Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Both current Presidential candidates are bandying about this question, with differing answers: “Are you better off than four years ago?” An illuminating interview with an economic journalist on Terri Gross’ Fresh Air program answered that the nation was better off as a whole, whereas many individuals were worse off. Thanks to a trick of wording: both campaigns are right.

We don’t need to subscribe to one party or another to ask, “am I better or worse off?” And, “how do I know?”

How do you spell success?

A lot of this is in how you define “better”; what does your “success” look like? My success probably wouldn’t be measured very highly by an economist; I was making a lot more money in 2008 (about $80, 000 a year, plus my husband’s less regular pay of about $20, 000 a year). Here in 2012, I’m making less than my husband was in 2008; he’s making about $45, 000 as a sergeant in the Army.

But in so many ways, we’re better. Thanks to our greatly reduced expenses with me working freelance jobs (so I don’t need a nanny) and my husband being overseas where he can’t take part in expensive activities (like traveling, eating out, drinking, etc.), we’ve been able to pay off some debts and we’ve both opened IRAs.

Most of all, I feel I’m successful because I’m happy with my chosen career, and happy that I’m spending money where I get the most value. You know, really great coffee and bicycles! My garden is more lush, my living room more organized, and my dining room more well-used than in 2008.

I’ve got a variety of rewarding volunteer jobs. I’ve done something crazy I’ve always dreamed of — started a literary magazine for parents — and I’ve had some successes in my literary writing. I may not be rich in income, but I’m rich in friends and ideas and experiences.

It’s about emotional as much as financial security

What we are worried about, when we kvetch over our financial security, is really our emotional security. It’s why economists aren’t surprised that sometimes our economic measures can be falling while our “consumer sentiment” rises. Here’s how you might measure your own emotional/financial security:

  • Do I have a job that gives me a sense of creation, or contribution to society, or well-being? It’s not just having a paycheck that makes us feel secure; it’s having a paycheck in return for doing something that feels meaningful to us. Everyone’s “meaningful” is different; I actually felt great as an investment banker back in the 1990s. You can feel a sense of creation serving great tacos to customers of a food truck. How is your job satisfaction compared to four years ago?
  • Do I have enough money in the bank to meet my immediate needs and a few thousand dollars’ cushion for an emergency? A surprisingly high number of Americans don’t have access to $2, 000 in the case of an urgent need; having just this amount can greatly increase your emotional security (and save a lot of stress and bank fees, as well).
  • Do I have adequate health insurance? The lack of health insurance stability is almost equal to job instability in creating stress and financial insecurity. Even for those with employer-sponsored health care, lots of Americans have been losing health insurance — one in six between 2006 and 2008. Without health insurance, we’re more susceptible to financial crises. One study indicated that over half of bankruptcies are tied to medical debt.
  • Is my housing situation stable? With the huge number of foreclosures over the past four years finally dipping, more of us are not in the predicament of being potentially weeks away from losing our home. It is, to put it mildly, hard to feel financially secure if your largest asset (and/or debt, depending on the circumstance) could disappear. You needn’t own a home to have housing stability, of course; if you’re secure in a lease agreement you know you can afford, this can be financial security, too.
  • Are my most important personal relationships stable? While it’s not something we typically think of as a financial concern, most of our worst financial crises come at the hands of the people closest to us. Divorce is the biggest financial blow most people ever endure; and when siblings and older parents are in financial crisis, it often comes to us to help them out.

So, are you better off?

I’m curious: where have you come in the last four years? I’m skeptical that the President can have a lot of impact on our personal outcomes, though certainly I feel more secure in #3, health insurance, thanks to the moves taken by our current leaders. I doubt either major party’s candidate would do much to affect my next four years on any of these measures.

Are you better or worse off? Either way, do you think the leadership in Washington D.C. had anything to do with it?

32 Responses to “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

  1. Anonymous

    Three points on that:

    #1. He gives a huge amount of money to charity. If he gave less to charity, his taxes would be much higher.

