Money, Money, Money

25 Jan 2018 Karina S. Henkel

My friend is looking for a job after running her husband’s fishing business for more than 15 years. Being self-employed and taking care of the three children, she enjoyed the flexibility that self-employment can provide. But now that the children are adults and out of the house she would like to work as an employee again. Paying for health insurance while being self employed is incredibly expensive. In addition to that, her husband’s business is not paying as much as it used to because of changed regulations, limitations, and a big cost increase for bait (he is a lobster fisherman and needs bait to catch the delicious animals).

As a full time employee, she would benefit from a company’s health care plan that would be much cheaper for her and her husband than what they pay now. And the additional income would also help. But she said if they could just decrease the costs for health insurance that would already be a big relief.

So, for the first time in 15 years she is looking for a job again and told me yesterday, “Can you believe it? These companies offer the same hourly salary as they did 10 or 15 years ago! How is that possible? Living expenses have increased so much – some people call that inflation – but the hourly rates are almost the same? That is crazy!”

I wasn’t aware of that. But I had read before that the salary and hourly rates in the US have not increased with the raised profit and revenue of American companies. But I wasn’t aware that there was no raise at all. Maybe this is only limited to the kind of jobs my friend is looking for or it is only like that in Maine? But whether my friend’s observation is right or wrong, it confirms my feeling that the American middle class is financially challenged. I am not sure if that is the right way to say it. But it seems that earning decent money in the US does not mean that you can relax.

But, on the other hand, Americans can afford to buy a house, even with a lower income. I don’t think that would be possible in Germany. I would have never dreamed that I would ever be able to buy a house with my income if I would still live in Germany. But here I can do that. I must say I don’t feel poor at all. I feel actually quite rich. Isn’t that strange? I feel the exact opposite of what the statistics and economics say. American paradoxes.