend on joining right at that age, long before “retirement.”
I find the articles in AARP interesting and also subscribe to its digital newsletters, which includes many articles related to where to live as a retiree, one of my favorite topics to think about. More accurately, I should say to fantasize about since the opportunity to both “retire” and relocate to a walkable, safe town with the amenities that my wife and I would want, where we could also afford a nice place and be close to our children (and their children some day) seems more like a fantasy than something to plan for.
I do have a Zinio account, which my wife urges me to use instead of subscribing to and purchasing so many paper magazines but, truth be told, I have only used it once or twice and prefer to hold the magazines in my hand. I like to be able to flip through them at work if I want during some down time at my desk, or read them on a park bench or in my back yard or in the bathtub. I realize that I could read them all on an electronic device if I had one, which I do not, but for whatever reason, I prefer books and magazines on paper.
Speaking of the magazines made of paper, I feel compelled to list out those that I either subscribe to now, did in the past, and the ones that I purchase single issues of:
Better Homes & Gardens
The New Yorker
Travel & Leisure
I had thought of starting a blog for about five years prior to actually starting one, thus I saved many of these magazines due to having interesting articles that I wanted to comment on.
Today I am tearing out some of those articles, which themselves may become a long-standing stack of papers, but I can put them in my handy dandy accordion file for future reference.
More likely, I will come to my senses and throw them in the recycle bin a few years from now, where they should have been years ago.
Something else about magazine subscriptions. Once you subscribe to one magazine, that magazine typically sells your information to another and to other businesses and organizations. Many are sold through subscription packaging services at major discounts, like $10 per year for most monthly magazines.
For instance, when you subscribe The New Yorker, the magazine shares at the very least your name and address, and before you know it, you get an offer to subscribe to another East coast-type liberal publication, The Atlantic. Once you subscribe to both, you start getting pitches to attend local theater and opera events and for donations to liberal causes. Add to that our occasional purchase of tickets to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and sending them to our address, they start thinking that we’re high falutin’ even though we are not.
You subscribe to Kiplinger’s for years, and then you start getting investment offers in the mail. You subscribe to both Kiplinger’s,Money, Inc. and Fortune and some algorithm thinks that you, yourself, must have a lot of money.
My proclivity or weakness in subscribing to many magazines results in me getting one or two magazine subscription offer per week in the mail. I was close to subscribing to three or four more, but my wife wisely talked me out of it, mentioning that between all of the books that I am reading (five or so currently), all the magazines that I currently subscribe to at home and at work, plus all of the hours of work that I have been putting in, it would be wise for me to lay off of subscribing to more.
In the last two weeks alone, I have received two subscription offers to Bloomberg, and one each to Crain’s Chicago Business (that I read at work), Smithsonian, Morningstar, Real Simple, Motor Trend, Sports Illustrated, People, Consumer Reports and Reader’s Digest. I almost subscribed to Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian and Real Simple ($10 each for a year), but did not. I subscribed to Real Simple and Better Homes & Gardens for many years “on behalf of my wife,” but I read it more than she did. Ironically, my life never became more simple. Only more complicated. Also, neither my home nor garden seemed to improve.
As a matter of fact, with this current purging of magazines and letting some subscriptions expire, I feel pretty good about culling this hoard of paper from my life. I suspect that it may pile up again, but I can Resolve to do better on that next year.
I was not going to write this one for a while, and I have even been contemplating writing an e-book on this topic. That may even be the title of one of my e-books, “Non-Stop Carnage Forever.”
What I am referring to, of course, is the continual carnage, murder and mayhem occurring in the two vast areas of the Second City a.k.a. Chi-Raq, sitting like a behemoth thirty or so miles to the east of where I reside.
It is a City that both of my parents and all four of my grandparents were born in, it is a City where I lived for several years and worked for even more years, and it is a City where I travel for business a dozen times per year or so. Some months not at all, some months two or three times. Always in the Downtown, never to the war zones of the south side and the west side.
Another thing not fair about this post is that it could have been written at any time in the past and could be written at any time in the future. There was murder and mayhem in Chi-Raq 100 years ago, there is murder and mayhem going on tonight while I write on my PC in my suburban home, and there will be murder and mayhem 100 years from now when we are bones gathering dust.
For some reason that I would be hard-pressed to explain, I began copying Chicago crime articles into a digital file about five years ago. It was about that time, in early 2012, that I first started contemplating starting a blog or perhaps writing occasional articles for other blogs or websites. I call the file “Violent Chicago,” but may rename it “Chi-Raq.”
With the addition of an article from yesterday entitled “7 killed in city’s deadliest day of shootings this year” from the Chicago Sun-Times Wire, I now have 307 pages worth of similar articles from various publications saved over the past five years.
Take it from Yours Truly Middle Class Guy, not much has changed in the past five years besides the murder, mayhem and carnage in Chi-Raq getting worse and worse.
These articles describe innocent lives lost, the downhill path of offenders from childhoods without guidance to becoming gang members and murderers, the pain and suffering of those left behind, the promise of “what a good kid” the offender once was and that the victim currently was, whether true or not, the marches and declarations that something must change and yet…
The non-stop carnage continues forever.
I read for years that it was the fault of this police superintendent or that superintendent, of this alderman’s policies or that judge’s leniency. When Mayor Emanuel and the other Powers That Be were blaming the former superintendent, I told my wife that that type of rhetoric was useless.
How’s the non-stop Chicago murder spree working out under the current guy Mayor?
Regardless of which Mayor Daley, Rahm, Superintendent Cline, Superintendent Eddie Johnson or whoever the fuck is in charge of this Godforsaken City, the murder and mayhem marches on and on and on…
Not to profit from all of this pain and suffering, and the hard work of the reporters, investigators and others that contributed to these stories, I feel compelled to publish them in an e-book. No charge.
It has weighed heavily on me as I have come to realize that no law enforcement strategy on Earth can put a stop to the murder and carnage that to many folks, including our President, defines Chi-Raq. This is a City that was born in, grew up in and will die of blood in the streets.
I feel the need to share a few of the headlines:
The first article that I copied nearly five years ago is called “Mayor defends crime strategy, says it should have been done sooner” by Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times, referring to Rahm Emanuel on April 12, 2012.
Quote: “Under fire for a 60 percent surge in Chicago homicides, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed fingers Thursday without naming names.
The mayor ticked off the steps he has taken, so far without success, to stop the bloodbath. They include: gang audits, a stricter curfew policy, increased spending for after-school programs, shifting 600 police officers from desk jobs to street duty and cracking down on liquor and convenience stores…
We have a particular problem in the city as it relates to gangs and we were not organized across a waterfront of areas: policing, dealing with liquor stores in communities or our prosecutorial laws in dealing with that gang problem and getting that organized.
Emanuel never mentioned the name of his predecessor and political mentor, former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Nor did he single out former Police Supt. Jody Weis, who jumped ship to avoid being pushed out by Emanuel.”
Oh! Now I get it! The surge in murders must have been Jody Weis’s fault. I guess in 2012, Rahm could still lay blame on his predecessor. That period is long gone in 2017.
From May of 2012: 10 slain, dozens injured in weekend shootings Killings are double the figure for Memorial Day 2011 By Stacy St. Clair, Chicago Tribune reporter May 29, 2012
Later that month in another article claiming that the Mayor’s strategy is working:
“Despite coming off a bloody holiday weekend in Chicago that saw 10 people shot and killed and close to 40 others wounded, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the department’s strategy to curb gang violence throughout the city is working.
Flanked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, several aldermen and police command staff at the Washington Park Fieldhouse on the South Side, McCarthy told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that shootings across the city have decreased by 7 percent since the department began its “gang audits” — specialized units sharing gang intelligence with beat officers — in all 23 of its districts in March.”
From an August 2012 article: 19 people shot in overnight shootings across Chicago
“Nineteen people were shot across the South and West sides from Thursday evening through early Friday morning — 13 of them wounded over a 30-minute period, authorities say.
The overnight shootings peaked between 9:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. That’s when eight people, many of them teens, were shot at 79th Street and Essex Avenue about 9:30 p.m.”
From a December 2012 article by Adam Sege of the Chicago Tribune:
“At least 11 people were shot and wounded across Chicago overnight, including five people in front of a currency exchange and an off-duty Cook County corrections officer on his way home from work, officials said.”
From a January 2013 article by Michael Thompson of WND.com: Chicago murders top Afghanistan death toll
The death toll by murder in Chicago over the past decade is greater than the number of American forces who have died in Afghanistan since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to a police analysis.