    Any reasonable person is smart enough to know that charitable organizations spend their money far more effectively to help people than the government bureaucracy does.

    #2. Even if he has a lower effective tax rate than his secretary (but he doesn’t), he is still paying far more in taxes in dollar terms than his secretary.

    #3. One of the reasons the tax rate on an individual can be lower is if a large amount of their income comes from dividends and/or long-term capital gains. However, before anybody can get dividends/capital gains, the company they are invested in pays 35% corporate income taxes FIRST. So, to be honest about it, you have to include BOTH the taxes the individual pays AND the taxes the corporation pays on the individual’s behalf.

  2. Anonymous

    “If a person is very wealthy their effective tax rate is essentially the marginal tax rate. It is basic math.”

    WRONG! That is the point I am making. Romney has an effective tax rate of 14.1%, much lower than mine, though he is pulling in tens of millions in income per year. He is not an anomaly either, as practically every CEO has a lower effective tax rate than their secretaries.

  3. Anonymous

    If a person is very wealthy their effective tax rate is essentially the marginal tax rate. It is basic math.

    Using statistics to support my conclusion is not evidence that I’m losing an argument. On the contrary, if I were to be calling my opponent names such as Repugnicant, that might be an indication that I was losing an argument.

  4. Anonymous

    When you start losing an argument about federal taxes on the wealthy, start throwing out statistics that use marginal rates (instead of effective rates), include state and local income/property taxes, and L0L, even the gasolene taxes for good measure!

    Well played Repugnicant!

  5. Anonymous

    I’m referring to the average wealthy SBO – not the average SBO. Keep in mind that the wealthier SBO’s are the ones that hire the employees and create jobs – not the 1 or 2 man operation running a business out of their garage or utility truck.

    In 2012, a single person making over $388,350 has a marginal federal income tax rate of 35%. Granted, income below that is taxed at different rates within each of the various brackets…but for somebody who is really wealthy, the vast majority of their income IS in the 35% bracket. Let’s say this person lives in Hawaii, so then that’s another 11% tax that goes to the state. Then there is a self employment tax of 13.3% (although it only applies to the first $107k worth of income). Now throw in all the other taxes such as property taxes on the huge mansions they live in, sales tax on the luxury cars they buy, gasoline taxes, and the like and you’re now pushing close to around 50% of their income taken in taxes.

    The federal government is entitled to 100% of my income and anything they let me keep is a gift? That is a very scary ideology you have. It is very anti-American in my opinion.

    Loopholes may represent tax revenue that never was, but they are NOT spending! Spending IS spending. Loopholes are not the CAUSE of the deficit, real actual spending IS. You can have tax loopholes and a surplus at the same time. It is impossible to have a deficit without spending. See the difference?

  6. Anonymous

    “The average wealthy small business owner is paying around 50% of their income in taxes…and yes there are always exceptions.”

    What is an “average wealthy SBO”? NO business owners are paying anywhwere near 50% in federal taxes. BTW, 97 PERCENT of Small Business Owners make less than $250k a year, so are you talking about the “average of the top 3%”? Even so, there is no way even that highly cherry picked group is paying 50% in federal taxes.

    “I do not consider a loophole a reduction in revenue…nor can you unless you believe the government is by default entitled to that money in the first place…”

    If you live in the USA, then yes the federal government is entitled to that money by forcing you to pay taxes under threat of prison and/or confiscation of your accounts and wages. What fairy-tale land do you live in?

    Tax loopholes are spending in the sense that they have the same exact effect on deficits as sending someone a welfare check. A tax-loop hole for one group is effectively a tax INCREASE on everyone else not in that group to make up the shortfall, and if the taxes aren’t increased then the loophole is paid for on the national credit card (DEBT).

