Mo Money…

(And way less problems… because, who are we kidding?)

Mondays are not usually for videos, but I saw this visual comparing the reality of money distribution in our country to the hope for money distribution in our country to the actual REALITY of money distribution in our country and… well… 1) it’s really well done and 2) shocking.

Plus, with taxes looming (and for us and many other people I mean LOOMING) I thought it was a particularly good time to chat.

Some things about money:

I wish there was more discussion about cost of living. I feel like we are the struggling middle class, with our 1 bedroom apartment we can JUST barely afford and both of us working, large large student loans, stress about daycare costs, food budgets, etc etc. But then when we break down our numbers I think from a numbers point of view we are seen as much better off than we are. Especially in regards to taxes… which have no become a burden and a hardship.

My constant forced-to-be-rhetorical question always is: When is enough enough? For corporations and for individuals. When does “record breaking profits” become ridiculous? I think there are a lot of instances where we are already there. Like the oil companies… record breaking profits and yet we still are getting hosed at the pump. If you have profits, in general, why isn’t that enough? And for individuals… what are you doing with all of that money? When you have so much that all you will be able to do with the money is … keep it, what is the point?

And pay scale …. I understand that pay is supposed to equal work, yes… but mostly the responsibility is far greater for the boss than for the employee, right? If the boss messes up, the company takes a hit (presumably), but if the employee messes up, those issues can be handled. Except!! Except!! The current climate right now is that a CEO can totally fuck up a company (or completely fails at their job… if we’re being less extreme and swear-y) and yet… they still get paid, and they can move on to being on the board of directors or another high high high earning role somewhere else.  (Like Bob Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler, or Gary Forsee, former CEO of Sprint… you can read about LOTS of these types of rich people here.)

Do you think this money thing will ever be fixed? Is it even possible? Because right now I am not seeing the light. And for those not in the US – sorry for my US-centric posting lately. How is money distribution in your country? How does it work? How is it failing? As an American I don’t know enough about these things in other places. When people from Canada, the UK, and Australia have shared about their maternity leave situation it has been QUITE the eye-opener. I think you in advance for your awesomeness.

40 thoughts on “Mo Money…”

  1. Wow you really are in my mind. Yesterday as we walked through Leiden I was having this conversation with Mark. Trying to find an answer…. I was saying that maybe what is wrong is the concept of money, because it makes all this inequality possible. How maybe we should go back in time to a society where exchanges of services / bartendering (trading eggs for shoes if you were a farmer and your neighbor was a shoemaker) or start growing the things we need ourselves or in self sustained shared communities.
    I was saying how communism, even if in theory it is a good idea, as I believe every human should have access to a “decent” life (health care, basic things like food and a place to live) clearly did not work, because it goes against human nature…I think the problem with communism taken to the extreme is that if you are going to get food / paid anyway regardless of whether you are a janitor or the person with the most responsibilites /harder tasks, people lose motivation, enthusiasm and stop working. And how yes, there are jobs that are a lot harder than others (doctor in the ER, vs, supermarket cashier), or jobs that imply bigger sacrifices / efforts / physical wear (construction workers in the middle of the night, miners….) and all this should be reflected in the way we are retributed.
    We were concluding that maybe after you get a certain amount of money that would let you cover the basics (a roof, food, warmth, etc), the extra should be “free time” to pursue the things that make you happy (or whatever else). Maybe that would work. But we are crazy

      1. WOW! That is amazing!! And I wish that could happen here… but our politics are purchased by corporations through unending donations….. I don’t think that would ever fly. And people would be up in arms about “I’ve earned that bonus! I should get it!” blahblahblah and the constant warring of socialism and (what a lot of people already see our government as being) the “nanny state” vs the perception of what capitalism means for us.

        But I wish. I wish I wish I wish. Because that would be a step in a better direction for sure.

        1. Oh this would not affect your regular worker / people in normal position who would still be able to get their bonuses (according to the companies policies). This is more for high executives and CEOs who were getting extra pays, or some kind of unreasonably high “leave” pays (78 million) for executives changing jobs or retiring.

          The referendum ” allows shareholders to veto executive pay proposals as well as banning big rewards for new and departing managers, ”

          Since shareholders still get a say, the situation it’s tricky as it could be the same people making the decisions but at least the big rewards are banned.

