Remember Jan Brady of the Brady Bunch? She always lamented being the “middle child,” because Cindy got attention for being the littlest and “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” got attention as the oldest. Much like other children “in the middle,” Jan felt she got lost in the shuffle and no one cared about her.
And so the lament continues with America’s middle class. According to a Pew Research report, middle-class Americans feel they are “fewer, poorer, [and] gloomier” after a lost decade marked by stagnant incomes, shrinking wealth, and greater financial stress and uncertainty. The middle class can be seen as facing new challenges in the current economy.
[CLICK HERE to read the report, "The Lost Decade of the Middle Class," at PewResearch.org, August 22, 2012.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The strange death of the British middle class," at TheSpectator.com, Aug. 24, 2013.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Obama returns focus to America's struggling middle class," at PewResearch.org, July 24, 2013.]
President Obama proclaims to care about Jan Brady and all of her “in the middle” cohorts. In a recent speech, he declared that prosperity needs to come from the “middle out” rather than the top down. A recent article in the New York Times echoed the administration’s sentiment that a thriving middle class is the path to a stronger economy. In other words, paying attention to Jan Brady may be the key to turning this country’s economic woes into good fortune.
To that end, the President has proposed a new higher education plan to make college more affordable for the middle class — and everyone else. The first phase is to create a university rating system that assesses each college’s ability to graduate students and help them get good-paying jobs. The second phase — which is bound to be more controversial — is to financially incentivize colleges with the best track record in these areas.
This approach is similar to the one trending in the health care industry: To pay doctors and hospitals based on positive patient outcomes rather than services rendered.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, "President Adopts Catchphrase to Describe Proposed Recipe for Economic Revival," at The New York Times, July 22, 2013.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Would Obama's higher-ed plan actually make college a better deal?" at MSNBC.com, August 22, 2013.]
[CLICK HERE to read the research report, "Accountable Design for Accountable Care," at McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, March 4, 2013.]
Education may well be an important part of our future, as many believe that a renaissance in American manufacturing will not yield a huge increase in jobs for middle Americans. That’s because manufacturing these days is so technologically advanced that machines do most of the work. So-called “blue collar” workers must have the education and experience to operate and troubleshoot sophisticated computer-operated machinery.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, "In Manufacturing, Blue-Collar Jobs Need White-Collar Training," at National Journal Magazine, May 29, 2013.]
For now, Jan Brady and the rest of the middle class bunch will attempt to adjust to the current circumstances as best as they can. According to the Social Security Administration, the program’s benefits continue to be key to the financial well-being of America’s retirees. So until we all become as well off as the so-called 1 percent, it can be important that we spend each dollar responsibly, understand our financial options, and not mope about wishing we could all be Marsha and Greg.
If you could use some assistance developing a financial strategy, we’re here to help.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Social Security is crucial to the middle class," at MarketWatch.com, Aug. 22, 2013.]
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