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    'Hillbilly Elegy' and Finance

    Okay - so I LOVE reading (literally anything) and finally got a chance to read "Hillbilly Elegy" this week. Has anyone else here read it?

    If so... a couple questions for discussion:

    Do you think the parts of the country discussed in the book (mining and steel country) will ever recover financially?

    How do you break that chain of financial struggle? Generations of families are used to just scraping by - where does it stop? The author of the book did okay but he recognized that most folks in his graduating class didn't fare so well.

    Hoping someone read this and has some thoughts on the financial aspects of the book. Looking forward to you guys' thoughts!

    #2
    I have not read the book.

    But, I live near Pittsburgh which was a huge steel making city. The entire economy in this region was influenced by it. This area has recovered, but everything has shifted into technology and medical. If the areas in the book are to recover they will need to follow suit and find other avenues that are economically viable.
    Brian

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      #3
      Originally posted by bjl584 View Post
      I have not read the book.

      But, I live near Pittsburgh which was a huge steel making city. The entire economy in this region was influenced by it.
      My family is from Latrobe - so I totally know what you mean. The town has essentially been decimated. This book looked at the impact on the writer's family specifically and then compared it to the region as a whole. But it talked about a lot of points I identified with - either in my family or otherwise.

      For instance, he talks about the "hillbilly" culture being people that would take the entire family's Christmas presents out on credit with no real means to pay it back just to keep up with the times. The writer wound up at Harvard, where he felt like an outcast - financially and socially - because most of the students weren't from poor families. But, at the same time, not many kids from poorer families are applying to college, let alone Harvard.

      He also talked a bit about substance abuse issues, etc. that are basically unavoidable when talking about that area of the country these days - which has a huge impact on the upward mobility of these areas as well.

      Anyway, it is a good read! I was just interested to see if anyone else had any thoughts on the financial aspects of the novel haha.

      Comment


        #4
        I too love to read, but haven't read that. I have seen some PBS specials and read articles about these, poor and depressed areas. Some of the people seem to be doing this to themselves. On the one show the ~12 years old boy was smoking like a chimney as was everyone else in the show and he wasn't trying to hide it from his mom! She didn't care. Other shows the same thing. They want you to feel sorry for these people, but they always have money for cigarettes and alcohol, not just the rent money. In one articles the poor woman was supposedly broke and was doing so many things to make ends meet (trying to get help from agencies) and then what does she do, goes to McD for lunch with the kids to feel better. Of course they all have cell phones, drugs, kids dropping out of school, as well as families using every tactic to get any family member possible declared disabled so they would get government help and handouts the rest of their life. I know personally where a daughter in the family did this. She was already on SSD for mental problems and she had a baby that she would purposely ignore and not take care of to get it to be a failure to thrive/disabled child! If I hadn't meet the child and her adoptive parents, I couldn't have thought that someone would do this purposefully, but they do.

        I know that these people are in rough situations, but it is like they don't feel the need to do anything to help themselves out of these situations.
        Gailete
        http://www.MoonwishesSewingandCrafts.com

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Gailete View Post
          I know that these people are in rough situations, but it is like they don't feel the need to do anything to help themselves out of these situations.
          I tend to agree with that - which is basically the focus of this book. But what is the answer in changing that behavior? Of an entire region of people, practically?

          Comment


            #6
            I don't know what is the answer. I grew up poor, but we weren't pouring any of what we did have done of hole named cigarettes, booze, drugs, etc. My mom cooked from scratch which is how I learned to cook the same way. We wore hand me downs or homemade by mom clothing until I also was sewing some of my clothing. I still remember my first store bought dress just for me. I was in 6th grade.

            But I have been on plenty of savings forums throughout the years and have actually helped counsel people in bad financial times, but they are never willing to give up certain things, such as pets and I have heard all the excuses, but if you can't afford to feed yourself, how can you feed your large dog? Much less spend you few last dollars on a hamburger for each of you including the dog and then they were completely broke. The fast food place were they bought the hamburgers was next door to a grocery store so they did have options that were cheaper and could have been spread further. If you can't afford to feed your children then how can you afford $100/month cable? Or cell phones for all the kids?