    1. I’m obsessing over good political/socially aware graphics lately. Probably because normal graphs are super difficult for me to read (I’m broken in the science/reasoning portion of my brainland). It boggles me that even places with terrible civil rights for women still give mandated maternity leave… and yet… we are still here… scrounging for paid leave, taking out private insurance policies, hoping that what we can gather will be enough, trying to figure out where to put teensy tiny babies so that we can pay our bills.

  2. It’s absolutely atrocious.

    Facebook paid ZERO income taxes for 2012 because of all the tax breaks and loop holes in our current system. Even though this company made a profit of over a BILLION dollars. And to add salt to the wound (or however the saying goes) they received a 429 MILLION dollar tax refund.

    It makes me want to VOMIT. It’s so disgusting how these companies always get the benefits and tax breaks when hardworking ppl with small businesses are always struggling.

    I blame it all on the ideal of “these companies create jobs so let’s give them a break” what about the small businesses that make small communities thrive? Don’t they hire ppl? Don’t they deserve a tax break?

    Basically. I hate huge greedy corporations and whenever I can I boycott them and refuse to buy their shit.

  3. I love that you shared this today! Switch things up and keep people on their toes 🙂 And even though these types of conversations have been happening for a few years (yay occupy) – I have NEVER seen it described and layed out this way and it IS SO SHOCKING. Even if this phrase is overused: my JAW DROPPED at this fact: 40 percent of the wealth in 1 percents hands. WHAT. THE. HELL.

  4. Oooh. Something I wish more people talked about is the cost of living. The inequality of wealth is both infuriating and depressing, but it also really makes me think. I am employed, make a reasonable salary for a 23 yr old, but shit man, the numbers just do not add up. I wish we all were more frank about how much money we make, how we make those numbers work, etc., but there is also such an odd taboo on income. Ahh I’m rambling… Conclusion, thanks for making me think this morning!

    1. Agreed. Money transparency, across the board, would make things a lot better, I think. This video does a really nice job of showing things clearly and really laying it out, and I wish there was an equivalent for personal finance.

      1. I’m a big fan of the website DailyWorth:

        I get their daily newsletter and have gotten some good info from it. It sometimes skews a little too…well, “job creator”. BUT they advocate transparency and for people to TALK about finances — especially women.

  5. I had a whole comment typed up, but I’m second guessing myself now. Money is so hard. The disparity between what we’re worth on paper, and how far that money actually goes in real life is deeply upsetting.

    1. I’m very very interested in your big comment. If you need to email me for encouragement you can! (betterinrealife at the gmail) It is upsetting, it is complicated, there is blame and guilt and entitlement wrapped up in it. The people with a lot of money are not necessarily bad people, and the people with very little money are not lazy people…. but there are some crazy social stigmas at play that make things so very touchy and hurtful and complicated.

      1. I think the crazy social stigmas are what’s making me hesitate. Over the course of a year (in part because of getting married and merging finances with my husband, but also some employment luck) I’ve gone from being barely able to make ends meet, to being the most financially stable I’ve been in my entire adult life, dating back to age 17 when I first became financially independent.

        I know what it is to be poor. I know what it is to have my phone service shut off because I can’t pay the bill. I know what it is to have my friends mail me packages of ramen noodles and gift cards to Chili’s because they are so afraid I can’t afford to eat. I know what it’s like to have all my student loans go into default, to have scary debt collectors harassing me and my family members and making threats. I know what it’s like to work three jobs simultaneously, to work 18 hour days (not counting a commute), to work for four months straight without a single day off. Things haven’t been that bad for a few years, but the day to day (or month to month, depending on the year) financial struggle was very, very real for me until my husband and I combined all our money (just three months before we got engaged).

        And suddenly there is just enough. Enough to pay the bills. Enough to save. Maybe not enough for a lot of luxuries, not enough for fancy coffee three times a day, maybe not enough to be social every night of the week, or to go on vacation, or to take regular yoga classes, or do any number of things we’d like to be able to do. But I can buy an occasional bottle of nail polish now without overdrafting our accounts. We can go out to eat maybe once a month, and splurge on a few bottles of wine.

