Are Americans "spoiled"?
I've been through the many threads about flat wages, etc., and I'm wondering how much of our problems are based on what we are able to make, and how much is based on what we have come to consider "the bare minimum"?
I'm hitting middle-aged, but grew up expecting to start out driving a "beater", and rely on hand-me-down furniture, eating at home, etc. until I "worked my way up" to afford better.
I now work with and have contacts that are a bit younger (or more), and this has me thinking that the expectations of what you must have as a new professional have changed quite a bit.
Most I come in contact with expect to be able to afford new "high quality" furniture, new or almost new cars, tv in every room, cable, can't imagine living in anything but, at the bare minimum, very nice apartment complexes with all the amenities (pool, spa, garages), expect to eat out every day at lunch, buy new clothes/toys/whatever, because it's new and cool, must have the newest, best electronics.....I could go on and on.
Those that have bought, or are looking to buy homes are looking at new construction or very new homes because they "must" have 3-4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths with a nice large master suite, granite countertops, top of the line appliances, spare bedrooms for office/workout rooms/man caves, 2-3 car garages, full landscaping, and at lease 2000 sq. feet. And they all refer to these as "starter homes".
Most, if not all, of these people fully expect that they should be able to afford all of this on the wages for their first jobs, with or without a college education. And when they can't, they often complain about how they aren't paid "enough" (and, as someone who has been working for almost 20 years, they are paid quite decently, especially for a first job).
I like watching the "international" home buying shows, and the differences in "normal" square footage and amenities between the US and most other countries is....amazing. Tiny houses, limited kitchens, bedrooms that barely fit a bed, etc., and that is perfectly acceptable in some quite progressive countries (Europe, Scandinavia, etc.).
So are we somehow "trained" to expect this much from the start, is it perfectly okay that we have such large expectations, or?
Nope, not spoiled at all. If Europeans have tiny places to live, it's due to the cities being settled for hundreds of years. You can find the same small places in high occupancy areas here (NY City, Boston, Philly, San Francisco)...high prices, small quarters. Hit out of town in lower occupancy areas and the houses are larger and cheaper.
When you're taxed on the engine size of your car, you'll probably drive a smaller car (unless you're wealthy and don't care).
People may not be the wisest critters out there with their spending though....lots of debt to get their "gotta' haves"....clothes/shoes/saddles/horses/BMW/vacations etc....that's fine, they'll pay it back eventually.
People are waaaaay overly influenced by the advertising industry, which tells us many times a day that if we don't have trendy gadgets, designer clothes, high-performance cars, luxury vacations, perfect bodies and magazine-cover homes we're not "successful." Therefore, people of modest means borrow their way to facsimiles of these things and live stressful lives in debt, a paycheck away from disaster.
People in Europe and Asia that I know are, by and large, satisfied with far less "stuff," especially that which only exists to impress others.
I don't think people are overly influenced by advertising.
When was the last time you heard a card-carrying adult say out loud that they were buying something solely to keep up with the Jonses?
With respect to Americans being spoiled, let's not talk about granite countertops or i-phones. Let's cut to the chase and talk about health care. No, I'm not talking about things like "let's expect that we can be vaccinated or get dental care." I'm talking about people (and insurance companies) who will spend in upwards of a million or so on, say, a baby born prematurely or a very old person who, in another time and place, would have died.
YES. Especially the younger generation, who grew up on "everyone gets an award just for participating" and being told they are special, just for existing.
Gosh, at 36 much of my furniture is still hand me downs or auction purchases. I had roommates all through vet school and my internship. Lunch out when I worked a normal schedule was a Friday treat. Otherwise, leftovers were standard fare.
I am the middle of the pack agewise at my office. The young doctors make payments on cars bought new. Me and the ones older than me drive used cars we paid for at time of purchase. I wouldn't trade my 13 year old suburban for the new Volkswagen with payments.
Many people in every generation and nation are spoiled, and expect to have their parents' luxuries on their recent college grad salaries. But expecting that an honest day's work will provide the basics of safe housing, edible food and a reasonable hope of moving ahead and ending up with your parents' standard of living (or better) is not being spoiled. It is the basis of the American dream. And it is increasingly far from being a reality for younger Americans.
