As I write these words, Superbowl LIV is starting. Would you care to guess the cost to travel to Miami, stay in a mid-level hotel, feed yourself, and watch the game in a decent (where you can see without binoculars) seat?
$70,000—to watch a game.
Honestly, that fact knocked the wind out of me. The median household income in the US was $63,179 in 2018.
Gentle Reader, I try not to get stridently political in this space. And I’m still not the girl to tell you who to vote for.
But this week, I’m asking you to consider my words when you are deciding who gets your vote. There’s something that’s been on my mind lately and I’ve done some research.
Tragically, more and more Americans are living in financial servitude that starts early and lasts forever.
Colleges and universities have raised tuition and costs at more than 400% the rate of general inflation; 8% vs 1.9%. This means that the cost of higher education doubles every nine years. A child born today will see college costs quadruple before they even graduate from high school.
The government and financial sector’s answer to this has not been to address the inflation, but to make it easier and easier to borrow more and more money.
The result is that 70% of graduates enter “the real world” with an average of $30,000 in student loans. That’s just undergrads. Add to that the $70,000 for a post-graduate education, and our kids are saddled with something equal to the mortgage of a tiny home or a large car. And legislation has been written so that even in bankruptcy those loans are not forgiven and must be paid.
Education should not be the privilege of the wealthy and a lifetime of debt for everyone else.
Petey and I pay more than $700 a month for health insurance. This is through a stable, generous employer, and is actually a pretty good bargain for what is covered. But after a catastrophic illness seven years ago, we were still thousands of dollars in debt that has had damaging long-term consequences for our financial situation.
Without health insurance, we would most likely be living in our car. Medical expenses are still the number one factor in bankruptcy and resulting homelessness in this country. And the National Institutes of Health tells us that at least 26,000 people a year die because they have no health insurance.
Entertainers and wealthy reality stars document their lives, possessions and acquisitions on multiple social media platforms daily. These lives have become familiar and aspirational in a way they never have before. The easy availability of credit makes a knock off version of those lives doable.
But children are still not taught basic finance and budgeting in public schools.
America is the land of opportunity. If one is able to navigate or innovate past the financial reefs that are thick and dangerous, there is a chance to get ahead. But that chance is slim and decreasing.
Far more likely the opportunity is becoming buried in mountains of debt which make one’s life a small, fear-filled thing where joy and peace of mind are daydreams and bedtime stories told to children.
Money means options. It means the time to consider your choices and make the correct decisions for you and your family. It means sleeping at night and not laying in the dark worrying that somebody will get sick, or something will break, or hours will be cut.
Next week, Gentle Reader, I will do my best to make you smile. This week, I’m imploring you to think.
Thanks for your time.
Contact debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.