        We are lucky. We live in the Mid West, and the cost of living is a LOT lower than it was in New York City, where we were living when we met. We are both good with money in different ways, and together we’ve got a budget to be proud of. But even though–with the support of my husband–I am more well off than I’ve ever been, even though money is no longer a harrowing stress that keeps me awake every night, even though my loans are back in good standing, even though, even though, even though…

        We look at our income, and we look at the world we live in, and we wonder: how will we afford a house? How will we afford children? How will we afford to fly back to the east coast to visit my family? How, how, how?

        And at the same time, I know we are more fortunate than lots of people. That we’re lucky. That at least there’s just enough, for now.

        But sometimes, I still feel so achingly poor, like I can’t shake that mental state. As though I can never quite trust how hard I’ve worked and how much I’ve overcome, because I am so terrified that something could happen to wipe away all the years of slow and painful progress, and I could be right back to extreme poverty in a matter of days.

        And the things is, that’s not an unrealistic possibility.

        1. Gah, I meant to say we combined money 3 months before our wedding, not before our engagement. We paid for the wedding ourselves, and ponying up my contribution to the savings for the year before we combined everything was a whole new kind of hell for me. As was the process of combining finances with my husband, which we did in baby steps, after living 50/50 like roommates for years.

          Cause, you know, when we are talking about MONEY what we are really talking about are VALUES, and that’s pretty vulnerable stuff.

          1. Yes. Combining money and how to go about it, the options, the weight, etc when you are engaged/married is a whole other discussion about power dynamic and what is ours vs mine etc etc etc. It is something we are constantly revising in our house. Tweaking here and there as money comes and goes, savings vs checking, credit cards, who pays for what out of what income, excel docs, holy jeebus. Plus, because we couldn’t possibly make the same amount of money there is always that to take into account. Even if all the money goes into the same pot… it takes navigating.

  6. You know, I’m usually pretty optimistic…but yeah, this is one of those issues where, as you say, I’m not seeing the light. I can’t even fathom how to fix a system that’s this broken. Even if people get super angry about it — which I think is happening more and more — money equals power. I just feel like those who HAVE (CEOs, etc.) are constantly going to be able to persuade those who DO (politicians, etc.), leaving the rest of us in the dust.

    I’m super OCD with our finances, because I always feel like we’re walking a fine line. I feel like our cost of living is INSANELY HIGH — but when I really break it down and try to figure out what we can cut out/cut back up, I come up with very little. Electricity? Um, yeah, guess we need that. Phone bill? Ok, yes, technically we could ditch the smartphones. And I dunno, maybe we should? There’s no easy way to dice it, that’s for sure.

  7. So depressing. And income v. student loans v. taxes are one of my biggest rants. I wish more people would talk about the issues facing the middle class, because I feel like that is kind of glossed over in a lot of rants about big corporations, the 1%, etc.

    I could go on and on about how mad these issues make me, about how we have to fight with people all of the time to defend our position that finances are hard for us too, how student loans are an unbelievable trap, and how I don’t see a point in our future where we aren’t straddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt (at 6, 7, 8% interest). I recognize that we are fortunate in a lot of ways, but the cost of education in this country really infuriates me.

    Also, I went to college with a bunch of the people who have the unbelievable wealth, and good lord. Their reality is SO much different from everyone else’s, and it was absolutely mind-boggling.

    1. Student loans are the bane of my existence. Mine aren’t so painful as they could be, but they take a big chunk of money. Then when you consider the fact that a BA is generally worthless anyway … well, I’m paying interest on tens of thousands of dollars to work minimum wage. It’s depressing.

  8. i’m a big “tune it out” person – i have a hard time following all of the issues and understanding the loop holes and grasping just how RICH everyone in the 1% is getting, so i just put my broke head down and work work work work. this made me sit up, and throw up in my mouth a little. i know that the system is broken. i know that things are BAD – i mean, i’m upper-lowest/lower-middle class and always have been. it’s not tough for me to acknowledge the BAD. but wow. i can’t wait to show this to my much smarter and politically savvy M and have some smart people talk. thanks lauren. 🙂 always with the smart info. even when you’re exhausted and growing a baby!

  9. I’m a part of a movement called TimeBanking that hopes to alleviate some of these issues by not tying people’s worth to their bank account. The idea behind it is that we have everything we need if we use everything we have. It hopes to be an alt economy, but it’s something that’s palatable to people on most political sides.

