When More Than Half Have Less than $1,000

In Wednesday’s Afternoon Edition, we outlined what we thought needed to take place before this market could stop the bleeding.

Two of those developments actually did take place today, namely a stabilization and bounce in the price of crude oil, and solid bank earnings from bellwether JPMorgan & Co. (JPM).

The market’s reaction to this news was strongly positive, as the Dow spiked some 300 points midday, or nearly 1.9%.

The stanching of yesterday’s bleeding is a welcome development for the bulls. But of course, one day does not a trend make. And to say that the jury is still very much out when it comes to which direction this market will take next would be the height of understatement.

Still, today’s glimmer of hope for market stability has allowed me to pivot a bit toward an issue that is reverberating this year throughout this most-unusual presidential election cycle.

That issue is a lack of income (call it income inequality), highlighted by a new survey showing that the majority of Americans are essentially "broke."

The national survey, conducted by website MagnifyMoney, found that:

After spending money on holiday gifts, a majority of Americans are "broke." 56.3% of people surveyed have less than $1,000 combined in their checking and savings account.


The survey also revealed several other scary statistics, including the following:

  24.8% have less than $100 in their accounts.

  23.8% have between $101 and $500 in their accounts.

  7.7% have between $501 and $1,000 in their accounts.

  16.4% have between $1,001 and $5,000 in their accounts.

  27.3% have more than $5,000 in their accounts.

This lack of available cash in Americans’ accounts explains why two very extreme, and very different, presidential candidates are doing so well in their respective party’s race for the nomination.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump keeps delivering his signature line, "Make America Great Again." I suppose if making America great again includes the majority of Americans having more than $1,000 to their name, then I can understand why he’s leading the GOP field with some 35% support in an average of national polls.

On the Democratic side, we have the very far left-leaning Sen. Bernie Sanders, who now leads in the polls in the second of the first two primary states (New Hampshire), and who trails frontrunner Hillary Clinton in an average of national polls by just 8.6 points.

When two nearly opposite sides of a presidential candidate coin — multibillionaire businessman Trump, and self-proclaimed fighter for the "little guy" Sanders — have such strong appeal, it’s no doubt at least partly related to the dire economic conditions reflected in the MagnifyMoney survey.

Unfortunately, I think voters who are looking to Trump, Sanders or any of the other presidential candidates to help solve their economic problems are looking in the wrong direction.

You see, the answer to an individual’s lack of money in the bank will not be found at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Donald Trump is not going to take office, wave his billionaire wand and get anyone a better job. Nor can he help anyone gain skills that will enhance their earning power, or make anyone start spending less and saving more.

Bernie Sanders is not going to wave his collectivist wand and take money away from the top 1%, and then deposit it into the bank accounts of those who can’t muster up enough money to buy a few bags of groceries.

Now certainly, economic policies coming out of Washington can and do influence the fiscal health of the country at large. And to the extent that particular policies help to promote or denude economic growth, the president and the Congress can make things better or worse.

Yet for most people, the answer to their financial problems begins from within.

It begins with an attitude that says, "I accept responsibility for my actions."


Why do so many people have so little money?

It’s not because China and Mexico are "killing us" economically. And, it’s not because of a "proliferation of millionaires and billionaires" taking more than their "fair share" from "working families."

The reason so many people have so little money is because of a lack of skills employers are willing to pay a lot for, or bad and excessive spending habits, or a failure to plan for the long term.

Sure, there are many legitimate cases of extreme misfortune (illness, injury, etc.) that can lead someone into a bad financial situation. Yet I would argue that, for the most part, Americans in bad financial shape made some not-so-good life choices that led them there.

Until Americans take extreme ownership, without excuses, for their lot in life, the number of people who are "broke" will continue to rise.


Do you agree with me that the chief reason why so many Americans are broke has more to do with individual choices than with any policy emanating from Washington? Or, do you think I’ve underestimated the wider political role when it comes to individual financial health?

I really want to know what you think, as I am sure there will be some strong opinions here from many different sides. So, please leave me a comment on our website or send me an e-mail and tell me what you think.


Stocks rebounded strong in Thursday trade, erasing all of the downside in Wednesday trade. Higher oil prices and good bank earnings prompted the widespread buying. The S&P 500 gained 1.7% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained nearly 2% for the day.