I think it's a little harsh, too, to judge Americans as spoiled in terms of work. American professionals have few of the benefits and protections many of our colleagues in the rest of the west take for granted. We have less vacation time, no job security and live in a culture that fetishizes business so that even if you were fired from your last job by a manager utilizing a hand puppet dressed as Adolf Hitler, your only hope of getting a new job would be to claim that you and the manager parted on good terms and you really always liked working with him.
oh I don't know... most of the people I know In Real Life don't give a crap about granite counters or stainless appliances though I have a hard time watching house hunters b/c of that sort of thing.
Most of the people I know aren't trying to live a life real high on the hog, a comfortable house, probably a good tv, internet access, good truck, camping gear, retirement. I don't think that's really too much to ask when you live in the USA, really... if you live in India maybe not so much but isn't it relative? I don't compare my daily tasks to someone that lives in a 3rd world country so why would I gauge my living standard by that also?
And to be fair, we heat our house with wood, nothing else, we milk a goat for our milk, we hunt, we garden, we don't have a fancy house, our internet is $30 a month, we're not high on the hog by any means but happy with a scrappy little lifestyle.
But someone that gets pouty b/c the grout is the wrong color in the tile will piss me off every time.
YES, whether we want the latest electronic device, expect to eat lunch out every day, or simply have a warm house to live in and know we'll have food on the table every night, we are ALL spoiled in material wealth. You realize that if you've spent any length of time working in a developing country in environments like this https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphot...15112548_n.jpg ....but then you spend a day with the happiest kids in the world, play with 30ish of them in a 10x10ft "play area," see their excitement over simple things like crayons or a colouring book, and then see them quietly sharing their lunch with the kid who always comes in with an empty lunchbox, and wonder if actually, they are the ones who have what matters most.
I think that the "unrealistic expectations" some young adults have are due to having been supported far too long and far too completely by their (well intentioned) parents.
If you went home every summer during college to Mom and Dad's where the fridge was always full, there was no rent, someone cooked for you, your car, insurance, phone, etc etc were all paid for.....well, it must be quite a shock to go out on your own. Without the "benefit" of having had to cram you and your best friends into a crappy apartment, eating ramen and working a couple of PT minimum wage jobs to make rent, taking advantage of happy hour instead of the full priced bar hop, etc, it might be hard to appreciate your clean but not fancy first "grown up" apartment or home, your full time job, your older but paid off car, yada yada.
I really wish parents wouldn't make it so easy and comfortable for their young adult children. Or even college age kids.
Just down the road from my office in East Lansing, they put in what I would call luxury apartments designed for college students, are furnished with nice stuff, etc. They are really nice. Each kid has their own bedroom (4), 2 baths, nice common area, and there's a gym, pool, spa, and free shuttle service to campus. The rent PER KID is more than my mortgage. And parents are happily forking over this money. They're building more, so there's demand! No milk crate/plywood "coffee tables" for these folks!
I dunno. I just think that sort of thing sets young adults up to be disappointed/frustrated when they get out into the real world and don't have all the luxuries they've become accustomed to.
Maybe it's just sour grapes on my part that I had to work my butt off and provide for myself through college and as an adult. But I really do think that living in a total hole during college helps put other things in perspective.
I think some of the obession with material possessions is also the thought that if I just have ___________ I will be happy. If I just buy this new car with all the bells and whistles, if I just buy all new furniture, etc. this will somehow lead them to happiness in their lives.
The thrill of the purchase quickly wears off and they start looking for the next item that will make them happy. The cycle keeps repeating itself.
YES. At the suggestion of someone on this Board, I picked up a copy of the book "The Millionare Next Door" by Thomas Stanley & William Danko. Althought the book is dated, its central themes are not. The book was written based on statistical studies and it was primarily about how most millionaires in this country live well below their means. There was a very long section on how one generation spoils the next because they do not want their children to have it as hard as they did. They called this "economic outpatient care." Statisically, children of all ages on "economic outpatient care" treated their parents' wealth as their income. They had far, far less concern about the value of a dollar and did not consider that a dollar represented effort and sacrifice. They wasted their money on high status consumer goods instead of investing their money. They just acted like the money would always be there, and as a result, they did not feel that they had to work hard or make any sacrifices.
An excellent read--thanks to whoever recommended it. Why isn't this book required reading in public high school?
Yes. I think we've been spoiled by an abundance of resources for a long time, and that time is ending.