    This is one of the most frustrating things about the US to me (and healthcare, which is pretty inextricably linked to this discussion). There’s people around (and a big group in SF) who are working to replace it with something more sustainable.

  10. I think it’s tough right now, because we are in that part of the cycle of the economy. Usually, the bubble bursts and the economy goes into a slump until the markets have corrected themselves and are profitable again. History teaches us that this is what happens and hence I believe there is a light. We will come out of this.

    Coming to the presentation. Very well presented and made.. but I am wary of the final conclusion. I am very wary of demonising the 1%, very wary to getting into ‘redistribution of wealth’. I think socialism and communism don’t work because they take away any incentive from work. They usually lead to famines or collapsed economies, because human beings are driven by incentives. I throughly believe that the capitalist free market system is the most ‘fair’ system. Fair, to me, means that everyone has access to social and economic mobility (although there will always be a gradient from rich to poor). In any workable economy, there will always be a 1% and I’m not sure who should decide how big or small it’s share should be, other than the market. Wage distribution is subject to market forces as well.

    I think it’s the corruption of the free market that is the problem here. Government keeps printing money and handing it to business that are failing, creating more inflation and less growth. Public spending in western countries is through the roof and is inefficient because politicians are spending other people’s money for other people’s benefit, i.e. no incentive for efficiency. You would only care about being efficient if either the money or the gain is going to be yours. The middle class masses vote governments in on slogans of ‘we will tax the rich’ without realising that the government is referring to them (the really rich, the corporations, will always find ways out of paying taxes)! The government needs to stop interfering with the free market. It needs to let markets correct themselves, stop spending and needing so much public money. The sooner they stop meddling, the sooner we will get out of this mess.

    I really like Milton Friedman’s views on the practicality of discussing economic theories. Some relevant videos:

  11. My husband and I both work full time, and our budget is still a few hundred short of adding up each month, which means that at least one thing ends up not getting paid and we are never quite caught up. Some of our family members act like we must be doing something wrong or spending irresponsibly in order for that to be the case, but none of them have any student loan debt so I think its something they can’t understand. Our loan payments are almost as much as our rent. We don’t have cable or internet and there really isn’t anything in our budget that could be cut. We were living on one income for the first 6 months of our marriage so I know we are blessed to both have jobs. But looking ahead at the future its hard not to get discouraged. Realistically, neither of us can expect much of a pay raise in the fields we are in. We both desperately want to be parents and its hard not to be bitter when the only thing stopping us from trying is money. Our health insurance is terrible and offers very little maternity coverage. I hate the idea of starting off as parents with $10,000-15,000 in medical debt (and that’s assuming a normal delivery and a healthy baby.) So for now we’re just waiting, with no real idea of how to fix things for the future. And that sucks.

    Sorry, I don’t have any ideas to contribute to this discussion, or much understanding of the politics of it all, but thanks for letting me vent a bit. And thanks, Lauren, for being so real.

  12. I see things like that video and feel a bit of heart-swelling pride in my country, but for all the good I still think Australia has its own issues with these same problems. We have socialised medicine and a social security system that is there when you need it without too many strings attached but I still feel like Lovely Husband and I live on Struggle Street quite a lot.
    I often think we’re the poorest middle class Australians I know. We do live comfortably, in a nice rented two-bedroom home; we have food on the table and our bills get paid (mostly) on time, but there’s nothing left for ‘getting ahead’. I’ve been able to work part-time so I can still care for our boy most days but we’re working paycheck to paycheck because the casualisation of our workforce means I’m only employed on contract between March and November when university semesters run and all my savings are to survive those three months when I’m unemployed. I could go on unemployment benefits but I don’t particularly like applying for jobs when I know I have another one lined up already. We also fall through the cracks in terms of the parenting payments the government gives out, although we do get a really awesome child-care benefit and a childcare rebate that means we only pay about 50% of our child care fees for the two days our boy is in care. So we’re rich but still poor. We’re lucky but unlucky. We’re better off than most but not exactly rolling in it.
    We also have issues with private companies influencing government decisions but nowhere near to the same extent that it happens in the US. Not even close. We also have a super-rich category that includes people I personally find quite repulsive (Gina Reinhart and James Packer come to mind – both inherited their money although both have grown that wealth in their own right but both have this vomit-inducing sense of entitlement that I find disdainful). We also have CEOs who completely screw companies over and are still entitled to massive golden handshakes when they’re booted out. I don’t think they deserve their millions and billions but I also don’t think it’s completely possible to redistribute their wealth, to take it off them and spread it around. They should be taxed up the wazoo and loopholes should be closed but those people are the ones who can afford to make and lobby for loopholes and hire accountants that can find them.
    I wouldn’t know what a tax loophole even looked like. I am so scrupulously honest with my taxes. I believe I should pay them and pay them in full. Why do those mega-rich people think they shouldn’t have to? Again, that sense of entitlement really shits me. ‘Scuse the language.