In addition, police reports in Chicago – where President Obama once worked as a community organizer and where his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now serves as mayor – show most of the city’s massive murder mayhem is black-on-black crime.
A WND review of the Chicago Police Department Murder Analysis reports from 2003 to 2011 provides a statistical breakdown of the demographics of both the victims and offenders in the 4,265 murders in Chicago over that time period.
Of the victims of murder in Chicago from 2003 to 2011, an average of 77 percent had a prior arrest history, with a high of 79 percent of the 436 murdered in Chicago in 2010 having arrest histories.
For the same 2003-2011 period, blacks were the victims of 75 percent of 4,265 murders. Blacks also were the offenders in 75 percent of the murders.
More article headlines:
June 2013: 1st summer weekend leaves 6 dead, dozens wounded in Chicago
July 2013: Mother of slain boy, 14: ‘The city belongs to the gangbangers’
After the Fourth of July, an annual big murder day in Chi-Raq, in 2013: Holiday violence toll includes boys, 5 and 7: ‘It’s just senseless’
By July 7th of 2013: Gangs, weather, access to guns, reluctant witnesses drive holiday weekend bloodshed
This article described a crime scene where seven people were shot on July 6, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. More than 60 people have been shot in Chicago since Wednesday, at least 10 fatally.
Another article describing early July 2013: 10 dead, 55 wounded in holiday weekend shootings
Here’s one to be proud of from in 2013: Chicago now murder capital of U.S., FBI says
Another ho-hum crime weekend, but another one that I saved in October 2013: 4 dead, 15 wounded in weekend shootings across Chicago SUN-TIMES MEDIA September 22, 2013.
I consider four murders in a Chicago weekend pretty average.
December 2013: 5 die from gunshot wounds in 18 hours in Chicago
2014 promised more of the same: non-stop carnage consisting of murders, murders and more murders.
An average weekend in April 2014: 4 killed, 33 wounded in weekend shootings
The next weekend was a bit worse: Amid weekend of violence, 6 children shot Sunday night
6 children shot! Un-fucking believable.
By Michael Daly for U.S. News a few days after that non-stop murder, mayhem and carnage: How Chicago Became ‘Chiraq’
“This Easter weekend, 45 people were shot in the city that’s come to be known as ‘Chiraq.’ And until Obama can get the guns off the streets of his hometown, the bloodshed won’t stop.
President Obama may have gotten our troops out of Iraq, but the gunfire in his hometown of Chicago is still earning it a searing nickname coined by young people who live there.”
Did things improve from there? Did a new police strategy or Superintendent solve the problem? What do you think!
Fast forward over dozens of more weekends with only two, three and four murders in 2014 to the annual Fourth of July murder spree:
Fourth of July weekend toll: 82 shot, 14 of them fatally, in Chicago
“It was just one of dozens of shooting scenes across Chicago over the long Fourth of July weekend. In all, at least 82 people were shot, 14 of them fatally, since Thursday afternoon when two woman were shot as they sat outside a two-flat within a block of Garfield Park.
Many of the long weekend’s shootings were on the South Side, clustered in the Englewood, Roseland, Gresham and West Pullman neighborhoods that rank among the most violent in the city.”
July of 2014: Environmental Study Finds Air In Chicago Now 75% Bullets
CHICAGO—Highlighting increasingly dangerous conditions within the city, a new study published Monday by Northwestern University’s Department of Environmental Studies revealed that approximately 75 percent of the air in Chicago is now composed of bullets. “Far exceeding the levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and even oxygen, bullets now constitute three-fourths of Chicago’s air supply,” said atmospheric scientist and study coauthor John Molina, stressing that the dense and widespread deposits of jacketed lead and copper in the air pose severe and potentially fatal health risks to all Chicago residents. “According to our measurements, the proportion of bullets in Chicago’s overall air composition is significantly higher than that of other cities with comparable sizes and population densities. Frankly, if this trend continues—and there is unfortunately little evidence suggesting otherwise—living safely within the confines of Chicago will be almost impossible.”
This was from The Onion, but was one of the most succinct articles that I saved on the topic of Chi-Raq.
From the Tribune a few days after The Onion article: Chicago: 82 shootings in 84 hours
Wow again! What’s wrong with this? If some of the criminals knew the pace that they were at, I am sure that there could have been at least three more shootings within those 84 hours, so that there could be an average of over one per hour.
Oh well, it is my guess that there were at least three unreported shootings that July, so just like hitting a three-pointer, I would imagine that the real score was 85 to 84 in favor of the shooters.
The pace did pick up in late August of 2014 per this article: City’s weekend toll climbs as over a dozen shot late Sunday By Adam Sege AUGUST 25, 2014
“At least 21 people were shot in Chicago in a 12-hour span starting early Sunday afternoon, according to authorities.”
A 21/12 ratio equals seven shootings every four hours, more Chicago’s pace that almost one per hour for 84 hours.
A few more headings from 2014, since even saving only a few per month adds up and I am only one-third through my electronic file:
Little Village shooting closes violent weekend: 3 killed, 30 wounded
5 killed, 16 wounded in weekend shootings
5 killed, 14 wounded in Thanksgiving weekend shootings
WEEK IN REVIEW: Seven killed throughout Chicago
The carnage, murder and mayhem did not slow down in early 2015, it picked up even more:
Police: Killings, shootings rise in first quarter of 2015
Police: 12 dead, 43 wounded in Memorial Day weekend shootings
Police: 5 killed, 33 wounded in Chicago weekend gun violence
3 dead, 22 wounded in weekend shootings across city
“Like the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 that claimed much of the city, the south side of the Windy City is burning up, figuratively, threatening to destroy the city again.
Summer started two days ago and already, Chicago has amassed more than 1,000 gunshot victims, almost 200 murders, and 22 random shootings on the city’s freeways.”
For the Annual Fourth of July murder spree: Nine dead, 53 injured in Fourth of July weekend shootings
Emanuel ‘saddened and sickened’ by weekend bloodbath that killed 2 kids
7/6/2015 Deadly weekend in Chicago highlights city’s gang warfare
Not to end at the Fourth of July, the next weekend was more of the same in 2015: 6 killed, 26 wounded in weekend Chicago shootings
A few weekends later, the shooting picked up even more: More Than 50 People Shot for the Second Weekend in a Row in Chicago
“Four people were killed and 52 wounded during shootings across Chi-Raq over the weekend. After multiple weekends in a row of increased violence in the city, Chi-RaqMayor Rahm Emanuel is urging a fresh and more proactive approach to gun control. The latest incidents, including the murder of a pregnant mother, come on the heels of two weekends in a row with more than 50 shootings in Chi-Raq.
At least 2,300 people have been shot in Chi-Raq this year alone, according to the Chicago Tribune. According to their analysis, that’s roughly 400 more incidents than during the same period in 2014. Homicides are currently up 21 percent in 2015, with the past two weekends pointing to a noticeable increase in gun-related violence.”
The end of 2015? More of the same: Six dead, 14 wounded in weekend shootings in Chicago as gun violence soars
I downloaded another 100 pages of Chi-Raq murder stories in 2016 alone. Suffice it to say, more of the same, more marches, more political speeches, more explanations about the breakdown of Black families in the City, more lamenting the lax gun laws in the State, more blah blah blah…
‘Why? Why? Why?’ — 21 shot over 20 hours in Chicago
Fears of a ‘long, hot summer’ as Chicago racks up a deadly record
Hope fades for creating jobs, ending violence in Chicago, south suburbs
Will the city run out of crime scene tape?
Editorial: Who will kill or be killed in violence-plagued Chicago? The algorithm knows.
4 dead in Memorial Day weekend shootings in Chicago
Fatal shooting of boy, 15, closes deadliest May in Chicago in 21 years
How Chicago’s Streets Became the Wild West
After another violent weekend, nearly 100 more homicides so far this year in Chicago
13 killed, at least 42 injured in weekend shootings across Chicago (and not even the Fourth of July yet)
With so many kids shot, what kind of city has Chicago become?
“We barely flinched when we heard the news of a 4-year-old boy who was shot in the face while walking hand-in-hand with his mother the other day. We didn’t get as tearful or upset as we did the first or second or third time a child became a victim of Chicago’s ruthless gun violence.
This time, we didn’t seem as angry. We were not as shocked that such a senseless act of violence against a child could happen in Chicago. Perhaps we have gotten too accustomed to the violence. And for that, we should be ashamed.
It’s not that young Kavan Collins doesn’t deserve compassion. He does.
He was innocently walking along a neighborhood street with his mother and younger brother when a stray bullet seemingly came out of nowhere. When his mother looked down at him, blood was coming from his mouth. There was blood all over him, she said. He was crying.”
