The American Dream

by Finn

In a recent post on fashion, the following phrase in the referenced article caught my attention:

“the traditional American Dream of upward mobility through hard work.”

Is that consistent with your understanding of the American Dream?

It’s consistent with mine.  What I’ve seen is a lot of generational steps, in which parents work hard to provide their kids with opportunities, that weren’t available to them, that allow their kids to move up the SES ladder, with succeeding generations continuing to get higher than their parents.

What’s your take on the American Dream?  Have you and your family lived it?  Do you think your kids and grandkids will live it?

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187 thoughts on “The American Dream

  1. that allow their kids to move up the SES ladder

    That seems very non-totebaggy to me. Are there any totebaggers who are putting a lot of effort into helping their kids move up the SES ladder vs. allowing them to stay in the upper-middle-class as adults?

  2. I think the American Dream is different for different people. Most of my great great grandparents arrived to farm after the Civil War and the dream for them was owning their own land and freedom from the draft. (Some were Mennonite Pacifists.)

    For immigrants/refugees to my community now, the American Dream is freedom and safety. Our area has people who fled unrest in Sudan, Uganda and the Middle East as well as people who immigrated from Russia and appreciate the lack of corruption here, I think. As we approach Veteran’s Day, I think more often about the people who have died so that we can live in freedom. This is especially important for women- I’m reminded of Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, who won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for drawing attention to sexual violence against women as a weapon of war.

    Economic opportunity is secondary to freedom and safety, in my mind. By and large, our law enforcers (police, soldiers, judges, parole officers, prison guards) are not corrupt. Freedom, safety and the rule of law are precursors to economic opportunity.

  3. Freedom, safety and the rule of law are precursors to economic opportunity

    Xi Jinping begs to differ.

  4. Both sides of my family have been here for hundreds of years, so the lens I see the American dream is probably much different than a recent immigrant or second generation immigrant. That said, during my childhood money was tight and I spent a good part of my childhood acutely aware of that. In some ways it was good though. I started working early and learned the value of a buck. My siblings and I have all done very well. We all went to good colleges and have houses, good jobs and families of our own. In some ways, it was nice growing up without extra money. I learned to be frugal and not overspend on anything.

    My own child has a lot of advantages I never did. She gets lessons in things that interest her, won’t have to take out college loans, doesn’t have to see her parents worry about buying clothes, groceries, etc. She lives in a nice little bubble, lol. I’m not entirely sure how much better she can realistically do. We have a pretty good life. I hope she does equally well. The main advantage she will have is a good head start. I’m trying to instill in her the value of saving money and investing. I really believe it’s what you save, not what you earn (after a certain income level of course).

    I’m not sure I answered the question. Do I think I worked hard? Yes. I kept my nose to the grindstone and did well in school and work. My husband has too (he is in a blue collar field). The main advantage is that we were sensible about saving and investing.

  5. “Freedom, safety and the rule of law are precursors to economic opportunity”

    On an individual basis this is true. While the USA is not perfect in offering these benefits equally across the board to all citizens, it certainly does better than many countries.

  6. I’m not entirely sure how much better she can realistically do.

    That’s interesting. One of the lessons life has taught me is that $ per unit of effort vary wildly between different jobs and careers. If you have a choice of exerting X effort and make $75k or make X effort and make $375k then $375k better. Part of that is when going from lower middle class in a middle class area to upper-middle class in an upper class area is you find out all the lucrative niches that rich people know about and middle, working class and poor people don’t know about.

  7. Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary says. And just to be clear, I don’t think the OED is the One True Word on this. It’s just some additional information.

    American dream n. (also American Dream) (with the) the ideal that every citizen of the United States should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
    [a1911 D. G. Phillips Susan Lenox (1917) I. xxiii. 439 The fashion and home magazines..have prepared thousands of Americans..for the possible rise of fortune that..is the universal American dream and hope.]
    1916 Chicago Tribune 7 Feb. 6 If the American idea, the American hope, the American dream, and the structures which Americans have erected are not worth fighting for to maintain and protect, they were not worth fighting for to establish.
    1931 J. T. Adams Epic of Amer. 410 If the American dream is to come true and to abide with us, it will, at bottom, depend on the people themselves.
    2002 N.Y. Times 28 Apr. 12/2 Many claim..rights to housing, education, health care and welfare checks, yet they are denied the up-by-the-bootstraps right to work that..has always underpinned the immigrant’s hope for access to the American dream.

  8. “She lives in a nice little bubble, lol. I’m not entirely sure how much better she can realistically do”

    That is our situation as well. Both DH and I came from big families with modest incomes. FIL didn’t even finish high school, and my dad was the only one of our parents with a college degree. We both worked very hard for the UMC lifestyle in which our kids were raised and which they pretty much took for granted. They are starting off their adult lives with degrees from a name school and no college debt, but only one of them is likely to surpass DH in income. IMO, after you get to the UMC level, it’s not only more difficult but far less less important to ensure that your kids “do better than you did.” They have the freedom to choose the vocational path that best suits them, rather than feeling pressured by a bad economy and/or college debt (and no parental safety net) into a high-paying job they hate.

  9. Freedom, safety and the rule of law are precursors to economic opportunity

    Xi Jinping begs to differ.

    There is a strong correlation between freedom, safety and the rule of law of economic well being.

    In Xi’s China, economic opportunity is still largely reserved for the elites and their children.

    We are close enough to a major university and have enough ties, that we end up with foreign visitors fairly often. The Chinese visitors are uniformly surprised that someone would willingly choose to farm. One of my grad school acquaintances explained to me that if one is born in a farming family in China, they had to pass a test to be able to leave the area and do something else. He told me this after learning I had married a farmer and he could not fathom why someone would do this.

  10. “Freedom, safety and the rule of law are precursors to economic opportunity”

    I totally agree. That’s why my parents moved here. In the home country, I would not be allowed to walk alone outside at night for fear of being harassed, robbed or raped. That doesn’t happen here.

    Also, I don’t need to bribe anyone for basic services. i.e In the home country, we needed to pay a bribe to get my grandmother’s death certificate.

    The rights of women…good lord…I won’t even go there. It would take too much time.

  11. after you get to the UMC level, it’s not only more difficult but far less less important to ensure that your kids “do better than you did.”

    What about at the actual middle class level? Would your parents have said the same thing about being middle class?

    Personally I find the role that ambition plays in where people end up in life fascinating.

  12. It is remotely possible that my stepson will surpass my household’s financial situation, because he keeps muttering about doing a startup. If he did, and if it took off, then he’d be in the money and we could insist that he buy dinner. That would be fine with me. But of course right now he’s still working for The Man.

  13. America isn’t perfect, but there’s a reason so many people are trying to get here, legally or illegally.

  14. “Personally I find the role that ambition plays in where people end up in life fascinating.”

    I don’t think ambition is always a positive thing. Or maybe I say this to excuse my lack of ambition.

  15. I agree with Scarlett. After a certain point, it becomes less important for kids to do better financially than their parents. My kids may or may not make more money than us but they’ll definitely have less financial stress.

    The kids wanted to watch House Hunters last night. I wondered what their elementary school brains were thinking. We haven’t talked much about how much our house is worth or how much we make and how we compare to others. I’m guessing those conversations will start sooner rather than later.

  16. “Are there any totebaggers who are putting a lot of effort into helping their kids move up the SES ladder vs. allowing them to stay in the upper-middle-class as adults?”

    Rhett, do you realize how often you point out that i am not a totebagger? I’m not trying to make this comment in a mean way, but oftentimes your “totebaggers do this or feel that” is in direct contradiction to my way of life.

    Back on topic…DH and I have built a business from literally the ground up. I came into the marriage with student loans and the prospect of a career. He came in with a few assets and significant pressure to support the rest of his siblings. He had an old rental house. We bought our first piece of ground, by selling the rental. To get the rental ready for sale, DH and I would work on the house after our day jobs. DD1 was in a play pen in the house while we were patching walls, fixing light fixtures and repainting. We planted an orchard, worked, sent the kids to day care, and tried to stay solvent until the orchard started to produce. Over the years, we have managed to rent and buy enough ground for a real farm.

    We spend a fair bit of time teaching our kids networking, taking them to business meetings, explaining how we got where we are and the mistakes made along the way.

    So,yes, we are putting effort into helping the kids move up the SES ladder. And, Rhett, you have actually been part of this journey with your wisdom about how it is really ok to buy something because you like it or want it. You may have long forgotten, but many years ago, there was a discussion about buying silly, overpriced (to my mind) jeans that my teenager wanted. After your comments, I bought her the jeans. She LOVED them, That made her happy and without your comments I would not have bought them. Thank you.

  17. For my father, and my mother’s parents, it was more a matter of wanting to go somewhere — anywhere — that was stable and safe, than ending up in the US in particular. My father’s family was devastated, personally and financially, by the Nazi occupation of Greece (where he grew up) and by the Greek civil war. After the wars, he just wanted to go somewhere where he could repair some of the damage and build a life. His first choice was Sweden, but that didn’t work out, so when an opportunity came to come to the US, he took it. My mother’s family had to flee their homeland (Turkey) due to ethnic persecution, and they happened to end up in the US. Other people from their community ended up in Canada or Australia.

    That said, once my parents were here, they were the most patriotic Americans you could ever meet. They fully appreciated all the benefits they had as Americans (safety, security, economic opportunity, educational opportunity, etc.), and they passed those values along to my brother and me.

  18. That’s interesting. One of the lessons life has taught me is that $ per unit of effort vary wildly between different jobs and careers. If you have a choice of exerting X effort and make $75k or make X effort and make $375k then $375k better. Part of that is when going from lower middle class in a middle class area to upper-middle class in an upper class area is you find out all the lucrative niches that rich people know about and middle, working class and poor people don’t know about.