  13. Oh, I should also mention, both Lovely Husband and I have undergrad student debt but it is nowhere near as crippling as that in the US. Australian Higher Education is massively subsidised by the government – in fact, it used to be completely free. And our tax system means if we don’t ever earn over (I think) $35000 per annum, we don’t have to pay any of the money off. In fact, if you never earn more than that, you never have to pay it. When you do, the tax system is set up so you can Pay As You Go, taking out bits each pay. A report came out recently though that showed unpaid Higher Education debt is quite a big hole in the Australian budget and I have a feeling that that might all change soon.
    In the meantime, I essentially got to do my PhD for free. In fact, the government paid me to do it because I was awarded a postgraduate scholarship and a government-supported position. All of this is no-strings attached. I didn’t have to work for them on graduation or even vote for them.

      1. We are SO lucky. I shudder when I think about how much I have to pay back to the government for my 2 degrees plus post grad qualifications but then I realise how lucky I am to be able to pay it back as I go in amounts that I don’t even notice, especially when I read about American student loans.

        Personally, I know that I am lucky to have a well paid job and that my husband works in a very stable family business that he will inherit with his sisters that will go on to generate income in the future. Despite this, sometimes I still feel like we’re struggling – we bought a house recently and I know that we’re privileged to be in a financial position to do so, but the costs associated with it and with general grown up expenses and with life often leave me feeling like we’re never going to be in a position to have substantial savings to pay for the life I want, including babies.

        Doing what I do, I get exposed to a lot of very wealthy people and get to see how they structure their finances. The amount of (legal) tax minimisation methods that the super wealthy have access to makes me sick. Like Lilybett, I am super honest with my taxes and I have to be – as a lawyer, if I get audited and found to be dodging tax, I get struck off and can’t practise. Ever. Yet so many very wealthy people are able to structure their finances so that they pay less tax than me! Rage.

        1. Also, the fact that I earn a fair bit more than my husband makes me feel pressured to keep working after I have children. I’m not 100% sure we can cope on just his income for even 1 year while I am on maternity leave and that makes me sad.

  14. I was JUST having this conversation a couple nights ago. One of my biggest problems with how we’re expected to survive is how fucking EXPENSIVE it is to do just that.

    Take for example, my job. In my company, my position makes x … no matter where you live. It doesn’t matter that the cost of living here is literally three times what it is in the midwest, where our headquarters is located. And J’s job, that keeps us here, doesn’t pay enough to make the difference.

    Rent is outrageous, but it’s what we have to pay to live with any type of convenience at all (near public transit that is not a bus (not knocking the bus, I take it all the time … but it’s not a quick, reliable way to make it to work and back), near a grocery store, in a neighborhood we feel safe in). Food costs nearly double what it does when I visit family out of state. The only thing that isn’t outrageously expensive are our utilities (no idea how we lucked out there, but I’ll take it). Not to mention the student debt we have, so that we can even have these jobs that barely keep our heads above water. And all the while we’re expected to SAVE and buy a house, in a market that wants $350k for a one bed condo? What?

    Taxes are a whole different issue. My sister, who makes 1/4 of what awe do got back 3 times what we OWED last year. Something is seriously, seriously wrong there.

    Blah. I’m just ranting. Money makes me pissy.

  15. That doesn’t sound like “middle class” to me, but it’s a misused and confusing term. In fact, I think the middle class has shrunk to almost nothing. We need to start calling it what it is: working poor, working class, etc.

  16. The way CEO pay is structured is unreal. Up north of the border it’s somewhat less dramatic, but it’s still pretty nuts. More than anything the bonus structure boggles my mind: where else do bonuses get paid out regardless of performance? Who else gets paid a bonus when their performance objectively sucked? Plus, once a CEO screws up one company another just gives them a chance. I just don’t get it.

