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Old 08-16-2009, 04:51 PM
 
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,184 posts, read 67,320,481 times
Reputation: 15825

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I must say that as I now finally have some time to sit down and enjoy reading today's paper I must bite my tongue at the sensationalist journalism that has already put a sour taste in this recent transplant's mouth about our paper, the Washington Post. The major story today profiles people of Westchester County, an affluent area just north of New York City not unlike local places such as McLean, and how they are all "struggling" to survive thanks to this incessant recession. Most of the article revolves around Laura Steins, a divorced mother who is a vice president at MasterCard. She earns approximately $300,000 annually between her $150,000 base salary, bonus, and $75,000 of annual support from her ex-husband.

I nearly threw up in my mouth multiple times reading this entire paperweight-worthy article. I'm only earning a $41,000 salary in a very expensive part of this nation, and even I don't feel like I'm "struggling." Yes, I feel very "inadequate" and overwhelmed at times seeing many of my peers or those only a few years my senior in Reston tooling around in BMWs and Audis, fiddling with their iPhones or Blackberries, "posing" with their expensive drinks at the patio bars at Reston Town Center while they are clad in Dolce & Gabbana or Armani Exchange, talking about their European vacations, etc., but I'm still generally content because I know the virtue of not spending more money than what I take in. I'm in good health, have a 2008 model fuel-efficient car, live in a comfortable apartment, have already made many new friends, and have a challenging and stable career. Sure, I wish Reston was a better-planned community for pedestrians, but that's always been my only gripe about life down here. When I read articles like this in the Washington Post (another article months ago about two similar upper-middle-class whiners from Ashburn also drew my ire) I'm seriously wondering if I should or should NOT "treat" myself to a subscription of this paper next June as a gift to myself with my bonus money as I had been looking forward to if this is the standard we ought to expect from what should be one of the nation's leading newspapers.

The woman from the article, Laura Steins, lives in a $2.5 million home which has annual property taxes nearly the equivalent of my annual salary. She pays $40,000 per year for a live-in nanny. She has a pool boy, a $6,000 per year gardener, and someone to plow her driveway in the winter. She drives a Volvo SUV and a Pontiac Solstice convertible. Ms. Steins is derived herself from a very priveleged lifestyle---her father was very successful, and she vacationed in the Hamptons. The article made her out to sound "middle-class" (even calling her as such) because she held down a part-time job during high school. I personally worked FULL-TIME through much of high school and all of my undergraduate portion of my ongoing college career in a high-stress sales position, and I never thought I was "special" for doing something that ought to be EXPECTED of someone in that age bracket to start absolving your parents of at least some of your financial responsibility.

Why am I so hung up on this? You could substitute Westchester County, NY for Fairfax County, VA and get the same results---six-figure earners whining about how "badly" they have it because of the recession while people in many other parts of the nation are going to bed hungry. People have to forgo manicures for a few weeks at a time or downgrade their childrens' iPhones to regular flip-phones with a lower monthly service fee and act as if they are "feeling the pinch." I've overheard strangers in restaurants/clubs down here who are obviously much more affluent than I am whining in similar fashion to these folks from Westchester County about their "sacrifices" (while paying for another $11 Long Island iced tea). I suppose when your lifestyle revolves around outdoing your neighbors and worshiping material objects life becomes pretty miserable when you have to "lower" thyself to an upper-middle-class lifestyle.

Am I seriously the only one who can't help but NOT feel sorry for people who claim they are "squeaking by" on $300,000 per year? Fairfax County is admittedly not as expensive as Westchester County, but it isn't very far off in terms of overall cost-of-living. If I can support myself comfortably (albeit embarrassingly around some of my "flashy" peers) on $41,000 annually, then why is it so hard to take care of yourself and a couple of children with seven or eight times that salary? Why does this woman "need" a live-in nanny, anyways? Why can't SHE wake up earlier in the mornings to make sandwiches for her children to take to school? Why can't SHE cook dinner a few nights a week and/or bring home pizza/fast food a few nights a week? Why does she "need" a pool boy? (Well, beyond the desire to drool as a divorcee I suppose!) My mother works full-time and ENJOYS upkeeping the pool at my own family homestead back in suburban Scranton. Why does she "need" a gardener? Why can't she corral her children to shovel her driveway, or, better yet, invest in a two-stage snow blower for a one-time purchase of $700 and save money from not paying the plow driver.

