Not Keeping Up With Our Parents

<p>I recently read a book by Nan Moony entitled: "Not Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class." The crux of the book is that the post-1960 generation is struggling financially to provide for our children (and ourselves) in the way our parents provided for us. This is especially true when it comes to paying for our children's college education and saving for our retirement.</p>

<p>Moony points out that the debt young people today take on to pay for college is not worth it. They will spend a huge chunk of their working lives just paying off their college debt instead of saving up to buy a house, to start a family, and for retirement. </p>

<p>This book was instrumental in helping me to draw boundaries for myself and my children about how much money each of us should put toward their education. Luckily, my children don't think it is a good idea to graduate from college owing a large amount of money. They may both end up a schools that are not their first choices, but each will get a sound education, even if it is at a state school where we can get in-state tuition. </p>

<p>Do you think you are less better off than your parents?</p>

<p>I personally think I'm better off than my mother was. I put myself through college for the most part. My step-father wasn't too keen on me going to college so I graduated with debt that I paid off as quickly as possible.</p>

<p>We have saved for kids college since they were born. Putting away money every year regardless. We will pay for their undergrad education. All of it including text books. S is in his 3rd year and D will start in the fall. Both will probably go to grad school. Still undecided if we are footing the bill for this entirely or just mostly. Want them to graduate with the opportunities that I didn't have. Both however are very frugal with their money and do not spend unwisely.</p>

<p>although housing costs were high for us when we started out, H and I are very high above our parents in standards of living. Part of that is luck of the job choice, my parents were public school teachers, H's dad was a boss in a mine, and his mom was mostly SAHM with some music teaching thrown in. We are both in high tech.</p>

<p>BUT- if we had chosen to have one parent stay home for most of the early years as our parents did we would have been closer to them. And if we won't as lucky to have the jobs industry we do, we also would have been less well off. We are not "sitting pretty" by any means especially with the economy, but we are not highly leveraged and in general we are doing ok. </p>

<p>Parents helped us with our first home purchase, we took a bath on that during an earlier housing decline, and have made our trade-ups since all on our own.</p>

<p>Was able to get an Ivy League education mostly thanks to the $ sacrifices of my parents, I had some loans but not huge by any means. FA was mostly loans for them and me, I'm sure because of their frugality of having no mortgage at the time and other savings.</p>

<p>D1 will likely take a step back down based on her current interests and job thoughts, we won't support her indefinitely, but will give some small help as she is starting out.</p>

<p>I grew up in a middle class family. My dad was a civil engineer who moved into upper management and was earning a high salary when he retired. My mom was a SAHM who died very wealthy due to wise saving and investing my parents did when we were growing up. Two siblings and myself got a free ride to state school, but we were on our own (for the most part) for grad school. </p>

<p>Seems like most families need a double income to achieve what my dad was able to achieve on his own.</p>

<p>My father had great health care and pension thanks to working for the foreign service. Because he served in Africa, he had housing supplied and hardship pay most of the time we were overseas. My parents paid for undergrad and grad school for three kids. (Though only two went to grad school.) He was able to buy vacation property and have a very comfortable retirement. We live in a nice enough house, but not as large or in as fancy a neighborhood as my parents and our retirement income is much more uncertain thanks to 401Ks. I anticipate both of us will work much longer than my father or mother. My Mom worked as a teacher somewhat sporadically. After children six years that I know of plus some sub work.</p>

<p>I am definitly worse off than my parents.</p>

<p>The number of dual income familes add to inflation, high housing prices cause by greed increases the cost of living, and the increase in the number of degree workers creates competition unlike any my parents had.</p>

<p>Even if I followed my father and took over his business I would still be worse off. Wages have not kept up with costs of living, and that's sad. I moved from CA to Cincinnati, where I knew no one and had no family, because we felt it was more important that my wife stay home and raise our own kids than to pay out the nose to have a stranger ignore them in San Jose, CA. Best move we ever made.</p>

<p>IMO, the problem is just going to get worse. Especially since it is so easy to get degreed these days that a BS/BA is becoming more equivalent to a high school diploma. Also, greed is just going to become a greater influence on decisions the more the competition for what is there to be had is increased.</p>

<p>I'm a child of the sixties and, as soon as I could read, looked around my suburban neighborhood silently crying, "help, help, get me out of here!"</p>

<p>We don't have as much money as our parents but imho have had much more interesting and much less stressful lives. I have been wondering how the lack of affordable health insurance will impact our own children's life choices.</p>

<p>Both my husband and I are much better off (financially)than our parents. Our current standard of living is significantly higher than theirs was (although in some respects not better), and we expect to be able to put our children through college, whereas our parents did not help us at all with college expenses. Unfortunately I'm not sure our children will be better off than we are - I don't see the same drive and work ethic in them, perhaps in large part because they've had so much handed to them. So ultimately my parents may have done a better job with me than I'm doing with my kids.</p>