  17. Oh dear.. I think we can only look at financial systems in a comparative way. Looking at it purely from an idealogical point of view doesn’t do justice to the complications of a living, breathing society. So.. Where I live, things are more ‘socialist’ than they are in the US. We have poor people, but mostly they’re not as poor and there aren’t as many of them compared to the US. We are still a capitalist country, though, and there is a fair amount of wealth disparity.

    I generally think this is a good thing. For ‘us’, not for the US.

    At the same time I don’t know if we have the ideal ratio of ‘care for those who can’t care for themselves’ and ‘stimulate everyone to contribute’. A fair amount of the people I know who complain about money, have spending habits that I consider unwise. However, I don’t know how many of those habits are due to poor financial sense or are forced on them by a lack of financial room to make good long-term decisions (or perhaps other issues). I can’t tell – I don’t have their life.

    I don’t think that ‘redistribution of wealth’ is the answer in and of itself. Yes, a fair and progressive tax system helps (mind you, the median income here is subject to a partial 33% income tax rate – I made a little more and paid %42 on a small amount of what I earned and 33% on all but the tax exempt part. My husband makes even more and hits the 52% scale). However, taxation isn’t the only thing.

    You need livable wages, which are often enforced by unionized labourers (markedly weakened in the US, I’m afraid). You need a regulated financial system (the best way to keep people out of debt is to simply not allow them to get into any) and accessible amenities and social services, such paid family leave (not just for births, but also to care for a sick parent or sibling, for instance) and income dependent, subsidized child care.

    Then, there is the education aspect. Managing money, even if you have enough of it but especially if you don’t, is a skill. You need to be taught. By your folks, in schools, everywhere. Parents who are poor and in debt often do not have the means to teach their children good money management (because being poor is very expensive – it often forces you to spend money in ways that would not make sense if you had more money). They also can’t bail out their children when they, as all kids do, mess up sometimes in their financial management.

    So, yeah. It is my belief that the government is there to protect the people, especially from corporations. That the US government has allowed and facilitated the destruction of so many unions, makes me sad. It’s like they forgot why we had the industrial revolution and what came from it (the eight-hour work day is a remnant, for instance, worker’s comp, the right to unionize).

    In the US, but here, too I see a departure from worker’s rights, not just in the lower paid jobs traditionally held by what you could sarcastically refer to as the ‘exploitable underclass’ (servers, retail workers, etc.), but also in jobs traditionally reserved for the highly educated and talented (and perhaps ‘the privileged’) like fashion, literature and finance. Salaried people work overtime routinely. 9 to 5s become 8 to 6s. You get a company phone that you’re not allowed to turn off on the weekend…

    Another important aspect is that of ‘conspicuous consumption’, I think. Maybe I see this because I’m by nature a bit of a minimalist. I like owning very little. And I see a lot of people who feel the need to own a lot. Owning things seems to (I kind of have to speculate) give them a sense of security and a sense of wellbeing. I think that it would be beneficial to step away from this feeling and – with all the members of the consuming world – try to own less. Again, you’d need government interference. Think of LA and how all its street cars were bought up and taken out of service by the car companies. Now you can’t really live in LA without a car. But cars are expensive. So, in order to live, a cost is pushed on people for the benefit of a corporation. If you want to stop, or even reverse this, you either need a public transit industry or a government to spank the ass of the car manufacturers so as that people again have a choice about taking on the hassle and the expense of owning a car.

    So.. there’s me being a socialist and wanting the government to fix it all.

    At the same time, I think that a certain amount of wealth disparity is beneficial to human growth and advancement of society. I do think that greater responsibility should be rewarded. Innovation should be profitable. I think that rare skills, or skills that take a long time to hone, deserve extra compensation. I think that money paid can be a valuable incentive to delay gratification or assume personal risk for those who want that. It just shouldn’t come at the expense of a loss of quality of life for the people who accept (because of aptitude or desire) jobs that do not carry risk, responsibility or a long preparatory trajectory.

    1. Good point about being poor being so expensive. It seems counter-intuitive but it’s true. Not having enough money means sometimes you have to make shitty decisions that cost more in the long run and it takes away some options that would be great at helping reduce costs simply because the fund aren’t there.

