Middle-class American families are going broke and it's not for the reasons that you would think. People are not being "wasteful" in the way that you would think. People are not "lacking morals". It's not fair at all to judge people for buying SUVs, minivans and accuse them of "supporting terrorists". And the old adage of "staying together for the children" actually IS a smashingly good idea, from a financial perspective. "Dead Beat Dads" most of the time, aren't. Filing for bankruptcy is humiliating, most people won't admit it even anonymously and they won't do it even if it actually is the best thing to do. It's absolutely NOT "an easy way out" and it does NOT wipe the slate clean on all debts.
I'm constantly having to adjust the Americanisms in my mind for the equivalent Canadianisms.
They talk about the average price of a home in the US being (USD)$137K. I'm thinking, uh... is that ALL? I would love to be able to find a house that I could live in, even a "fixer-upper" for (CAD)$173K*. When we were looking, anything under $500K (USD$400K) was iffy. To say nothing of the property tax that's on top of the market value of the house plus land.
They talk about pre-school, daycare, the public versus private school system and college in the US. Every other sentence, I'm thinking "that's not the way it is in BC"; "it's different here, so that doesn't apply". Or "yes, their proposed policy reforms are exactly the way it works here and you still have Problem X. And we also have Problem Y and Zed." Etc., etc.
I'm not entirely sure of the divorce laws or bankruptcy procedures here. And I don't know the equivalent statistics for Canada. But it can't be pretty either.
I haven't finished it yet, I'm a slow reader. It's still a very interesting read.
* JeezusMaryJosephandthedonkey. 1 USD = 1.25966 CAD?!?!?! (at the timestamp of this journal entry, at least)...
[Update — Thursday, October 07, 2004]
Finished it last night. The book is (CAD)$20 + tax; (USD)$15. I thought it was worth the price, but I can understand if someone were reluctant to spend even that. If nothing at all, go down to your local bookstore, find it, stand there and read Chapter 7. It's less than 20 pages. Chapter 1-6 were an eye-opener, but 7 is "The Financial Fire Drill". It's a quick "assess your risk" guide, some practical prevention advice and also really good advice if "the house is already on fire". The Husband and I definitely have a few things to talk about.