Some experts are sounding the warning bell that the easy prosperity of the post-World War II era has come to an end. It's likely the shrinking middle class will look more like the lower class of the past, according to a recent The Daily Ticker piece. Author Tyler Cowen paints the picture of a future when the economy's new normal doesn't favor the middle class which was once spoiled by cushy office jobs and full benefits. In the past, the standard of living practically doubled for each generation, according to Cowen. We are preparing ourselves and our young adult children for lower living standards in the future. If at all possible, I'd like to maintain a comfortable lifestyle by saving when times are good and cutting back when times are bad. I am somewhat redefining my definition of "comfortable" by being grateful for what I have instead of always trying to have more.
Living in an affordable area
One way we are adjusting to the so-called "new normal" is by living in Florida where we don't have to pay state taxes. My family is remaining in our 8-year-old starter home instead of becoming a move-up buyer. We have an extremely affordable mortgage of $900 a month, which we can afford to pay on one income. We can tap our emergency fund to pay our mortgage if we have to. I still believe home ownership is core to the American dream, which is why I'm encouraging my sons to save for their own starter homes in an affordable lower middle-class community.
Developing marketable skills
According to The Daily Ticker piece, new technology will essentially replace people in the job market. With that in mind, my sons are entering careers that can't easily be replaced. One of my sons is going into fire rescue and emergency medical services, a field that is unlikely to be taken over by robots. Meanwhile, I'm following the trend of becoming a freelancer or "petty entrepreneur." Other family members telecommute, which eliminates transportation costs.
During the Great Recession, my family members learned how to be frugal. Since I grew up in a family with four children, I was familiar with the concept of having to stretch a dollar. It had just been a long time since I had to make financial sacrifices. In addition to shopping for deals, we avoid credit card debt. My children have learned being debt-free is a central tenant of the frugal lifestyle since it's an incredible waste of money to pay interest to credit-card companies.
I'm bracing for the tough times ahead for the middle class, but I don't feel helpless. I can't control the fact that there is fallout from the economic meltdown as well as the loose monetary policies. I would not go so far as to say it's all about class warfare. However, I believe I need to be armed with better job and personal finance skills as well as investment knowledge to make it in the middle class.
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