Monday, August 4, 2014

Our standards of living are keeping us from prosperity

If you watch, read, or listen to the news you are bound to come across a report lamenting the "rising cost of living in America". Life isn't easy for millions of Americans who struggle to make ends meet throughout their lives while living paycheck to paycheck on a small salary. Millions of others create their own struggle by inflating their standard of living until they are also living paycheck to paycheck. One of the biggest culprits of our middle class excess is home ownership.

Many people blame the housing bubble as a reason for families that struggle to make ends meet. "Big banks" and "the 1%" become easy targets when we see news reports showing families kicked out of their homes. The unreported truth is that for many of us, it's a struggle we created for ourselves. Let's look at some graphs that will show us the facts inside the situation:
This first graph shows us a clear example of modern American excess. In 1970, the average American lived in a house a little over 1,600 square feet with three people in their house. Today, the average American lives in a nearly 2,700 square foot house with only 2.6 people in their house! We went from roughly 533 square feet per person in 1970 to 1,000 square feet per person today.
This second chart puts the pieces together. It shows the price per square foot for new houses over time. Adjusted for inflation we see that houses have actually decreased slightly in price today when compared with 1970. Obviously, when we demand a house nearly double the size...we should expect to pay nearly double the price.
The final graph shows what we've done to ourselves as a nation. In 1976, the median new home price was 3.6 times higher than the median U.S. household's income. At the peak of the housing boom, it was 5.2 times higher! Luckily, the recession has cooled our jets ... but we're still not where we were in the past.

For comparison, on average if you made $50,000 in 1976 you would buy a $180,000 house. $50,000 in 2005 would get you a $260,000 house and $50,000 in 2011 would get you a $215,000 house. If we spent the time to calculate the mortgage payments with each of those, it would show that we're leaving ourselves with less money to spend and save.

The Bible teaches us to stop looking at the mote in our brother's eye until we've removed the beam from our own. As a nation, we should consider fixing our own standard of living problem before we demand more help from corporations and the 1%.