Wow! Just one story out of hundreds…
For the 2016 annual Fourth of July murder spree: Fourth of July weekend toll: 82 shot, 14 of them fatally, in Chicago
Police: 9 dead, 13 wounded in Chicago shootings Monday
On a Monday?! I thought that 9 murders were only supposed to happen on holiday weekends, not on a random Monday in August: “Nine people were killed and 13 others, including a 10-year-old boy, were wounded in shootings across Chicago on Monday, with seven of the fatal shootings occurring in a span of less than 14 hours.”
Wow! Talk about the shooters picking up the pace. Seven fatal shootings in less than 14 hours does Iraq or Afghanistan injustice if you compare it to Chi-Raq.
That must have been because of Phil Cline Jody WeisGarry McCarthy oh never mind!
Well, the good news is that the new Superintendent, Eddie Johnson’s new strategy helped right away. Whoops, cancel that considering this August 2016 headline: August Chicago’s Most Violent Month With 84 Killed Already
Labor Day 2016: 13 shot to death, dozens wounded in Chicago shootings
From the Wall Street Journal in early September: The Black Body Count Rises as Chicago Police Step Back
An article from the Weekly Standard in late September: Murderous Chicago The city that doesn’t work. SEP 26, 2016 | By DENNIS BYRNE
Early October 2016: 40 shot, 5 of them fatally, in Chicago over weekend
“Five people were killed and at least 35 others were wounded in weekend shootings in Chicago, bringing the total number of people shot so far this year to at least 3,366 — 981 more than this time last year.”
On Halloween Day: 10/31/2016, Chicago’s deadliest weekend in 3 years: 17 people shot and killed
“On Sunday night, the Cubs thrilled the city with their first home World Series win since 1945.
But on Monday morning, Chicago’s grim reality of 2016 kept setting in: 17 people were shot and killed between Friday evening and late Sunday night, making it the deadliest gun-violence weekend in the city not only this year, but dating all the way back to June 2013, according to Chicago Sun-Times homicide counts.
The death toll is all the more noteworthy given that gun violence typically spikes on hot summer days rather than on cooler ones like the city experienced over the weekend.”
Two weeks later, a typical murderous weekend in Chi-Raq: POLICE: 5 KILLED, 32 WOUNDED IN WEEKEND SHOOTINGS ACROSS CHICAGO
Late November: 11/20/2016, Chicago murders still outpacing New York and L.A. combined
Chicago Bulls star and former champion from his Miami Heat years Dwayne Wade had a cousin killed in Chi-Raq: Dwyane Wade, at home in Chicago, works on a problem not easily solved
“Wade’s cousin, 32-year-old Nykea Aldridge, was caught in crossfire as two gunmen — police say they were gang members out of prison on parole — fired at a rival. The mother of four was pushing her baby in a stroller on the way to register her kids at school when she was killed.”
What kind of city tolerates the murder of a mother pushing her baby in a stroller? Or the murder of a baby in a stroller? Or random shootings into crowds of people or into people’s bedrooms while they sleep?
They may say that they won’t tolerate it, but they cannot and do not stop it. The non-stop murder, mayhem and carnage just keeps on going. While the police investigate one murder, another is happening. When they race over to that one (too late), there are three more going on.
If you have a lot of money and can live in Lincoln Park, River North, the Loop or in most of the north side, you can do alright in Chicago. You may not even know or care about the non-stop carnage being carried out on a daily bases in the vast wastelands of Chi-Raq on the west side and vast expanses of the south side.
Those areas of Chi-Raq are mostly populated by poor Blacks and Latinos and one’s life is in great danger just by being there, day or night. I feel a lot of pity for the children who are born into living there and it is the subject of many sociological studies and philosophical debates whether they have the chance to pull themselves out of it and go on to something greater.
Obviously, there are many stories of those who lifted themselves out of poverty and out of the ghettos of cities like Chi-Raq and throughout the country. But for every story of someone who made good from there, I suspect that there are ten stories of those that did not.
Chi-Raq’s final bloody tally for 2016 was over 700. 762 to be exact. And to think that it used to be over 1,000 per year back in the day when I worked in “community corrections.”
2017 started with more of a proverbial bang, with the homicide rate in Chi-Raq at a higher pace now than it was a year ago:
Shootings, homicides in Chicago both higher than start of violent 2016
As of January 22nd, already a month ago: “Shootings and homicides in Chicago are higher than this time last January, a month that marked the deadliest start to a year in the city in nearly two decades.
As of early Monday, at least 228 people were shot in Chicago so far this year, a 5.5 percent increase from the 216 shot in the same time last year. There have been at least 42 homicides, up 23.5 percent from the 34 homicides from the same period in 2016.”
Although I do not support the current President or almost anything that he says (or should I say lies about?) or does, I do agree with him that he should “send in the Feds.”
Although those who run Chicago find it offensive and counter-productive, what they are doing obviously does not work.
I agree with Mary Mitchell, who wrote “There are people getting fatally shot coming out of their homes in broad light, and Chicago’s elected officials are balking about a Twitter threat from President Donald Trump about sending in the feds.
The mayor and aldermen, especially those whose wards have become shooting galleries, should be lining up with their requests.”
Amen to that!
A week or so later, the Chi-Raq Tribune wrapped up the murderous month of January 2017: Deja vu for Chicago in January: Over 290 shot, 50-plus killed
How has February been? Care to take a guess?
I’ll give you a hint: non-stop carnage forever with no end in sight. Outpacing 2016 so far.
It makes me sick to see and hear this news every day. I also do not believe that any elected or appointed official can or will ever stave off this non-stop murder and mayhem in Chicago, which I now think of as Chi-Raq. You could have ten of the greatest Police Superintendents together and they still would not be able to slow down this carnage.
I believe that it begins, middles and ends in the home. While the vast majority of Chicago residents are hard-working, law-abiding tax-paying citizens like you and me, there is a vast number of those without any family structure, very little education, nothing to offer any employer due to no marketable skills, and many of them lack the morals and/or discipline to pursue any of the above.
I do not believe that it is just a lack of opportunity. I could tell dozens of stories of people brought up without any of the above, including my paternal grandfather, who lifted himself up out of poverty and not having a family through many years of hard work. But it is not easy, and many people do not like to do things that are not easy.
Most of today’s criminals, mostly young gang-bangers, do not have the ability or the will to do anything with their lives besides sell drugs, steal and kill or be killed.
There is no reason to believe that the non-stop carnage in Chicago will do anything but increase.
Not that one percent, but the top one percent when it comes to my vocabulary. I have taken a few personality tests and the like on ARealMe.com of late, and the vocabulary test claims that I know over 29,000 words in the English language.
I checked out a string of posts on some women’s magazine sites when this test was popular last summer and found that there were many others that qualified “as a Shakespeare” with words on that site, which greatly diminished my thoughts of being in the top one percent of word guys.
Wanting to test out the old vocab on another site, I tested it at TestYourVocab.com and scored almost exactly the same as A Real Me, making me think that it must be pretty accurate.
I took the vocabulary test at Merriam-Webster just now and scored 3,840 out of 4,200, putting me in the top 10%.
I searched some more tonight to prove my proficiency in the English language and took another more difficult test at the Ghent University site. For this test, you place your fingers on the J and F keys on your keyboard, then you are presented with 100 words to select if they are real or not. Hit the F if the answer is No and J if the answer is Yes.
These are not words like “fingers” and “keyboard” but more like “remackless” and “obsequiously” and “conjecturally.”
Somehow, I accurately identified all twenty of the nonwords, and this test estimates that I know 80% of English words. Truth be told, I would like to improve upon this. Perhaps I should add an additional Resolution to make it to 90%. I know that my mother would and my late father probably knew closer to 100% than everyone except for a few top English professors.
Below are my results, including the list of nonwords that I identified as nonwords within a matter of seconds:
On the basis of your results, we estimate you know 80% of the English words.
You said yes to 80% of the existing words.
You said yes to 0% of the nonwords.
This gives you a corrected score of 80% – 0% = 80%.
Viewing this list of nonwords, it seems painfully obvious that they are not real. What is more difficult is identifying a word like “grarc” or “sahly” as nonwords in under a second while identifying another assortment of rarely-used words as real just as quickly.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.
I realize that I often refer to upcoming posts when I have a thought on something as I type or think of something on my long list of items to post about. I can’t help it. I think fast, I have a wide variety of interests, and I have read whatever I can get my hands on for many years. This blog has provided an outlet for some of my thoughts, but just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
One of my upcoming posts is called “Words” and it refers to my subscription to two word-related websites. Both Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster send a word of the day and other interesting word-related tidbits to my personal email.
