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3.0 out of 5 starsHGTV meets Habitat for Humanity
Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2018
I was excited to read this book, since I live around lots of middle-class folks who are struggling to maintain their position in the economy, many by working extra jobs & being very careful about their spending. I got bogged down in the sections of the book where I was supposed to feel bad for people got expensive, advanced degrees and then couldn't find a good job that paid them for their education. Not sure I found this too surprising--our local economy is begging for good workers to do blue-collar work in welding, tool & dye, plumbing, etc but we have few jobs for people with advanced degrees in English lit or whatever. A lot of the problems encountered by these families is very predictable, in my opinion. Babies are expensive, you should wait until you are established in your career before having them. Daycare is expensive, everyone knows this and should plan their budget before having a baby. None of the personal stories discussed the financial decisions of the subject in detail--as an example of this, I was once treated to a sad rant by a neighbor who was bewailing the fact that his wife was going to have to return to school and get a job because of their financial woes as he stood in front of their three cars, large boat, highly decorated house with a pool, with three kids who all went to private school (there is no benefit in my area to attending private schools as the public schools are outstanding) and his two expensive purebred dogs sniffed at my feet. This book raises some interesting ideas & topics, but there are slim and unformed solutions such as "Don't feel bad about your situation" or "hire your cleaning lady from a coop". I'm not sure I can muster too much sympathy for the person who used their 401K to pay for a wedding or is sad because they can't have a yard service or eat out frequently or had a crappy job after they earned a Ph.D. in Russian literature. On the other hand, I truly feel for the folks who are devalued by society due to their job--caring for children and the elderly, teaching, social work, etc. or whose situations deteriorated after layoffs, downsizing or medical problems. I guess I would be interested in more specific details about the choices made by many of the people in the book before I can feel sad for them.
I'm surprised at the anger and resentment in some of these reviews. I don't usually write reviews, but this particular book struck a chord with me and I feel obliged to share my view in contrast to some of the anger claiming Ms. Quart's book is a whiny over-privileged Millennial manifesto.
I identified with this book and the people spotlighted because I feel a camaraderie with them. I, too, came from an upper middle class household, where I was blessed with having a family wealthy enough to send me to private university. I am a Millennial, and I was raised to believe I could do anything and be anyone, and that's not a bad thing. I earned a master's degree in the sciences and took out a modest student loan not to cover tuition, but to help with living expenses in the city where I attended school. I have been fortunate enough to be well employed in my field for the past decade. I own a home, I send my children to a good daycare, I drive a new car, and have excellent credit. I am, by any measure, successful.
But I am struggling. I'm struggling to pay my mortgage, my car payments, my student loan payments each month. I have nearly nothing in my bank account after my bills are paid. I freelance my skills on the side to earn extra pennies simply to stay afloat, and count down the months until my eldest will enter kindergarten and the financial burden of daycare will ease.
Yes, there are people much worse off than me and I sympathize with them. Yes, there are those who went into Tech or Finance and are doing astronomically better than me. But that's the whole point: the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. All the folks in the middle are becoming invisible. To be middle class in the US is becoming a complicated, increasingly difficult feat to accomplish. And I feel like Ms. Quart's book is primarily about people like me: the ones with all the ammunition in their pocket to "make it" in the middle class. But we are struggling in a way that our parent's generation never did. We are, for better or for worse, breaking new ground.
In the middle of the last century, jobs were secure, wages were increasing...pensions were real! People weren't paying hundreds of dollars each month to student loans, thousands of dollars each year to daycare, and their employers weren't paying hand over foot for health insurance. All of these things that we consider so necessary in the middle class- insurance, loans, childcare, mortgages- these are all run by profit-earning companies. Our capitalist economy has gotten away from us.
I get so angry when I see economic growth measured simply by the number of jobs. What about people who are underemployed? What about people who are working in their field and haven't seen a salary increase in years? What about the people who are responsible for paying for their own health insurance, their own retirement? They are employed and contributing to our economy, but are they comfortable? Can they pay their bills? Likely not. Our nation does not take care of its workers like it used to. It is a systemic, complex problem that will likely take another generation to fix. I don't know what the future looks like. But for now, it's my generation that is hurting and it is comforting to read a book like this simply to know that we are not alone in this struggle. It gives me hope. Thank you, Ms. Quart, for writing such an important book, for telling these people's stories, and for doing it in such an eloquent way.
3.0 out of 5 starsSome good points and some whining
Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2018
This book had some interesting points and information. And I agree with some of the author's observations. However the anecdotes recounted by the author reflect bad decision making or poor judgment/planning on the part of the interview subject. For example the woman with a relatively good job who had a child with a part time composer who made very little money and then seemed surprised when they ran into financial anxiety. What exactly did she expect? And why should society be expected to subsidize this family? Having a child was their choice, holding a low paying job, albeit one the job holder may be passionate about, certainly doesn't motivate me to support these people.
There are enough facts around inequality and income disparity as well as the rising cost of living to make this a compelling read without resorting to stories that call into question the decision making of those involved. In the end it does a disservice to the problem.
Boohoohoo, life is so hard. The solution is simple; live within your means. If "freelancing" wont support you, get a 9-5 that will. Go to (Gasp!) A tech or trade school and learn a skill that is in demand. Use some of those government benefits to get off the dole, instead of training the next generation on how to work the system. The world doesn't owe you a living, dear millennial, you have to earn it. This book is a waste of pixels.
Reviewed in the United States on February 17, 2019
This is a serious subject that deserves serious treatment. This book is largely comprised of stories about individuals who generally made very poor choices in life and then wound up in dire financial straights. It isn’t worth the time.