            I have never gotten welfare or Medicaid, so I don't know what kind of teaching that they try to do for the clients that come in needing help. Do they have classes on budgeting and finances? I remember once in Parade magazine they did a spread on a woman and her children with a boyfriend that didn't 'live' with them otherwise she would lose her benefits, but he ate his meals with them. They did a photo op of the family with all the food that she could buy each month, I can't remember just how many cases of pop I saw, lots or hotdogs, etc. but probably a good 1/4 to 1/3 of the 'food' was just wasted money on things that add no substance or nutrition to the family. The whole article was focused on and about how she ran out of food stamps and food before she ran out of month. The question is do these that get food stamps also get training in nutrition, financing, grocery lists, etc.?

            One year I worked as a grocery store cashier. This was during the early 80's when it was a popular thing for stores to sell canned goods in generic labels that were always cheaper than the store brand and the name brands. I was used to seeing people with the actual food stamps at the time (not the credit card thing) trying to scam there way through their food stamps so they would get change back. One old geezer came through the store and bought something, pocketed the change and then went through the store again until he had enough change to pay for a pack of cigarettes. What 'food' that he bought with the food stamps was of little nutrition and was only bought because the price was right until the day he got it wrong and argued with me that I had rung him up wrong because he only got 2 cents back instead of the 95 cents he was expecting LOL! One day though I looked at a guys grocery cart, unless he had a coupon to go with a name brand product that brought the price lower than the generic, everything in it was a yellow can of generic foods. I started to talk to him and complimented him on his efforts at holding down his food costs. He said he had to as he needed to feed his family. He deserved compliments because of what he was doing.

            I wish I knew what the answer was. One would be to bring back Home economics into the schoold for more than the one or two semesters currenlty. A chance to teach kids how to cook, how to sew or at least mend and hem up those pants legs that drag 5 inches or more behind their feet, how to budget for family living expenses, how to grocery shop, how to become adults in a world gone mad. How to be frugal and find cheap alternatives like using thrift stores. I remember being at college and I suggested that we go to a Goodwill/Salvation Army thrift store for what we were looking for and was shot down. Why? Because those stores were for poor people and we shouldn't go and buy things that the poor people needed. I didn't even bother saying that I had no problems shopping at those types of places as we were poor,.Now many are doing it. I see lots of college kids shopping there, lots of poorer looking folks, and lots that look like they shop boutique shops, but just could be careful selection of what they are buying for clothing.

            Eduction is needed for sure. I think that is one of the biggest things.
            Gailete
            http://www.MoonwishesSewingandCrafts.com

            Comment


              #7
              I am very interested in going to library and finding this to read after seeing the author on TV.
              The reality can be observed in almost any place, take poor sections of cities and watch. I often have talked to some in some pretty sad situations and all they did was compare themselves or surround themselves with those worse off then themselves. They felt ok and rationalized that compared to person X they are ok. It is in my opinion to surround yourself with all types and see how those whom are moving forward are doing it and what is holding others back.

              I have known many people who made very little but were genius at making things work and save etc. Others whom I knew did quite well who were on the brink of disaster. We can and should learn from all types.
              I think in situations where most are in a tough times and are often repeatedly told that things will not get better etc many BELIEVE it... thus act accordingly resigning themselves to thinking that. Others simply do not believe and find another options or choices or move away.
              I lived in a town where some "good" paying jobs slowly dried up and company closed. (Not a real shocker because many were barely working just collecting a check) Many sat on unemployment and assistance never wanting to move on because other jobs did not have 100% of what they once had. Many lost all the toys/ houses / cars that they bought during high times. They look for anyone to blame and saying it is because town died or whatever it gives them an out of any responsibility.