I admit to only looking at one or two words from each, and as of tonight, I have nearly 400 words in my “Words” folder in my Yahoo! email account.
One of these days, I will go through a bunch of them and share more words with you, my Dear Reader.
Until then, Yours Truly Middle Class Word Guy is signing off for the evening.
I started the Middle Class Guy blog last September, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, so I have not yet blogged through a typical Chicago winter. I have lived through over forty of them.
So my few readers know, usually in mid-February I am constantly complaining about the weather in the Chicago area, while conceding that I have lived here my whole life (with the exception of four-plus years in an even colder city, Madison, Wisconsin) so I should know what to expect.
I would be remiss if I just wrote about books that I have learned from, how often we dine out, how I use Bic, etc., without mentioning that this has been the nicest February that I can recall in four-and-a-half decades of living around here.
One of the “jokes” that people say is that “If this is global warming, I like it.” I have said that a few times, myself.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the record-breaking warmth is expected to last through (tomorrow) Wednesday, when the forecast calls for temperatures to challenge the warmest day ever in Chicago in February, Feb. 27, 1976, when it was 75 degrees.
Yesterday, ABC7 News reported that Chicago’s historic record-breaking warm temperature continued for a fourth consecutive day on Monday.
Monday afternoon, temperatures hit 69 degrees, breaking a 1930 record high of 64 degrees, according to ABC7 meteorologist Phil Schwarz.
Sunday’s high reached 69, Saturday reached 70 and Friday reach 67 — each day breaking a record. The Chicago will likely see two more days of above-60 degree temperatures, making it one of the warmest Februarys ever.
This was great for me and my family. If you happen to read this post in a warmer climate than where I live, or read it at a later date in e-book form, you should know that it is not a usual thing for us around here to walk around in shorts in the middle of February.
I have been able to take my dog on nice walks every day after work and two or more long walks this past weekend. I have also been able to walk during my lunch hour at work after scarfing down sandwiches at my desk.
Today I walked two miles over the course of 40 minutes during my lunch break, which was nice. I even thought of two more things to post about while I was walking.
Below is the current 5-day forecast for the Chicago area from Weather.com:
5 Day Weather
HIGH / LOW
SSW 6 mph
SSW 15 mph
NE 15 mph
SW 24 mph
AM Snow Showers/Wind
WNW 23 mph
SW 18 mph
I wanted to post this, just for the sake of remembering this string of nice February days. Perhaps next year at this time, or even a month from now in late March, I will be writing about how much I hate the weather in this area during a blizzard. God knows I have dealt with too many harsh winter days to even recall.
I have spent countless hours searching for a condominium or townhouse in the southeastern United States on those days, mostly in Florida but moving through the Carolinas in recent years as I have come to learn what a f-ed up state Florida is. My brother once told me that if you ever hear of anything truly bizarre in this country, it often pertains to Florida. I have found that to be true and, as I often write, is the subject of a future post.
For now, I will enjoy Florida-like temperatures right here in the northwest burbs of Chicago.
As I have often written, I subscribe to over a dozen print publications at home and another two dozen or more at work. My profession is economic and business development, and I am considered an expert in all things related to those two by both my employers and clients. And I am.
Part of remaining an expert at things related to business development, such as what specific businesses and industries are expanding, which ones are contracting and which ones are, in fact, dying or near-death entails that I read a dozen or more trade publications per month. I have neither the time nor the inclination to read everything that I subscribe to, but enjoy flipping through them at work and at home and reading one or two articles in each that pique my interest.
In the December/January 2017 issue of one of those publications, Midwest Real Estate News, Dan Rafter writes that eating out has become such a cherished activity, the average U.S. resident dines out four to five times a week according to a Colliers report in his article entitled “Expect food to continue to drive retail growth in 2017.” The online version has a slightly different title.
The way I think and operate when I read a reference to another report or study, is that I typically search out the quoted study myself. Also, I know quite a few retail and industrial brokers affiliated with Colliers, and I also receive their industry reports quarterly and leaf through them, so I know that they are professional and detail-oriented.
I ended up reading the Colliers report entitled “Appetizer or Entree: How Food Continues to Fuel Retail” from a this past December, highlighting habits and trends of the American dining public. As Rafter wrote, Colliers also gave the number “four to five times.”
I did some further research and read four additional articles. An interesting article on Fox News from April of 2015 reported that, for the first time, Americans spent more dining out than on groceries per the Department of Commerce. Much of this was attributed to Millennials in the article, not necessarily us middle aged Middle Class folks who tend to grocery shop and prepare food at home somewhat more often.
The second article that I read was by the popular restaurant rating company Zagat. Every year, Zagat publishes a report on the State of American dining and its 2016 report states that “we asked surveyors how many times a week they go out to eat (not counting breakfast) and ended up with a national average of 4.5 times per week. At the high end, Los Angeles surveyors eat out the most frequently (5.2 times per week), while the country’s least frequent diners live in Boston at 3.8 times per week.”
I also found a blog by one Dr. Nick Gerlich, a professor of marketing at West Texas A&M University. On his post of January 21st, Dr. Gerlich reports that the average American dines out 4.2 times per week, or slightly less than 18 times per month.
Finally, I read a February 1st post on the University of California at San Diego’s publication, The Guardian. The article is entitled “I’m Lovin’ It: Why Americans Dine Out” and is written by Annika Olives. She writes about the social factors of eating out: “Getting food together, whether with friends, family or romantic interests, is a common event in American society that is widely accepted. People may also eat to try new foods or experience a different culture. Surprisingly, a good portion of vacation destinations center around a restaurant.” Her article also cites the Zagat survey, citing the 4.5 times per week number.
My Own Family
I am the one in our marriage who goes over the checking account statement every month. Maybe I will go into more detail some day, but let me just state that my wife is better at many things than I am, but I am better at handling the finances.
Both my wife and I make most of our purchases with our bank-issued debit cards, but we pay as credit cards, signing for the vast majority of them, thus affording greater protection.
As I have been doing this honor for nearly the full twenty-plus years of our marriage, I can tell you that this Middle Class Guy and his family are basically right on target for this 18 times per month.
In many of the books that I have read in the past fifteen months or so in what I call the “Change Your Way of Thinking/Improve Your Life/Become Wealthy” genre, the authors urge the reader to eat out less. Eating out 18 or more times per month instead of doing more grocery shopping and preparing your own meals puts a serious dent in your budget and, as some authors of books and magazine articles (and bloggers) contend, is one of the factors that may keep you and me from becoming wealthy.
After all, when I was growing up in my own Middle Class family, eating out once per week or so was a treat, not our normal way of eating. We went to a local pizzeria near our house that has been around for over fifty years many times, we ate at a Chinese restaurant that we loved but has now been gone for about fifteen years a lot, and we went to a buffet at Ponderosa once or twice per month.
For the many years that I have been reviewing my own family’s bank statements and paying mine and my wife’s credit card payments, I can state that our family is probably within twenty percent of the 18 times per months most months. Some times we eat together and other times we eat in subgroups, maybe my son and I a few times, maybe my daughter and wife a few times, maybe me and my wife a few times, maybe my wife out with her friends a time or two, and me out with my friends maybe once per month if I am lucky.
Also, I must add the caveat that we do not often “eat out” at a restaurant, but more often pick up food on the way from point A to point B, which I also count, considering that it comprises fifty percent or more of our family’s “dining out.”
Remember that we live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, but many of the places where we eat exist wherever you, my dear reader, live too. Our leaders are, in no particular order besides what comes to mind are:
a local tacqueria
a local Italian beef restaurant
a local Thai restaurant
There are many other places where we stop, perhaps in a town where our daughter is having a dance competition, or when we are visiting the Big City (Chi-Raq). I also have three or four places that I eat at regularly in the town where I work.
When I look at our leader board, it dawns on me that it is not very many places. Yet sometimes I see three or four charges in a month at Portillo’s, even if I have not had the pleasure of eating there in over a year. I do stop at Jersey Mike’s three or so times per month on average, and my wife and I typically stop at Panera separately, but only get little things there like bagels and coffee.
Also, we order Domino’s delivery a few times every month, so how do we count that?
We have gone out together to Bonefish Grill about once per month since November, all four of us.
In years past, we ate a lot at places that still exist, but not near our house, such as Old Country Buffet and Applebee’s. My wife used to take our kids to Red Robin a lot, but not so much any more.
Sometimes we go on vacation, like twice last year for one week each time, to Arizona last spring break and the U.P. last August. During both vacations, we ate nearly all of our meals out or picked up food to bring to our lodging.
