Ed's own father, who is 73 and has never made a smart financial decision in his life, is blaming Ed's and my financial predicament on us. This is the same man who has been living in a beautiful apartment, built by Ed, within our house for a rent well below market value for years. So when those listmates from my father-in-law's age group started spouting the same garbage, I didn't take it too kindly. Yeah, there are people whose money goes through their pockets the way poop goes through a goose, but don't include me and my family in that group. Here is my response, with minor edits:
I'm tired of hearing from people who assume that everyone who has been hit hard by this poor economy is a profligate spender.
Before the bottom fell out of the economy, Ed and I were putting aside money into a savings account and into IRAs. We rarely made purchases, except for major repairs to our two paid-off vehicles, clothes for our children (dammit it all, they just keep growing), and food. We went out to dinner on our wedding anniversary and on Valentine’s Day—but not always even then. We did sometimes buy takeout. The shame!
We never went into debt for Christmas presents and birthdays; we always saved up for the few presents we did buy. We don't have the latest in electronics or cell phones, though Ed and I each have a cell phone. He needs his for when he's out installing cabinets. But I should give mine up. If one day the car that I'm driving breaks down, I could just sit there and hope that someone stops to help instead of violently relieving me of the car.
Oh—we usually went on a decadent one-week camping trip each summer. Even though one entire trip cost a lot less than hotel fees and cruise ship fares [which one of the posters who annoyed me pays on his vacations], we should've spent less.
Ed and I bought a home in 1994 from his parents, who could no longer afford the $1,200/month mortgage that included property taxes and home owner's insurance. Now those payments are $1,500/month, and that's for a dinky 1,400 square feet that we share with his parents: 4 adults and 2 children live here. Long Island (New York State) ain't cheap. Before the economic downturn, our home was valued at $364,000 and property taxes were more than $8,000/year. Who knows how low the value has sunk to now, but the property taxes and insurance premiums sure ain't gonna decrease. We shouldn't have gotten that home equity loan a couple of years ago to make major repairs to the house; the frugal thing to do would have been to let this 40-plus-year-old crappily built house rot.
We do have a cat, and the in-laws have a dog and a cat. I suppose we'd better kill them off or give them away to keep our expenses down. The children won't mind.
Unlike most other middle-class Americans, who have health insurance that is paid for by their employers or by the company or government jobs from which they retired, we pay in full the $866 monthly premiums for own health insurance; we have no employers to pay it for us. I suppose we should be frugal and drop that. Ed and both of our sons have AD/HD, for which they take expensive medication, only partly covered by insurance. I'm sure that they all decided to be born with AD/HD just to make us spend more money. They don't really need a therapist either, to coach them how to be less miserable when they try to make their square-peg selves fit into society's round-hole pegboard enough so that they can hold down jobs or not be perpetually bullied in school. They should just suck it up.
Ed probably asked his boss of 14 years to lay him off in October 2007. And then he bought equipment to outfit his own cabinetmaking shop, but I suppose that to be frugal, he should have opted to take 14 times as long as other cabinetmakers to produce the same amount of work by using ancient hand tools or broken-down 25-year-old tools instead of much more expensive newer electric tools. He probably bought all of that equipment, using funds from the business loan he took out, deliberately because his magic crystal ball told him that the economy was about to go belly up and he wanted to give us some hefty bills. He probably also put down hundreds of dollars apiece for several towns' home-improvement contractor licenses just so that he could give us more debt. And I know he obtained workers' comp, liability, and disability insurance policies for his company not to be law-abiding but just so he could throw away more money.
Oh, wait—I know! Ed could switch to a very-low-overhead profession like copyediting, and then we could save a bundle of money! But ... he can't spell his way out of a paper bag. Damn.
We're so sorry for having thrown our money about so irresponsibly. What were we thinking?
economy recession underemployed EditorMom