    I don’t disagree. In some ways, I think I am afflicted with “good enough” syndrome. Maybe that’s the opposite of the American dream.

  19. My mother’s family has been here for a long time, so the original reason why they came is obscure at this point. That side of the family has a tradition of blue-collar service jobs in the male line – my grandfather worked for the electric company and my great-grandfather, great-uncles, and cousins on my grandmother’s side were/are all firefighters. My dad’s family (both sides) came in the early 1900s before my grandparents were born, in the first wave of Polish immigrants and they were peasants in the old country, so looking for a better non-subsistence lifestyle. I’m not sure what my great-grandparents did for a living once they were here (should ask my dad). My grandfather was the first one to go to college, and he was an engineer for Standard Oil and traveled a lot. My dad and two of his siblings are all doctors, and the fourth is a biologist. I get the sense that my grandparents on that side were tiger parents with the emphasis on education!

    With L’Abbey, etc., our goal will be to keep our kids in the top decile or 2. I agree with Rhett’s concept of $$ per unit effort – DH has a couple of jobs which require next to no effort and generate a fair amount of income.

  20. I know my parents worked hard to push me up the SES ladder. They were successful. I make now (roughly) what my dad did the day he died. After ~50 years in the labor force. I am the first person in his family to (1) go to college right out of HS and choose a “nonsense” major (if you ask them… but seriously, a STEM degree is nonsense?) and (2) have an advanced degree (I set the bar high, I have 2). My mom never graduated from college, but her family is full of super smart people with grad degrees in nursing, teaching, law, etc. In many ways, I let them down – I didn’t rise far enough up the middle class.

    But that’s more to others’ points – once you’re middle to upper middle, how much can you move the needle? Are their other benefits that open up that don’t move the needle, but don’t drop it either. Scarlet mentioned choosing a major that may not lead to a high paying job.

    My goal for my kids is for them to be successful. I haven’t defined that yet because they are toddlers. Successful right now is getting through the day without too much blood loss or death. If everyone is clean, fed, teeth brushed, and in bed by 7:30, it’s success. Hopefully we’ll be able to advance that needle before I kick them off to college or out of the house.

  21. I don’t disagree. In some ways, I think I am afflicted with “good enough” syndrome. Maybe that’s the opposite of the American dream.

    Yeah, me too. I don’t think it’s the opposite, though. My SIL has managed to sink from upper-middle-class to something between lower-class and criminal underclass, and three of her four living children are all criminal underclass. That’s maybe the opposite.

  22. I’m probably slightly worse off than my grandparents generation, but about equal to what my parents had, the difference being I work for “the man” and they were both business owners (unfortunately in a dying industry, so there really isn’t anything for me to take over). I would be ok if my kids ended up with less than what we have, but enough to not stay up at night worrying about money. DD is starting to get more involved in politics and world issues and she thinks that we have so much while others have so little. When we discuss this, I do acknowledge the advantages I’ve had in life (and that she has benefitted from), but also make sure she knows that choices matter and DH and I saved a lot in earlier years to be able to live where we live, etc. I’m trying to get the point across to her that you may not need a lot of stuff, but having extra money in the bank to pay for car repairs, unexpected bills, etc, is really important to overall happiness and security in life.

    I’m also fortunate that my analytical skills lead me to a good carreer, although like Cubs Fan, I’m in the “good enough” stage of life where I’m fine where I am and don’t really have the desire to work more to have more.

  23. “I’m in the “good enough” stage of life where I’m fine where I am and don’t really have the desire to work more to have more’

    I’m there now. But I think once my kiddos grow up a bit, I’ll probably be like Risley and take on the super challenging job.

    My theory of life is that we need to make enough to pay our bills, put money away for short-term and long-term needs, and sometimes go on vacation. We are there.

  24. In terms of economics, although my brother and I had very similar educational backgrounds, he way surpassed my parents in terms of earnings and lifestyle, while I really haven’t. Brother and I both went to big-name law schools, but we chose very different career paths. He went into a high-profile specialty at a big international law firm, and stayed there, and made partner. By contrast, I went into a specialty that commands lower fees, and I left BigLaw prior to partnership consideration to run my own solo practice in small-town New England. It was totally a lifestyle choice on my part, and it was a good decision for my family and for me, but it hasn’t exactly catapulted our family into the economic stratosphere. Add me to the “good enough” crowd.

  25. “I’m in the “good enough” stage of life where I’m fine where I am and don’t really have the desire to work more to have more’

    I’m not at the “good enough” stage. I think this more mental state than a financial one, and I don’t know how to get there. I’ve noticed my siblings also have the same issue. By any reasonable standard, we are likely there. Most of our kids are through college, and for those with kids still in college, the money is already put away. Everyone goes on vacation every year, retirements are secure, everyone either owns their house outright or the mortgage is infinitely doable. However, we are all working a lot of hours trying to get more. When the lottery was approximately a billion, I bought a ticket and had projects/investments for a good chunk of it. I am not sure this is really sane. How do you get to “good enough”?

  26. “‘that allow their kids to move up the SES ladder’

    That seems very non-totebaggy to me. Are there any totebaggers who are putting a lot of effort into helping their kids move up the SES ladder vs. allowing them to stay in the upper-middle-class as adults?”

    I identify with that comment very strongly, even though it is unlikely that my kids will be higher on the economic ladder than I have ended up to date. Part of it is because I view everything through my own history vs. where I am now, so I still see myself as the poor-kid-made-good whose job is to make sure her kids have better opportunities than she did. We are also one of those families where the past three generations have done better than the one before, so I am still anchored mentally a generation or so back. And part of it is the “socio” part of that: my kids have a very different experience growing up UMC than I did, and it makes me happy and proud to provide them that additional security and to shield them from the bullying I got being the poor kid with the divorced mom.

    But really for me it’s what Rhett said about mindset, about seeing all the opportunities that are out there. I feel like I grew up with blinders on: where certain things were things that rich people did, and not for People Like Us; where only certain paths were open (i.e., that I’d better kick ass in school, because the alternative was work in the deli my whole life); and where high-status positions seemed to come via choosing your parents well and the old-boy-network, not hard work. My life has shown me how wrong many of those assumptions were, and how many opportunities I actually had if I had just opened my eyes. I’ve done just fine regardless, but I want my kids growing up with exposure to all of the opportunities they have, so they do not unnecessarily limit themselves by their own constricted world view. I also want my kids to choose their path based on their interests (considering the economic tradeoffs), vs. being driven by the compulsion never to be poor again, like I was.

    So it’s still about doing better than I did — just not necessarily measured on income alone.

  27. “How do you get to “good enough”?”

    My kids are much younger than yours and I think this has something to do with it. I feel like when they are out of the house, I’ll probably do something more challenging, but for now I just don’t have time to devote to work and family. For now, I have enough to provide a good life for my kids and I want to be sure I have time with them to put them on a good path for life. When that is done and retirement is closer, I’ll probably panic.

  28. In some ways, I think I am afflicted with “good enough” syndrome.

    Cubs Fan, there’s nothing wrong with that. DW and I are similar – we’re happy with where we are at.

    My theory of life is that we need to make enough to pay our bills, put money away for short-term and long-term needs, and sometimes go on vacation. We are there.

    This. Although we probably aren’t saving enough. We also have had jobs that gave us a lot of flexibility which is huge, IMO.

  29. You can add me to the “good enough” list. I could easily be a workaholic, but fight it to prioritize time with family. I don’t want the travel and the surrender of control of my schedule that climbing the ladder would require in my current company. My siblings both pursue creative careers, which to me is a sign of my immigrant grandparents’ work having paid off. Their grandchildren are far enough removed from the immigrant struggle to pursue the arts rather than a stable occupation. I require more stability than they do, so continue my work for The Man. I hope that my children do well enough to choose a career they enjoy, not worry about money, live in a safe area, and have something left over for luxuries. I see no reason to think that this won’t happen, and I feel comfortable that we are launching them with that goal in reach.

    My definition of the American Dream is the opportunity to try for what you want. I think opportunity is not yet equally available to all young people.

  30. The American Dream that my mom had for me was threefold – a college education which was not available to any of her sibs xcept the youngest boy on the GI Bill, a professional career as a woman, and an inheritance. She achieved those objectives. The aspect I added was to own my own home instead of renting. I took as a given the ability to support myself and my children and to provide them a college education, since my divorced para professional mom was able to do that for me. The fact that my life path was bumpy made all those things a struggle to attain, but I got by before becoming prosperous in retirement. My kids are established in the middle class. Only my eldest, against all expectations, will have a more comfortable life compared to his parents in the pre retirement years, and that was greatly aided by the choice of a wife from a prosperous family and a lot of hard work by both. Maintaining our SES across another generation is a success, as far as I am concerned.

    The jury is still out on DHs alienated 31 year old son, but that was true of my 44 year old at the same age, so there is hope.

  31. How do you get to “good enough”?

    When you are satisfied with what you have. I don’t know how to get there, just that I knew it when we got there.

  32. And the other achieved bit of the American Dream for me is perhaps an odd one. The ability to pay cash.

  33. Cassandra-It isn’t easy. I do have times of panic where I worry that I’ll never be able to retire, that some catastrophe will happen that will wipe out everything I have and I’ll be eating cat food as a homeless old person. I have to work to keep those thoughts at bay.

    Sometimes I think it is thoughts like that that have allowed me to save and build what I have, so I try to think of it as a good thing. That or I’m just crazy.

  34. DH and his siblings did extremely well. It brought them out of the home country lower middle class, with a very frugal life to Totebaggers here. His mother regrets giving up her job in the home country because that would have made a big difference to their family income.
    A good part of DH’s luck is being in the right place at the right time. All of them had degrees in computer science but in the home country, DH was laughed at for taking computers instead of mechanical. When they got here, lo and behold their chosen field was much in demand.
    I came here to get away. As a teenager and young adult I was disagreeing more and more with home country norms for women.
    I hope my children do as well or better than we did.