  7. Anonymous

    I never made any mention of Mitt Romney’s specific effective tax rate; I’m referring to the average wealthy person. Mitt obviously is able to get his rate down by giving away so much money to charity…which I consider to be a GOOD thing. The average wealthy small business owner is paying around 50% of their income in taxes…and yes there are always exceptions.

    I do not consider a loophole a reduction in revenue…nor can you unless you believe the government is by default entitled to that money in the first place…in other words, the government owns all our income and we’re lucky they let us keep some of it for our families.

  8. Anonymous

    “I do not believe tax loopholes are true “spending.”

    Intentionally reducing revenues by creating loopholes (for particular groups ), adds to the deficit the same as writing welfare checks to the same people.

    I want congress completely removed from the revenue/collection side of the budget. Whatever congress votes to spend, the IRS should be empowered to collect the taxes from the population using flat rates with absolutely no exemptions/deductions/loopholes for anyone (per new amendment to the constitution).

    If Congress wants GE and Exxon to pay no taxes, instead of being allowed to create loopholes, Congress will have to send a physical welfare check (spend) to those companies to refund their taxes. When that is done, the IRS would be empowered to raise the tax rates to cover the check.

    It should be clear to you now that tax loopholes are the equivalent to spending.

  9. Anonymous

    Not sure what numbers you are looking at, but Mitt Romney (a rich guy), has a total federal effective tax rate at 14.1% (his own campaign published that figure). Nowhere near the 50% figure you are quoting.

  10. Anonymous

    I have no excuse regarding the past 2 years of a GOP controlled house. Both parties deserve blame, but I think they are a few individuals that vote their principles over party lines like Ron Paul and Rand Paul. You can through Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode into that category too.

    Would I support a balanced budget amendment? Yes. However, if congress just simply refused to raise the debt limit, that effectively would have the same effect.

    If the balanced budget simply allowed taxes to be raised automatically with spending, that may or may not work. It might work by pissing off enough Americans to force their politicians to stop spending…or it might just give the government more money to spend and increase it even faster…I’m not sure…but certainly something worth thinking about.

    I do not believe tax loopholes are true “spending.” The only way you can consider it spending is if you believe the government owns 100% of the income of everybody by default and if they let you keep some of it (or keep more of it via “loopholes”), it is a gift. I think that is a dangerous/extreme mentality to have. I believe there should be zero taxes on income. We need more production, not less. Tax consumption instead.

    The $1.1 trillion in revenue not collected due to loopholes/deductions exists only on paper. It assumes people will not adapt to the higher taxes. If taxes are raised, that would encourage people to work less and/or shift the income overseas…and jobs.

    The rich are already taxed at about 50% of their income now when you add it all up (federal, state, local, fica, etc). When taxes exceed 50%, it is more profitable for the businessman to spend his time figuring out how to lower his taxes than it is to grow his business, income, and employment opportunities for workers.

    We want entrepreneurs to focus on doing what’s good for their consumers — not wasting time on figuring out how to reduce taxes…and for that to happen, we need tax rates as low as possible.

  11. Anonymous

    “…if he (Obama) really cared about America’s fiscal house, he would have done something to significantly reduced the war spending when he was elected president and his party controlled congress…”

    And your excuse for the past two years for the Republican controlled house? I think it is fair to say that Congress, regardless of which party is in control, is incapable of reducing spending.

    It would be better to have a balanced budget amendment in the constitution, that empowers the IRS to raise taxes automatically to fund whatever spending congress has written into law.

    Also the complete elimination of every tax loophole/deduction/exemption so Congress would be unable to “spend” via the tax code. Every tax loophole for one group is the same as “spending”, that must be made up by taxing everyone else more.

    “There simply is not enough money that can be raised via taxation.”

    There is something like $1.1 trillion in potential yearly revenue that the fed gov doesn’t collect due to all the tax loopholes/deductions. So I disagree with you, there is plenty of taxes that can be raised to cover even todays congress ridiculous spending levels.

