Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Madd Money: Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Eight Years Ago?

On another blog that I read regularly (Frugal Dad) this question was posed under the title of a post called “Who’s Responsible For Your Misery Index? The question is “Are you better off now that you were eight years ago?”

What’s this meant to be? It’s of course aimed as a dig against George W. Bush. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a Republican...

“GASP! A ‘Mormon Democrat’?! Is there really such a thing?!”

Yes there is, and I happen to be one of them.

Still, party philosophy notwithstanding, I think this line of reasoning is a total crock! Honestly, how is a faceless bureaucracy like the U.S. Government responsible for me being better or worse off?

Just for fun, here’s some comparisons to eight years ago:

In July of 2000, my commute was 100 miles in a car round trip. In July of 2008, it’s 4 miles to a train station and back, and 13 miles along a BART rail.

In June of 2000, I had a mortgage payment that was roughly 25% of my take home pay for a given month. In July of 2008, I have a fully paid for house and no mortgage payment at all!

In July of 2000, I was struggling through the decision to go back to school and complete my Bachelors degree. In July of 2008, I have that degree and use it daily.

In July of 2000, I was a dad of two great kids. In July of 2008, I’m the dad of *three* great kids (our youngest was born in 2001).

In July of 2000, we had a house where most of the fittings and fixtures were fifty years old. In July of 2008, we have updated central A/C and heat, updated windows, improved insulation plus a remodeled kitchen and main bathroom, and we managed to do it all without borrowing a penny.

In short, those were all changes for the better that *I* and my family were able to make happen. The government has little to nothing to do with it. Now, to their credit, I can say thank you for the three months I had to make do with an unemployment check during 2002 while I was between jobs, but hey, that was my money paid into the system that provided it.

The other side to this question: if I was worse off than I was eight years ago, who would I really have to point the finger at? Truthfully, the finger has to get pointed at “me” first!

I could have decided not to go back to school

I could have decided not to change jobs because I felt the distance was just too much

I could have insisted that my wife work a job so that we could be the stereotypical two income family with the kids in day care (that’s not a dig at families that choose to do that, or more often than not, don’t have a choice but to do that, but for us, we decided to make do on just my income and have Christina be a full-time mom to our kids, and I don’t regret that decision one bit).

I could have sat on my butt when I got laid off the first time and moaned about how there was nothing out there, but instead I took a couple of years worth of tough reality and worked jobs that paid lower than I was used to so I could have the flexibility and freedom to go to school full time and finish my degree.

My choices of where I live are mine, where I work are mine, what I do with my time are mine, and where I place my kids in activities, spend my spare time, and worship on Sunday are exactly that, MINE! Thus, am I better off today than I was eight years ago?


Who do I have to thank for that? Myself, my family, my friends, my church and a few others along the way.

Who had little to nothing to do with that? The Government in Washington, D.C., and I hope and pray that we, as a people, do *NOT* start looking to the government to provide us happiness or well being. When we as a nation lose the sense that our well being and how “well off” we are is are own individual domains, this country will be in *BIG* trouble (IMHO!)!

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