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You often hear those tales of the good old days. The stories about a thriving middle class living the American Dream. So much has changed for this segment of our society in the last few decades. Many people raised with the expectation they’d be able to better their station in life are now struggling to make any meaningful progress at all. Socio-economic immobility and daily financial anxiety are seemingly making the American Dream a thing of the past.

There’s clearly a tangible uptick in overall unhappiness in today’s middle class America. Why? As with most economic trends, several factors are involved. Wage growth has been relatively stagnant even though the cost of living is on the upswing. Home prices and rents are trending upward too, particularly in the most popular urban centers. Add in ballooning higher education costs and health care expenses and you have significant drags on the ability of middle class Americans to move up the wealth ladder.  

Even with these economic factors tugging on the family cashflows, the desire to consume is still as strong as ever. FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out, is a very real thing in many middle class minds. Even high earners who are getting along just fine are still wanting for the next bigger and better product on the market. That “never quite satisfied” mentality has driven American consumerism for decades. Social media is only adding fuel to the desire for more, more, more. Think of all those “perfect” pics on your social feed of exotic family vacations, the latest fashion trends, the perfect homes, even the chicest fur babies. People are scrolling through these images for hours on end, driving home that “what I have just isn’t cutting it” feeling. Everyone else seems to be living a bigger and better life. It’s a never ending “keeping up” cycle that’s leaving middle class Americans completely dissatisfied.

What’s the solution to all the gloom and doom? Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix. Many financial pain points are completely outside of your control. But there are actionable steps to take to lower your financial anxiety. Acknowledging that FOMO is lurking in the background is a solid place to start. You’ll quickly begin to recognize those situations where your worry of being left behind leads you financially astray. Taking a nice long break from social media may help too! Rather than always longing for what’s just out of reach of your pocketbook, focus on your recent financial wins. Reflect on your progress in the past few years. Find ways to make small improvements in your daily finances rather than massive overhauls. Worry a little less about what other people are doing with their money. Create your own personal goals and take back the control.  

Want to dive deeper into navigating today’s financial pressures? Here are a few of our tops picks from the McKay Wealth blog:

The keeping up with the social media Joneses trap

The dangers of lifestyle inflation

“Can I buy my boat?” – The splurge question

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