Growing up in the fifties and sixties was a unique experience. The world was only a decade or so after World War II. The Marshall plan was putting Europe and Japan back on their feet. The US was the factory of the world, with little outside competition. My father could buy his first home for $13,000 and the school system where I lived was excellent. It seemed life could only remain on a positive, straight line trajectory. This was certainly the positive, but entirely unrealistic, message we received from parents, teachers, politicians, and the media.
Like the real estate crisis of 2008, this outlook was a bubble waiting to burst. It took a while, despite the habit for consumer products and services we had gotten into as a nation. Many are now in the midst of wondering what the next decade will bring. Certainly not the rosy picture depicted in Norman Rockwell paintings.
I recently had a contract self-employment job for four months. During that time I thought I was grossing an adequate salary. After paying federal and state taxes, double social security tax and $532 monthly for health insurance (required by my state’s law) I netted barely 55% of my gross income. Quite a shock!
If I were coaching myself, I would be asking the question: “What plan do you have in place to help you live below your means?” Living below our means, a favorite topic of Suze Orman the popular financial guru, is something all of us ought to consider, even if we are safely and securely employed.
What is your plan for living below your means? If you don’t have one, or if your spouse or partner is not on the same page as you in this matter, it’s time for an honest discussion of what can be cut out of the household and personal budgets in order to save more for an emergency fund, for future expenses, and for retirement. Just asking…
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