  12. Anonymous

    I agree that there is no lockbox full of cash to pay social security and medicare benefits. It’s a darn shame the government didn’t let people keep that money for their own retirement and/or invest it in the stock market. Heck, even if the market crashes 80%, we’d still have 20% left compared to the 0% we have now.

    “So you are saying that Obama is responsible for the unpaid for Bush tax cuts (tax cuts, without reciprocal spending cuts, so funded on the national credit card), and the unpaid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (starting wars and not raising taxes to fund them) — because these unpaid obligations have carried over into his term?”

    The Bush tax cuts are now the Obama tax cuts because he choose to keep them. So from that perspective, these are Obama’s tax rates now – not Bush. While Obama wasn’t elected to national office when the two wars began, he did vote to borrow money from China to pay for them – because he said he wanted to “support the troops.” So, it’s not like he is completely blameless when it comes to war spending…if he really cared about America’s fiscal house, he would have done something to significantly reduced the war spending when he was elected president and his party controlled congress.

    Obama’s attempts to balance the budget with higher taxes is fraud. There simply is not enough money that can be raised via taxation. We’re so far beyond that. The only solution now is to cut spending.

    Even though the president does not originate the budgets/bills, he ultimately gets to sign-off…and if he disagrees, he can veto. Congress can over-ride his veto…but if he doesn’t veto, then it is fair to hold Obama accountable.

    A $900 billion deficit is not likely to disappear in year 1, but it is possible. If Gary Johnson is elected, you won’t be able to blame him if the deficit is that high because he will veto that spending.

  13. Anonymous

    “If congress defaults on SS and medicare tomorrow, you will see riots in the streets within minutes.”

    No such thing — the money is spent in the same year the taxes are paid, that is how the system is designed to work. There is no “lockbox” full of cash. The FICA yearly surpluses, by law, are used to purchased US Treasuries, which the Fed Gov uses to fund itself. It is a tax and nothing more, the Supreme Court has already decided that you are not gauranteed a penny for paying these taxes your entire lives. IT IS A TAX!

    “Obama did not inherit it. He ASKED for it and campaigned for it. He wanted the job and America gave it to him.”

    Now that is funny. How about he both inherited the horrendous budget, and he also asked for the job of being the president? — as that is more accurate. Under Obama’s watch, he has taken the Bush deficit from $1.2-$1.4 trillion, down to $0.9 trillion, I’d say Obama is doing a decent job (the boat is finally sailing in the correct direction after Bush took us off course for 8 years).

    “….he (Obama) is ultimately responsible for all the annual deficits created under his watch – not Bush.”

    So you are saying that Obama is responsible for the unpaid for Bush tax cuts (tax cuts, without reciprocal spending cuts, so funded on the national credit card), and the unpaid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (starting wars and not raising taxes to fund them) — because these unpaid obligations have carried over into his term?

    You do realize that Obama has been trying to balance the budget, but the Republican House Of Representatives (HOR) have been blocking every attempt to roll-back (let expire) the un-funded Bush tax cuts — let alone raising rates higher than they were under Clinton to finally start funding our wars. So which is it: Obama wants to raise taxes or not? How exactly do you think the $1 trillion yearly deficit is going to magically go away? With the Romney/Ryan budget which plans to slash tax rates even further (slashing rates another 20%), while at the same time increasing military spending even more? Yeah, that’ll work just like it did under Bush, lol.

    I love how you pretend that the decisions made by earlier administrations have no effect on later administrations. You can’t go and purchase a one-million dollar house on credit this year, and then pretend next year that you didn’t do that.

    Regardless, all revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives (per the US Constitution) — which is currently controlled by Republicans — so maybe you should look in the mirror once in a while.

    It is squarely on the shoulders of the HOR to balance
    the national budget, as the president can only “propose” a budget. The president’s proposed budget has always been available on the website.

    “When Romney takes over in January, if he runs a deficit as well (and he will), I will blame him – not Obama.”