•  All 11 S&P 500 sub-sectors were in the green today. The Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) led the way — up a whopping 4.3%.

•  Is it safe to nibble on Chipotle (CMG) share again? The stock rose 6% today after several firms reiterated their "Buy" rating amid the burrito-maker’s ongoing E. coli scare.

•  Oil gained for a second day. WTI crude closed 2.3% higher at $31.20 per barrel. But we’re not betting on a bounce higher from here. In fact, here’s why we could see oil slide to $5 or even lower.

Good Luck and Happy Investing,

Brad Hoppmann


Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Your thoughts on “When More Than Half Have Less than $1,000”

  1. Hi Brad,

    You are missing a VERY key point as others have also commented on here to you. With respect to income inequality you seem to be putting much of the blame on the individual and if all things were normal, I would say that may be more than 50% true. However, all things are NOT normal and if fact, Lord knows, there is a very strong and powerful “global elite” who really DO control this world implicitly and explicitly speaking. I have written NUMEROUS times to you about how controlling the elite are and I believe you should spend more time analyzing and covering how the powerful elite have literally killed the golden goose laying the golden eggs. Just who is the Golden Goose???? The WORLDWIDE PRIVATE SECTOR MIDDLE CLASS!!!! Thats who!!! So you are wrong to have people look into the mirror at themselves as the real culprit here. I could spend hours giving you fact after fact about how the wealthy have continued to fleece the middle class, just like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and even worse. Yes , Lord knows, God knows we are in the Robber Baron and Guilded Age Time Ten! NEVER in the history of mankind has there been so much concentrated wealth, power, ownership, and control of the worlds assets and thus the worlds people. When 85 people have more wealth than the BOTTOM HALF of the ENTIRE WORLD’s population over $1.7 TRILLION, you know we are in BIG BIG trouble. Brad, this is why you need to spend some more time getting at the ROOT CAUSE of issues and if I were you, you might just want to start focusing on the Global Elites….

  2. When I was young the rich paid 80% tax rates and did not put their money in the Caymans. We had a middle class. Also jobs were kept in the USA and not outsourced. Cooperations have no interest in the USA and in helping their country. Vote for Bernie…greed has killed the USA. And yes, I think Americans spend on insane things. As home are foreclosed and you see the dumpsters full of Chinese junk they did not need to buy …they could have saved. Americans buy big cars where europeans buy less junk, ride bikes, and save.

  3. Don’t discount outright Greed by business owners, and the corporate elite who have fought like hell to raise the minimum wage, deny benefits, schedule workers 38 hrs of work so they don’t have to pay benefits, NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP and a whole litany of things that have screwed over US workers since Reagan famously busted the unions and manufacturing moved offshore. Add to this a never ending supply of undocumented (desperate) workers who are favored by both parties in order to fatten the wallets and balance sheets of business and the corporate elite.
    Profits Über Alles, and screw the workers has been the mantra for 30+ yrs, and you act surprised that so many barely have $1,000 in the bank ?

  4. Brad,
    Financial and economic policies are simply a result of voters who do not want to confront their debts. It is a very unpopular position for any politician or political appointee to appeal to personal responsibility. Why raise rates when you can goose the stock market and keep everyone happy and let the next guy deal with the resulting implosion, right? Because of this perverse incentive, we the people have created for ourselves a financial/political system designed for consumption today at the expense of saving for tomorrow. With costs of capital at near zero, capital holders earn positive returns by selling to consumers without capital. The result is widening wealth gap.

  5. I think the main problem is that people have not considered carefully enough what is going to happen to them when they can not longer work. They spend too much on things that they cannot afford. We have a few examples in our own family, and we fear for their future.

  6. I agree. Everyone, including the lowliest homeless person, gets money/food in their hands sometimes. They need to save some of it, even a dollar or two. My parents and grandparents lived thru the Great Depression, so I Was taught to save. I live on social security now, still can save, do odd jobs! Am thankful! Just read Three Came Back by Agnes Newton Keith, she and husband and small son lived thru a Japanese Prison camp on Borneo in WWII! For 3 1/2 years! They ate almost anything & still almost starved. My few problems are nothing!! Daily choices are soo important!