<p>My husband has a much lower standard of living than he grew up in. I, on the other hand, have a much higher standard of living than I grew up in.</p>

<p>Neither of my parents finished school beyond 8th grade and no one in my family had finished high school, much less college. My husband's direct family had two daughters who graduated from medical school in the mid 1880s. There is a huge gap between the economic status of our ancestors - my great-grandfather couldn't read and was a sharecropper. His great-grandfather was a prominent and well off citizen of the town in which he lived.</p>

<p>My parents thought college was a waste of time and money, so I had to pay for my college by working and saving money. It wasn't easy.</p>

<p>My husband's parents, although they were extremely well off, told their children they would pay for tuition and board, but expected them to work to pay any additional expenses. They never helped any of their children financially after college graduation.</p>

<p>My parents died in their early 70s from myriad health issues. I suspect both my parents suffered from malnutrition in their childhood as they grew up poor and in large families during the depression. My husband's parents are still thriving in their 80s although they have had their fair share of minor health issues. They both had well educated parents with small families.</p>

<p>We're both better off. My wife grew up with one parent in a third-world country with very little income. I grew up in a single-parent family with a low middle-class (that may be generous) household. I've had an enjoyable career over the years and my wife hasn't worked outside the home since we were married. We're putting our kids through school on our dime. How will they do? I don't know but there are opportunities, even in a depression.</p>

<p>We are definitely better off than my family was. Dad died when I was 12. We lived a middle class frugal life. My sister and I both had to have loans in addition to grants and a small scholarship to go to a small state u. </p>

<p>DH is the only member of his extended family to grad. fr. college. His parents were doing pretty well at the time and paid all his bills for State U. His three siblings all spent fr. one to three years in college without graduating. His parents paid for all of that too but had took out loans to pay for the last two kids. </p>

<p>They never saved/invested anything for retirement but spent money on things they didn't need. DH tried to advise but they wouldn't listen. Once the kids were gone they went on multiple (expensive) vacations per yr. with friends. This went on for ten yrs. Then they bought a small house in a resort area to retire. Now they are in their seventies and eighties and live for the social security check to come each month with FIL in the nursing home on Medicaid. MIL is depressed about how her life has turned out. </p>

<p>We don't live lavishly. I have only flown twice in my fancy vacations here,lol. I have only worked PT since the kids were born. DH has done a good job of saving for the future. Our kids will not have loans to repay. I think we have done better than his parents even though our lifestyle might not suggest it.</p>

<p>European middle class white collar workers are doing just fine relative to blue collar workers there. Come to think of it, European blue collar workers are doing well. This despite a world economic downturn. </p>

<p>Too bad American workers, both blue and white collar, are too stupid to form good unions and lobby their government to protect their interests.</p>

<p>Affluence has been rung from American society by a small well connected elite. Why can't CEO pay be reduced to third world levels in the name of being competitive in world markets? </p>

<p>When Daimler Benz opens a factory in Alabama, they do not close a factory in Germany. When G.E. opens a factory in Mexico, ithey close a factory in the US.</p>

<p>"My parents died in their early 70s from myriad health issues. I suspect both my parents suffered from malnutrition in their childhood as they grew up poor and in large families during the depression."</p>

<p>My folks both lived through the Great Depression, too. Boy, were they ever frugal. My dad cut out coupons like they were cash in hand. If something went on sale he bought two or three of them. (Can anyone say "hoarding"?) I find I hoard, too. It's what I was taught to do. Despite all of that, we grew up in a huge house in an exclusive neighborhood. There was a real dichotomy growing up in a middle class family of two Depression era parents.</p>

<p>Off on a tangent - As I ponder this Recession, I can't help but wonder if it's not for the good. Housing prices are coming down, people are learning to not be so wasteful, and many of us are learning to appreciate what we have (vs complaining about what we don't have.) I have always worried that my kids won't be able to afford a house of their own because of the prices. Perhaps when the dust has settled, our children will be better off than we are.</p>

Do you think you are less better off than your parents?