  35. My family has lived the American dream, made possible by the freedom, safety, and rule of law that does not exist in my immigrant grandparent’s country of origin. I was able to work hard to achieve a much better life. Now for my kids I’m in a similar situation as some other totebaggers. When you grow up in a top percentile it can be hard to move even higher unless you have high ambitions. I can see that either of my kids could end up sliding down the economic ladderr. I want them to have financial security, and that includes the ability to withstand the financial curve balls life can throw. I would be thrilled if they did as well as their parents.

  36. Nap – are you from RI? We had a lurker for a while who was (no not Providence or Favors Balance from TOS). That person had a handle that made me think of night…

    “Good enough”
    I have not saved nearly enough. I know I’m in the workforce for at least another 3 decades. But I’m in a job I can do in another 3 decades. I panic all the time about being an old lady eating cat food (and store brand cat food at that). But I do know that given where we started 4 years ago, with me fresh out of PhD and having to rebuild the main floor of our house because of a flood, we are doing FANTASTIC. DH and I have flexibility in our jobs that’s working wonders for us on the home front.

    Don’t get me wrong – I want to do more, like Nap, and I will in time. But on Halloween 2018, I like where I sit.

  37. Rhode-no I’m not from RI. My name has to do with where I live, not because of my sleeping habits.

  38. It seems that the American Dream has many definitions and is evolving based on your wealth status. I always felt it was to do better financially than the generation before you through hard work (both mentally and physically). That is what happened to all the prior generations on both sides of my family. But I think that “dream” stopped with my parents, and now it is about maintaining status using our brains via Rhett’s motto of “working smarter, not harder”.

  39. Our biggest coming conflict is going to be how much we decide we want to pay for college. DH is of the opinion that he made good with a solid home country education so flagship state schools should do for our kids. But of course our kids have to get in first.

  40. DH is of the opinion that he made good with a solid home country education so flagship state schools should do for our kids. But of course our kids have to get in first.

    I’ve come round to that way of thinking. DD1 and DD2 got into good private schools (Vandy, etc), but it was really hard to justify the extra expense. For the difference in cost over four years, each would have a very substantial down payment on a house or most of law school paid for. DD2’s top two choices had a cost differential of $160K, which was a significant factor in her decision. The calculus (totebag pun) would have been different for LSJU, and maybe the rest of the Ivy League, but that was a bridge we didn’t have to cross.

  41. Nap — You probably don’t want us to guess but places in at least two states come to mind!

  42. Thanks Nap. Your handle works either way… I’m currently wanting a nap (seriously just hit a wall at my desk)… :)

  43. “Personally I find the role that ambition plays in where people end up in life fascinating.”

    So thinking of ambition, what would make a two-percenter want to move up to be a .2-percenter? A desire to build an empire? A desire for an immensely luxurious lifestyle? Some other reason related to boosting his ego? To get more sex? To have more influence? To “change” the world? I’m sure I’m missing some, perhaps some basic reasons.

  44. Update on the nanny pay story from a few days ago –

    After a second gently threatening email (“I just don’t know what to tell her since there has been no communication from you. I am unsure if she should seek legal counsel at this point. I’m sure you don’t mean to take advantage of this vulnerable young woman.”) she responded in a way that confirmed how bizarre she is. States the Au Pair refused her final check because she was flustered and anxious to leave. Said she would send the money right way but was deducting $160 for a towel that the Au Pair had “vandalized” before leaving and that she was uncomfortable telling us any details of the event. The Au Pair says that she left a wet towel – she washed her bedding the morning of departure but took her shower afterwards and left the wet towel in the bathroom. Who knows what the truth is – but recovering 3/4 of the money is better than expected. Now, I’m off to buy new towels – I am clearly not living my #bestlifenow with my $12 Costco ones.

  45. My parents have lived the American dream. Both came to the US from Europe after WWII. They left behind bombed out homes and bleak job prospects. My mother was trained as bookkeeper but until she mastered English she worked as a domestic, an au pair, at a deli counter, a florist and eventually spent her last 20 years at the NY branch of international bank where she thrived . My father worked as a mechanic and eventually moved into management at the same company where he started. I don’t think he finished the equivalent of HS in his country because the school was bombed and not replaced for several years, so he just went to work. They are now live very comfortably on SS and pensions.

    I’m the oldest of three daughters. I’m the only one who has a four year degree, let alone a master’s. Middle sister has an associates and was always struggling financially but that never stopped her from having kids (as my mother would remark). She recently married a guy she was dating for years, and as long as she’s with him she should be OK financially. Her (4) kids are doing OK, but not thriving. On several occasions I’ve mentioned to my nieces and nephews that my house is always open to them if they want to try living and working the NYC area but no one has taken us up on the offer – they seem to be content in their rural area.

    My youngest sister married very young and is on husband #3. She never pursued any education beyond HS. She totally relies on her husband #2 and #3 for financial support. She has a daughter with a disability, and it appears that she overstates her daughter’s disability and uses this as an excuse not to work and to extend #2’s financial support. The sad part is, when the daughter stays with her father (husband #2) for 6 weeks every summer, she comes home with new skills that my sister was never able to or didn’t bother to teach her. Earlier it was skills like toilet training and the ability to dress herself, etc. Now the skills are more advanced, of course. It’s really sad. And, of course, my sister continues to bad-mouth #2 even though they’ve been divorced for over 10 years.

  46. “Freedom, safety and the rule of law are precursors to economic opportunity.”
    I think the freedom part of this is a very Western European/American point of view. Perhaps it is just that freedom can mean so many different things. Certainly in China it went the other way – the vast improvement in economic opportunity has led to more calls for what we think of as freedom (although I don’t think the Chinese see freedom in exactly the same terms as us – to us it is more political freedom whereas to them it is the freedom to run businesses and determine one’s economic fate). I do agree with safety and to a large extent, rule of law as being precursors. I don’t think economic growth can happen if people feel basically unsafe in their daily lives and there needs to be at least some predictability as to how the markets and government is going to work.

  47. “each would have a very substantial down payment on a house or most of law school paid for”

    Buying a house and owning it mortgage free was a big deal for DH. He grew up in a crumbling rental that was initially provided to his father rent free but then the socialist state decided to charge government workers for housing. They didn’t charge quite the market rate, so it was an excuse for poor maintenance and the government for the worst landlord.

  48. Fascinating conversation, and it’s interesting how many totebaggers are immigrants, children, or grandchildren of immigrants.

    My family on my mother’s side has been in the US since forever (New England, not the South although I was born here) and was uber-wealthy for many generations. My great-grandmother, an incredibly strong force in my family and definitely what you think of when you hear the word Matriarch, was raised in that wealth. But between the death of the industry that made them wealthy, Great Depression, wars, and the early death of her husband, the family money on her side trickled down to “only” middle class. My grandmother was raised very comfortably but not in wealth.

    So I’m not sure the story of the American dream being always do better than the previous generation resonates with my family story. For us, the family history conveys more of a sense of resilience, of knowing wealth can ebb and flow, of a certain amount of scrappiness.

  49. Cassandra said “In Xi’s China, economic opportunity is still largely reserved for the elites and their children.:”

    I disgree to a large extent. First of all, Xi is a recent thing. The vast growth in China’s economy started long, long before Xi, really, as soon as Mao died. Deng Xiaoping introduced many market liberalizations in the 80’s, which is how the boom started. The Chinese have always seen market liberalization and political liberalization as completely separate. There was the brief interlude in the 80’s during which there were calls for political liberalization, but Tiananmen Square put an end to that. The masses of very poor peasants found their opportunities dramatically improving in the 90’s, and vast hordes moved to the cities. And honestly, they were very happy with that. The various iterations of the Chinese government were very popular. It has only been in recent years that people have started to be interested in political liberalization, and much of that is due to the massive and endemic corruption at local levels. Xi came in promising to get rid of corruption, and he has done that very well. Everything I hear is that Xi is pretty popular, though that could change if economic growth slows.

    Today, a bit over half the population of China lives in the cities (compared to a quarter back in the 80’s). I have read that this was the largest rural to urban migration in history. The problem was the hukou system. You have to have a hukou – a residency permit – to get services and temporary workers who went to the cities could not get hukous for those cities. But they came anyway, and the rural areas have really emptied out. WHole villages have only elderly and small children in them. And the workers had babies in the cities, and so now there is an entire generation of kids in cities without hukous. The Chinese government is trying to figure out what to do about that. For example, in Beijing they are now allowing people who have lived there for 7 years to apply for a hukou for Beijing.
    http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-04/11/c_137103450.htm

    This isn’t a system that Americans would be happy with, but my sense from the Chinese people I have talked with is that while they would like more political freedom, especially at the local level, they are very happy with the economic gains made since the 90’s and are also very proud that China is now able to take a leadership position in the world. The Chinese are very patriotic, and like us, are exceptionalists. China is the Middle Kingdom, in their view, and should be a dominant country.

  50. Fascinating conversation, and it’s interesting how many totebaggers are immigrants, children, or grandchildren of immigrants.

    I bet it’s not out of line with the country as a whole for ages 40-65 or so, which I think is where most of us fall.

  51. I am not of immigrant background – my ancestors came here in the 1700’s. They were the people who went West, and farmed. My maternal grandmother was born a homesteader in a sod house (albeit in Canada, not the US). My maternal grandfather’s family owned a large farm and were wealthy enough to send him to college. The family on the paternal side were all potato farmers in Michigan, but my grandfather on that side made it to college and became a teacher. So I can’t really say when my ancestors achieved the American dream. They had land early on, so maybe that was when it happened? Education has always been big in my family, too, and there are many teachers and professors scattered through the family.