  7. Brad, I must strongly disagree with your assertion that people making poor choices is the root cause of the financial problems we have today. 1st and for most the way we went about global trade has been a disaster for middle America. When you look at Germany, China and other expanding economies “Manufacturing” IS the Engine of Growth. Since our “bought and Paid for Congress” passed this legislation family income has been on the decline while costs have risen. 2nd and equally damaging has been the flood of young people into Colleges and Universities trying to find a career in this “New Economy”. Result huge rises in tuition, school debt. and the number of grad’s fighting for those spots, which has just lowered the market value of those jobs. It’s simple supply and demand. 3rd the “Bush Tax Cuts” still largely in place 15 years later, While touted as help for the JOB Creators, has merely financed the Corporate Merger mania that has REDUCED the total number of jobs rather than increase it. 4th. Way to many major corporations have fled the US tax system, while relying heavily on the DOJ and US courts to create and protect their Monopolistic profits through so called patient and intellectual rights. And doing all with in the current tax laws to not support those same Government entities, leaving the consumers paying the taxes and for the high priced products; ie Rx drugs, cell phones and internet access to name a few. Yes people can make better choices, and it starts with electing representatives that are not owned by ‘special interests’. Respectfully submitted.

  8. NO, Sir, I do not agree with you that the main reason behind most Americans being broke lies in their inability to save money.

    I am 84 years old, I, practically, NEVER bought anything on credit and I have been all in cash for the last fifteen years and I am not the one who decided that the way to make the rich richer was to reduce interest rates to near zero and, if you analyze that particular situation halfway seriously you will have to accept the fact that the Reserve Board which had the genius idea in question are ALL Jewish, including Janet Yellen.

    Max B. Dupont

  9. I’d agree that self responsibility is central at the personal level but the country must also have a manufacturing base. I’m sure you could find a nice correlation between our declining standard of living and the jobs we’ve shipped out of the country.

  10. Whoa! What a complex can of worms this is. MANY, MANY great points here, no one solution. First, I was VERY sad to learn this week that greater than 50% of American households bring in less than $30,000! $30,000! After basic fixed expenses, and inflation on those items who can save a penny? Stagnant wages, loss of jobs, and little Johnny gets sick because of lack of good nutrition? Who would not get depressed and disheartened and want to give up?

    Yes, there absolutely is a HUGE element of personal responsibility here but past financial mistakes be darned, who could have predicted the economic collapse, stagnant wages, extreme loss of good paying jobs, growing inflation and the gigantic rise in healthcare costs unless you have an economics degree and even then?

    So, even though some of us can sit on our “high horses” and point and say “personal responsibility” all day long, it isn’t “their” problem it is ALL of our problem. WE have a responsibility to our communities and to our country to help our fellow citizens and neighbors; educate, hand up and just CARE. Because if EVERYONE doesn’t prosper then we ALL LOSE!

    If people are so downtrodden they can give up, turn to substance abuse, stealing, family breakdown, MUCH lower productivity and the like and we ALL suffer! We MUST pull together and start educating and caring about others or our country will go down….

    Ha, I am a VERY conservative but I sound a little bit like a socialist but that statistic of greater than 50% of our fellow citizens making less than $30,000 annually really struck me this week….WE need to do something!

    Make Economics 101 a REQUIRED class for every high school student and have a national campaign to get people in a Dave Ramsey basics or the like to get our country educated and encouraged that they can do this! Then our country will be better and grow as a whole and we will ALL be better off….

  11. People learn from watching. They watch their parents, they watch their governments and what do they see? They see CREDIT, no saving, no budget, no plan for the future. It is not unusual to hear a child at the store tell his/her parent to put it on the card Mommy/Daddy when told they can’t have something. Used to be write them a check and the parent would explain that you have to have money in the bank to write a check on. The Seneca Indians used to say that in every deliberation one must consider the 7th generation. Today people only think of themselves in the moment.

  12. Hyper inflation on everything is killing people you have to be very rich or very poor and people from other countries are getting 30.000 dollars have not earned jobs work you less hours and money hourders is distructive God is judging the world and mans heart it is very sick that is why God sent his only begotten son to take our place on the cross we ask for forgiveness repent turn from sin follow Jesus then God will heal our land not he’ll on earth will get worse read revelation ,Daniel,John,eziekial.holy bible King James all other bibles lies and deception part right part lies Satan wants man in hell where him and demons will be sent after Jesus comes.jesus coming for his church soon then all hell will be loosed on earth will be worse than any horror movie and real.take up your cross be saved not left behind .