I think when people ponder this question they need to make sure they're comparing apples to apples. Take a look at the material items people possess today that most people didn't possess in the previous generation. </p>

<p>Housing is the biggest expense for most families. Compare a normal 1940s/50s house to one today. The 50s house was usually a simple box design with a small footprint - maybe 1100 to 1600 sq ft with the family happily growing up just fine in it. It usually didn't have cathedral ceilings, double-pane glass, a large kitchen with stainless steel appliances or even granite countertops. It didn't have a 'master suite' that itself rivals the size of a large apartment a generation ago. </p>

<p>Look at cars, the cars back then were simple in features and cost. They usually didn't have air conditioning, cruise control, power windows/brakes/mirrors, CD/Satellite radios, DVD video players to entertain the kiddies in back (they looked out the window or read a book instead), power liftgates, nav systems, premium leather, and a plethora of expensive safety features like air bags, stability control, anti-lock, etc. They usually didn't have an expensive European brand. And people today often have multiples of this. All of this costs money.</p>

<p>Most people didn't routinely vacation in Europe, Australia, Hawaii, the Caribbean, take luxo cruises, etc. </p>

<p>Many parents had no expectation that they'd pay for the college educations of their kids never mind expensive private educations. </p>

<p>So I think when one ponders that they might not be as well off as their parents they need to consider the differences in lifestyle and expectations between the generations and realize that if they limited their expenses to the degree their parents had, they might be better off than they realized.</p>

<p>I grew up in a middle class family, my parents owning a small local business. After getting an ivy education in business which my parent's struggled to pay their part for, it became obvious to me that my parent's little business could become a much bigger and much more successful one. A brother and I spent about a year helping them execute a growth plan and my parent's now have a lot more money than any of their children!</p>

<p>My parents, and my husband's parents, would laugh at this question. Out of the four, only my dad had the opportunity to attend college, and he lived at home and commuted to a local (not very good) school. He was able to pay the tuition by part-time work at a gas station. Both sets of parents are still living in the small houses in which we grew up. Lots of kids, one full bathroom. One car. Mrs. Paul's fish sticks. Hamburger Helper. Bread from the day-old bread store. No takeout or restaurant meals except for extremely special occasions. No fancy vacations. Public schools. No college savings, so we either went to public schools with loans or, in husband's and brother's case, expensive private schools with huge scholarships.<br>
We are now one of those horrible rich families that Obama wants to tax into oblivion.
The only people our age I know who are doing worse than their parents, economically speaking, are those whose parents had college educations and professional or managerial careers, and who were able to live a country-club lifestyle on one income.</p>

<p>Definitely better off. I grew up too poor for hot lunch and too rich for any subsidies such as hot lunch. Plus other less than standard middle class amenities. Thank goodness for good public schools and libraries. Better educated than father's BS- mine is MD. I had a lot of scholarship money, worked and not sure how parents came up with the rest for undergrad. Loans for MD- paid off as quickly as I could. H came from India- he has childhood memories of US aid (I remember being told to finish my food- there are children starving in India; H is thin so I would joke to people how my parents were right). His family has been well educated for generations, unlike mine, but they weren't rich. </p>

<p>We live beneath our means, but much better than my parents did or siblings do. No debts of any kind. I still clip coupons, but only above a certain amount and for items I would otherwise purchase. We buy things on sale and I do stock up when things we use are cheaper. No reason to spend more than you need to. We taught our son to consider if something is worth having, not just can we afford it then buy it. We're not into fashions, spending money on clothes. We stay at the bargain rate 3* hotels. Our son won't have trouble keeping up with his parents' lifestyle- especially since he'll probably inherit a lot we won't have spent.</p>

<p>"Many parents had no expectation that they'd pay for the college educations of their kids never mind expensive private educations."</p>

<p>According to Moony's book, most middle class parents expected to and provided for their children's educations. Certainly this was the case when I was growing up. Perhaps we were part of the upper middle class, but pretty much everyone I knew went to college on their parents' dime. Of course, college tuition at a state school was minimal. I remember when credit hours ran about $35/credit hour. (This rate was not THAT long ago :) ) </p>

<p>There is no way I can pay for my children's college educations and provide for my own retirement. Part of that may be that I am a single parent, but those friends of mine who are a few years ahead of me in child rearing struggled with trying to pay for their children's college educations and saving for retirement. Many opted to help their children and are now wondering if they are too old to be able to put enough away to live comfortably when they get older. </p>

<p>I know Suze Orman has stated over and over again that the kids can pay for their own college. She advises that we should take care of ourselves financially so our children won't have to financially support us when we get older. (Just another financial burden on them.)</p>

<p>Perhaps some of us planned better than others in choosing our careers with some fields paying much better than other fields.</p>


<p>I have no doubt that whether the parents were planning to pay for their kids' college has a lot to do with their own backgrounds including whether they themselves went to college or not. When you consider that far more parents "our age" attended college than those of our parents' generation, I suspect many more of us planned to pay for our kids' college than the previous gen.</p>

<p>I'm one of those who paid for my own college but I'm paying for my kids' college.</p>


<p>Sounds like you are one of the lucky ones who are better off than your parents! :)</p>

<p>Wish I could say the same for me. :(</p>