I mentioned the statistic last weekend when our son was home from college, and he stated that he eats 20 meals out per week when he is at school, but I did not count that. I told him that eating at the cafeterias at college is like eating at home when you are there, even though they dink us about ten bucks per meal day after day after day. When he leaves campus and goes to Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings or some unique places that he likes, we count that. When he goes out to breakfast with his girlfriend both days of the weekend, we count that.
Like I said, it is highly unscientific, but altogether, my family is not so far off of the 18 times per month average.
What Are We Going to Do About It?
I will be honest. Probably nothing.
Even though we are striving to help pay for our two children to go through their undergraduate years without incurring any debt, while at the same time paying +/- $10,000 per month to keep our Middle Class operation going (including eating out or carrying out from restaurants), while also trying to stash some money away “for retirement,” we will most likely continue eating out at this pace.
I try hard not to stress out too much about money. I have enough anxiety about a wide variety of stressors in my life but admit that having enough money is one of the biggest.
If I could order my family to eat out less, I would, but we do not work that way. I was not elected or appointed as boss of our family and, as I have written and will write more about, we are often very busy so even though I was successful in keeping my family from eating any McDonald’s for quite a few years, my wife often buys our daughter junk food from there while driving her from band practice to dance rehearsals. We often purchase tacos from our favorite taqueria on Saturdays when our son is home. We love the food from our favorite Thai place and get it every other weekend. There is also a local Middle Eastern food place that we like to get pitas, falafels and schwarma from once per month or so. You add it all together, and it really does add up.
It would be hard for me to estimate how many pizzas we have picked up from Lou Malnati’s since December, but I plan on looking it up soon for an upcoming post.
Would I rather not spend $500 or $600 or $700 per month or whatever it is on picking up food and dining out? I don’t know.
Judging by the statistics reported about our fellow American diners, I know that we are not the only family that does this and my bet is that you are in the same boat insofar as eating out too much.
I recently read Charismatic Capitalism: Direct Selling Organizations in America by Nicole Woolsey Biggart. This book is about direct selling organizations in America and the target audience was women, not a Middle Class Guys like me and you .
The copyright on this book is from back in 1989, coming out way back when I was in my second year at the UW .
As I have written on several occasions, I do not particularly gauge a book’s value by its recency, finding most of the valuable information in books that I’ve read to be timeless .
Judging by the pink and purple cover of this book, the image of a successful business woman , and the orientation towards women-oriented businesses, I don’t think this book was meant for my demographic. However, combining the two words “charismatic”and “capitalism” caught my interest enough to spend $0.50 on this book at a college library while my son was visiting a potential school a couple of years ago .
A Man’s World. Biggart’s book describes the corporate world as a man’s world in several senses. She writes that the corporate world’s value pattern of relations as masculine as we understand that concept in our society. Being a middle-aged Middle Class Guy who has met with, negotiated with and assisted hundreds of business owners, both owned by men and women, I have also found this to be true.
Social action is characterized by individualism and instrumentalism, rewarding independence and competition, two socials traits that are typically associated with men. Many studies of corporate culture have found that women executives find that the sacrifices required of them so outweigh the potential rewards, that they decide to leave corporate life altogether. This would be unheard of for a man .
American Ethic. This book describes the Protestant ethic that created a climate for and justified material desires. The direct selling industry also rest on an ideology, an American ethic that creates and legitimizes an ideal for individual material wealth. this American ethic is an amalgamation of economic, political and social beliefs widely shared by people throughout the USA. This ethic created a social ideal of a self-reliant entrepreneur that suits the needs of the capitalist economy in the US. This Protestant ethic of hard work, accumulation of wealth through individual effort supports the ideal because anyone involved in direct selling is an independent contractor and claims to be an entrepreneur .
Same Products, Different Way of Selling Them. Biggart’s book makes the claim that products sold by direct sellers are not apparently different from those sold by other companies. but when the product are joined into a larger set of beliefs, the commodities being sold take on a meaning beyond their original utilitarian value.
They become affirmations of a particular orientation in the world and a means of expressing support for ideas . I personally know four people involved with the direct selling business, and all four of them sell products that are theoretically part of a “better way of living.” From the company’s point of view, promoting entrepreneurialism also enhances their profits. it is a nearly costless way to distribute goods.
The distributors act more like members of a social movement, recruiting other members with a passion because they are convinced of the rightness of their cause and the attractiveness of their message. The Chamber of Commerce guy that I know is part of a scam called Healthy Wealthy and Wise, and his positive attitude and eagerness and claims of great wealth and email blasts showing him with new cars on vacation all the time, whether true or not, certainly impart the notion that his organization can help lead you on the path of great health and wealth, the two things that most people most desire. I don’t believe it for a New York Minute and always politely decline talking about it with him. When I see this guy walking towards me now, I pretend not to see him and head the other way.
Cheap Labor. Although not as stable or controllable as a typical employee- based labor force, independent contractors have the great advantage of being cheap. They work from their homes, they use their own cars, and health care coverage is definitely not part of their package. Furthermore, independent distributors consider themselves owners rather than mere employees like Yours Truly Middle Class Guy is. My boss has bosses, who in turn has other bosses. The direct selling workforce cannot organize its interests in a position to management and those on the top of their various schemes, the ones who really rake in the millions or the billions, set all the rules and incentives.
What About the Charisma? One of the keys in charismatic capitalism requires an authority or organizational structure who puts in place the strategies the control the independent contractors, leading them to believe and embrace the ideas that the organization depends on. Typically, these are charismatic individuals possessive of magnetic personalities and an aura of specialness. If nothing else, the Healthy Wealthy Guy from the Chamber of Commerce is extremely charismatic and I could easily see how he could talk others into joining under his guidance, forever sharing portions of their profits with him and forever recruiting new members. Part of charismatic capitalism obviously relies an actual charisma .
Regarding charisma, top distributors serve as great examples to new recruits that they have achieved their great success by following the leader’s vision. People like the top Mary Kay sellers with their pink Cadillacs and the Healthy Wealthy Guy doing an email blast showing him and his wife with their new BMW 700 series serve as living proof of the mission’s value.
Capitalism as a Social Structure. Biggart’s book claims that direct selling executives develop a control strategy based neither on an economic nor a psychological model, but a sociological strategy. Direct selling organizations assume that economic actors are not born, but made by the social structure in which they are placed, one that recognizes the power of social relations outside the workplace to motivate economic action.
Successful charismatic capitalist businesses are typically designed to improve your wellness and well-being: this book makes references to Mary Kay Cosmetics, Tupperware and Amway as examples.
All three remain among the top ten direct selling companies per the Direct Selling News 2016 ranking.
Charismatic Capitalists that Middle Class Guy knows. As I mentioned, I know three other people involved in charismatic capitalism in addition to Healthy Wealthy Living. One is a woman who I have met with from time at various trade shows who pedals Organo Gold coffee, which I believe is a scam. I have never spent one dime buying her coffee, she usually give me a few samples, and I don’t find it to be any better or tasting or better for me then the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee that my wife brews and I drink every single day of the year .
I know another woman through my place of work who sells various so-called “essential oils” and lotions, extolling the health benefits of them. I have not seen her for over a year now, making me assume that it was never a profitable venture or worth continuing.
For my fourth contact, I have to admit that my best friend who has a successful career and a wife with a successful career and an almost million-dollar house given to him purchased about $6,000 worth of vitamin supplements from a truly charismatic capitalist with the intention of selling the stuff to others for profit.
Although my friend is extremely friendly and sociable, he possesses neither the charisma nor the capitalistic drive needed to sell vitamin supplements to anybody beyond his mother and an aunt of his. When he asked if I would like to purchase any supplements, I should have politely declined instead of laughing and teasing about his gullibility. I never asked, but I assume that it was through Herbalife.
By the way, if you want to buy a few thousand dollars worth of vitamin supplements, the same ones that you could purchase for a fraction of the price at your local grocery store, any Walgreens, CVS or GNc, send me an email on this post.
My wife buys many items online and always checks Ebates first.
Every few months, she gets a check for $20 or so, based upon the 4%, 5% or sometimes higher percentages that the site offers. I just checked tonight and see 9% off for a Groupon, which may in fact lead to us buying one for a restaurant tonight or tomorrow.
Over the years, we have received many of the “Big Fat Checks” that they mail to you a few times per year based on purchases completed over a period of a few months.
We do most of our shopping at brick and mortar stores, but like nearly everyone else in various social classes whether lower, middle or upper, we have been shopping online more and more as the years go by. This past Holiday season, we completed a vast majority of our Christmas shopping in what I call “the Giant Shopping Mall in the Cloud,” i.e. Amazon.