  13. Americans are “broke” because of the killing of the middle class. Moving from a manufacturing economy to a “service” didn’t work, and trying to become a consumption economy isn’t working either. The TPP will will do what the other “worldly” targeted programs did. Cost America jobs. The politicians ran all the good paying jobs abroad, and are doing it again. Yes Americans have to make better life choices, but it’s due to the @ss holes in Washington.

  14. Sure, some people need to take more responsibility for their plights. But that doesn’t explain the crash of the middle class over the past three decades, with flat to lower earnings, higher and higher health insurance costs, college tuition, just about everything. More than half of Americans didn’t get lazy or decide they wanted to be poor; instead the country decided to fight preemptive wars and bail out banks that were large to fail, while individuals going under from a medical emergency or layoff became too small to help. And it’s not principally a lack of education when corporations import H1B visa workers, export their jobs overseas, or hire cheap illegal labor here. It’s become very easy for those who have jobs to fill them with noncitizens at bargain rates, including educated, skilled, and non-skilled jobs alike. And now our Democrat President wants TPP added to the mix to take send even more jobs overseas while creating new profit structures for multinational corporations. No wonder the statistics are as bad as they are, and no wonder working (or wanting-to-work) people on both the left and the right are looking for a populist to care about the ‘little guy’ again, instead of the Google elite from whom Hillary collects $2500 a plate for the apparent promise of keeping their interests closest to her heart.

  15. i’m guessing most of your readers would say communism is a failed system what i wonder is do they see capitalism as so. I say communism trashes the individual, and capitalism trashes the commons. OR as someone once said, “you’re just as half assed, whichever cheek you’ve got left.” i don’t want men in charge or women in charge
    i want a creative dialogue that takes the best of both mind-sets
    and yes the first step is in changing thinking but not to adapt to a system that doesn’t really work, but to design a system that does.
    have to agree w bookworm at least generally
    when 53% of the people are broke, the problem isn’t with individuals. There’s a problem with the system. As Hamlet once said, “Something’s rotten in Denmark.”

  16. I am a bad example… I am a systems programmer, make a (barely) six-figure income. My wife grew up in a country with three-digit inflation where you buy everything as soon as you can (because the price will be 30 percent more in several months), using whatever means you can. She could never say “No!” to our kids and I didn’t put my foot down. Now we have 100K in debt. She works cleaning houses and I work every odd job I can find to get by. Our kids have not learned restraint. I pray to God that we all can change.

    So I do agree with you. And if you want to hire me as a proof-reader, I’m pretty good at that, by the way!

  17. When you look at 100 people you will find: a couple of people too lazy to work, maybe a con man or two. You’ll find one or two either physically or mentally disabled. You’ll find a couple of unfortunates who grew up with horrible families, foster care and the like. You’ll find one or two who are not book learners but are bright and need jobs.. You’ll find one or two who screwed up and wound up in jail or addicted.You’ll find one or two who spend wildly and don’t manage their money. These types will have trouble working, making enough to support themselves. They will not have the skills. But when 53% of the people are broke, the problem isn’t with individuals. There’s a problem with the system. As Hamlet once said, “Something’s rotten in Denmark.”

  18. People are brook because they live to high and they buy all the junk that comes on the
    market. Our two social securitys comes to 1900 a month. We pay rent,utility,groceries,
    Car gas, insurances and we go danceing every weekend plus eat out a few times. We allso
    put some away every month. I write everything down I buy, that way you know where every cent has went. I only went to seventh grade in school but I learned how to figure
    by my self. I will be ninety in two months and I remember the depression very well. It
    was very bad. If I would tell you how bad it was it would be hard to beleive.
    Lawrence Gerhart

  19. I have a good education and career but after putting 3 daughters through college I am swamped with debt. Policies related to the out of control cost of higher education have me broke. For example, paying out of state tuition for one daughter for 3 semesters because she changed her major in a state school when from 5k to 10k each semester. I blame it on politics.