              Comment


                #8
                Yep, I've seen families like that. Always one disaster at a time away from total annihilation. It seems they never got ahead. I am a people watcher/observer. I remember one Easter coming to church, no new dress, no new clothes for the boys. Couldn't afford it, so didn't do it. One family that was always in a financial disaster mode showed up. The two girls had new dresses, new spring coats and new hats most likely new shoes as well. Can't remember about the rest of the family. But in our area, dressy spring coats and hats are real stupid wastes of money. I think spring lasted this year for about 5 hours (not really but after 9 months of snow it felt like it). Anyhow I never bought girl clothing so I have no idea how much those outfits cost, but the mom that had those things bought for her as a young girl, couldn't give up the habit, whether they could afford it or not she did it for her girls.

                I have no clue really how to get people to break old destructive habits and substitute new good ones, especially if they aren't interested in doing so. I think as you said they believe that life is always going to be like this so why try to change? They have to believe that the changes that they make will really help. Or family members may be very selfish and won't give up their cable TV in exchange for food for the kids or paying off bills. They want it and so they will have it no matter what it costs.

                Perhaps if credit cards (not debit cards) were outlawed but you still had to pay off your current bill, people might start living on what they earn or less because of the credit card payments. But even if a person doesn't have much in cc bills, just not being able to charge things and having to pay cash would change so much in our society. People who can't afford to spend $1000 on Christmas won't be able to unless they save in cash that $1000. Let me tell you, if I was saving to get to $1000 I wouldn't want to blow it all on gifts to others! But then we stay around $50 tops per person at Christmas.

                My way of looking on life is different from others. We may have grown up poor due to my dad taking off and leaving a mom with 5 kids, but we were raised to standards, of how to live, including such simple things like how to set a table for a meal. At one point I was on a trip with some other college kids and the other girl I could tell for what she had said had grown up in a middle class if not higher home. We were given the task of setting the table. She was basically throwing things on the table any which way and I asked her why. She told me they ate off of paper plates in front of the TV every night. She had NEVER set a table and didn't know how and was in college already. I knew how to set a table. It might have been for a delicious tuna casserole dinner, but mom expected it to be done correctly. So training and a desire for permanent change is part of what is needed, but for those that believe that change isn't possible, they won't even try. Is that why when one kid gets away and makes 'good' and then comes back to visit, he is resented by many because he got away. He believed it could be done and proved it to the town.
                Gailete
                http://www.MoonwishesSewingandCrafts.com

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Gailete View Post
                  I have no clue really how to get people to break old destructive habits and substitute new good ones, especially if they aren't interested in doing so.
                  Just like Anything in life what motivates one person does nothing for the next person. There is not a one size fits all.
                  Even in areas that seem to have the same financial mentality. Many bad money handling skills seem generational or based on peers as well.
                  I find it odd but fascinating when you have a chance to see someone in this kind of mindset try to break free. Often the herd mentality wants to derail their plans.
                  I watched this in a workplace situation like this. Some people stayed at job because it was safe and steady and really required very little effort WHEN people chose to leave certain people became openly hostile hoping the person failed and had to come back or even bad mouthing their new plan or workplace.
                  Why ? I think because it would be a reminder to them they could leave and expand their horizons to but chose not to. It challenged their rationalizations that their situation is the best it is going to get.
                  I have seen this happen with families as well. Parents with bad or non existent money handling skills who will ACTUALLY try to sabotage a family member ( even a child) who branches out. It is incredibly sad that people chose to be that petty. I saw it work sometimes on people I really thought would see through it.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I have seen this happen with families as well. Parents with bad or non existent money handling skills who will ACTUALLY try to sabotage a family member ( even a child) who branches out. It is incredibly sad that people chose to be that petty. I saw it work sometimes on people I really thought would see through it.
                    Because of some family issues, no one in my family communicated with me for 7-8 years which I now refer to as the "Great Silence". Of course if they needed something they would contact me via email, like when my sister needed medical info on something. But it gave me and my husband plenty of chance to talk and discuss some of what I went through growing up. I was expected to make straight A's in school, period. If I didn't my library privileges would be revoked! Can you imagine that the ONLY punishment a mother can think up for one of her kids is forbidding the library? So I make my straight A's and senior year is here and my mother never once walked into the school to talk to the guidance counselor to find out how a poor kids can get into colleges and get scholarships to go. Her excuse much later was basically because she didn't know she should. Okay find. I went to college , I worked my way through and got home after graduating, and instead of talking to me about job goals, and how to go after them, I went searching for any job I could find that landed me at Arby's where I worked for minimum wage for a year before getting a bit better job.

