Tony Robbins is touting “How to make money like a billionaire” all over the interwebs right now. He’s an eloquent, inspiring speaker, but I’m pretty sure he is no billionaire. He surely has made millions, though. Still, I was taught to speak from experience. Without having the experience of being a billionaire, I dare not tell anyone how to become one. However, I have been lower middle class for most of my life. And, I think I may even be an expert on how to be lower middle class. I’m pretty good at it.
When I say I’m good at being lower middle class, I mean that I’m good at undermining my own financial goals, at not accounting for future cost increases, and at taking on too much responsibility. I’m also good at convincing myself that the wages I earn are fair. And, did I mention that I can’t help but find myself NEEDING debt just to get by?
Because I am so good at trying really hard and ultimately just digging myself deeper into mud, I figured I should share with you the reasons for and methods of my success at achieving net zero.
Firstly, and probably most importantly, be born into a lower-middle class family. I am the third of three children. Both of my parents worked. My father worked the night shift at a truck dealership, while my mother worked various office-support type jobs. Both had some college, but no degrees. Understand that my childhood was not unhappy, that I did not go without the necessities. I was not neglected, and I don’t intend to imply that being a lower middle class child is anything but just fine.
That said, the story told to me by my parents (who are divorced and have not spoken in many years) is that my mother handled the household budget. She employed a budgeting method — very similar to the U.S. government’s — called deficit spending. In deficit spending, ones’ hands writes checks that ones’ ass cannot cash. This was back when you could write a check and date it so that it would not be cashed until that date. So, you could pay bills when you had no money in the bank, and technically carry a negative balance. This drove my dad nuts, and was cited to me as one of the issues that lead to divorce. It is also very telling as to how much money a lower-middle class family makes.
Studies show that lower class children are less likely to escape the income tax bracket into which they were born. Why? Because, it’s difficult to achieve more when you have less. Its easier to achieve more when you have more. Therefore, the poor folks stay poor and the rich folks stay rich (generally speaking; there are exceptions to every rule). The doctor’s son has the resources to attend medical school, and doesn’t need to hold a job while attending. The truck parts salesman’s son does not have the resources to attend medical school. His parents can only provide so much for him, and the rest must be made up either with debt or work. This kid is much more likely to achieve about the same income as his parents. The best thing you can do to succeed at being lower-middle class is to be born into it.
That brings me to the second way to succeed at being lower-middle class: Attend college, with or without loans. I attend college on (mostly) my own dime, and have been doing so part-time for nearly a decade. I didn’t take out loans. Instead, I paid cash for everything. Unfortunately, life is expensive and it doesn’t care if you have money in the bank or not. So, there have been a few times when my lower-middle class family has helped me attend. I have been living paycheck to paycheck for 10 years in order to attend college part time. Take note: the second most important thing to ensure success at being lower middle class is to have dreams that are just out of reach. If you read the study, a college education is the key to upward economic mobility. Unfortunately, it’s also the carrot dangling in front of my nose. If I reach just a little bit farther, someday I’ll get that carrot and all the glorious middle-middle-class things that come with it. Or, maybe it’ll just dangle there indefinitely.
As you all are probably aware, my generation is the most educated and least employed. On top of that, this cohort has also paid more for that education than any in recent history. Despite that, no matter whose son or daughter you were, you could go to college. A few extremely smart and hard working poor people have been given a hand up, while an enormous mass of your median not-doing-great-but-still-above-the-poverty-line people have taken on huge loans in an attempt to escape their parents’ tax bracket. Many succeeded in earning those degrees. Many did not. Many of those who did were then unable to find the appropriate jobs. Many of those jobs have quietly sailed away, without much hope of returning. So, whether you attend college with cash or with loans, you’ve got a great chance of successfully achieving lower-middle class status! Way to go!
The third most important thing to being successful at being lower-middle class is to take on as many responsibilities as you can handle. How many can you handle? You won’t find out until you have too many. By responsibilities, I am referring to things like children, pets, real estate, jobs, classes,vehicles, etc. Anything that requires your time is a responsibility, and most responsibilities also require money. And, as we all know, time IS money. As a successful lower-middle class layperson, you should have very little time to be void. You should feel guilty about every self-indulgent minute you have. Your time should always belong to someone or something else. And, you should be trading your time for money, so that you can turn around and trade that money to a university for the opportunity to spend your time solving the university’s puzzles. In this way, you will ensure that you learn to find joy in the work grind, the homework grind, and the housework grind, among other grinds.
Speaking of grinds, take a moment each day to consume a ridiculous amount of coffee. Don’t do it because you enjoy coffee, but because you need to prevent fatigue. Looking fatigued at work is a sure-fire way to get on your boss’s bad side.
If you find yourself with spare time, you risk a moment of lucidity. This could lead to an existential crisis wherein you realize that you may never escape the purgatory that you have built around yourself. If ever you feel yourself wanting to do more, to be more, to achieve the American dream, then just sit down and turn on television. Let the fictional characters on the bright, shiny screen do the living for you. It’s far easier to watch someone else try and fail than to try and fail yourself.