  20. I totally agree with you, far too many Americans are like kids in a candy store, they want every new toy that comes along, be it a new car,bigger home, 2nd home, trips, you name it, they want, want, want and go deeper into debt.
    But, that is only part of the problem; mismanaging their income is another huge problem as many Americans forget to pay themselves FIRST by saving at least 10% of their monthly income. I’ll save later mentality, but as age 60 approaches, they are so far in debt they find it nearly impossible to save a dime.
    Then there are the children who come back home to live with their parents because they cannot find a decent job, or, they are trying to payoff school loan, etc. This puts an additional strain on the parents who may be trying to save money also..been there as a parent several times.
    Then we have the ever changing work environment, where automation is displacing many high paying jobs, and some not so high paying jobs as well.
    And how about the flood of jobs moved off shore! Where do those Americans go for work who lost hi-tech jobs ?
    The bottom line is, this problem is a hybrid of many causes, and the politicians in Washington are ill prepared to think outside the box to solve even the most mundane issues of the day, especially when they are so self admired and more concerned with their re-election.
    But we must begin somewhere to solve these pervasive problems, and that starts with all of us this November and the ballot box !!

  21. I have to laugh at the simplistic piece you wrote. Sure, people need to act responsibly. But, that goes for corporations – who are defined as people – as well. Everyone points at China and how they stole are jobs. That’s a joke. Our greedy corporate leaders handed over our manufacturing base and literally wiped out a whole segment of the Anerican population that didn’t need a college education to have a good paying job. Sure, you can work at Home Depot with lousy wages, pay your healthcare costs and child care bills and guess what – there’s nothing left over. In fact you’re in debt. The problem with you and the republican presidential nominees is that they never point the finger at corporate America and say shame on you. Open your eyes – when the Walton family (Walmart) makes more money than the bottom 100 million people and fail to pay their people a living wage, then yes – that’s unethical and corrupt. By the way we have plenty of college educated kids working for minimum wage – the good jobs you speak about don’t exist. Sure the U.S. is at 5% employment, working low paying, part time slave labor to companies and CEOS that are rolling in dough. I guess to you that’s fair to you. But, I’ll take Bernie any day. The rich need to be cut down to size and stop bleeding America dry.

  22. Obviously, one major factor is the massive printing of dollars and the artificial holding down of interest rates. Dollars are worth less as time goes by ( hidden taxation) and what money can be saved can’t grow at todays phony interest rates. High taxation of businesses deals another blow.

  23. Bernie Sanders is “very far left-leaning”? Let’s see, he supports a one-payer health care system that every other developed country has. I’m not sure why that is so left-leaning. He supports gun control like every other developed country. That doesn’t sound extreme. He wants to reign in corporations and big banks because they have too much power. That sounds like the Republican Teddy Roosevelt, and I don’t think he’s considered very far left-leaning. Tax rates for the wealthy were far, far higher under the Republican Eisenhower, and he was considered no more than a moderate.

    You reactionary far right folks need to get some perspective.

  24. Hey Brad, in re JPM’s “solid bank earnings”: What say you to the following?

    “Earlier we spread the company’s financials and showed that while revenues had barely grown, and in the all important Investment Banking and Trading division revenues actually declined (offset with big cuts to compensation expenses, read bonuses), something else stood out: when skimming through the company’s loan loss reserve disclosure, we found that in Q4 JPM did something it hasn’t done in 6 years: for the first time in 22 quarters, or since March 2010, JPM actually increased its loan loss provisions by $89 million, instead of reducing this amount.” – Zero Hedge

    How much longer are accounting “tricks” going to work to reverse sentiment?

  25. Many Americans aren’t employed full-time, are under-employed or are drowning under medical insurance and rising food/drug costs. I’m sure there are plenty who can’t let go of their huge cable bills, eating out often and entertainment spending (movies, sports events, etc.). Wages aren’t rising fast enough to cope with food/drug inflation and exploding rents.

  26. All that you have stated is true. I’m also thinking that the advertising sharks are ever in front, behind, and on either side of us luring us to buy – something. I was thinking we the consumer succumbs to this temptation to feed our self-center-ness and/or to buy for someone else so that they will see us in their favor. I have never seen an advertisement for the public saying to us that we are responsible for the consequences of our behavior. This idea is not advertised. A ‘tin can’ society is one of the ways we have chosen to live.

