Do you find yourself: Saving less money and watching more TV? Mentally downplaying your credit card debts? Always wanting to buy something, no matter what you already have? Spending more when you associate with people richer than you? Buying your children more presents instead of spending more time with them? Feeling you need all of your ...
Do you find yourself: Saving less money and watching more TV? Mentally downplaying your credit card debts? Always wanting to buy something, no matter what you already have? Spending more when you associate with people richer than you? Buying your children more presents instead of spending more time with them? Feeling you need all of your income to cover basic expenses, whatever your income happens to be? Wanting more, the more educate and successful you become? Fantasizing about getting out of an insidious cycle of "work and spend"? If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, take heart--you're not alone. Millions of middle-class Americans want or need more from their lifestyles as they join the ranks of the new consumer, the "overspent American." More than a quarter of all families making more than $100,000 a year say they cannot afford to buy everything they need. Overall, half the population of the richest country in the world claims not to be able to afford the basics. And it's not just the poorer half. "The Overspent American" explores why so many of us feel materially dissatisfied, why we work staggeringly long hours and yet walk around with ever-present mental "wish lists" of things to buy or get, and why Americans save less than virtually anyone in the world. Unlike many experts, Harvard economist Juliet B. Schor does not blame consumers' lack of self-discipline. Nor does she blame advertisers. Instead she analyzes the crisis of the American consumer in a culture where spending has become the ultimate social art. Juliet Schor presents original research showing how keeping up with the Joneses has evolved from keeping pace with one'sneighbors and others in a similar social set to keeping up with a referent group tat may include co-workers who earn five times one's own salary or television "friends" whose lifestyle is unattainable for the average person. The book also describes the growing backlash of people who are "downshifting" by working less, earning less, and finding balance by getting their lifestyles in sync with their values.
Publishers Weekly, 1998-04-13 Whereas Schor's 1992 bestseller, The Overworked American, touched a nerve among all classes of American society, her latest study is geared to middle- and upper-middle-class consumers who, in her diagnosis, are participating in a national orgy of overspending and living beyond their means. She traces this competitive, status-conscious consumption to the diverging income distribution and growing inequality beginning in the 1980s, as increasingly overworked, insecure, dissatisfied consumers, pressured by advertising and television imagery, sought to emulate the upscale lifestyle of the most affluent. An economist and director of women's studies at Harvard, Schor presents her arguable conclusion that the more TV a person watches, the more he or she is likely to spend. In counterbalance, she also reports on her nationwide survey of "downshifters," people who deliberately reduce their hours on the job in exchange for more leisure, time with family or other pursuits. In self-help fashion, she outlines nine steps individuals can take to break free of the cycle of compulsive spending. Although Schor's jeremiad lacks the impact of her earlier book, it offers trenchant commentary on Americans' overspending lifestyle and lack of savings. (May)
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