Saturday, September 09, 2006

Frustrating!

I was flipping through the new issue of Glamour magazine today, and came across a sidebar article that was supposed to answer the question "I'm living from paycheck to paycheck. How can I stop?" As someone who just got paid, did the math, and figured out that I need to return the jeans I bought to be able to afford gas for the month, it caught my attention.

The advice? Save $2 a day, and after 10 years, that will be $9,300 if you get 5% interest.

Um, good advice in theory. But where am I supposed to GET that extra $60/month to save? The whole idea of living paycheck to paycheck implies that you don't HAVE money left over after the bills are paid. Thus, that advice makes NO sense.

I bring this up because this is about the five *millionth* article I've seen along these lines. Someone writes in (supposedly) and asks "All of my money goes to bills- how can I save for the future?" or any variation thereof. EVERY time, the "financial expert" tells the dear writer that all they have to do is give up their monthly spa appointment, and they'll save a bundle! Or they recommend something like the above- "If you just put 5% of your paycheck directly into a savings account, you'll have plenty of extra money saved in no time!"

Can the financial expert type people just not comprehend the concept of NOT having lots of spare money? Or do they make up this crap and call it an answer because they don't want to admit that they don't know what to do?

There has been a lot more public attention on those struggling to get by lately- the book "Nickel and Dimed" gave the issue of how impossible it is to get by in America a big push into the spotlight. The idea behind the book, if you haven't read it, is that the author moves to a city, gets a job that pays the average amount for that area ($7-9 in most places), and tries to survive. Not to spoil the book for you, but it is impossible. And yet the majority of the people in this country do exactly that.

The only way that I have any leftover cash at all, and am not living in a cardboard box or selling my organs for cash, is that I don't have to pay rent. If I had to shell out another $300-$400 a month? I would have to take a second job. I would be screwed.

All I really want to see is a magazine article like this one that actually answers the question. When someone asks "How can I get ahead when I have no money left after paying bills?" and you tell them "Just set a bunch of extra money aside!", it is no different than saying "Let them eat cake!".

So I e-mailed the author and said just that.

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