    That being said, my mother was not supposed to go to college – her parents were completely against it – and she had to sneak out her applications. Because of the lack of home support, she only made it through two years and then dropped out to get married. So respect for education only went so far back then – great for the men, not for the women

  52. I bet it’s not out of line with the country as a whole for ages 40-65 or so, which I think is where most of us fall.

    I’m sure you’re right. Just interesting to me how the narrative can be so different.

  53. Starting with landing at Galveston in 1908, my great-grandmother, then maternal grandmother, then mother, then me, we have all done better than the preceding generation. Educationally, economically. On my dad’s side, I know a lot less about the early generations but the family has been here since at least the 1840s and were laborers/farmers (but wasn’t a lot of the population?) until my dad’s generation. He only went to school thru 10th grade but when he died at age 41 he was the #2 in our city’s public works department making a solid MC income.

    Technically, I was not the first in my family to go to college since my mom went to Cal for a semester before she got married, but I am the first to get a degree.

    Income wise I’m pretty sure DS2 will do better than his parents, especially if he goes to med school. If not, then he’ll still be able to parlay his medical knowledge into some kind of work that pays handsomely, or at least better than what we make. DS1 will easily do better as long as he does not get top-stopped for not having a bachelors in something/anything. DS3, who knows at this point?

    NOB – life must have been interesting with both Greek and Turkish heritages in your house growing up!

    Cassandra – I asked you a question on the politics page.

  54. RMS. When I cut the last check for #4’s college (15 years ago) I had negative net worth (85K of debt versus 50K of 401k). When I first started posting on TOS I was maybe above water by 20K. Paying cash in any meaningful sense was aspirational for me from the date of my divorce until the date of my second marriage (I refused to marry DH until I had retired 100% of my debt including the loans from my 401k. No car loan. Still renting.). I did buy my first home a year later with a mortgage, which was paid off as soon as possible, and I would never purchase a replacement or additional property except with cash. So when I say cash, I mean cash.

  55. So when I say cash, I mean cash.

    I was at the Tesla store (I don’t believe they are technically dealerships) talking about financing and I realized that I could just pay for it. That came as quite a shock.

  56. talking about financing and I realized that I could just pay for it.

    Did you immediately give yourself a lecture about how stupid that would be? :p

  57. Upward mobility through hard work, education, and inheritance would be the reality of my family.

    My mom’s generation was the first to go to college (1940s) in her family and my generation is the first to go to college on my dad’s side of the family (1980s). On SO’s side, his generation was the first to go to high school (both parents had 8th grade educations – 1940s) and to college (late 1960s – early 1970s).

    On my mom’s side, her father realized a windfall of money in the 1950s (after all the kids were out of the house) because during the depression he was paid 1/2 his salary in company stock. The stock took off after the war and was basically left for the grandchildren’s post high school education. My dad’s side worked hard, and through a few “right place at the right time” moments, my dad was propelled much further on the economic American Dream than if he’d missed those. My parents really didn’t truly cross into UMC until much later in life, after I was in college. They never thought of themselves as UMC.

    I think we are just over the border of “totebag” income. I would say we are definitely in the “enough” camp. I could have had some jobs that paid more, but it would have meant a lot of travel when my kids were young or not being able to be with my parents the last few years of their lives. Those weren’t really trade-offs I wanted to make.

    For the DDs – I think they have a very good chance of being where we are or better off. Though I think the better off (financially) would still be a trade off for against other things they want

  58. Did you immediately give yourself a lecture about how stupid that would be? :p

    I didn’t need to. I don’t think I ever would. But now that I think about it there is once circumstance where I would. If the stock market was hitting new highs and I suddenly came into say $500k, I’d probably do it on account of how much trouble I seem to be having investing non- 401k/IRA money.

  59. What Mooshi said about China can be applied to the home country except socialism instead of communism. The crucial difference is home country has been the world’s largest democracy (a point of pride). It chugs along with all the different states pulling and pushing, the large population, differences in religion, language and culture.

  60. I’d probably do it on account of how much trouble I seem to be having investing non- 401k/IRA money.

    ?? what trouble ??

  61. Meme – your story is an inspiration to me. I think about it when I worry if I’m not saving enough.

    As far as having “enough”, DH really helps me in that regard. He honestly does not care much about money. He likes having nice things and is wicked smart, but he isn’t motivated by money. One of his quotes is “it’s just money” which I appreciate how he doesn’t value money but sometimes drives me a little nuts when it comes to budgeting and saving.

    The other thing that helps me feel like enough is my faith and by giving money. I find that when I’m more generous with my money, it has less control over me.

    I’m in the enough crowd too because I value leisure time very highly. I’m not willing to trade leisure time to work more. Perhaps that will change when the kids are older.

  62. “I’m not willing to trade leisure time to work more. Perhaps that will change when the kids are older.”

    Well, leisure can be even more pleasant when the kids are older. Just saying.

  63. That being said, my mother was not supposed to go to college – her parents were completely against it – and she had to sneak out her applications. Because of the lack of home support, she only made it through two years and then dropped out to get married. So respect for education only went so far back then – great for the men, not for the women

    My mom was only able to go to college because she could go to CCNY for free. Any money her parents could afford went to pay for her brother to go to NYU.

  64. Because you have analysis paralysis? Or why?

    Yes – we’re so past due for a recession/bear market.

  65. “Because you have analysis paralysis?”

    That’s one of the reasons I never opened a 529. There were so many options, and I never got to take a really good look at them. In the meantime I started paying down our mortgage, and decided to continue with that instead.

  66. “WHole villages have only elderly and small children in them.”

    Parents leave small children with grandparents and leave for the cities?

  67. Yes – we’re so past due for a recession/bear market

    I see. But my best guess is that you are around my age, or younger. So that means you have at least 20 years until retirement, and you still have time in retirement for money to grow. That means money you put in today has no less than 30 years to grow. Even if we do have a correction, it’s better to be in the game than not. Stop worrying about timing the market, and just get in. Buy a set amount of S&P 500 every month and don’t give it another thought. Automate the decision.

    On the last day of the month I always update our spreadsheet of where we are with investments, IRAs, and 401ks. I’ve just done this, and we are down a staggering amount from last month. Painful to see! But it doesn’t matter – we’re in it for the long haul.

  68. Lark,

    Oh there is no logic to it. And I have no problem with my retirement accounts. But to my mind the retirement money isn’t real. But that brokerage balance is real money. I was doing well for a while but now it’s ground to a halt.

  69. “Cassandra,

    How are you not a totebagger?”

    IMO, Cass is a totebagger, but an unusual one in that she doesn’t have a lot of day to day contact with a lot of other totebaggers, or at least not as much as most other totebaggers.

  70. My grandparents (Greatest generation) were all born in the US. Only one graduated from HS. Two eventually got GEDs. My dad grew up poor. I will not call it anything else – they were dirt poor. Urban poor. My mom grew up middle class, but real middle class. 60’s suburban 3BR 1BA 1400 sq ft with a vacation up north every summer but no heavy financial stress middle class. I grew up solidly middle class as well. Some of my aunts & uncles are UMC, but some fell backwards. I don’t know that DS will have the desire or the ambition to try to do “better” than us. Although there is still a lot of life to be lived to figure out where we ultimately end up.

    It’s funny when I read some of your thoughts. Living in more comfortable circumstances than I did when I was a kid makes me feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. It is the exact opposite. I almost never worry about eating cat food or anything like that. I know I could give up some of the comfort I have now and be just fine. Maybe it’s a personality difference too. I am not really a natural saver. It’s a skill that I had to learn and something I had to acquire more of a taste for.

    @Rhett – Not everyone is as motivated or wowed by status as you. I get the feeling you don’t believe it’s possible that people are perfectly content being 10 percenters and not in awe of the super rich.

    @tcmama – Where IS Milo?

  71. How much of the fears about eating cat food in old age are “real” fears and how much is that a description of having less than one has currently? When things were going less well for us, a decade ago, I told my sister that I planned to move in with her in old age if the sh*t hit the fan.

    In my MIL’s case, that meant leaving her job to care for my FIL and his eventual death. Two couples in my Sunday School class are having the same experience, with ALS and brain cancer diagnoses. MIL inherited a third of the estate when FIL’s mother died, which helps with irregular expenses and was, I suspect, a deliberate decision on the parts of FIL’s two (wealthy) brothers to support a comfortable life for her.

    I think I’d welcome living with a sister or SIL in old age if she is poor and I am comfortable. Two can live almost as cheaply as one.

  72. @Rhett – Not everyone is as motivated or wowed by status as you.

    I know. That’s why I’m fascinated by the role ambitions plays.

  73. “On the last day of the month I always update our spreadsheet of where we are… ”

    That’s me tomorrow; the first of every month. Interested/dreading it.

  74. I was hoping it would rain so I could eat all the candy I’d bought to pass out, but it’s looking like the system that dumped on us yesterday has already passed, so I’ll be passing out candy.

    Tonight I’m going to really be missing the analog cable TV signal. I used to use that for a TV in the garage, so I’d sit in the garage and watch TV while waiting for T-or-Ters, but now I can’t do that.

  75. Anon: What a bitch. Ask for a receipt for the towel. Just say “Her attorney has requested it”. $160 my ass!

  76. It’s raining/flooding here, so TOT will likely be a bust. This year, it’s nice to have a teenager who does not care about TOTing. Bad news–he has a ton of homework, so no watching movies together or hanging out.

  77. New version of Halloween for me because DD is at a party. The HS kids do not trick or treat in our town, so I stayed home and gave out candy. It is warm here – finally – and we didn’t have as many kids. People start around 4:30 with the younger kids, and there are only a few kids still outside. I just walked back from one of my neighbors. We sat outside for an hour, and they didn’t get a lot of kids either. We usually have a lot of kids because the houses are close together.

    I am not doing alumni interviews this year, but I am involved with a program to help first gen students adjust to college life. Some of these kids are just starting their journey out of challenging situations at home.

