Rethinking Financial Expectations

I’ve been thinking about dcc’s post, a comment on Dan Sieradski’s JTA op-ed on money and innovation. Specifically, I’ve been mulling over the following lines:

My parents are struggling to pay their mortgage, my soon-to-be wife will probably never break the six-figure income mark, and since I’ve spent my entire career working within the Jewish nonprofit sector, my savings look more like an emergency fund than a capital investment.

So what’s a broke social entrepreneur to do?

One option is to live on less, like these friends of mine do. And, I know, KRG asked how parents with a 3-year old could live as modestly as dcc suggested. But let’s look at a concrete example: A family with a preschooler, with a second baby on the way, has been living on a modest income (household income of $35,000 last year, $45,000 this year) and paid off their debts, bought a house, and are doing well.

Do I think everyone can pull this off? No. Do I think we need to be lamenting the lack of six-figure income or “upper middle class” financial mobility in order to contribute to Jewish community? No. But perhaps a solution would be to come up with a happy medium between the six-figure expectation and this model of modesty.

Filed under Economy

10 Responses to “Rethinking Financial Expectations”

  1. One option is to live on less, like these friends of mine do

    Another question is why an undergraduate degree is almost a necessity to obtain a decent-paying job, and why is tuition so high that your friends were left in debt?


    Jonathan1 · December 19th, 2009 at 10:00 pm
  2. Undergraduate degrees are very much overrated. I know, I know, they provide some rudimentary basis for evaluating knowledge and ability, but that’s not as true as it may have once been. I hired someone with a chemistry bachelor’s degree recently and asked to set up a basic apparatus in a chem lab. Half an hour later he comes to me and is like, wait, what I am supposed to be doing? I asked why he didn’t ask me that half an hour before. He didn’t have an answer. Ok… I thanked him for his time and let him go, hired an out of work TV technician and taught him everything I needed in a day. The guy’s perfect. If he doesn’t know something he just asks and I teach him.

    I think the same can be said about 90% of jobs (anything that doesn’t require research or beyond average analytical ability) even highly technical jobs. Most things can be taught on the fly. This has definitely been a learning experience for me.


    Avigdor · December 19th, 2009 at 10:58 pm
  3. Sieradski’s point wasn’t that you can’t live on less. His point was that if the Jewish community wants to attract people with great ideas and abilities, there are better incentives than poverty.


    rejewvenator · December 20th, 2009 at 12:31 am
  4. My parents are struggling to pay their mortgage, my soon-to-be wife will probably never break the six-figure income mark, and since I’ve spent my entire career working within the Jewish nonprofit sector, my savings look more like an emergency fund than a capital investment.

    This isn’t poverty, though.


    Jonathan1 · December 20th, 2009 at 12:48 am
  5. We need people with great ideas and abilities to go into science and engineering. As my mother would say, “If engineers ran this place…” Trust me, enough will be left to administer the day schools and fight over community turf and funding.

    As for leaders, they rise, always, and usually not through executive boards.


    Avigdor · December 20th, 2009 at 7:07 am
  6. That came out of left field! People who have great science and engineering ideas are different people from those who have great Jewish community ideas. There isn’t one kind of smart.


    David A.M. Wilensky · December 20th, 2009 at 10:35 am
  7. I guess the lot of Jews who care about the Jewish people is to suffer …


    drdan · December 20th, 2009 at 11:00 am
  8. If engineers ran the world, Judaism would be obliterated as a waste of time and resources.


    Amit · December 20th, 2009 at 11:12 am
  9. drdan, as Jonanthan1 said, this isn’t poverty. Not bringing in a $100,000+ salary does not make you poor, nor does that mean we suffer.


    Ennui · December 20th, 2009 at 1:15 pm
  10. Lookit: The economic prospects for folks in their 20s and 30s is bleaker than it was for the same age cohort of a few years, never mind a few decades, back. No need to deny it.
    A college degree is not “worth” as much as it used to be, but it is still worth a lot. See here:

    www.usnews.com/articles/opinion/2009/03/27/no-jobs-without-college-as-employers-treat-degree-as-a-minimum.html

    www.usnews.com/articles/education/2008/10/30/how-much-is-that-college-degree-really-worth.html

    www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm

    www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1946088,00.html

    The economy may be improving, slightly – so I hear – but it is still a “jobless” recovery. So new entries into the job market are facing a bleaker future than they would have hoped for.

    There are no easy answers – except to note that all of us who are fortunate enough to have gainful employment must save like fiends, and do it with both keva and kevanna, invest wisely and diversify, and invest in friends as well as funds, as a network of friends and colleagues is essential as one … gets older. (My friends and I, in our mid-50s … know.) And even, takke, before that, when one’s job prospects depend on networking as well as the anarchic accident.

    “Living on less” is only an option when it is an option. I am all for living frugally, but bills hafta be paid, from the utilities to college bills.


    Arieh Lebowitz · December 21st, 2009 at 5:20 pm

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