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Home > Green News > SOLUTIONS MAGAZINE

Elizabeth Warren Explains the Two Income Trap of Middle Class Families

Family risk management is rising in value and priority. US families are facing unprecedented societal, educational, health and career changes. Take an eyes wide open look at the economics and the struggle for middle-class survival.

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Elizabeth Warren is my age. What she has witnessed with the struggles of middle class America, and the American family is what I've lived through, as well. This hour-long lecture about the economics of family income, family expenses, family risk levels will probably affect you as profoundly as it did me. It's a powerful, insightful look at putting things in perspective -- of identifying real trends not our personal observations. Of putting gains and losses into perspective -- such as comparisons between discretionary expenses and the necessities such as housing, healthcare and education.

Divorce, Illness, and Layoffs cause 87% of family financial disasters. Moreover, two working spouses doubles the odds of a layoff that leads to going underwater on house payments, making two-income families MORE risky, not less!

If you have observations that apply to sustainable communities after watching this video, please send them to me -- Carolyn@CaliforniaGreenSolutions(DOT)com. I'd like to help gather our readers' ideas together and put our heads together for solutions.

As suggested by MomAdvice.com, "Take another look at your monthly living expenses. Debt payments consume 30-40% of the typical family's paycheck(s).

Suppose you implemented a plan to rapidly pay off all family debt, every penny, your mortgage too. How would recapturing 30-40% of your family's income -- while cutting your living expenses by the same amount -- affect your ability to create a true Rainy Day fund?"

Taking charge of the second income and restructuring your behaviors to optimize the FIVE LARGEST expenditures can go a long way to relieving the risk and stress on a family. Those five largest and FIXED expenditures that are also the fastest growing (and exploitative) are:

  • Housing
  • Car notes
  • Credit card payments
  • Health insurance
  • Child care payments

Employers, grandparents, and communities need to look at these fixed expenses and the social options available to young families. By providing zoning that allows for home-based businesses or boarders; by ensuring that unsavory financing schemes are controlled; by helping with child care, especially when a family member is sick -- these are ways we can rebuild a community-wide safety net for our next generation.

The benefit to us as neighbors and community members is that stress degrades quality of service delivered at the grocery store and the doctor's office -- as well as care of children at home and marital security.

By supporting the homelife of children, they do better in school and are more likely to continue their education not only through high school, but continuing education for their productive jobs. And that means no shortages of doctors or dentists or police or entrepreneurs in our own old age!

We're all in this together. And when families suffer, we suffer as a community and a nation.

While I have great empathy for "senior discounts", I think there needs to be a "size discount" with small portions of food, entertainment, etc. available to everyone. We need to reward frugality at all ages. That's just one contribution business people can make to reduction of stress and risk for struggling families.

Another is to structure jobs so that some work can be done at home to reduce time away from children -- or to continue working if a child is sick. Did you know that the theme for productivity in hospitals is "Send them home quicker and sicker"? That means your employees are expected to do the nursing ... and if that endangers their job, we have more housing loss, more bankruptcy, more homeless, more downward sliding workforces. And then we say we need more immigrant workers... it's all part of the same high risk behaviors based on taking advantage of families -- not supporting them.

And yes, this is about sustainability.

Living closer to nature offers many benefits. A day at the park costs less than a day at a themepark. Organic food reduces exposure to pesticides and chemicals that don't contribute to robust health and vitality. Caring for your neighbor is as important as caring for your own family. These are both business decisions and family leadership decisions -- all up and down the chain of our choices.

Yes, we're all in this together. Take ONE step each day, each week to rebuild our social safety net for our human family.

It's up to us.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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