Friday, January 04, 2013

Welcome to the Middle Class

I think that maybe while growing up, I led a somewhat sheltered life.  I mean, I know I did, but there are a lot of things I didn't realize growing up......trying to keep to today's topic, we will just stick with some financial considerations here but I'm sure there will be more posts.......

Anyway, finances were almost never discussed in our home while growing up.  If I happened to catch the tail-end of a conversation about money, I was always quickly reminded that we don't talk about money with ANYBODY.  That included my grandparents.  So we never talked money.  My parents, my mom especially, was very frugal.  She was careful that she didn't overspend.  That meant that frequently I felt like we were poor.  I remember being told often that we couldn't buy this or that because it was too expensive or it wasn't needed.  I still remember with horror the "granny" shoes I had to wear for marching band my whole freshman year (we had to have black tennis shoes but all Dollar General sold was these very ugly old lady black shoes, so that's what I got.....).  Occassionally I was teased about my clothes or things like that and I did spend my own money (when I began babysitting, etc) on odd things - fancy ink pens, binders, books.......just trying to fit in.  As an adult, I know it had to be hard for my parents.  As farmers their income wasn't guaranteed the next year and there are a lot of unknowns in agriculture.  So, growing up I thought we were poor.....even though we lived in a nice house (that was paid for, my parents made sure I knew that lol) and my parents drove nice vehicles (again paid for lol)......I will never forget when I was in high school.  Someone asked if I was going on a trip and I said no, we didn't have the money for that.  My not-so-close friend laughed at me.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out why they were laughing, until they clued me in to the fact that my dad raced stock cars as a hobby - poor people don't do that.
 I guess they don't.
 My whole perception of my upbringing changed.  My family wasn't poor.  We were solidly in the middle class.  Had been the whole time.  How sneaky is that?   I felt a little cheated after many times did I just not ask to do something or for something I needed because I didn't want to put undue pressure on my poor, struggling parents.  lol

My husband never knew middle class growing up.  He was the poor that we weren't.  Poverty wasn't anything new to him.  The stories of his childhood sometimes make me cry.  His mom was single.  They moved every 3-6 months.  He never knew what it was like to live in a house that was 100% paid for, heck his mom didn't even own a house until he was almost an adult.  My husband had medical issues as a teenager and young adult that saddled him with thousands of dollars of medical bills.  He graduated high school but had no higher education.  He had never been taught the value of paying off debt or learning a trade.  He floundered a little in early adulthood.  We met, married and started this adventure the first year we were married, dh was hospitalized with different things 3 times.  He had heart problems and 3 surgeries.  Although most of his problems were able to be fixed or treated, those first couple of years he didn't work more than he did.  And we amassed more medical bills.  We used a medical card for me when I was pregnant with Lee.  I will never forget my dad's contempt.  He was disgusted that "he" was having to pay for my pregnancy.  I was, again, mortified.  We used food stamps, WIC, both of us working when we could.  We bought an older trailer (on payments of course).....we always paid our own utilities.  I tried to stay in college.  Norman took a night class to prepare him for IDOC training - he took the test for Illinois Department of Corrections 3 days after I gave birth to Greg (again with a medical card, food stamps and WIC - oh the horror! Imagine my shock when I learned about farm subsidies.....really dad?  You made me feel bad all these years.......). 

3 months later, my husband went to work at a job 3.5 hours away.  He had a salary.  We now had medical insurance.  We went off public assistance.  We PAID OFF all those medical bills.  We started establishing our credit.  We bought a house.  All while financially helping several family members who didn't appreciate the sacrifices we were making for them.  That kinda hurts, but I guess that is the way of life. 

Anyway, all this time we were proud of our middle class status. 

Things fell apart a few years ago. Those people we were helping, still didn't care and had no respect for anything at all.   We now live in a rental in town.  We don't know when/if we will ever own our own place again.  We try to be content. 

Norman still works for IDOC.  We are still solidly in the middle class.  We pay insurance premiums that would make some people sick - and deductibles and copays also.  We pay taxes for services we don't qualify for.  We pay a fortune into a pension that probably won't be there when my husband is ready to retire.  We worry where the money will come from for gas, groceries and our children's school needs.  Welcome to the middle class.

Some days I long for the lower class.  I know that I shouldn't, but let me tell you, it was easier.  Insurance for our children was paid 100%.  I didn't have to worry about a prescription not being covered, or coming up with a copay for 4 sick children.  People who qualify for food stamps get way more money than I would ever know what to do with in a grocery budget......Oh how I dream of walking down a grocery aisle and just putting stuff in the cart. 

What happened to the American Dream?  When it was a good thing to be in the middle class? 

I'm trying to learn contentment.  It's hard.  I will admit that I am jealous of those whom seem to have it all together and I'm jealous of those that don't seem to have to worry all the time.  I know so many people in our shoes.  It is a fact of life now.  A very sad one. 

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