  27. The reason that the people are broke is because “The Government” be it Federal, State or Local are sucking the life out of all the people in the middle class to pay for their exorbitant programs. Welfare and greed leave the working man nothing to work for. Greed by these people is the problem, not greed by the corporations and companies.
    If people were allowed to keep the money they worked for to spend on themselves and invest it as they wish with a modest return the country and the economy would be a lot better off.
    Why would anyone put money in a bank account and get less than a 1% return, be interested in saving?? Not to mention you get taxed again on the investment at 39%. Go figure!!

  28. Not being totally polarized yet, I think both are true, people need to control their lives & control their gov’t by setting up a Democracy, now that large-scale Democracy is finally possible!

  29. I think your reasoning is sound as to why Americans have so little capital.

    However, in this current climate, individual effort is severely hampered by idiotic government policy and market intervention. This government (and predecessors) is far too interested in self preservation and panders to big banks, insurance companies and big pharma. Re-election efforts trump sound policy that could help average people and their struggles to survive. Some examples:
    (1) increased health care costs due in part to lack of sufficient industry oversight to prevent insurance/medical collusion and fraud; (2) zero percent interest rates to help big banks but also remove INCENTIVE for individuals to save; (3) high corporate taxation which is a double-edged sword that (a) prohibits smaller businesses from expanding to provide more jobs and (b) encourages larger employers to move jobs overseas; (4) ObamaCare which has prompted many companies to lay off full-time workers and INCENTIVIZES them instead to create more part-time jobs with reduced hours and less pay; (5) prohibitive costs of higher education put many workers who want to improve in paralyzing debt ; (6) an ever-expanding governmental push toward socialism — which rewards those who don’t work and taxes those who do work leaving very little left to save. (The absurd increases in giveaway programs of all types, including the expansion of Medicade and disability claims beyond reason, removes the INCENTIVE for many people to even look for work). Add to all of these a prevailing cultural attitude of today’s materialistic, “live for the moment” population and you have a very poisonous climate for building financial security.

  30. I agree with you that many people are over spending and not saving enough, myself included, because of not budgeting and not living within their means. It’s time to listen to Dave Ramsey and get back on the budget.

  31. Personal responsibility or accountability is something that has gotten lost over the past few decades. Everyone wants to blame someone else. The reality is, as you stated, that most of us are in the financial condition we are in because of choices we have made, good or bad.

  32. Spoken just as one would expect from one of us for whom the current system has worked well, and I did say us on purpose. No complaints from me; supportive parents , excellent education, good jobs.

    However, if we’re looking for real solutions going forward and not just finger pointing, we’re going to have get a political process going where people with differing ideas of how to “get from here to there” treat each other with respect and are more interested in getting the job done than being right.

  33. It all comes down to personal responsibility. When i was watching recent broadcast of people standing in line to purchase the record powerball tickets, i was contemplating how much income inequality was being created. I know many who can not afford to eat but when there is a chance to win Billions they can spend that food money on tickets that create one or two millionaires. I wonder how much money is drained from the very people who need it most.

  34. Most definitely agree with you. Yes like you said , there are mitigating circumstances, but I know people who worked 2-3 jobs to go to school and get a degree so they could earn more. I know of one mom in our church right now trying to get a 2 year degree in nursing while working 12 hour shifts. She has two teenage boys and you know how they EAT! She will succeed because she has determination to do whatever it takes. Plus she has had a bout with cancer too , is a minority (non white)m, and attends church regularly. (when on earth does she sleep?) I worked with psychiatric Techs who were doing the same thing to get their degree in Psychology. working two jobs. Where there is a will, there is a way. Its a mind set. And I also see younger generations with great jobs spending like crazy on new electronics and cars. Nothing for the future. So you are dead on.

  35. Bad choices are the primary reasons and sometimes parents impose their bad choices on their children. We hear of an unwed mother telling her children that they are retarded and they should not perform well on school tests because it would cost her the additional government hand outs she gets to help with her retarded children. Of course that same unwed mother will soon have another baby so that she may be rewarded with additional government hand outs for more bad behavior and yet impose bad choices on yet a third child. The well intentioned government programs that reward bad behavior are also contributing factors.

