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In a modest but quiet city neighborhood
lives an up-and-coming young family named Jones. The Joneses have
carefully made all the widely agreed upon moves to earn success
and prosperity. Everyone who knows the Joneses also thinks they're
Mr. and Mrs. Jones are the same age: 34 years old. They refrained from marriage until graduated from our state University at age 22. Then, for four years they both worked and saved even more diligently than they had labored in college, frugally accumulating a down payment for their dream home. They bought something realtors call a starter house," a very small, unpretentious, 3 bedroom place, only $15,000 down and a mortgage of $55,000 with the rest of your life to pay it down. To the young and eager Joneses this ticky-tacky house seemed an idyllic rose covered cottage. They thought it was plenty savvy to reduce their down pavement by paying the asking price and slightly more interest.
Promptly upon becoming a proud mortgage holder, and with great optimism, Mrs. Walker Jones started baking two babies as close together as possible. At the time of this story the youngest child has reached first grade and Mrs. Walker Jones is back working full-time. What a relief she feels to have two incomes; what a relief to get awav from her difficult youngest child during working hours.
The Joneses work in different fields but their salaries are virtually equal. And being very average Americans, their salaries are average: each grosses exactly $1,250. per month. Mr. Jones has a long-hoped-for entry-level executive marketing position with a large corporation; Mrs. Jones, her career set back by childrearing, is now learning to handle real-estate closings for a local escrow company.
Though both work and have very reasonable hopes for advancement, the Joneses' budget reveals an all-too-common American tragedy.
|Monthly Gross Income||$2,500.00|
|Cars, 2, All Expenses||$562.50||$1,237.50|
|Groceries (incl. 4 bag lunches)||$425.00||$812.50|
|Federal Income Taxes||$165.00||$647.50|
|Social Security Deductions||$175.00||$472.50|
|State Income Taxes||$70.00||$402.50|
|Unemployment & Worker's Comp||$45.00||$357.50|
|Telephone, Electricity, Heat||$150.00||$207.50|
|Saving For 2 Week Vacation||$80.00||[$130.00]|
|Furniture Ensemble On Credit||$125.00||[$305.00}|
|Ever-rising Credit Card Interest||$50.00||[$355.00]|
|Christmas? Newspaper Subscription? Monday Night Football Beer? Mamawonchabuyme's? Mrs. J's Secret Wish List? More and More Credit Card Interest?||?||?|
The Smiths and the Joneses started
out very much alike. They all came from the very same small Oregon
city, became teenage sweethearts at the same high school, attended
the same university and are the same age. And like the Joneses,
Mr. and Mrs. Smith also graduated Bachelors of Arts from our state
university in the same year the Joneses did, when they promptly
married too, just like the Joneses. Then, just like the Joneses,
the Smiths also worked hard for four years, frugally accumulating
a down payment for their dream home. That accomplished, Mrs. Smith
also baked her own pair of babies.
Actually, subtle differences between the two couples first became apparent during their teenage years. Both the Joneses and the Smiths were already serious couples in high school, but the Joneses were what their friends called "grinds," intent on future success by getting excellent grades. Most evenings and weekends they studied together. The Smiths, exuberantly bubbled with joi de vivre, and never saw much sense in denying themselves fun in the evenings, especially when without considering that much work it was still very easy to get passing grades, even B's and occasional A minuses.
So no one in high school or college pegged the Smiths as most likely to succeed, and in fact, their jobs after university weren't the career sort of white collar entry-level junior executive positions the Joneses competed for. No, during summer breaks and after graduation the Smiths did more proletarian, outdoorsey things like planting trees on piecework.
Then Mrs. Smith got an easier, minimum-wage job doing field work at a winery, where her natural warmth and easy facility with Spanish (picked up while at university and during summer vacations bumming around on Mexican beaches) led her to promptly be promoted to a field "foreman" running a latino crew. Soon she was making very good money.
And Mr. Smith, who had an innate commitment to being responsible in contractual relationships and an ability to recognize and relate to other peoples' self-interests and viewpoints, soon upgraded his contacts in the forestry business and became a self-employed contractor, living in a tent doing timber surveys in summer. For a couple of months each year he managed a Christmas tree sales lot in Los Angeles for a percentage of the gross sales.
After one year of too much distance between them, Mrs. Smith left her 9-5 at the winery and joined him in the woods and on his annual trips to LA. Though they now only worked about six hard overtime months a year, and hung out the rest, during that time the Smiths made about the same amount of money that the Joneses earned all year. The Smiths had nothing of what the Joneses called "job security," but they did have the tax benefits of being self-employed and kept a lot more of their income.
When it came time to make their first nest, the Smiths chose a life-style of independent self-sufficiency rather than buy what the realtors call a starter home, mortgage and all, like the Joneses did. Mr. Smiths prowled the countryside looking for a small, cheap and rather undesirable piece of raw land that they could build a house on, their prime consideration was that they own their property free-and-clear