                    It was only when I went to nursing school and became an RN that I made decent money. As my one brother at the time with a double Masters in Math, had a job that paid oodles of money and I remember when talking to my mom about it, it was like it was something to be ashamed of to be making that much money. Fast food jobs apparently weren't good enough, but in talking with her I realized that as long as you could just make ends meet should be sufficient. But making a couple $100K a year was too much. If I had decided to try to be CEO of IBM, a great company in those days, that was too lofty of a goal. I grew up with so many mixed messages, it wasn't funny. Not having the basics wasn't good enough, but having more than the basics was too much. I know if somehow I had made a decent marriage and had gotten a good well paying job and lived in a mini-McMansion with a pool, she would have thought we were living decadently. So I know about this. I never quite realized the mixed messages I was getting all those years. It was almost impossible to satisfy what she wanted for us. But with the Great Silence, I got to understand where I came from and quit trying to hide from success. Now I just wish I had good enough health, to put into action some goals I would like to accomplish, because I want to do them! I don't have to worry about family approval.

                    While I learned basic money handling skills growing up, and it didn't hurt that I was very good at math, I never learned anything more than total frugal skills while at home. My first husband did what investments were bought and my input was NOT needed or encouraged! Once in awhile my mom and I would go to the mall when they had a craft show. Anytime I picked something up and apparently was obviously thinking of buying it, she would tell me that I shouldn't spend my money on it as I could make it and I had more time than money. Why couldn't/shouldn't I be able to buy a craft that, yes, I could make on my own but I didn't want to spend the time to do so? That was the refrain I heard for years, was that I had more time than money. Never waste a penny. Never did we hear anything at home about investments. I learned all I know on my own and with great pleasure my son and I talk about our investments and my other son and I talk about our similar businesses. Both are doing better than I was at their age and I am so glad that they learned something more than how to penny-pinch. They have 'left the ghetto' unlike some of my other nieces and nephews which is sad.
                    Gailete
                    http://www.MoonwishesSewingandCrafts.com

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I'm really loving this discussion!

                      @Smallsteps I really hope you're able to get a copy and read the book! It was a really great read and had a lot of great points.

                      @Gailete I've had similar experiences with family. I'm a first-generation college graduate who, admittedly has some student loan debt, but am doing fairly well otherwise. A lot of my family gives me grief about not traveling 1,000 miles roundtrip to see them more than once a year. Many will also call and beg for money or, while I'm visiting, try to get me to buy things for them. It is difficult. But, like you, I've learned most of my money management skills, etc. myself and have managed to help a lot of other people too

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by amastewa93 View Post
                        I'm really loving this discussion!


                        @Gailete A lot of my family gives me grief about not traveling 1,000 miles roundtrip to see them more than once a year. Many will also call and beg for money or, while I'm visiting, try to get me to buy things for them. It is difficult. But, like you, I've learned most of my money management skills, etc. myself and have managed to help a lot of other people too
                        I can't even imagine what I would have gone through if my first husband and I lived 1000 miles from family. The long distance (no cell phones) bills alone would have broken us as he was tied to mommy's apron strings. And if everyone else came home from Christmas and a week in the summer, we would have had to also. Not mind you to visit MY family 45 miles away from his, but only to see his. We didn't have that kind of money, yet somehow he would have squeezed it out. I knew he had gone for one semester of college and when I asked him why he didn't go back it was one of those vague, did not like, missed my family. In reality he was horribly homesick and couldn't live without mommy being close by. BTW - she was one of the nastiest MIL possible!

                        One of the things that has helped me so much is having a husband that encourages me in what I am trying to do. He knows I make investments and for the most part he doesn't get involved in them or tell me what to do. I know some would think a couple should do that together, and I suppose I would too under the right circumstances, but for me, this is my last chance to see how well I can do with investing, and I've been doing good. Certainly not something I could have talked to my mom about as I do think that she looks on it as gambling in a way although when my step father was working as a WM greeter for a few years, I think he ended up with some shares of WM.