    You still don’t get it. It makes no difference who is president next term (Obama or Romney) — a $900 billion deficit doesn’t just magically go away. There is no magic wand a president can wave to fix this. Our only hope is to get the hell out of the un-funded wars we have been fighting for 10 years, not start another war with Iran, undo the Bush tax cuts (for everyone), undo the Bush Medicare-PartD, and then (and ONLY then), will we even have a slight chance of balancing the budget in the NEXT DECADE.

  14. Anonymous

    Correct – there is public debt and intergovernmental holdings like the social security trust fund. You are also correct that Congress could default on the social security trust fund, but to answer your question if “anybody is ever going to care,” I would say absolutely.

    If congress defaults on SS and medicare tomorrow, you will see riots in the streets within minutes.

    While I do not disagree with you that Bush had a deficit, even worse than Clinton, Obama did not inherit it. He ASKED for it and campaigned for it. He wanted the job and America gave it to him.

    While I do not hold Obama responsible for any debt or deficits accumulated by previous administrations – except those in which he was a senator and voted in favor of the reckless spending – he is ultimately responsible for all the annual deficits created under his watch – not Bush.

    When Romney takes over in January, if he runs a deficit as well (and he will), I will blame him – not Obama. At least Ron Paul proposed to cut $1 trillion – but Ron Paul will not be president in January unless something very unforeseen happens between now and then.

  15. Anonymous

    There are two main parts of the Total National Debt: public debt (to outside parties), and the intergovernmental holdings (social security trust fund as an example).

    Congress could eliminate the debt owed to the SS trust fund tomorrow, and there wouldn’t be any repercussions from that act (ie: it is just accounting BS).

    If your left hand defaults on your right hand, is anybody (besides you) ever going to care?

    The fact still remains that Clinton oversaw the period in time where total federal government revenues were higher than total federal government spending — the definition of the word “surplus”. The surplus was used to pay down the outstanding “debt held by the public” (ie, debt held by people and foreign countries): that is a fact.

    The fact still remains that Bush inherited the budget in that state (surpluses).

    The fact still remains that Obama inherited a budget from Bush with over $1.2 trillion yearly deficits locked in.

    The fact remains that the 2013 federal budget is currently projected to have a $0.9 trillion yearly deficit (still bad, but improving).

  16. Anonymous

    Instead of ignoring FACTS and history, why don’t you just research this stuff yourself?

    Article about the Debt Clock in NYC, published Sept 7, 2000.

    “Much to the bewilderment of passers-by, the clock began ticking down shortly after the government — flush with surplus funds from America’s decade-long economic boom — announced in August 1999 it would start paying off its debts.

    The government has paid off roughly $100 billion of the national debt so far this year.

    Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore has outlined a plan that he says would eliminate the debt by 2012.

    Senior economic advisers to Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush agree with the principle of paying down the debt but have not committed to a specific date for eliminating it.”

    Yeah, we know how that turned out.

  17. Anonymous

    Bush did not inherit a surplus. There was no surplus under Clinton – if there was, the national debt would not have increased on Clinton’s watch.

    The deficit is created every year – it’s an annual deficit. The politicians choose to spend more than they take in. In any given year, Obama could veto spending that exceeded revenues, but he did not. As a result, he shares in the responsibility for creating the deficit.

  18. Anonymous

    How did he “create” it, if he inherited it?

    The large deficits were created over 8 years by Bush (who inherited a surplus). So whomever became president after Bush was screwed, even if that were Ron Paul instead of Obama; just like the next president is going to be screwed too (because they will again be inheriting a large deficit, though smaller than Obama did).

  19. Anonymous


    Read my comment again. I never said he increased the deficit, I said he “created such a large deficit.” He created a deficit every single year in his 4 year term. The debt increased every single year in his 4 year term.

    Bush’s deficit was bad and Obama’s is too. Going on a diet and gaining only 5 lbs/month instead of 10 lbs/month is not what I would call success. It is failure.

