I am not an especially smart person and so it is difficult for me to understand how intelligent people can completely fail to grasp concepts such as the dramatic differences in cost of living from one region to another and from one socioeconomic group to another in our own dear little country. And yes, in case it isn’t obvious, the royal “we” in this post refers to my good lil’ group of college educated, married, one spouse earning well above the poverty line income peeps. Speaking of which, I’ve never actually eaten a peep. Am I missing something?
When Josh and I were filling out the demographic data sheet thingamajig for CrMS it was all I could do to keep from running out the hospital door to immediately look up data for where this system is actually used or how long it had been since they had updated their questionnaire. I was taken aback because they had household income broken down into several increments, but the highest, yes–the very top income bracket–was one that would allow a couple with two children to qualify for at least some forms of State assistance where we currently live. And this was apparently the highest income bracket they could imagine would be useful on a form handed out where we live?
And then of course there is the underlying problem of the tremendous socioeconomic gap in our country. Everyone seems to think that she is a part of the middle class and that her perception of reality is the accurate one. And so we act as if it should be easy to pay off two JDs and raise a family and save for retirement on one early-career income, because one income works for our family. And then at the same time we completely fail to see that what we think of as the basic demands of family life- dad being gone for the vast majority of his children’s days- is, in fact, an indication that we ourselves are probably choosing luxury because we want it. After all, so many people survive on so much less. Or is it so little less? Anyway, we could live with our parents, and our husbands could work part-time gigs and actually be around to see their children’s first steps. Is it not possible that the one full income we think of as basic is, in fact, as much of a luxury as someone else’s second income which is so obviously frivolous?
Instead we act as if the only question is one high income or two, and are quite convinced that those who see a SAHM as a sign of luxury are absurd.
And then there is the other side. The family with the multiple grad degrees from prestigious universities who likes to talk about how there is no need to worry about saving for our children’s undergraduate educations because they were fine paying the equivalent of multiple mortgages. And if they could pay that much, then surely everyone else can? It doesn’t matter that they have the earning power of the MBA/JD/MD/WhaverD. They seem unable to comprehend that this is not the case for most of those with the pathetic BAs.
Honestly, I’m not smart enough for all of this. My head hurts from trying to figure out what $xxx.00 converts to in y situation. There are helpful cost of living calculators for the simple geography question, but they come up far short of helpful with figuring out social expectation and debt repayments.
So for now I’m going to go back to work and give up the question of what is or isn’t a luxury for someone else. Please let me know if you can figure out if I am living in luxury or not because I certainly can’t tell.
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