Don't tell my son as he makes a very good living creating/directing commericals for TV and internet clients
Originally Posted by mvp
I don't see how every American is considered "spoiled" though.... and I'm not talking about the young adults that expect new cars and nice places without earning them.
I don't see how it's "spoiled" to want a warm house. I think that is a reasonable expectation when you live in the United States. Are the Irish spoiled too then? The Germans? Just about everyone wants a warm house.
I think where we get into spoiled territory is the having to update appliances, having to replace the "old" five year old car...
AND I think it's a version of spoiled to look down on others for living in their means. Trailer houses have a huge stigma in this country even though they would be a palace in some third world countries for a full family. Old cars, second hand furniture... it's looked down upon.
I think this country has been trained to be consumers over the last several decades.
Oh sure we're spoiled. I've picked up Collapse again and was dragging hoses this AM and filling tanks before this cold snap we're supposed to get and thinking about those medieval Greenlanders (their little settlements all died out) and what it would be like living like them - not too different than Haiti nowadays. And there I was sniveling about finding my power cord for the heated stock tank.
I sort of agree with Buddy Roo, but I remember working a factory job in the '80's and a lot of employees' kids worked there. No starving for them, they lived at home and had brand new cars, partied all night long and dropped kids left and right, so it isn't "new", it's just where you were and what your parents let you get away with.
Personally I think that credit is a root of evil. My memory has it that there were no credit cards in the early '60's apart from Diner's Club or Carte Blanche. Bank of America was an early pioneer putting out the Bankamericard which later turned into VISA after competing banks created the MasterCard. I think that there was what they called "revolving credit" at certain department stores, but my mom and dad NEVER did any of that. IIRC they got a card in the '70's because it was useful, rather than handling traveler's checks on vacation or carrying lots of cash. They certainly didn't think that because they could go out and get a new living room suite they should. However they were parsimonious New Englanders by birth, late Depression babies.
I think if you hear that you don't have the money and have to save up, and see it in action, that it might stick a little?
As far as keeping up with the Joneses - I've never heard it said out loud, it's true, but I can't count the number of times I've seen one co-worker show up talking about some new thing and lo and behold another goes out and gets the same thing. The parking lot at work looked like a new car lot in the early '90's. Next it was mortgage envy, who had the better rate. Then everybody was selling their old house and moving into a nicer newer one during the housing bubble (ouch!).
Meh... I don't think functioning in your life is spoiled. If you have an unreasonable expectation that you must have a heated stock tank and nothing less is good enough for you that would be spoiled. If you worked for the money that bought it and you appreciate having the thing how is that spoiled?
And so then is anyone in the world with enough food on the table spoiled? Just because others don't have it?
To me, spoiled is an attitude, not the simple fact of having possessions.
Kind compassionate people that happen to have nice things are supposed to walk around with a guilty conscience? I don't think I buy that...so to speak. :)
Ah, but there is a difference between "wanting" a warm house and "expecting" a warm house. And I mean "expecting" without having to work hard and make sacrifices to have that warm house. Too many people in this country just think that these things are a given. This is what is called an "entitlement mentality." As you so aptly point out, these things are definitely are not a given. There is no money tree in the backyard.
Originally Posted by cowboymom
To address your other point, we "look down" on people who live modestly because high status living is mistaken for "worth" or "wealth" in this country. Many of us value ourselves only if we buy and own high status goods. It is all part of our celebrity worshipping culture.
Oh, so you met my old boss? :lol:
Originally Posted by vacation1
And I agree with cowboymom that the general public has been trained to be consumers. While we may not think it applies to some of us, certainly advertising works - why else would they do it? Pictures of beautiful women in magazines with flawless skin, no cellulite, fabulous clothes, etc... YOU could be like that if only you used xxx product or bought yyy hair coloring or whatever.
I remember reading a news story on CNN or something about a family who had to move out of their home because it was being foreclosed. It had a picture of the family and in the background was their living room with probably the hugest TV I ever saw. And I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they all had cell phones and the latest gadgets, etc. If people spending beyond their means isn't "keeping up with the Joneses" then I don't know what is.
Tgiving discussion-whose kid has an iphone 5 & what age are they? One relative has a kid in 7th grade. He doesnt have a phone (THE ONLY KID IN THE 7TH GRADE WITHOUT A PHONE). Parents would get him a simple phone but he wants a smartphone . So he has none. I back his parents on that one, maybe he wont be so demanding next time?