Things being expensive and funds often being tight, receiving even a paltry 3% or 4% back on a purchase is much appreciated. Especially if it is something that we were going to purchase, anyway. I write “we” because my wife is a member of Ebates and I am not, but she will purchase something online through the app on my behalf if I want to order something online.
We mostly use it for online purchases at Kohl’s and Barnes & Noble, but have also used it to send flowers for relatives’ birthdays and sending Harry & David baskets to my in-laws over the years.
I am not going to wax eloquent about this app or laud it at length but just mention that as a Middle Class Guy living in a middle class area in the Midwest, with a middle class family, two lower class cars and another one on the brink of being one, and all the other accoutrements of middle class life, it does not hurt to get a few bucks back if you are going to shop online anyway.
Our latest Big Fat Check came in the mail earlier this week. I have not even opened it yet, but seeing as how I paid our son’s college tuition earlier this week (the electronic payment cleared on Valentine’s Day), paid our Crook County property taxes, “paid myself” $250 on Wednesday after paying my dentist for part 2 of my scaling and root planing, as well as paying our assortment of usual expenses, I will be glad to add however much this little check is to our bank account this Friday along with my paycheck and my wife’s for her part-time job.
Every little bit helps, even if it is only $7.41. I just had to check.
Today is a Wednesday in the middle of a Middle Class Week in the life of a Middle Class Guy who is also middle aged and living in the Midwest.
I read an interesting post today on LinkedIn where the author wrote that every Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane with a blog, Facebook, Twitter etc. feels like they are their own one-man or one-woman publishing house and that those of us who hold down full-time positions and have full-time lives, like I do, should not feel the pressure to constantly feed the beast. Especially those of us, like me, with little to no readership.
I am writing this post for my own pleasure and to also include in a future e-book that I hope will be enjoyed by at least a few hundred kindred Middle Class Guy spirits.
That is why this post has such an f-ed up, garbled title. I had dozens of other “more important” posts to make including ideas that I have come across in the past two weeks while reading a plethora of interesting books, magazines, trade publications and blog posts.
But, as they say, Alas and Alack, here I sit with the left side of my mouth numb, drool accumulating every few minutes, but not much pain late on a Wednesday afternoon into early evening.
A quick “daily diary” entry ‘splaining why I have not posted for a few days even though my list of topics, not even including President Trump, continues to grow by the day.
Saturday: I worked on my last post for about four hours on Saturday and spent another few hours reading emails, reading articles, looking at Twitter and such. I probably spent six hours or more on a nice day goofing around on my Dell laptop and ended up feeling like a jerk since I should have been spending more quality time with my family. Highlight of the day was forcing our college freshman son to get a haircut at Great Clips and getting Jersey Mike’s subs for everyone afterwards.
Sunday: On Sunday I did the opposite, eschewing all social media and not even looking at a computer except for looking over my wife’s shoulder at some Facebook photos of family and friends. We all did stuff around the house, I hung out with my daughter, my son had his girlfriend over and we all went out to a great dinner at Bonefish Grill with my Mom. I drove my son back to his college Sunday evening, came home and tried to unwind.
Monday: On Monday I worked for about twelve hours, from 8:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m. Sometimes a Middle Class Guy who is also middle aged and living in the Midwest has to exhibit some of that Midwest work ethic that guys like me are so famous for. With well over ten grand in bills this month, maybe closer to twelve, I gotta do what I gotta do to keep my middle class family in business. I could expound at length about what I worked on, but suffice it to say that I was busy, there was an enormous amount of pressure, and I made it home at the end, took a Tylenol P.M. and went to sleep.
Tuesday: Yesterday was known as Valentine’s Day and a great post would have been a photo of the dozens of Middle Class Guys like me standing around the Jewel trying to edge past one another for the best remaining roses in the store at about 5:00 p.m. yesterday. I guess that I am not the most romantic guy in the World at this point and this is my wife and my 27th Valentine’s Day together. Exciting, but not as exciting as the first few. My wife made a lovely dinner and got me a lovely card and a box of chocolates. I bought her a dozen red roses and four chocolate-covered strawberries. All after another stressful 8-hour day at my place of employment.
We happen to enjoy watching a TV show called “The Middle” together, appropos for the Middle Class Guy, so we watched an episode together last night while our daughter was in dance class, then I watched the Bulls beat the Raptors for the 11th straight time.
Today: After learning about some new policies at my place of work, which have been unchanged in my nearly twelve years there, I continued with my non-stop schedule of meetings, phone calls and emails until I cut out of work early at 2:30 p.m. to drive to my dentist for Middle Class Guy’s root planing procedure, part two, left side of my mouth. Last Wednesday, his dental assistant did the right side.
My mouth is more numb than sore now, and my wallet is a little lighter, but it needed to be done. They want me to come back again next Wednesday so the dentist can start “cleaning out” one of my two teeth requiring a root canal. Ouch and ouch, considering the pain that I will be subjecting myself to and the bite it will be taking out of my wallet.
I want it noted that I did transfer another $250 to my Blue Chip Growth account upon returning home and before beginning this post, continuing my effort to “pay myself first” before I pay a $2,900+ Crook County property tax bill tomorrow. Another ouch!
Work: The reference to “Work” in this title is that I am working my ass off this week. Not in the classic sense of making things with my hands or as a “working class” guy, although I hate that term. If a guy who works in an office about fifty weeks per year for over thirty years is not a working class guy, I do not know who is. It is not like Middle Class Guys like us are living off of our investments or running a large business from afar. I have assignments requested of or ordered to me constantly and I am constantly responding to them and completing them to the best of my ability. Even though I hold a Master’s degree and have a $100,000+ salary, I think of myself as a working class guy.
Cookies: Every Middle Class family should be selling, buying or selling and buying Girl Scout cookies this month. Having a daughter, she is not in Girl Scouts herself due to her busy schedule, but she has friends who have been and some who still are. In past years, we would buy four or five boxes from one of her friends, and I would pass up buying them from the women who sell them on behalf of their daughters at work.
Having read dozens of books in what I call the “Improve Your Life/Change Your Way of Thinking/Become Wealthy” genre last year, and still more this year, it dawned on me that I could make more friends by buying cookies from everyone who asked. It was amazing to me how much the mothers at my place of work appreciated that I purchased cookies from their daughters after politely declining in past years. I always did mention that we already bought a bunch. This year, I purchased one box each from everyone who asked, forking over the cash along with my order.
Even though I have succeeded for the first six weeks of 2017 in shedding a few pounds and laying off the sweets a bit, it is going to be hard for me with all these cookies around the house.
Taxes: We live in Crook County, known by some as Cook County. Our first installment of property taxes is due on March 1st, but I am going to pay it tomorrow because I plan on filing our FAFSA in the next few days, and we might as well have $3,000 less when we file.
“For reasons,” as my son would say, I refuse to use an escrow account. There are pluses to this philosophy, but one minus is that I have to stroke a check to the Crook County Treasurer twice per year. A post to be written soon entitled “Taxes, Teeth, Transmission and Tuition” and perhaps another “T” or two will detail this warmer than usual February in the Chicago area where I am going to be paying, paying and then paying some more.
Also, I will probably be filing our income tax returns soon and hoping that we get some money back this year despite cashing out a slew of U.S. Savings bonds. Stay tuned for that one too.
Unique Reading: I don’t just read the latest James Patterson books and People magazine. I have been reading like mad the last few weeks, seriously considering if I want to keep blogging at all anymore considering how much it has eaten into my reading time.
I do think it better for Yours Truly Middle Class Guy to write something that others may associate with and possibly learn something from at some time than for me to keep reading anything and everything that I can get my hands on. However, that is what I have been doing in any “spare time” that I have, even on Valentine’s Day yesterday: reading books that I have purchased in past years, several for pleasure and a few that I want to learn from and share what I have learned.
When is this “spare time?” I take baths many mornings before work and read in the tub, I walk a mile and a half or so during my lunch hour for the first half hour and read for the second half hour, I read a bit after dinner when my wife is on Facebook and my daughter is doing her homework, and I read many nights from about 10:00 p.m. until lights out at 11:00, 11:30 or Midnight. Last Sunday, I read parts of two different books for a few hours each while ignoring the computer screen.
I say “Unique Reading” because I have read a collection of books and magazines in the past week that most probably nobody has ever read before. Each book and magazine was read by millions (well one probably only thousands), but between their age and completely differing types, I would be surprised if anybody else has read The Aftermath: Living With the Holocaust by Aaron Hass, The Hunger by Whitley Streiber, Organize Yourself! by Ronni Eisenberg, Motivating the “What’s In It For Me?” Workforce by Cam Marston and what I am reading now, The Moses Expedition by Juan Gomez-Jurado.