  78. Youngest DD talked me into buying fullsize candy bars at Costco this year, so I’m hoping for a big crowd of TOTers. Weather is great but it’s a school night so I may be stuck with a lot of leftovers.

  79. “NOB – life must have been interesting with both Greek and Turkish heritages in your house growing up!”

    Fred — my heritage is actually 100% Greek. My mother’s parents were ethnic Greeks who lived in Turkey (then called Asia Minor). In the early part of the 20th Century, there was ethnic chaos in that part of the world, and basically all the ethnic Greeks from Turkey (there were a lot of them) migrated to Greece (at least the ones who weren’t murdered before they could get out), and all the ethnic Turks who lived in Greece migrated to Turkey. The native-born Greeks looked down on the refugee Greeks from Turkey (thought they were Middle Easterners, not “real” Greeks), which is why a lot of those Turkish-born Greeks kept moving, mostly to the US, Canada, or Australia.

  80. Re. Halloween, it was very different this year. For the past 14 Halloweens, I had taken my kids trick-or-treating (which is a huge thing in our neighborhood). This year, though, DS decided he was too old for ToT, and DD preferred to go with a friend rather than Mom. So I stayed home and handed out candy. Which was fun, but I’m feeling sort of wistful at how quickly the time has passed since the kids were really small.

  81. This is the first year I haven’t taken at least one kid to town to trick or treat. For the last several years, I and sometimes DH have hung out at friends’ houses while the kids ran wild begging for candy. On the way to school today, the youngest said he was too old. We were still invited to hang out while the kids go trick or treating but that seems kind of pathetic since I don’t have a trick or treating kid. I’m still thinking about going because Halloween/social activity.

    We get no trick or treaters at our house :(. This is the one day of the year I don’t like where we live.

  82. With 7 candy aged kids in the complex I went full sized, too. Only 2 stopped by, tho. I have a jack o lantern outside and the light on. Oh, well. More for the grandkids.

  83. I haven’t read this thread all the way through yet, but thought I’d pop in before the discussions slows down too much. (Sorry I missed yesterday, it was a good chat!!). My parents didn’t go or even consider college, and I went to a flagship not only on scholarship, but with a Pell grant. I often think of how good of an investment those scholarships can be for the truly needy. I was able to graduate without any student debt, and have given my kids a very different childhood, just like I hoped. While I’m sure it’s a little bit healthy for them not to be driven by fear and desperation as I was, I do wish they were a ‘hungrier’ sometimes.

    And while they both are hard workers, I bet neither of them reach our level of financial success.

  84. DD went trick or treating with her neighborhood friends. DS scared the trick or treaters with his skeleton mask while DH handed out full size candy bars. We get enough trick or treaters and until we turn off the light the older kids keep trickling in. Very good weather today.
    In the years past I had to get both my kids into their costumes and accompany both around our neighborhood where they wanted to go to every house and totally wore me out. The kids have always had a holiday, after Halloween (celebrating All Saints Day and the school quite sensibly deciding to give the day off).

  85. “The kids have always had a holiday, after Halloween (celebrating All Saints Day and the school quite sensibly deciding to give the day off).”

    Louise — My DH (the upper-elementary teacher) always dreads having to teach on the day after Halloween. He always comes home after school on November 1 ranting about how Trick or Treat needs to be moved to a Saturday night every year, even if that means it’s usually not on the 31st.

  86. The ‘official’ trick or treating hours here are 6-8. We went over to #2’s friend’s house beforehand and the kids were having too much fun playing and didn’t want to leave! (Their basement is toy heaven) Then #2 said “I hate Halloween” (cold/didn’t want to walk) and cried for 20 minutes. But by the 8 pm hour they were all saying “one more house” etc. We got home around 8:20. There is a ton of candy – I will have to steal some for me and DH to have. :)

  87. Sunshine – I think about the same for DD. I had a Pell grant, work study – the whole package and I had to work for everything. She has it much easier and I am not sure where she will end up financially.

    BigPassport – the kids love it when they receive full size. I had so much left over that I was practically dumping it when a few stragglers came to trick or treat.

    DH is traveling and I sent him a photo of our leftovers. We will be eating candy for a long time unless he takes some to his office.

  88. “Youngest DD talked me into buying fullsize candy bars at Costco this year, so I’m hoping for a big crowd of TOTers.”

    Perhaps DD is hoping for a small crowd.

  89. Though it is warm here (mid 50s) there was a pretty steady drizzle beginning about 5pm, so that cut down big time on the # of kids out. I had bought a huge bag of “fun size” candy at Target and in a effort to give it away I was letting kids take 3 pieces (and if they took more, kinda ok)

  90. I’m going to leave work a little earlier than usual so I can have something to eat before I start passing out candy.

    I only give to kids who actually say, “trick or treat.” For the kids who have a hard time figuring it out, I’ll ask, “what do you say?” first, then spot them the “trick” and “or.” I can only remember one kid who wasn’t able to figure it out, even with those hints repeated multiple times.

    Older kids, if it’s not obvious what they’re dressed as, will be asked to explain their costumes.

  91. We had great weather tonight. Lots of kids. I ran out of candy. I give multiple fun size to each kid and they don’t even have to dressed. It is just fun. The older middle school and high school were so polite. It is just a fun night. I love this night.

    The kids took in a huge hall this year. After they were done we went over to friends for dinner. The kids did the usual trading of candy while parents had a nice couple of hours to hang out. Tomorrow morning we’ll have some grumpy kids.

  92. DS decided he didn’t want to go trick or treating this year (8th grade) so he had 7 friends come home with him from school. They hung out and watched some of the Simpsons Halloween specials and then actually got out the Wii which rarely gets used these days – but is great for kids who may or may not have much video game access. We also have an xbox (our kid has plenty of video game exposure). I left work early so I could be home when the kids got here. Lots of candy, popcorn, and pizza. A good time seemed to be had by all.

  93. On topic- my paternal family came over in the 1600s – not the Mayflower but shortly thereafter. I’d describe that side of the family as overly educated (but not necessarily much money) New Englanders. One great great grandparent helped found the chemistry department at Princeton. Maternal family came from Germany in the late 1800s and settled in California. Mostly Bay Area although some lived in Davis CA back when it was Davisville. All of my grandparents went to college – including my grandmothers which feels unusual (it was the 1920s and 30s).

    DH’s parents were the first to go to college in their families.

    DH and I have a higher standard of living than our parents primarily because we are a two-income family and both our moms stayed at home. And then both ended up divorced. And in my mom’s case struggled to come to terms with having to rejoin the workforce.

    I hope our kids can maintain the standard of living they’ve grown up with – but I don’t expect them to exceed it.

  94. We do not get many trick or treaters but despite that reality, I always optimistically overbuy vast amounts of candy. Then when kids arrive, I tell them to take handfuls of candy. I just made a pair of 5 year olds very happy. Which made me very happy.

  95. We had storms all day, but a break around 6-7 so we got about 25 or so kids, mostly preschool age. I bought roughly 400 pieces of candy so was giving fistfuls to each kid. DD got rear-ended in a chain crash on the way home from work. She is fine but it put a damper on the evening. I was trying to talk to her while the ToTers were coming to the door. The man who caused the accident said he had insurance but didn’t have proof with him, claimed couldn’t remember his phone number, etc until DD called the police. While she was on the phone he found everything. Before she even got home the DH of the second car-driver called. He is an insurance agent, had already filed the claim and gave her all the info and explained what to do. This has made her pleased with her decision to get a corolla and not something more expensive.

  96. “Perhaps DD is hoping for a small crowd.”

    You’re absolutely right, Finn! Though I think she’s out of luck as we’re having a good run on kids tonight. I may have to turn out the lights. Maybe I shouldn’t have given anything to the adult female who came TOTing with her dog that was dressed as a taco (the dog, not the woman).

    DD was at a friend’s house tonight, and came home saying the friend’s mom was giving out the big “share” sized bags of Skittles. Fortunately they live on the other side of town! I may have to up my game next year if this continues.

  97. On the main topic, DH and I have exceeded the living standards of both sets of parents, and much of that is due to higher education levels and fewer kids. I’m very happy with our life, and I have a hard time seeing how our kids could significantly improve on that; I’m just hoping they will be able to match it. I think it will take 2 full-time totebaggy careers for them to duplicate what 1+ income could live on in my generation.

  98. My grandfather was a WW 1 veteran. He came home to find a number of his friends’ widows with young children in dire financial straights. Some families received very little parental help due to parents spreading their help across siblings – either widows or sons who were severely wounded limiting their job opportunities. Others had lost breadwinners to the flu epidemic. The result was to marry the first man who asked, which wasn’t always happily ever after.

    This made him realize that he didn’t want his children (3 daughters and 1 son) ever be in that position. He wanted his daughters to be able to support themselves if they needed to. Result is that all 4 children went to college – graduating from 1943 – 1948.

  99. I just finished passing out candy a little while ago. The weather turned out to be really nice today, so we had quite a few ToTers, most of whom I think were driven in from elsewhere– I don’t think there are many families here with young kids, although some of them may be grandkids.

    I set up in front of our front door at around 6:30 with a dish, into which I’d dumped a big bag of fun size candy from Costco, and today’s local paper, sitting on the folding chair that hasn’t gotten much use since DD stopped playing softball. Almost simultaneously at about 8, I finished the paper, the candy was almost gone, and kids pretty much stopped coming, and I didn’t see any more coming when I looked up and down our street, so I packed it in.

    I didn’t see very many good costumes, and saw a lot of very unoriginal kids who just wore their sports uniforms. OTOH, I only had to prompt a few kids to say ToT, although some of the parents did prompt their kids.

  100. We saw inflatable costumes this year. However it was hard for the two inflatable dinosaurs with tails dragging on the ground to actually go trick or treating in costume.

  101. “ The kids have always had a holiday, after Halloween (celebrating All Saints Day and the school quite sensibly deciding to give the day off).”

