06 April 2010

Day 10: (Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents

(Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class by Nan Mooney.  ISBN: 9780807011386.

What a terrible time we live in.  It seems that I'm not the only person struggling to make it in this cutthroat world, not by a long shot.  People with good jobs and better educations are suffering too, just because they picked the wrong career it seems.  They chose to pursue a career that they could be passionate about.
The appeal to be happy over wealthy is so strong.  It's funny that one of the most lucrative professions (lawyers) has the highest percentage of people who are dissatisfied with their careers.  Meanwhile it's hard to even get into librarianship because no one retires from it.  I'm entering a profession where even I know someone who literally died in their career.  From old age.
Reading this book was not a comforting thing, well, not completely.  There was comfort knowing that there are people who are much better off than I am right now who are still in debt, but it's sad too.  I'm rethinking everything I want and how realistic it really is, right down to even getting married.  And I have so much privilege, you would think that starting out as ahead as I did, I would get a little further than I am right now.
Things I have going for me:
  • No debt...yet. 
    • My mother paid for my undergraduate, with contributions from both sets of grandparents, and some of my own very small savings.
    •  I snagged a good job working in insurance after graduating from Antioch College and was able to put away 10,000 in savings before I discovered that the job was killing me.  Literally, that job would have killed me.
    • Because of these two factors I don't have any student loans.
  • I have good friends.
    •  Even though I'm unemployed I have a friend who is letting me eat and sleep at her place for free.  I would be in a much worse situation right now if she was not so generous, and it's honestly more than I deserve.
  • I'm still living off of my mother's income.
    • She's paying my gas money every month ($50) which allows me to go visit my fiancé every once a month, at least while gas is still under $3/gal.
    • She pays for emergencies and necessary job searching things like an interview suit, business cards, car insurance.
Despite all of this my resources are running thin.  I know at some point my friend won't be able or willing to keep me around, even though I'm gone for 1/3 of every month.  The longer I'm out of a job the worse I feel as a person, not so much because I'm not making money, but because I'm not contributing to society (except for the volunteer jobs).  And what's worse, when I run out of savings (I started with $5000 when I graduated in August and I'm down to $3000) I'll either have to tap the IRA I bought myself as a birthday present when I turned 23 (with a whopping $500 in it), or I'll have to move in with my mother and sell my car.  If this happens...  If this happens no matter how much I love my fiancé we will probably not be able to get married.
He knows this.  We've talked about it.  It is distressing, especially since if you had asked me two years ago if I thought I'd ever get married I would have scoffed at you.  I want to marry my fiancé because I can't see not being married to him in my future.  It feels like the right thing to do.  But I question whether it will be financially possible for me to marry him, and I can't help but be a little angry, because I did the best I could even working three jobs in grad school, and it wasn't enough.
And that's not all: I'll be giving up other things that I would love to have in my life that many people in previous generations just had dropped in their laps.  I'm not having children; I doubt that I will ever own a house or even a condo; and I don't foresee being able to retire.  Ever.

The truly sad thing about that first one, I'm starting to want children.  For the longest time I was adamantly against even the idea of having children.  Not because I hate them, but because they didn't fit into the lifestyle I wanted and I couldn't imagine giving up that much of myself for someone else.  But now I've found someone I would be willing to have children with, despite the ginormous heads they would have (his side, not mine), and it seems like that choice has been ripped away from me.  I didn't miss it so much when I thought I still had a chance about having children, but it pisses me off to realize that my options are financial solvency or having a child I can't afford.
Resources, it's all about resources.  In the animal kingdom predators increase their numbers to reduce large populations.  Unfortunately we can't just let people die, because that would be "wrong."  But we can allow credit card and private loan companies to completely ruin peoples' lives just because they wanted something better or because the only way they could pay for a hospital visit was with a credit card.  These predatory companies are worse than those found in the animal kingdom, because they are farming us so they can kill us again for yet more profit, hoping that even if we do get our heads back above water we'll sink down again.  And then it will be over.

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