The Hunger was probably read by millions decades ago and The Moses Expedition was read by millions more recently, but I am quite certain that the other three never made it that big. The Hass book on the Holocaust is difficult to read but makes my Middle Class Guy problems and perhaps yours too pale by comparison. Spending a lot of money that I am fortunate to have at this time does not remotely compare to the horrors endured and detailed by those who Hass interviewed for his book.
The books about organizing yourself and motivating the younger people in the workforce are interesting and I gained a lot of insights by reading them. I intend to share some, and then “move those books along” as I say.
The magazines that I have read since getting a bunch more in the mail last week are hard to recall. Money and Kiplinger’s and Time at home. A few retail-oriented magazines at work, one of which is prompting an upcoming post on how many times per week us American’s eat out. Many more blog posts at work and at home. Really, my new writing hobby has cut into my reading time some, but I still read a Hell of a lot.
So. This post does not cover the many things that I wanted to share, the list of topics that I wanted to write about, but there will be time for those.
I do not want to forget about my Resolutions, including making 100 or more posts this year, which is actually too low of a number but one that I am sticking with for now.
I subscribe to and read dozens of magazines, about one dozen or so at home and another two dozen to thirty at work, and that is referring only to the ones in print.
If I had to guesstimate how many I subscribe to in digital format, I would say about another 100, many of which are digital editions to periodicals that I read in physical form.
I have subscribed to The Atlantic for quite a few years. Actually, it is a gift subscription from my mother, who uses some type of credit card points to gift us subscriptions to that magazine and The New Yorker as well.
Last May, I read Neal Gabler’s cover story entitled “The Secret Shame of the Middle Class,” a story in which he describes how it came to be that he would have trouble coming up with $400 to cover an emergency situation.
The story goes on to describe how nearly half of Americans would struggle to come up with such a small amount and I will admit, despite how much I read on the topic of the Middle Class, the economy, Millennials, the current and future of technology, politics, economic development, lack of savings, etc., I find this hard to believe.
Poverty doesn’t describe the situation of middle-class Americans, who by definition earn decent incomes and live in relative material comfort. Yet they are in financial distress. For people earning between $40,000 and $100,000 (i.e. not the very poorest), 44 percent said they could not come up with $400 in an emergency (either with cash or with a credit card whose bill they could pay off within a month). Even more astonishing, 27 percent of those making more than $100,000 also could not.
Americans don’t always do such a great job of saving money, but when we think about those with minimal or nonexistent savings, we often imagine low-income families struggling to make ends meet. It’s therefore somewhat shocking to learn that nearly 25% of households earning $100,000 to $150,000 a year claim they couldn’t come up with $2,000 in a month’s time per a study by the Brookings Institute in 2011.
Per the Brookings study, nearly 50% of Americans on the whole are considered, as the study puts it, “financially fragile.” And while we might expect lower earners to fall into this category, the fact that so many six-figure families aren’t saving means their money management skills just aren’t up to snuff.
Faced with an emergency, they say they would raise the money by reducing spending elsewhere (23%), borrowing from family and/or friends (15%) or using credit cards to bridge the gap (15%).
We all know that Americans do not save as much as past generations did, due to a number of factors including the recent Recession with a capital R. We also pay for many things that past generations did not including cell phones, bottled water, cable TV, fancier and more expensive cars, dining out all the time and dozens of other items that most Middle Class Guys and Gals would rather spend hard-earned money on than sending it to something boring, like your IRA, your kids’ 529 accounts, a savings account, or paying down your mortgage’s principal.
By the way, I sent money to all five of the above over the past many years rather than purchasing an iPhone, going to Hawaii, leasing a Lexus, attending sporting events and concerts or fine dining. We do eat out a lot, but usually at “quick casual” places.
People’s preference to spend rather than save confounds guys like me, brought up being told to save money by my parents and their parents, too. My grandparents having been children of the Great Depression, both of my grandfathers often imparted the wisdom of saving for a rainy day to me.
As a side note, all four of my grandparents and both of my parents were born in Chicago. My grandparents’ parents on my mother’s side came to America around the turn of the century from the area of Lithuania to escape the Czar and the harsh life imposed on peasant Jewish farmers. Had they not come to the New World, I would most likely not exist since they would have been wiped out and their land taken, which eventually it was. I am glad that they came to America.
I do not know the origins of my paternal grandfather’s parents, but need to learn more from somebody who does before that information is lost to time. I do know that my father’s mother’s side hails from an area known as Khomsk, which I just learned is in Belarus after searching for the town name. It was spelled Chomsk way back when.
At the ripe old age of 46, I had never before looked up this area prior to this post and could not have told you anything at all about it except that my father’s mother’s parents fled this area over one hundred years ago so their descendants like Yours Truly Middle Class Guy, my siblings, cousins, our children and future generations could thrive and prosper in America many generations later, as we are all striving to do.
Everyone in my parents’ generation of our family and everyone in my generation have graduated from college and beyond, and are all employed or retired from a professional capacity. Yes, as Jews we have doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, writers and business owners in our family. One cousin founded a successful non-profit and another is a home-based website designer.
To be fair to the accountants in the family, I should mention that all are CPA’s and/or actuaries. One of my uncles is a CPA and has an MBA from Kellogg. Another cousin by marriage is a CPA and an attorney and owns an insurance firm. Some of my mother’s cousins are professors and doctors.
Most of us have attained some measure of success, me being one of the least successful in our family. Our son is the first one of the following generation who has reached college age. He made Dean’s list first semester despite being hospitalized during the Cubs winning the World Series and being confined to our house for two weeks following.
My paternal grandfather’s family was very poor and devastated by the Great Depression and his mother suffered from what would be termed Depression today but back then she was deemed unfit to raise her four children on her own. His father abandoned the family when my grandfather was very young.
He was out on his own at about the age of ten, fending for himself and living in a series of foster homes and “boy’s homes,” as he called it. I always imagined the orphanage in Oliver! as he described stressful months in the “boy’s home” once or twice to me.
His life story would make a good book, but the short of it is that he lifted himself up through education, hard work and persistence, met and married the girl of his dreams, became an accountant, had two children including my father and my one aunt, moved his family from Chicago to a suburb and sent his children to New Trier High School (where my parents met at a graduation party) and then sent my father to Northwestern and my aunt to University of Colorado. He retired, suffered through the early death of my grandmother around the age of sixty-five or so from the Big C, and lived to the age of 100, passing away just short of his 101st birthday. Sadly, my father passed away soon after he did from the Big C as well.
My maternal grandfather who taught me about and got me started investing was brought up with little by his immigrant parents who came from the area of Lithuania around the turn of the century. His father did learn English, but always spoke with a thick accent, and worked as a manual laborer, specifically a piano mover. I remember him well from when I was young. This grandfather worked his ass off for many years to make things better for his own wife and children, including my mother. He taught me much and he passed away about nine years ago at the age of 95.
What does all that have to do with the Price of Tea in China? as my mother would ask. Let me tell you in a sentence: They Taught Me to Save for a Rainy Day.
After Gabler’s article came out last spring, there were many other similar articles on the topic of Middle Class Americans’ lack of savings for those inevitable rainy days. Sometimes me and my family experience more rainy days than sunny ones.
What struck me, along with the claims that so many Americans would struggle to pay for unexpected expenses in the $400 range is that my family almost never has a month without an “unexpected” cost in this price range or greater.
As a matter of fact, the weekend after reading this, our twenty-five-year-old stove died and we were forced to purchase another. I suppose that one could argue that a quarter-century-old stove that gets used nearly every day is something that you would expect to replace. But just like many other Middle Class families would do, we kept hoping and wishing that it would keep on going. We would get coils replaced every few years, but it died for good just after I read Gabler’s article.
I told my wife about the article, joking that we have never had a month without at least $400 in “unexpected” expenses, so we ordered a new stove from Abt, a massive stand-alone electronics retailer in the northern suburbs of Chicago that my household growing up and my own have been purchasing all necessary household items including stoves, refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, washers and dryers for decades. My wife and I have purchased all of the above and in some cases multiple times from Abt.
That after a winter when we had to replace not one, but both of our furnaces, the one that heats the house and an additional, smaller, furnace in our den. We had anticipated replacing the main furnace, that had been struggling and rattling and needed belts and fans replaced the last few winters. It was even older than our stove and most of its parts had been replaced over the past few years, but it finally died for good last winter. Our new 80,000 BTU American Standard furnace was $1,700.