                        I have tried to help others as I can, and over the years when I was nursing I tried to be generous as I knew after the brother making big bucks I was the only other one in the family making a decent wage. Funny how no one remembered that when mom got mad at me or my husband, not really sure which and she wasted years before she would apologize and call me on the phone to tell me so. I was cut off from all my family in the meantime as one brother put it, he didn't want to hear me complain about HIS mother. I had thought all that time that she was my mother as well!

                        Every family no matter what you think is a bit screwed up! But it is survivable if you put your mind to it. I just kept on being me and I had a whole lot of time to figure out what that meant. And part of meant that if I want to make a goal to be worth a million $$$ in the next 5 years, that is a goal I can go for! I don't have to think about what my family would say. Perhaps that is the biggest challenge of the 'hillbilly' mentality. Nobody wants to be different, whether different good or different bad. I was always the different one in the family following the beat of my own drums and not theirs.
                        Gailete
                        http://www.MoonwishesSewingandCrafts.com

                        Comment


                          #13
                          @gailete = I think you are correct in many ways about families. My mother only encouraged us to get a basic job and hold on tight to it like we had no other options. After I finished college and took a job in that field, she was angry I gave up a long term RETAIL job. Seriously she had no or very little faith in any of us. I have three siblings that I do not think have never even held down a job long enough to have enough credits for SS.

                          The keep you in your place crowd even extended to that Retail job. The company actually had their employee engagement committee ( insert suck ups here) to ask people if they thought they had better pay and benefits then the competition.
                          I asked them what documentation did they have to assert this theory since otherwise it was asking a vague question to try to get people to BELEIVE they had it so good.
                          The managers told the committee to avoid me since I asked for proof or suggested a motive in their objective. I think that cleared up their motive right there.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            i read the book and it was interesting. I grew up in a place that was poor and rural but it didn't have the same economics as what the author mentioned. But there is a lot of drug abuse now in hawaii.

                            So I'm not sure how to break out of it job wise. I don't know how the unions and those types of jobs come back to the US.

                            That being said I did see a lot of people on food stamps and abusing it. But I heard it's been reformed a lot since the 80s and 90s. It's a lot less generous.
                            LivingAlmostLarge Blog

                            Comment


                              #15
                              The keep you in your place crowd
                              I like that phrase as that certainly describes things.

                              Even though I have gone through many periods of paycheck to paycheck, I have had opportunities to buy some really top of the line sewing machines, that I bought and paid for (swapping one in for a newer model). I figure that since I wasn't paying for a lot of things that most women do like make-up, haircuts, shoes, shop till you drop clothes, etc. I could get a decent machine without guilt. I have mentioned that my mom made lots of my clothes before I started making lots of my clothes, so when a new awesome sewing machine came out that did machine embroidery, I called her to tell her about it thinking she would be interested. The first words out of her mouth are "you don't need that." I was a bit dumbfounded and then realized that while I look at sewing as a hobby and fun thing to do, my mom only saw it as a necessity. The same woman that when we were at a craft fair, any time I expressed interest in anything there she would tell me I could make it and I had more time than money. Ergo, I never bought anything at those places. It would have felt like I was defying my mother. It took being an adult for a long time to be able to do that.

                              Even something as simple as writing to her about guys I was interested in at college or after, she would tell me he wasn't the right guy for me. Guys she had never met. Only heard about them through my words. But she squashed everything in my life that she could. But then she grew up with a mother that we literally think came from Hillbilly stock. My mom never got on with her mom but then, her mom was probably squashing her hopes and dreams as well. Maybe she saw that as a mom's job to stomp every bit of hope and dreams out of kids so they will get one of those steady retail jobs, and just get by all their life. It would have been easier to take if she didn't sit and whine about my younger brothers and them being lazy or not ambitious or whatever. One of those younger brothers has made more cash in his life than any of us have! You aim high and are ridiculed for doing it. You aim low and are put down for not working hard enough. I'm glad I no longer answer to her!
                              Gailete
                              http://www.MoonwishesSewingandCrafts.com

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