The middle class in America is defined largely by its dreams and ambitions. The Middle Class Task Force formed by the Obama administration found that people who call themselves middle-class generally share certain basic aspirations: owning a home and a car (or two), taking regular family vacations, sending their kids to college, and eventually quitting work to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Even if they haven’t achieved this lifestyle yet, it’s still their version of the American Dream.
Not to be confused with its older, much smaller Maine namesake, Portland, Oregon is the Pacific Northwest’s second-largest city – the anchor of a metropolitan area some two million people strong. Thanks to its prime location in the crook of the Willamette-Columbia River junction, its proximity to the open Pacific Ocean, and its resource-rich hinterland, Portland has long been a hub of transport and industry. Back in the 19th century, the city sprang up and grew along a gentle bend in the Willamette, where its downtown core and densest neighborhoods still lie, and later spread out along the hills above its fair valley.
When you make a new acquaintance, often the first question you’re asked is, “What do you do for a living?” This line makes sense as an icebreaker because work occupies such a central place in our lives. If you work a standard 40-hour week, you’re devoting over 35% of your waking hours to your job – more than you can possibly spend on any other single activity.
But there are other people whose income is not tied to their daily grind – at least, not completely. That’s because they have sources of “passive income”: money that keeps rolling in even when they’re not on the job. This extra income can pay for a few added luxuries, provide a cash cushion for emergencies, and even serve as a stepping stone to financial independence.
Longtime “Saturday Night Live” fans fondly remember Lily Tomlin’s “Ernestine,” a recurring character from the show’s formative years. Ernestine was a smug, preening phone company employee who reveled in customers’ misfortune and delighted in her own employer’s incompetence. She was, simply, the embodiment of everything wrong with the telecommunications status quo of the late 1970s.
A lot has changed since Ernestine delighted audiences. The “Ma Bell” monopoly she represented was broken up into smaller, regional companies. Automation dramatically improved line-switching efficiency and basically eliminated human operators. The cellular revolution eroded legacy landline providers’ dominance and spurred much-needed competition. And the advent of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) substantially improved the performance and usability of complex business phone systems.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (a Money Crashers partner) is a no-annual-fee cash back credit card with a very generous rewards program. Blue Cash Everyday offers 3% cash back (up to $6,000 per calendar year) on grocery store and supermarket purchases, unlimited 2% cash back at gas stations and department stores, and 1% cash back on everything else. Rewards come as statement credits once you hit the $25 redemption minimum. Although applicants do need very good to excellent credit, Blue Cash Everyday doesn’t require stellar credit, as is the case with more generous cards.
When most people hear the phrase “credit card rewards,” their minds immediately turn to cash back rewards. And why not? Flip on the TV, navigate to your favorite website, or drive around your hometown and you’re bound to see an ad for a cash back credit card before long.
Cash back credit cards are popular because they provide tangible, easy-to-understand benefits. Who doesn’t like getting a credit on their monthly credit card statement – or, better yet, actual cash deposited into the account of their choice?
Not all cash back credit cards are created equal though.
Many couples disagree and argue, but there’s a particular subject that tends to be more damaging to relationships than others: money. A study published in 2013 in the journal Family Relations examined more than 4,500 couples and found that fights about money were a top predictor of divorce regardless of income, net worth, and debt levels.
When you’re constantly at each other’s throats about money, you and your partner lower the satisfaction you get from your relationship. Even in cases when decreased relationship satisfaction doesn’t lead to divorce, it can increase your stress levels and have a negative impact on the health and happiness of other members of the family, including your children. Understanding what you’re fighting about and why you’re fighting about it helps you and your partner come up with a way to work through arguments.
Given the hefty upfront costs associated with purchasing a home, most young people begin their independent lives renting an apartment. As they build careers, save money, and start families, many choose to buy a home. On the other end of the age spectrum, homeowners nearing retirement may choose to sell their family homes, downsize, and become renters once more.
Since the middle of the 20th century, the U.S. homeownership rate has fluctuated between 62% and 70%. According to CNBC, it sat at 63.4% in the second quarter of 2015, the lowest level since the mid-1960s. This decline is largely due to economic and demographic factors, such as the downsizing efforts of aging Baby Boomers, elevated housing prices in some high-population markets, and high student debt loads that prevent many younger buyers from saving enough to make down payments.
According to Professor Nolan McCarty of Princeton University, it seems that political rancor today has reached heights not seen since Reconstruction after the Civil War. A Stanford University report found that Americans have become increasingly polarized along political party lines, primarily due to “political candidates relying on negative campaigning and partisan news sources serving up vitriolic commentary.” As a consequence, the report concluded that the level of political animus in the American public exceeds racial hostility.
According to The Knot’s Real Weddings Study, wedding photographers and videographers cost $2,556 and $1,794, on average, respectively. That’s $4,350 – or approximately 14% of The Knot’s average wedding spend, excluding the honeymoon.
To be sure, millions of couples shell out less. My own wedding wasn’t bare-bones by any stretch, but we spent less than half the national average on professional photography and videography without compromising quality. And it goes without saying that not everyone can afford a $4,000-plus wedding media bill.
Still, there’s no way around it: Professional-grade wedding memories are expensive. If you’re fretting about how you’re going to pay for them, consider these tips for getting cheap (or at least, cheaper) professional wedding photography and videography – and seriously saving money on your wedding.