  36. Outstanding article Brad.

    While it is true that the policies of governments have hindered business and job formation, and there are unfortunate people that have a devastating setback (accident, illness, etc.), I agree the main reason is individual attitudes. Too many Americans have lost the sense of personal responsibility, and they make thinks worse by electing (and reelecting) politicians that promise them relief from the hard choices and efforts that are needed to get and keep a good job, start building savings (i.e. capital), and make lifestyle choices that will at least give them a fighting chance of overburdening the broken health system.

    These people need a dose of tough love, but politicians don’t get elected on that platform.

  37. At least part of the misfortune of America comes from a lack of stability within families. It is difficult and more expensive to face the trials of life in a house divided. The cause of this lack of stability has its roots, I think, in the social revolutions of our time. However, I’m sure the economic policies which make jobs scarce and less lucrative don’t help.

  38. I would suggest that it’s the post WWII mindset of the all-powerful US corporate sector and the inflated government giving lifetime employment to everyone (which was more or less true in the 50s-60s). US employment (and global employment for that matter) before the mid-20th century was invariably a series of time-limited jobs, or several part-time jobs, basically independent contractor-type work, cobbled together to make one living. In that scenario, there was no such thing as “job security” as we have come to expect it. The luxury of letting your life unfold while being well-financed by one full-time, long term job was not the norm. While it is our fault up to a point for believing in this former reality, it is caused by us believing only in our own experience and not understanding historical context. See the movie “Local Hero” – a small town in Scotland where everyone has multiple jobs and they all just scrape by.

  39. The reason for so many Americans being broke is that of a culture of instant gratification.

  40. Each of us is responsible for our actions, wise or unwise. Trying to blame some one or something else is just a cop out.

  41. I fully agree with your article. It all comes down to personal responsibility which we are sadly lacking in more ways than just financial responsibility. Unfortunately too many individuals want to blame anyone but themselves for their situation, whether it be financial troubles, legal troubles or whatever. We need to wake up and take responsibility for ALL our actions in order to make this country great again.

  42. Half of the college graduates in MIchigan could not find jobs commensurate with their education and therefore work jobs beneath their abilities. Many college educated are then taking jobs that high school educated could easily work. These students are saddled with college loans that will stretch in to the foreseeable future. Other people do make bad decisions. Others have children when they are doing well, but financial situations change, and instead of receiving some aid, they are blamed for having children they cannot afford. Many workers are working 60 hour weeks for 30 hours pay. Others can’t get 40 hours and yet are hampered by schedules that don’t allow for an extra part time job. Some people are working so hard they are beyond exhausted by the time they get home and are of no use to their children. Wages are stagnant for many parts of our society. Then there are the very poor with no car, no home, no hope. There are many reasons why people are broke and have nothing saved, and it doesn’t mean they are irresponsible. Americans have been so brainwashed by the cult of “individualism” that we are forgetting to be kind, to help out our fellow man, and that society is made up of people working together, not just individuals afloat on their own private islands.

  43. A wise old man once told me when I first entered the workforce that if I saved ten cents of every dollar I earn I would retire a millionaire. It doesn’t matter how much you earn he said but that you always pay yourself first, live below your means and stay out of debt as much as possible.
    He was right.

  44. It is a complex problem with lack of jobs with an income to enable people to provide a living for themselves & their families. People are also not well equipped to make choices in our information age. We do need more job training for below average people & average people that addresses job needs & life skills. Many people do not have much money. Many of the ones that do, make poor choices. Our country is desperate for spiritual growth & development. The nation is too busy setting up rules against any meaningful & transforming opportunities for growth & development. People get discouraged & turn to alternatives to fill the void. Alternatives are short lived & unfulfilling, & can be dangerous.

  45. Brad-

    You asked, is it only a matter of personal responsibility that so many are so broke? I say no, not entirely.

    When the leading cause of bankruptcy is medical expense, it’s hard to see economic issues as only being a matter of personal responsibility. I’m no flaming liberal, but it doesn’t take a Bernie Sanders to see the rife corruption in our medical businesses, the politicians they buy, and the agencies that regulate them.

    This collusion/corruption is the primary cause of our medical costs being three times (3X) what they are in France, for inferior care (both pre and post Obamacare). On this, Bernie and Hillary are right- this is a policy and regulatory issue that drives ordinary folks to the brink and beyond.

  46. You are absolutely correct. Unfortunately the smart people will again be forced to bail out the dumb people. I wish we lived in a more Darwinian society.

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