Articles like this are exactly why so many people around the world dislike Americans. Overall our society is SPOILED, and now that this recession is inconveniencing many people who used to live fun and fancy-free many are acting like the sky is falling. Sickening.
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Old 08-16-2009, 05:21 PM
 
Location: Orange Hunt Estates, W. Springfield
628 posts, read 1,726,508 times
Reputation: 231
It's not how much you make--it's how much you spend. I don't understand your objection to the reporting. I do understand your difficulty in relating to the subject's excesses. So did I. I can't even relate to those in my typical suburban middle class Springfield neighborhood who have maid or lawn service. To me, it's not very hard to clean my own toilet or mow my grass. I think many people buy certain services within their means if time becomes an issue. Me, I only pay people for things beyond my ability, like fixing my car, shingling my roof, or replacing my driveway. Everything is relative to how you were raised and how much money you make. Most of us, should we become millionaires, would probably pay for some services we do ourselves now. That might be because we don't have as much time or simply because we can afford to. The problem with these upper stratus folks, perhaps, is that they cannot adjust to hard times. You and I can-- to a limit.
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Old 08-16-2009, 05:34 PM
 
4,711 posts, read 10,889,243 times
Reputation: 3774
Yeah, it's journalism. I read the article and enjoyed reading it.
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:00 PM
 
715 posts, read 1,869,212 times
Reputation: 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by ScranBarre View Post
I must say that as I now finally have some time to sit down and enjoy reading today's paper I must bite my tongue at the sensationalist journalism that has already put a sour taste in this recent transplant's mouth about our paper, the Washington Post. The major story today profiles people of Westchester County, an affluent area just north of New York City not unlike local places such as McLean, and how they are all "struggling" to survive thanks to this incessant recession. Most of the article revolves around Laura Steins, a divorced mother who is a vice president at MasterCard. She earns approximately $300,000 annually between her $150,000 base salary, bonus, and $75,000 of annual support from her ex-husband.

I nearly threw up in my mouth multiple times reading this entire paperweight-worthy article. I'm only earning a $41,000 salary in a very expensive part of this nation, and even I don't feel like I'm "struggling." Yes, I feel very "inadequate" and overwhelmed at times seeing many of my peers or those only a few years my senior in Reston tooling around in BMWs and Audis, fiddling with their iPhones or Blackberries, "posing" with their expensive drinks at the patio bars at Reston Town Center while they are clad in Dolce & Gabbana or Armani Exchange, talking about their European vacations, etc., but I'm still generally content because I know the virtue of not spending more money than what I take in. I'm in good health, have a 2008 model fuel-efficient car, live in a comfortable apartment, have already made many new friends, and have a challenging and stable career. Sure, I wish Reston was a better-planned community for pedestrians, but that's always been my only gripe about life down here. When I read articles like this in the Washington Post (another article months ago about two similar upper-middle-class whiners from Ashburn also drew my ire) I'm seriously wondering if I should or should NOT "treat" myself to a subscription of this paper next June as a gift to myself with my bonus money as I had been looking forward to if this is the standard we ought to expect from what should be one of the nation's leading newspapers.

The woman from the article, Laura Steins, lives in a $2.5 million home which has annual property taxes nearly the equivalent of my annual salary. She pays $40,000 per year for a live-in nanny. She has a pool boy, a $6,000 per year gardener, and someone to plow her driveway in the winter. She drives a Volvo SUV and a Pontiac Solstice convertible. Ms. Steins is derived herself from a very priveleged lifestyle---her father was very successful, and she vacationed in the Hamptons. The article made her out to sound "middle-class" (even calling her as such) because she held down a part-time job during high school. I personally worked FULL-TIME through much of high school and all of my undergraduate portion of my ongoing college career in a high-stress sales position, and I never thought I was "special" for doing something that ought to be EXPECTED of someone in that age bracket to start absolving your parents of at least some of your financial responsibility.

Why am I so hung up on this? You could substitute Westchester County, NY for Fairfax County, VA and get the same results---six-figure earners whining about how "badly" they have it because of the recession while people in many other parts of the nation are going to bed hungry. People have to forgo manicures for a few weeks at a time or downgrade their childrens' iPhones to regular flip-phones with a lower monthly service fee and act as if they are "feeling the pinch." I've overheard strangers in restaurants/clubs down here who are obviously much more affluent than I am whining in similar fashion to these folks from Westchester County about their "sacrifices" (while paying for another $11 Long Island iced tea). I suppose when your lifestyle revolves around outdoing your neighbors and worshiping material objects life becomes pretty miserable when you have to "lower" thyself to an upper-middle-class lifestyle.

Am I seriously the only one who can't help but NOT feel sorry for people who claim they are "squeaking by" on $300,000 per year? Fairfax County is admittedly not as expensive as Westchester County, but it isn't very far off in terms of overall cost-of-living. If I can support myself comfortably (albeit embarrassingly around some of my "flashy" peers) on $41,000 annually, then why is it so hard to take care of yourself and a couple of children with seven or eight times that salary? Why does this woman "need" a live-in nanny, anyways? Why can't SHE wake up earlier in the mornings to make sandwiches for her children to take to school? Why can't SHE cook dinner a few nights a week and/or bring home pizza/fast food a few nights a week? Why does she "need" a pool boy? (Well, beyond the desire to drool as a divorcee I suppose!) My mother works full-time and ENJOYS upkeeping the pool at my own family homestead back in suburban Scranton. Why does she "need" a gardener? Why can't she corral her children to shovel her driveway, or, better yet, invest in a two-stage snow blower for a one-time purchase of $700 and save money from not paying the plow driver.

