$1,000 and the American Dream

Two things that caught my interest today and may capture yours.

I have referred to this ongoing story in the past, as it gets posted several times per year on multiple websites, citing multiple surveys and in multiple amounts.

Today, the story of how most Americans cannot come up with $1,000 to cover an emergency made the rounds.  The one that was in my Yahoo! feed was from CNN Money: money.cnn.com/2018/01/18/pf/lack-of-savings-cover-unexpected-expense/index.html.

According to Bankrate.com, its report does not cover scenarios that are unlikely to happen. Over the past year, according to Bankrate, over one-third (34%) of American households have had a major unexpected expense. Half of the time that expense topped $2,500 and more than half that hit that threshold (30%) had an unexpected expense that was over $5,000.

This story, whether the amount is $500, $1,000 or $2,000 drives me crazy.  Without poring over our bank records, I recall having had to spend $2,500 twice, although how unexpected it was remains subject to debate.

Does replacing a central air conditioning unit that is over twenty-five years old and has been cooling our house since before we purchased it in 2001 count as unexpected?  Well, we certainly were not expecting to be forced to replace it during a string of ninety-plus degree days this past August.

Does being forced to obtain a new car after your nineteen-year-old rusted out old Subaru count as an unexpected expense considering that I was planning on replacing it sometime this spring?

What was truly unexpected was our washing machine breaking down, after which we purchased a state-of-the-art deal which jiggles around and determines how much water to use for the load and our old stove breaking down, which we replaced with a $500 or so variety.

Our daughter’s poms team making nationals while she is a freshman is completely unexpected and adds another two grand or so to our expenses next month.

All told, it is a rare month for our typical middle class family that does not entail an “unexpected” expense of $500 or much more.

As the saying goes, expect the unexpected.  I do not know what unexpected expenses 2018 will bring, but I know that there will certainly be several.   You will have some, too, so do not forget to set aside a few dollars here and there so you are ready for when something unexpectedly breaks or a health-related issue comes up.  We had at least one costly and unexpected health-related thing come up in 2017 and I hope and pray that we do not this year.

Another article that I came across that my readers may find interesting is that the advertising industry continues selling us a crock of shit about an American dream that most of us are not living.


Image result for lexus bow

You have seen the ads.  A group of well-groomed, thin and attractive folks drinking beer on the beach.  A young husband wrapping a new luxury vehicle in a bow for Christmas.  A Millennial flying across the world in luxury.

Image result for first class emirates

Do you often drink beer on the beach with a bunch of good-looking couples who gaze longingly at one another while a fire roars?  Did you purchase a new luxury vehicle for Christmas?  Did you fly to the Emirates first class?

I know that some, even quite a few people do.  One of my college roommates does all of the above, and regularly.  But three things about him: (1) like me, he is into his late forties, but he does not have any children;  (2) he puts all of his travels, dining and partying on Facebook every day; and (3) he was indicted by the FCC for his trading practices, so that is not something to be proud of.

But he does travel to the south of France and other exotic locales while I am taking orders from a young, inexperienced and altogether not very good boss in a middling town in the Midwest.  This week he is in Mexico.

But I digress.

Most Americans do not live that type of lifestyle and as the earlier article cited indicates, would have trouble coming up with $1,000 or $2,000 in a pinch.

In the ad industry, brainiac professor Tom O’Guinn from my alma mater states that “the idea of the American Dream, which is what a lot of advertising in the United States is about, is used to affirm our aspirational goals, and that was really true demographically, economically for a long time.”

“It’s not true now. The American Dream is very challenged. We don’t have the upward mobility like we used to. Ads have always overrepresented the rich and under-represented the working class, but they were still pretty resonant with people’s everyday reality. Now, they’re more myth.”

Well, you do not need to be a professor to see that.  All you have to do is watch TV or view ads online for a while, and then take a look at yourself and people that you know.

True, there are those like my former college roommate who do live the lives that include luxury watches, vehicles, international travel and fine dining.  But for every person like him, there are many others who trudge along in the service economy wearing a Seiko like I do or generic watches, driving old clunkers, taking little to no vacations and eating McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Ramen Noodles.

I only mention it because it kind of pisses me off and, as a Middle Class Guy, I also find it fascinating.


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