What we did not anticipate was replacing the smaller unit that heats our den (originally an attached garage) and helps heat our first floor. That was a whopping extra $1,450 that one could consider “unexpected,” but you cannot have half of your house freezing all the time in a Chicago area winter.
I will mention here that we ordered and paid for the new stove online at Abt’s website with my wife’s credit card and that we paid for both new furnaces in full with checks upon installation by a local HVAC guy that we hire. I strive to pay my wife’s two credit cards (Bank of America Visa and Kohl’s) and my one (Chase Visa) in full every month, so as not to be paying large sums of growing interest for years to come.
According to Gabler’s story, the Brookings study and many others, many other Middle Class families would be unable to pay for these routine “unexpected” expenses.
After seven years of having a landscaping company tend to my lawn every week, the guy who owns the company never called me back last spring. Is he dead? Was he deported? Were his crew members? Did he retire and move to Florida? Back to Mexico? I do not know.
I just know that my grass continued to grow and I was “forced” to purchase a lawnmower after not having one for nearly a decade. I bought a Toro at Home Depot, normally a very reliable brand, but had nothing but trouble with it. As I often write, that is the topic of a future post.
In general, I may consider the purchase of a $400 lawnmower an “unexpected” expense, but considering that I paid the landscaping company about $1,600 to $2,000 per season for the past seven years, I saved money during the summer by making this unexpected purchase.
The “unexpected” expenses on our three junker cars are too numerous to list. I think that we have spent $400 or more per month on things like emissions and engine-related repairs, new tires and brake repairs every month since I read Gabler’s article. I do not know if I should characterize replacing four tires on one car one week after one blew out and then replacing four on our junky minivan the following week after taking both cars to Just Tires to replace only one as “unexpected.”
After all, both me and my wife were driving around the suburbs of Chicago with bald tires going flat for months. But again, we spent nearly $700 on tires in a span of two weeks, which I did not expect whatsoever before the day that one of my Nissan tires blew out in a frigid snowstorm in December.
Was buying our son a new, high-powered 8 GB Dell laptop as required by his college for music software an unexpected, last-minute $600 expense just days after paying nearly $13,000 for his first semester a surprise? You bet it was! Was buying a small refrigerator for his dorm room on move-in day when my wife and I thought that one would be provided or could be rented from the college (like when we went) a surprise $150 expense? Yes.
What are our next “unexpected” expenses in the $400-and-up range? If we want to keep our minivan, which seems like a likely scenario these days since my Nissan has since become undriveable and the old, trusty Subaru that I love leaks most of its fluids every month, we have to bring it in for emissions repairs. In Illinois, your car has to pass emissions either every year or every other year depending on the car.
We always have many needed repairs to our home, garage and yard. At least we need to get our siding cleaned soon, if not totally replaced. I could go on and on and on…
The point to this is that I have come to “expect the unexpected.” Every time that I see our checking account inching at or above $10,000, I know that we are going to get whacked with a slew of expensive repairs, needed objects or things that we need to pay for.
Our 8th grade daughter will be joining her high school marching band next year and they will be going on a week-long Florida tour including Disney World. Besides that my wife, son and I want to go and see her march and spend a few days away from the Chicago area in the Florida sunshine, the cost for the attending students is $1,650 and we already skipped the $250 down payment last month and the next $200 installment is due this coming week on the 15th, so I will be cutting another $450 check to the Band Boosters on Valentine’s Day.
It is not exactly an “unexpected” cost, but one that is out of the ordinary and that I will be paying. I will also be paying nearly $3,000 this Friday, the 17th, for our Crook County property tax first installment. I paid $2,400 last night to our son’s college for our monthly payment. I went to the dentist last week ($180), my son went this morning, I am going again next Wednesday for part two of my root planing, and my daughter is also going next week for a routine visit. I do not even know how much we are paying our dentist in February 2017, and I do not think that I want to know.
I do not look down upon Gabler or the millions of Americans who would struggle to pay an unexpected $400 or $1,000 cost. If I did, wealthier and more successful people than me could easily look down on me as I would struggle to pay an unexpected $3,000 or $4,000 cost. I have had a few of those too, and they hurt my Middle Class Guy family budget for a while.
These expenses are why we drive junky old cars, still own two tube TV’s, use TracFone Wireless and much of our furniture is falling apart. We do our best to make ends meet, strive to better ourselves, and my wife and I mostly focus on our children. We do not want them graduating college with lifelong debt, which is much of the reason that I have saved $100,000 for our son’s college savings and am now nearing the same amount saved for our 8th grade daughter.
The $200,000 spent on cars, phones, TV’s, travel and home improvements would make our Quality of Life better now, but our children would end up among the millions saddled with huge student debt for decades.
What will be our next “unexpected” expense that will make me cringe and wish that we had more money, but will pay anyway? I do not know, but I know that if my family’s health is good, then I do not mind paying it.
As a sophomore in high school, I was one of the first white guys on the cross-country and track teams to begin sprouting whiskers, which I let grow for a while. I specify white because I attended a highly integrated City school and over fifty percent of the track team was comprised of Black guys, many of which sported beards. Us white guys were the long-distance runners. A few of my running comrades began calling me “Shaggy” based on Scooby-Doo’s buddy.
My parents urged me to begin shaving, and bought the cheapest plastic razors in existence in the mid-80’s. I learned to shave by slicing and dicing my face once per week or so.
As a Middle Class Guy who, as you know, is also middle-aged and works for a conservative employer in the Midwest, I remain clean shaven. The guys with beards where I work are either close enough to retirement that they don’t give a shit, or they are young Millennials on the other end of the spectrum who do not understand the conservative, clean-cut image that our employer prefers. They are low-paid and can get a comparable job in a few weeks if they get fired over unruly facial hair.
Me, I’ll have twenty-four years into this retirement system in a few months and I am 46-years-old. I would be eligible for a decent pension at the age of 55, which I know will draw some ire from those without funded defined benefit pension plans. A post for another time, but I will need to continue working at that age. It is just that I will also be drawing a pension to help make ends meet, and that is assuming that I can survive and hold onto my job for nearly nine more years. Regardless of years, I am at a prime age to remain clean-shaven at my place of employment.
After trying a wide variety of razors over the years, my wife began buying Bic Hybrid 3 razors for me at Target about ten years ago. I say about because it might have been eight or nine, but the years are mostly a blur to me concerning such trivial matters.
She typically spends $6.99 for six of these razors, and I spent quite a few years using each one twice, thus paying about fifty-eight cents per shave, give or take. In the past six months or so, along with reading many books in what I have coined the “Improve Your Life/Change Your Way of Thinking/Become Wealthy” genre, I have started stretching these disposable razor blades to three uses per each one, thus reducing my razor cost by 50%.
As a middle aged guy, it seems awfully expensive to me to be paying one dollar per razor because, of course I can remember buying twenty or so of those super-cheap plastic Bic razors for four or five dollars. I spent years figuring three or four razors per dollar. Now, a real nice razor, like the fancier Schick Hydro razors that I have been using all of January 2017 since getting them for Christmas, cost a few dollars per razor. I am not sure exactly how much they cost, but I can use each one five or more times.
Now that it is early February, I must start using the Bic razors again. I currently own 62 Bic razors, 54 Hybrid 3’s and eight Hybrid 4’s (I had a buy one, get one package coupon that I used at Walgreens for the 4’s).
One of my own money-saving tips is that I try my best to use each razor three times, instead of the two that I spent the last ten-plus years doing. True, it does not shave so close the third day, but if I can get three shaves from each one of these, I will not have to purchase razors again until July.
When you do the math, if you use a one dollar razor every day, it adds up to quite a bit over the years. I never used to shave on weekends, but have started to. Not every weekend day, mind you, but we attended many family functions over the holidays including one where we had family photos taken by a professional photographer for the first time in about ten years. So I shaved.
We have also been attending a lot of dance-related and band-related functions and, for whatever reason, I have started shaving on weekends during the past few months. Shaving on weekend days counts with these razors, too, so if you only use one twice, you can go through three of these things per week if you only skip shaving once per week.
I never meant to be so loyal to Bic razors that I would use them for thirty years and will most likely continue to use them for more years to come.
At the age of fifty, I vow to grow out my beard and not give a flying f- what anyone says. I suppose getting fired for having a graying beard would be good grounds for an age discrimination suit. But in an appointed “at will” position, I am sure that the Powers that Be would not cite a beard as grounds for dismissal. But it sure would be great if they did.
If all the Millennial dudes can have awesome beards, why oh why can’t I?
This Guy looks pretty cool with a gray beard. Source: Pinterest