    You reminded me of my childhood attending Catholic school. We did not get to dress up for Halloween at school, but we had to dress up as our namesake saints on All Saints Day. That was our version of fun, so consider us fully indoctrinated into church teachings. Lol Unfortunately there is no saint with my name so I always felt a little odd. I just picked a random saint and went with that. These days we observe Dia de los Muertos as well as Halloween.

  102. “So thinking of ambition, what would make a two-percenter want to move up to be a .2-percenter?”

    “Humans are status animals. .2 is better than 2 because you’re that much higher on the pecking order.”

    That’s consistent with the first of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.

    ;… If, for instance, you believe that social hierarchies and gender differences are entirely constructed by social and economic factors, you’ll probably throw 12 Rules for Life across the room about halfway through the first chapter.

    That chapter is titled “Stand up straight with your shoulders back” and counsels readers to learn to stand up for themselves by, metaphorically speaking, embracing their inner lobster. The lobster, Peterson argues, shares many of the same neurological structures as its human cousin, especially those areas of the brain concerned with social hierarchies. Studies show that lobsters who lose enough fights (inter-lobster conflict being common on the ocean floor) and therefore lose their social status, stop producing serotonin, which leads to deep depression.

  103. I don’t believe the “good enough” attitude should be considered a problem, unless of course it causes economic distress. We all make trade-offs and choices that make sense for ourselves.

  104. Rhett/Lark – from yesterday’s diversion into investments…down ~3% in our retirement accts, much more than that in non-retirement which is no surprise because that’s almost all equities and on top of that aggressively invested in tech and smaller stocks.

  105. My husband is French Canadian heritage (though they came a number of generations ago, it was only his father’s generation that stopped speaking French). The general attitude was very much that kids should never aspire to be more than their fathers. His parents were more enlightened, so all the kids went to college, but his father was always puzzled as to why someone would want to do that. None of my husband’s sibs married men with college educations

  106. July – in the home country, All Souls Day was considered more important than All Saints Day.
    These days, Halloween is picking up in the home country cities. My little nieces and nephews all dressed up and went to costume parties.

  107. July said “These days we observe Dia de los Muertos ”
    I noticed that one of my DD’s friends, who is from one of the Central American countries, went in full Day of the Dead costume.

  108. It’s funny, but I think all of the recent generations of my family would say they achieved the American dream, regardless of their “final” SES. I’m sure my ancestors who immigrated in the 18th c. believed they achieved it when they got some land and were able to farm and look after themselves. I’m sure my Granny feels like she got it when she was able to escape the farm, raise three successful boys, and live in a nice, secure condo. I’m sure my Grandpa felt that way when he was able to leave the family farm and get a nice MC job at GE. And then you have my mom, who went from food stamps to full professor, and my dad, who went from trailer parks to a steady career and now a million-dollar house, and my FIL, who managed to turn a free CCNY education into a VP position and early retirement to the country club.

    I think my Grandma may be the only one who married “down” — her father owned a successful store in small-town Indiana and ultimately retired to Florida, and they were able to send her to college even in the Depression, so marrying a man with only a HS education who then worked for The Man for 40 years may have been a step down. But I bet if you asked her, she’d have said she had everything she wanted, too — that very solid, MC 1950s life with a small brick ranch house, a husband with a solid MC job, active in her church, periodic vacations to visit her parents in Florida, and all that.

  109. NoB said ” So I stayed home and handed out candy. Which was fun, but I’m feeling sort of wistful at how quickly the time has passed since the kids were really small.”

    That is kind of how it played out here too. And I was stuck driving my DD to her meeting point for T&T, not fun because there were hordes of small kids traipsing through the dark streets. As usual, we had a lot of visitors. I am pretty sure we are getting kids from surrouding towns, because many are HIspanic or West Indies, not big populations in our town. That is fine by me – the more the merrier. We had 4 of those really big mixed candy bags (4lbs)and a big bag of Halloween pretzel packs, and we ended up with only about a third of one bag.

  110. Rhett/Lark – from yesterday’s diversion into investments…down ~3% in our retirement accts, much more than that in non-retirement which is no surprise because that’s almost all equities and on top of that aggressively invested in tech and smaller stocks.

    Across all accounts we were down 8% from the previous month – OUCH – but I’m confident shares we already own will regain their value, and it just means shares we’re buying now are essentially on sale.

    @ Rhett – that’s the thing about doing it mindlessly every month. It all averages out. Year to date we are still up overall, even with last month’s losses.

  111. Rhett/Lark – from yesterday’s diversion into investments…down ~3% in our retirement accts, much more than that in non-retirement which is no surprise because that’s almost all equities and on top of that aggressively invested in tech and smaller stocks.

    Across all accounts we were down 8% from the previous month – OUCH – but I’m confident shares we already own will regain their value, and it just means shares we’re buying now are essentially on sale.

    @ Rhett – that’s the thing about doing it mindlessly every month. It all averages out. Year to date we are still up overall, even with last month’s losses.

  112. “So thinking of ambition, what would make a two-percenter want to move up to be a .2-percenter?”

    Hedonic treadmill. There’s always something more that you can’t afford, so it’s easy never to feel “rich.” It’s the same argument that we have about how everyone here “feels” MC, even though we are generally well above actual MC.

    Example: when DH and I got married, we were probably making around $180K combined. I thought, holy bejeebers, that is more money than I ever thought I’d see in my lifetime, we are RICH. And that money allowed us to afford a townhouse in Rockville — but we were surrounded by single-family homes. I was able to afford a new car — but it was a generic Acura, not the BMW Z3 I lusted after. We took nice vacations — but then I’d read my Conde Nast Traveler and see all of these $500-1000/night resorts and still feel poor, because I couldn’t even conceive of staying in a place like that. And all of that was before we had kids and before we had to worry about daycare and saving for college and all that. So within about a year, I was wondering where the heck all the money disappeared to and why I still felt so relatively poor when we made such a ridiculous salary — it was like, who are these people who can afford to buy those houses in my back yard, because if I make this much and can only afford a townhouse, how much must they be making?*

    *Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize that my focus on saving and avoiding debt was so unusual, either. So I assumed that if someone had twice the house I did, they must have at least twice the income, whereas they probably had minimal savings, a car payment, and CC debt.

  113. Alas, ToT was sort of a bust here. Weather was beautiful, but the number of kids was down for about the 3rd-4th year in a row, so I didn’t even manage to get rid of the stupid Skittles. DD was at a friend’s house studying before she went to a party for maybe an hour, but no costume or anything. And DS’s inflatable t-rex costume broke on the way to his friend’s house, so he came home in a giant hissy and refused my help and refused to ToT at all. Fun times! But then my mom came over and we watched a couple episodes of The Guardian, and I felt only like partial crap instead of total crap, so it was at least a win for me.

  114. We took the boys out around 6:30p. My mom handed out about 2 BJ sized bags of candy. We have a great neighborhood for TOTing. And I always decorate the house – full on all out Halloween. One guy down the block does a haunted house. The boys got full-sized bars at the house on the corner of the main road. We’ve never gone there because of the road… we are going back next year.

    On Dia de los Muertos… I noticed a lot more decorations with that theme. Especially in the stores. Is it an attempt at being inclusive or the “new” thing? I certainly hope the former. This time of year needs a lot of decoration and love (it’s also my favorite time of year, so I’m biased).

  115. Hedonic treadmill.

    Isn’t that just an excuse to stagnate and not try and better yourself? To not try and raise your family’s standing in the world?

  116. As retirees, our investments are (somewhat) more conservatively allocated. We were down about 5 percent overall, but we are still 65% in equities. My main annoyance is that one of my holdings was acquired or spun off in a taxable transaction recognizing an unexpected 30K of LT cap gain, I and I will have to do some late year tax planning around that. First world problems.

    Most people I know who started out comfortable middle class/UMC and moved up a couple of financial or social notches were in the right place at the right time and made some good economic or business choices. A number who became wealthy at the level above totebag UMC by not “feelthy rich” retired early and live off their investments/proceeds from business sale. These are not Jordan Peterson’s alpha males, or people who grew up in the economically or socially lower middle or lower classes who have a need to continue to establish position.

  117. This is all so interesting. I had thought that behind all this talk of the calculus track was an ambition to see the kids do better than we have done. But I get the sense that isn’t the goal of anyone here. That’s yet another different between the totebag and the people I know in real life.

  118. Rhett – I certainly have the expectation that the kids do better than us. I think they have a better chance at doing this if they embrace the entrepreneurial route and are successful instead of the corporate route.

  119. Rhett – This thread confirmed what I already suspected, that even among the regulars who grew up modestly there are not that many who are first generation college grads. There are a number who had grandparents including grandmothers who finished college. And for the nerdy worrywart types who make up our community, we are trying to help our kids maintain status. Education was for most of us or our forebears the ticket up the SES ladder and out of restrictive communities/situations, even if we chose to get off at a lower rung than would satisfy you.

  120. I had thought that behind all this talk of the calculus track was an ambition to see the kids do better than we have done. But I get the sense that isn’t the goal of anyone here.

    Rhett, I think that’s because as much as everyone here likes to talk about being MC, we understand where we actually are on the economic ladder and realize that the chances for the kids to outdo us are pretty slim, and a goal of staying at the same level is much more reasonable.

    Isn’t that just an excuse to stagnate and not try and better yourself? To not try and raise your family’s standing in the world?

    No, it’s a realization that we have it pretty damn good overall, so why not just enjoy what we have.

  121. Rhett – I love that you keep our ambition going and force us to move the goal post further down the field.

  122. “Isn’t that just an excuse to stagnate and not try and better yourself? To not try and raise your family’s standing in the world?”

    “I had thought that behind all this talk of the calculus track was an ambition to see the kids do better than we have done. But I get the sense that isn’t the goal of anyone here.”