Articles like this are exactly why so many people around the world dislike Americans. Overall our society is SPOILED, and now that this recession is inconveniencing many people who used to live fun and fancy-free many are acting like the sky is falling. Sickening.
Living comfortably with 41k/year salary?

Comfort is obviously relative.

You can't really knock on those whose lives have crashed due to the economy.

They did what they did in order to make the money to sustain their lavish lifestyles in the past. Obviously, the economy changed all that and they will need to adjust.

In this woman's case, a family tragedy, namely a divorce, contributed to their current situation.

I think you're better off not getting too hot and bothered over this article and use it as a lessons learned.

In any regard, I'm sure, as you say, that you're living comfortably at your salary, but when it comes time for you to find a mate, you may realize it's harder than you thought, especially around here. You're going to have to up your game.
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:15 PM
 
313 posts, read 460,366 times
Reputation: 348
I don't understand your objection to the reporting. I do understand your difficulty in relating to the subject's excesses.

context. We're getting a two minute overview of a person's entire life. That and there are approxiametely 1.93% households that earn over 250,000 dollars. HOUSEHOLDS. Over 98% of homeowners and the MILLIONS of other individuals who rent don't have the ability to access to these services. Regular folk don't like seeing people write with empathy for those who haven't appeared to have struggled as much the normal American..
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:15 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA and Washington, DC
23,629 posts, read 33,413,509 times
Reputation: 32339
ScranBarre, I completely agree. In a way, the writer may have an alterior motive to expose how spoiled our country has really become. Dont waste your money with the Washington Post they post crazy stuff like this a lot.

Here is the part I most take issue with.

Quote:
The nanny and property taxes take $75,000 right off the top, but Steins considers both non-negotiable facts of her life and not discretionary.
Non-negotiable?! How about cleaning your own home and not buy somewhere where you'll be murdered by property taxes? I'm a self-admitted slob but hey at least i clean up by myself. I would also never buy a house where property taxes were sky high.

In my visit back to my native Hampton Roads two months ago, I was very moved and humbled to see people and families who didnt have big homes or flashy cars or the latest ipods but for the most part seemed pretty content and laid back. I mean kids actually playing outside in their neighborhoods, folks at the basketball court actually watching the game going on and not playing on their phone, people hanging out at the malls for the fun of it.

I really didnt want to come back to NoVA and see the rampant materialism and competition that goes on here.

If Wash. Post really wants to do a story on someone squeaking by, how about me? I'm paying for my own car note, upkeep, and insurance, buying business clothes for work, helping out with food for the household, and studying for a degree from a REAL college all on a part-time entry level salary.

Ms. $300k, i'm sorry but you are NOT squeaking by.
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:25 PM
 
313 posts, read 460,366 times
Reputation: 348
You can't really knock on those whose lives have crashed due to the economy.

There's a difference between "downgrading" from lobster 5 days a week to fish sticks 5 days a week, and from fish sticks 5 days a week to fish sticks 3 days a week. When the majority of people are experiencing the latter case (as is the current situation), they don't take too kindly to the perception of the rich "struggling" to make ends meet.
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:34 PM
 
Location: Falls Church, VA
722 posts, read 1,755,649 times
Reputation: 316
They're going to get letters! But in this time of great hardship for print media, I think they're doing this very deliberately. This is the same kind of outrage that simmered around the story on that Ashburn couple, and it had people talking about The Post for days, which otherwise never happens anymore. I think The Post would rather be controversial than irrelevant.
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:39 PM
 
313 posts, read 460,366 times
Reputation: 348
I think The Post would rather be controversial than irrelevant.

LOVE THAT MONEY!
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Old 08-16-2009, 06:40 PM
 
Location: Ashburn, VA
577 posts, read 1,788,845 times
Reputation: 299
I'm with you, ScranBarre. I'm sure life has become more difficult for the woman but she still is way out of touch with the majority of the rest of America. Her nanny is a better example of the impact the recession has on people. It's hard to have a lot of sympathy for someone who considers using a coupon at an upscale store like Ann Taylor is a big concession to poor economic times. Is it sad for her to feel like she isn't living the life she's used to? Sure. But she probably doesn't realize that the life she was - and still is - living is way beyond the means of most people. She might not notice that because she spends her time and interests with people who aren't like the rest of America, either. For example, a "recession party" where the food comes from Costco: that's about the norm for where I live regardless of the recession.

Perhaps these people might consider the idea that their incomes were based on imaginary dollars traded between imaginary players where nobody every saw an actual dollar bill. And if that type of job is so stressful and time consuming that people don't see their children then they need to consider their priorities and decide if it's worth it.

*** I'll get off my little soapbox now ***
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