There's an article published by CNNMoney.com about a week ago. A Nebraska family is struggling to make ends meet, living "paycheck to paycheck" on a $150,000 income. Needless to say, they have taken a virtual beating on in the PF blogosphere. Franky, Boston Gal, Free the Drones, Kevin at DebtFree4ever, and Moneymonk all wrote about the Schuett family. The concensus seemed to be that the Schuetts need need some financial education, to put it lightly.
I came across another story yesterday in New York Magazine about a man actually living paycheck to paycheck. Robert Gonzalez works from 6AM to 2PM as a security guard in New York City for $10 per hour. He receives a bi-weekly paycheck for $676 and has two kids to support. As the article begins, Robert has $4.41 in his pocket. Just enough to get him through the day which, luckily, is payday.
To me, the Schuett's problem is obvious. Brian's ego. The rental properties are failing. His ego is twice wrapped up in this. After making the decision to invest in these properties, he wants to make it work in order to avoid feeling like a failure. Also, since losing his job, the investment properties give him an outlet to feel like a productive human being. That should be obvious to his psychiatrist wife. But, I guess it's the old story of the cobbler's kids going without shoes.
Robert's problems run a deeper. No doubt he has made mistakes. He was involved in some illegal activities in his youth, or at least with some people who were involved in illegal activities. He dropped out of high school, but through night classes, got his diploma by age 20. He took some community college classes, but finished with $6570 in student loans and no degree. His bank statement reads -$146.53, so he pay eleven dollars to have his paycheck cashed.
Occasionally, he splurges. Like spending $19 for a movie ticket, hot dog and soda by himself. It's his favorite treat to himself, but not one he can afford often. Immediately after receiving his paycheck, $200 goes to the mother of his children, $40 to his father, $62 to the cell phone company. A ten dollar metro card, and a five pack of ramen noodles, and half of his paycheck is gone before his it sees sunrise.
This is living paycheck to paycheck. I would ask what world the Schuetts are living in, but I know the answer. The same one as the rest of us. See, we don't live in Robert's world. When I read the Schuett's story, I rolled my eyes and shook my head at the obvious mistakes they are making. But I understood them and empathized (not sympathized) with them. Reading Robert's story was like reading some Charles Dickens novel. It couldn't be real. Yet, it's more real, and I'm sure more common than the Schuetts.
“If I could come home with at least $800 or $900,” Robert says, “I’d be happy.”
How much would make the Schuetts happy?