    You simply have to be a fool to keep voting for the evil GOP/DNC. I’m either voting for Gary Johnson or writing in Ron Paul.

  20. Anonymous

    Tommy, Obama’s current yearly federal deficit is 5.6% lower than the levels he inherited from GW Bush.

    Blame Obama for not lowering the deficit fast enough, but dont claim he increased it, as that is factually incorrect.

  21. Anonymous

    Better than 4 years ago? Nope. Worse. And it’s Obama’s fault too. His government spending has created such a large deficit that it is now being monetized by the Federal Reserve resulting in inflation increasing faster than my paychecks.

  22. Anonymous

    Why was my comment marked as spam when I edited it?

    here it is again…

    I’m doing much better than I was 4 years ago:

    *My income is higher than it was 4 years ago
    *My house (which I bought last year) is larger (and in much better shape) than the one I lived in 4 years ago – and I’ve got over 20% equity in it
    *I am completely debt free except for the mortgage (and I am prepaying that a little every month)
    *My car is only 4 years old (vs the 13 year old car I was driving 4 years ago) and is completely paid off
    *My retirement accounts have a LOT more in them than they did 4 years ago
    *My job is stable and provides great health insurance for me and my kids at minimal cost
    *The EF is about half of what I would like it to be – I had been adding about $1K/month, but switched gears to pay for my wedding (I am getting married in March – and we will NOT incur any debt in the process!)
    *oh, AND I have been able to splurge on things I was never able to splurge on before (for example, I got my first pedicure EVER two years ago – at the age of 34! Now I take my daughters with me to get pedicures together 🙂 )

    But my improved situation has nothing to do with the president.

    Rather, it’s all because of God’s blessings 🙂 (I also tithe the full 10% now – something else I was not doing 4 years ago)

    Oh…and the fact that I divorced the man who was holding me back. $30K of my prior EF went to divorce lawyers (oh, the X made it VERY ugly!), which is one of the reasons why my EF is still not where I would like it to be right now. But it was money very well spent! (and thanks to that EF, I was able to pay CASH for the lawyer bills and still have money left for a downpayment on a new-to-me house).

    Rather than whine and complain and mooch off of (or blame) the government, I bettered my situation on my own by making wise choices (and sacrifices).

    On the other hand, my ex husband just applied for public assistance. He refuses to believe any of his current situation is his own fault, but I’m not sure whether he places more blame on me or Obama for it. I think he hates us both equally as much…

  23. Anonymous

    Darin #5 said) “Since the economic recovery started in June 2009,….”

    Bank Failures are down 56.4%…
    The S&P 500 is up 56%…
    Consumer Confidence is up 42.3%…
    Natural Gas Prices are down 24.7%…
    Mortgage rates are down 22.7%…
    Outstanding Credit-Card Debt is down 15.9%…
    Unemployment rate has dropped 15%…
    Household debt rate is down 14%….
    Median Home Sale Price is up 11.5%…
    Labor Productivity is up 7.2%…
    Annual Federal deficit is down 5.6%….

    See how anyone can cherry-pick stats to “prove” their side?

  24. Anonymous

    My family is doing much better than we were four years ago. My partner’s income is up 40% and in that time I graduated and started a freelancing business that has been pretty amazing to me. Almost everyone I know is doing better, but we are all pretty much keeping spending at reduced levels compared to ’07. I’ve seen more people start spending on things like home upgrades, cars, going back to school and vacations again.