  18. This is the sort of thing that makes me feel super guilty. J and I are pretty darned okay financially (yay working in an area with a low cost of living!), but damn. When we file our taxes, we will get hit hard because we jumped up a tax bracket due to my tuition remission from grad school. And that pisses me off. Seriously, that’s counted as income and when we’re trying to buy a house – ugh.

    Now, I know the graphic and your words aren’t meant for people in our particular situation. We’re squarely middle class, don’t get bonuses, etc. But I still have to force myself to be okay with having to pay thousands in additional taxes when we file this year, all because I went to a grad school that paid my way. Because really, that’s not a bad place to be – so many people have tons of student loans, can’t afford an apartment let alone a house, or are on federal assistance. This is what taxes are for – we *should* pay more, because we earn more,

  19. This is true squared in Mexico–forget student loans, I literally do not know a single person in Mexico who is not in debt. Banco Azteca advertises on TV around the beginning of the school year with a harried mother looking at all her bills and wondering how she´ll pay for school supplies–so she goes and takes out a loan! and that makes everything better! Except now she has to pay 200 pesos to Banco Azteca every Tuesday for the next 5 years.

    By Oaxaca standards, I make decent money–in a month with no vacation, I make the equivalent of ALMOST 900 bucks. Ten percent of that goes to taxes right off the bat. And over Christmas and Easter and other random school breaks, I make nada. We are fortunate to own our house free and clear, but we barely make it, anyway. The cost of living is NOT significantly lower here than in the US, even though you get paid so much less. Hence everyone has to take out loans just to afford the basics, and everyone is chained to some kind of debt.

    We were just talking about this this morning, because we´re planning to spend the coming school year in the Bay Area to try to save up some money. And I told my husband, the ONLY reason that we can even consider doing that is that my parents are lovely and generous and we´re going to live with them. If we had to pay rent, it wouldn´t even be worth it to go. Blegh.

  20. I’ll reply with my perspective as an Australian, but I don’t wish to represent all Australians. And, like everyone surveyed for this video, I’m sure my perspective is nowhere near reality.

    Yes, we have a problem with wealth distribution here – but it’s nothing like the US. Our CEOs earn a lot, but much less than US CEOs. For example, Gail Kelly, CEO of our largest bank, wanted $10m last year. A lot, yes, but nowhere near the hundreds of millions you hear about from comparable sized American companies. (as a side note, she also is a mother of triplets – how cool is that?). We actually have a problem with senior peoe going overseas to work because they can’t earn as much here – which I don’t understand, once you have enough, why would you trade lifestyle for more money?

    We also don’t have as many big actors and other celebrities that the US does, and the few we have tend to live there anyway! Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman etc…

    At the other end of the scale, our minimum wage is higher than the US (full time is $610 a week). And unemployment is sitting at about 5%. But, like the US, we have an increasing number of casual jobs which offer no security and less than a full time wage, so under employment is a problem.

    Our welfare system is (in my opinion) fucked up. Our pollies have convinced the middle classes that they are really struggling, and we’ve had so much middle class welfare introduced over the past 10-15 years it’s not funny. So while the unemployed and disabled get very little (though, from what I understand, more than they would in the states), middle classes get paid parental leave (18 weeks for women, 2 weeks for fathers/partners), child care benefits, family tax benefits, rebates on private health insurance and a host of other payments. Many Australians will disagree with me, but I think we pay the middle classes too much at the expense of the poor.

    As someone mentioned above, you don’t need to pay for university until you earn enough to pay it back through your taxes. And my 3 year degree was $15,000 in total, which I had paid by the time I was 27.

    The other big thing is socialized health care. We have a public and private system, but the public system is very good. Despite having private health insurance, I recently had a baby in the public system, which included high risk care and in the end, an emergency caesarian and 6 days in hospital. Didn’t cost me a cent. The only advantage of PHI was that I got a private room in the public hospital, instead of having to share with one other.

    1. I forgot to add that out cost of living is astronomical – Sydney always ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world. But our professional jobs are very much concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne, so moving somewhere with a lower cost of living isn’t always an option.

      Our 2 bedroom apartment, about 20 mins by Public transport to the city, is worth about $650k and would rent for $600-$700 per week.

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