    I think your bias is showing here. To me, trying to “better yourself” and “raising your family’s standing in the world” are two different things. I don’t give a crap about social standing; I mean, sure, I want to have friends and fit in and all that, but I have zero desire to climb to the top of some social heap — in fact, that is just about my worst nightmare (all the strategizing, working people, dealing with middle-school level backstabbing and infighting, ugh, I literally just shivered even thinking about it). I am very, very happy to live in a neighborhood that is below my means, and where no one knows that we make more than them (though I’m guessing the car may be a tip-off — but to me, that’s a bug, not a feature). I really like flying below the radar and being content with myself. If anything, I want to be known for being smart and/or talented, not wealthy.

    And yeah, I absolutely want my kids to do better than I have done — that’s WHY I work, plan to pay for college, fret so much about meaningless little things: to give them the most opportunities I can. I just don’t define that as limited to “make more money than me.” I certainly hope they do. But I would be equally happy if, say, DS became a professor in physics somewhere, or DD got a patent for some cool new device, or one of them decided to open their own business, or whatever. Fundamentally, I want them to find a life that is satisfying on all sorts of fronts.

  123. And yeah, I absolutely want my kids to do better than I have done — that’s WHY I work, plan to pay for college, fret so much about meaningless little things: to give them the most opportunities I can. I just don’t define that as limited to “make more money than me.”

    Perfectly said. I want my kids to do better than me in so many ways other than financial success. If they do better financially, that’s great, but I’m more concerned about their personal success, for lack of a better term.

  124. I certainly hope they do. But I would be equally happy if, say, DS became a professor in physics somewhere, or DD got a patent for some cool new device, or one of them decided to open their own business, or whatever.

    It’s not all about money – it’s about prestige and status. Having a Nobel Prize is way better than making $100 million for example.

  125. We gave out four Costco-size bags of candy. $60 worth, and we were out by 7:20pm. We get a lot of kids from other neighborhoods, and I quickly figured out to say “Take two, coge dos” to the really little kids, many of whom didn’t speak English. I was surprised by the number of inflatable costumes, and they did seem to be quite awkward for the kids to manage.

  126. Right — except that I would amend that to say it’s not all about money OR prestige/status — it’s about self-satisfaction. It is more important to me that my *kids* are happy/fulfilled/satisfied/etc. with wherever they end up than that a bunch of strangers are impressed by it.

    Not that I’d turn up my nose at a Nobel Prize, mind you. . . .

  127. Yeah, “better yourself” means more education in my world. It’s hard to do that when DH has a Ph.D and a J.D., but DSS’s physics Ph.D is good. Now, HE is ambitious and wants all the money in the world. It’s interesting. That’s why he keeps thinking about doing a startup. At this point he’s done a ton of work with the DoD and apparently has big ideas about what would sell well.

  128. It is more important to me that my *kids* are happy/fulfilled/satisfied/etc.

    If they are happy/fullfilled/satisfied playing video games in your basement that’s great? There is at least a twinkle of wanting to be able to say, “Henrietta? She’s working for Médecins Sans Frontières in the Sudan. What’s little Timmy up to these days? Oh, Starbucks…they have great benefits.”

  129. @Rhett – I don’t see why it’s so interesting – honestly. Working hard & pushing your kids to do better than you is something that my grandparents did for my mom & her sisters because there was further to go & they weren’t the “don’t put on airs – just join the union” types. But by the time a couple generations to “better” the marginal return is just not the same. You’ve said yourself that it is more about maintaining advantages. Wanting to run a hedgefund, be a CEO, work for Bain, be a BigLaw rainmaker is a whole different thing. Even wanting to make buckets of money in something more obscure like being a rare art dealer is a whole different thing that requires a lot of hustle, connections, etc.

  130. And I don’t look at my investments very often, certainly not monthly. At most, I glance at the total value when I log into Mint. But I am also younger than some of you that are keeping closer tabs.

  131. @Rhett — LOL. No, we were talking about the “dream” for our kids, and my dream definitely does not include playing video games in my basement, or working at Starbucks. I mean, if they are genuinely happy doing that (and not relying on me for support), then ok. But it’s not the dream.

    But that’s why I also didn’t just use the word “happy” — because I think you can be short-term happy playing video games all the time, but long-term dissatisfied/depressed if that’s all you have going on. I think people are satisfied/substantively happy long-term when they feel they are contributing something — and yes, that contribution needs to be recognized and appreciated by some audience (it just doesn’t have to be the neighbors). So, say, professor: you presumably do that because you are fascinated by the work and want to do research and figure things out, so you are doing something you enjoy and find fulfilling (almost) every day; meanwhile, if you have reached the tenured professor ranks, you have clearly earned the respect of your peers, and so your contributions and value are ackowledged by the circle of people who matter to you.

    That also doesn’t mean that video games or Starbucks can’t be part of the “dream” for the kids, either — it just needs to be coupled with something more substantial. To illustrate, different versions of the above:

    — Playing video games in the basement — and developing a YouTube channel that allows you to support yourself in the style to which you’d like to become accustomed: check. Or playing video games as part of your job developing new games, where you’re getting paid to do something you’d happily do for free: you betcha.

    — Working at Starbucks — while training full-time in some sort of sport for higher-level competition: absolutely. Or you want to run a business and are working there either to get experience for your own shop or to work your way up the ranks: ditto.

  132. “But by the time a couple generations to “better” the marginal return is just not the same.”

    Exactly. In fact, at our SES level, you could say that striving for even greater financial/social success violates the Rhett $-per-unit-of-effort metric.

  133. “No, it’s a realization that we have it pretty damn good overall, so why not just enjoy what we have.”

    THIS. I’ve recently come to this realization and try to find new activities and experiences for my family to do. I used to look at the cost of things and stay at home, but what kind of a life is that?

    “Perfectly said. I want my kids to do better than me in so many ways other than financial success. If they do better financially, that’s great, but I’m more concerned about their personal success, for lack of a better term.”

    I hope my kids take more risks than I did, even if they end up lower on the economic ladder. I am extremely risk averse and that has led me down a good path, but I do have regrets of all the fun and interesting things I could have done.

  134. @Rhett – I laughed because I think my mom would have been happier if just one of us had gone into the Peace Corps or something very do-goody that she could brag about. I also at times have thought that they are a little disappointed that none of us went to grad school, but I rest easy knowing that my brother is far more embarrassing than me in every way.

    I doubt anyone wants their kids to be living in their basement playing video games & smoking pot. But that doesn’t mean that I want my kid to spend his life chasing “prestige” of any kind either. That seems deeply unsatisfying – nothing is ever good enough. There is a balance there. I realize that is what it takes to make it to the top of anything – sports, business, creative fields, but there is something a little sad about never being satisfied.

    I do subscribe to the cost per unit effort philosophy. I think our set levels are just different.

    I would be absolutely shocked if my kid ended up being any kind of entrepreneur. He does not have a risk-taking bone in his body.

  135. In fact, at our SES level, you could say that striving for even greater financial/social success violates the Rhett $-per-unit-of-effort metric.

    That’s primarily true for diligent totebag types. Working smarter not harder with the knowledge and advantages we bequeathed to them could result in far more success for far less effort. For example, I’m sure we can all agree that if you want to make $X there are a lot easier ways to do it than big law.

  136. ” In fact, at our SES level, you could say that striving for even greater financial/social success violates the Rhett $-per-unit-of-effort metric.”

    He’s going to say that it is super easy to be a bajillionaire & that they don’t work very hard. To which I say – bollocks. Those are the kind of jobs where you are ALWAYS working, even when you are not “working”.

  137. I hope my kids take more risks than I did

    I kind of hoped DSS would too, but you know, some of that is just hardwired. When DSS was about 16 months old, he’d run up to the stairs (on the second-floor landing), stop, look down the stairs, take a step back, and fold his hands over his little tummy. That kid was just not ever going to be jumping out of airplanes or gambling all his assets on that one big win. (Or trying heroin, or drag racing, so there’s that.)

  138. I do have regrets of all the fun and interesting things I could have done.

    Right, this is what I’m talking about.

  139. “Rhett – I love that you keep our ambition going and force us to move the goal post further down the field.”

    I agree with Louise. That said, the way I keep my Zen is being happy with what I have.

  140. To which I say – bollocks. Those are the kind of jobs where you are ALWAYS working, even when you are not “working”.

    But you none the less agree that $ per unit of effort varies greatly from career to career.

  141. DH *loves* schmoozing with people. He is a total extrovert who loves working. And because it’s fun, he is always happy. I think this may be what Rhett is getting at. That said, I see this only rarely.

    For those of you who want your kids to be entrepreneurs–please refer to my prior complaints. : )

  142. “But you none the less agree that $ per unit of effort varies greatly from career to career.”

    Absolutely. But I think that there are very, very few jobs where you are going to be in the 0.01% without doing a whole lot of work unless you inherit it. And that’s a different kind of effort. :)

  143. very few jobs where you are going to be in the 0.01%

    Keep in mind that the totebag media is the 97th percentile. There is a range of $ per unit of effort at that level just like when you go from 97 to 98. And 98 is a vast chasm away from 0.01.

  144. “For example, I’m sure we can all agree that if you want to make $X there are a lot easier ways to do it than big law.”

    Well, sure. But I’m not in Biglaw. As of now, with my part-time status and in-firm part-time position, I have possibly the most cushy legal job in the history of legal jobs. If I were willing to double my effort (pretty much meaning work Biglaw hours), I would double my pay immediately, and within a couple of years I could probably triple or quadruple it. I just don’t want to work that hard, and I make plenty of money for us as is, so why bother?

    I also think you have to look at effort over time. At least from what I know, all of those big-payday “easy” jobs come after years, if not decades, of ass-busting — whether on a startup, or to build your book of business, or whatever. So how is that different than law (other than in the training/specialized knowledge bit)? Really, I have been able to get where I am without even once billing a full 2000 hours per year (billable — although I definitely did work harder in the past, when I was so focused on proving myself and achieving). So it hasn’t exactly been 25 years in the coal mines, you know?