  25. Anonymous

    While my wife and I have been fortunate to see our earnings increase over the past 4 years, most of this has been eaten up with higher gasoline, food, trash, water, sewer, and other things that have risen dramatically. The only reason I’d say we are better off is that we’ve paid off much of our debt and refinanced our mortgate at 2.625% which will allow us to save money that we’ll need to replace aging vehicles, appliances, etc. I know many folks have seen their earnings stay flat or even decrease in recent years, and many are out of work. Those are the folks that I would imagine would say are not so well off. If our country had followed a prudent course and reduced spending (less money on rediculous research, less money to foreign governments that actively promote hatred of the U.S., etc.), paid down debt, promoted long-term job growth, and reformed entitlement programs, I think we’d be in better shape than we are now. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened. For these reasons, and because Mitt Romney has proven that he has been a “difference maker” through his past positions, my wife and I will gladly be voting for him in Pennsylvania.

  26. Anonymous

    Absolutely not. With the way the United States is moving it could be many years before the average middle class recovers, not improves their life and becomes “better off than four years ago.”

  27. Anonymous

    We’re doing pretty well and so are most people we know. I am a 47yo SAHM, my 50yo husband works in the oil & gas industry and we have 3 kids, one each in high school, middle and elementary.

    #1 and #4 – We moved to CO 4 years ago (Oct 31st!) after accepting a job promotion/relocation (in a very secure industry; we have never had to worry about job security. Business is good so we’ve gotten a bonus each year. Our old home sold for a profit because we bought at a normal price, had a 15yr fixed and there was also a small job boom happening in the area. We were able to buy a similar type new-to-us home even though the cost of living is higher here. Almost everyone in the neighborhood painted their homes this summer; a few made outside upgrades; only one foreclosure. After 2yrs of home values holding steady this house is now worth conservatively 10-12% more. If we had to sell right now then we would get back our 20% down, be able to pay selling costs and get back most if not all of the improvement $ we’ve spent (break even probably). Thanks to refinancing twice this year we switched from a 30yr to a 15yr fixed for about the same $. I’d say we’re doing well in these areas. Grade A-.

    #2 – About 10yrs ago (in our late 30’s!) we finally got the hang of keeping some $ in liquid savings. I save annually for big expenses: Xmas, auto insurance, etc. That part is going well. However, we don’t save for kids college and can’t “afford” both 401k and Roth’s (so we do 6% match to 401k only and have a couple of small pensions). On the other hand, we chose to spend a portion of $ on kid stuff like Karate & music lessons, and on DIY home upgrades and small local vacations. But we don’t eat out much, drive a 13yo car (year younger than our oldest child!), husband takes the bus to work and I shop carefully. We’re grateful to have choices but of course would like to be able to do all of it. Grade C.

    #3 – I have to admit to not paying much attention to this. Employer provides the insurance and we take advantage of the tax free spending account. I haven’t noticed any significant decrease in coverage or increase in costs. We pay an average of $20co-pay for the monthly scrips some of us need and both of us adults had surgeries during this 4yr time. We are happy with our coverage, can pay our health/hospital bills but could do better at knowing exactly what we’re getting and paying for re insurance. Grade B+.

    #5 – All is good here though adjusting to more work travel was difficult at first. Grade A. Good friends divorced last year and they are both still trying to recover financially; it can be a very serious problem.

    I do *NOT* think my vote for Obama or my husband’s vote for McCain 4 yrs ago made one bit of difference in our financial lives. WE, my husband and I, are responsible for the choices we’ve made. But we are just one family, we know a few who have suffered financially due to the economy (ex. my electrician brother’s small business, though it is recovering over the last 1.5yr) and government funding cuts (ex. my social worker aunt; she ended up “retiring” at 63, teaches sewing classes now).

    Did anyone see the Dateline or some such show about the “new middle class poverty”? Living in a two-story home in a safe neighborhood with good schools while applying for jobs on a computer and cell phone and driving to the food bank in a newer SUV. There sure are all types of people making all types of financial decisions in “this economy”.

    Obama is getting both our votes this time but not for financial reasons. I hope we are part of CO swinging the vote to another 4 years of a Democrat president!

  28. Anonymous

    I moved to another state and I’m making 250% of my previous income with no state income tax now and a 5% cola increase.

    It’s a big country people have to go where the jobs are.

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