    Now, if DD gravitates toward sales, and is happy to schmooze all the time and manages to bring down mid-six-figures or more doing so, then by all means, more power to her. But that is still a huge time commitment to develop/maintain that network, even if it doesn’t really feel as much like “work” if you have the right personality type.

  145. At least from what I know, all of those big-payday “easy” jobs come after years, if not decades, of ass-busting — whether on a startup, or to build your book of business, or whatever.

    That’s the great fallacy that all jobs have the same return on $ per unit of effort. It’s just not true. There are people making what you make who have worked 2x as hard as you (cumulatively to date) and there are people making what you make who have worked 1/2 as hard (cumulatively to date).

  146. One of Rhett’s long time observations is that people on this site report dissatisfaction with the constraints on their household comfort or their children’s educational options or their vacation choices or their ability to retire early or all sorts of other things that can be solved with money. He pokes us on the virtuous signaling that it is better to make tradeoffs than to use our considerable gifts in a way that generates more income.

  147. That’s the great fallacy that all jobs have the same return on $ per unit of effort. It’s just not true. There are people making what you make who have worked 2x as hard as you (cumulatively to date) and there are people making what you make who have worked 1/2 as hard (cumulatively to date).

    The same job for the same salary has a much different $ per unit of effort for different people. There’s also a great range in what people consider to be “work” and the amount of effort they have to put into a particular job.

    For example, for most of us introverts here. a sales job would be a ton of effort for us, and even if we were making a lot of money, the $ per unit of effort would be small. Conversely, someone with a natural ability to easily schmooze and close deals who loves that kind of work would find the $ per unit of effort to be much greater, even if they were making less money, because their effort is so much less.

  148. @Rhett: I absolutely do not believe all jobs have the same return. But I also don’t think there are any jobs that provide a consistent 0.2% income level without a cumulative time investment that is at least comparable to what I have put in.

    So if the question is do I want my kids to know about and go for a 0.2% income level if they can do so with around the same time investment as I have made, then absolutely — if they can find one of those options, and it suits their talents, that’s a no-brainer. But if the question is whether I see it as worthwhile to put in the extra time and effort myself to get to the 0.2% income level, or whether I am going to train my kids to go after that 0.2% income level even if it means working 2-4x+ as hard as I have, oh hell no.

  149. He pokes us on the virtuous signaling that it is better to make tradeoffs than to use our considerable gifts in a way that generates more income.

    That’s because another one of his long-time theories is that it is very easy to increase your income with little effort.

  150. That’s because another one of his long-time theories is that it is very easy to increase your income with little effort.

    My theory is more that for any given income level there is a range of effort that goes into making that money. And you are exactly right about effort being a function of what you like to do/are good at.

  151. I have taken Rhett’s comments as pushing us to work smarter. For me, this means how to keep my flexibility and move to positions that pay more. My initial thought was “Oh, I won’t bother to apply, they won’t be flexible” but I found I could work things out, didn’t have to give more effort than my old position but still made more.

  152. In keeping with yesterday’s post, I will try to contribute to the discussion more often!

    About “good enough” — last year I attended the 25th reunion for my college class. I have been to them all (I live relatively close by) and this was by far the best. I believe it’s because, for the first time, the majority of people I spoke with were finally comfortable with themselves and not trying so hard to impress everyone else. I think there was also a recognition/realization that everyone by now had endured hardships of some kind – divorces, deaths, job losses – so there was a sense of shared empathy and understanding.

  153. Flyover, that was absolutely true at my 40th high school reunion! I even had a conversation with one of the “perfect” girls about the severe anxiety she had suffered, and how she made sure HER children were medicated when they had similar symptoms. Eye-opening.

  154. So hard to catch up….

    My family’s immigrant story, near as I can figure out….Paternal side…Great grandfather emigrated from Ireland, worked in the western mines until he was poisoned after a domestic violence incident. Grandmother was ten years old and the eldest of five. Until the day she died, I constantly heard how important it was for me to have a career. Somehow she managed to put herself through teaching college. It was never clear how much education grandfather had, I am not certain he graduated high school or even 8th grade. How those two got together is a mystery and it was not a happy marriage. Father had some college, mom graduated high school. Her parents, I believe graduated high school, but I’m not sure.

    All my siblings graduated college, two of us have advanced degrees. 3.5 of us maintained day jobs while also having a side business. Eventually I was able to leave the day job.

    I definitely want/expect my kids to do better than I did. They have a ton of advantages and talents that I didn’t have. If they take what we have started, they have the potential to make it into the top whatever percent.

    DH and I are little surprised that we managed to produce risk averse children, but they are much less risk averse than we are and more aware of consequences. Maybe this is good. DS mentioned off hand last night that he didn’t expect to drink until he was 21. Matter of factly, not like he was making a big promise.

  155. “I have taken Rhett’s comments as pushing us to work smarter. For me, this means how to keep my flexibility and move to positions that pay more. My initial thought was “Oh, I won’t bother to apply, they won’t be flexible” but I found I could work things out, didn’t have to give more effort than my old position but still made more.”

    I have taken it that way too…partially. And it has actually served me well recently, so I do thank him for pushing a different point of view. Conversations here have been on my mind as I have made career decisions over the past 10 years. Weird as that is – sometimes it’s easier to take “advice” of a sort from “strangers”. I just think it is extreme sometimes even though there are parts that I completely agree with.

    @Flyover – I had the same experience at my 20th. In retrospect, the 10th was kind of painful with everyone competing. The 15th was still more cliquey. But this year’s was much more open. We have classmates who have died, we have a classmate who came in a wheelchair with ALS, we have lots of divorces, and other hardships. People were much less cliquey as well – it’s harder to remember who was friends with who and who was cool in college now than it was 10 years ago.

  156. I have taken Rhett’s comments as pushing us to work smarter

    Yes, that’s his point. But he continually insists that there are all these low-effort $200k jobs falling off trees and we can just go out and get one tomorrow if we wanted to.

  157. “I have taken Rhett’s comments as pushing us to work smarter.”

    For any parent who is worried because their smart kid isn’t working up to their potential in high school, the experience of one young adult I know may offer some comfort. That slacker attitude in school seems to have turned into a keen focus on $ per unit of effort in the workplace. IOW, he’s constantly figuring out how to make more money with less effort. That leads to things like cutting corners when it makes sense, and pushing for benefits that make his life easier but have no effect on productivity. As time goes on he’s become more outspoken in putting up with less bureaucratic BS and being able to find the easier way to get things done. This can be taken too far, but so far it’s working out pretty well.

  158. “But he continually insists that there are all these low-effort $200k jobs falling off trees and we can just go out and get one tomorrow if we wanted to.”

    Right – that’s the part that I disagree with.

  159. But he continually insists that there are all these low-effort $200k jobs falling off trees and we can just go out and get one tomorrow if we wanted to.

    Keep in mind, per your previous comment, low effort to you. That doesn’t mean everyone would consider it low effort.

  160. “But he continually insists that there are all these low-effort $200k jobs falling off trees and we can just go out and get one tomorrow if we wanted to.”

    I, too, disagree with this. Rhett must be in a talent-constrained industry, because it does not work like this in my industry.

  161. <i.Keep in mind, per your previous comment, low effort to you. That doesn’t mean everyone would consider it low effort.

    So what are these high paying jobs that are so easy to get? Then I can decide if I think they would he low or high effort for me.

  162. Rhett must be in a talent-constrained industry, because it does not work like this in my industry.

    Are you in a tournament model type industry where you have a lot of people vying for a few very lucrative slots?

  163. “The general attitude was very much that kids should never aspire to be more than their fathers.”

    Wow.

    So as kids they thought that was as good as their lives would be, and they could look forward to declining standards of living, having and making less than their fathers?

  164. So as kids they thought that was as good as their lives would be

    The thought was that their lives were fine and they should be happy with what they have. Pretty much the same sentiment expressed by almost everyone here.

  165. Are you in a tournament model type industry where you have a lot of people vying for a few very lucrative slots?

    That’s how the working world works, you know that. The higher you go, the fewer the jobs available. What fields have enough lucrative slots that anyone who wants one can have one?

  166. That’s how the working world works, you know that.

    Only some of the work world works that way. For example if you want to work as a developer at video game company they have crazy hours and treat you like shit. If you want to be a consultant developing a new billing system for the gas company you can make 2-300k all day long.

  167. Yes, but those jobs aren’t easy to get. You have to have the right skills and experience. You can’t just walk in and say “I’ll take that job for $200k”, you have ot have the skills and experience they are looking for.

  168. You can’t just walk in and say “I’ll take that job for $200k”, you have ot have the skills and experience they are looking for.

    Obviously. As I’ve said countless times we’re talking about totebag level people NMSF and such. Not high school drop-outs.

  169. Only some of the work world works that way. For example if you want to work as a developer at video game company they have crazy hours and treat you like shit. If you want to be a consultant developing a new billing system for the gas company you can make 2-300k all day long.

    This is one of the advantages I hope I can give my kids; understanding the range of work opportunities that are available. Even after working at a top brand name consulting firm / sweatshop, I didn’t understand that this had opened the door to so many off-the-beaten-path opportunities. I realize now that freelance work can be a lucrative and flexible option for people who are willing/able to take on the risk of fluctuations in pay.

  170. Obviously. As I’ve said countless times we’re talking about totebag level people NMSF and such. Not high school drop-outs.

    Yes, but they still don’t take just anyone for these positions (or any other job for that matter). You grossly understate the difficulty in getting a job, regardless of how smart or qualified a person is. If you’ve never been turned down for a job, even when you’ve been fully qualified, then you are a true unicorn.

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