A few months back I asked the fine folks at Beacon Press to send me a copy of Nan Mooney’s, (Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class. They kindly obliged and so here I am with the book review.
About The Book
The book is about the supposed decline of the professional middle class. Specifically, those with “humanistic, intellectual, or creative pursuits” (teachers, counselors, nonprofit employees, environmentalists, journalists, and the author herself).
Through a series of interviews, the book then covers the many roadblocks (“stagnant wages, debt, and escalating costs for tuition, health care, and home ownership”) these types now face, in contrast to their parents years ago.
Lastly, the author offers up solutions to each of these issues.
About The Author
From Beacon Press: “Nan Mooney, a member of the professional middle class, is a journalist and the award-winning author of I Can’t Believe She Did That: Why Women Betray Other Women at Work and My Racing Heart: The Passionate World of Thoroughbreds and the Track. She lives in Seattle.”
What I Thought
I was excited to read this book. After all, I’m middle class (I think). Plus, I love reading about socio-economics and other people’s finances (see my list of future millionaire profiles). The author promised a ton of interviews. She delivered. There were countless stories of people all sharing their situations. So much that I felt like the whole point of the book was to overwhelm you with stories of victims. Most seemed to help make the case that the middle class is now living worse than their parents did back in the day.
But the book isn’t just a list of victim sob stories. To her credit, the author offers up multiple solutions for each of the issues. I was, however, disappointed that the majority of the solutions came in the predictable form of government intervention.
In the last chapter, “From Ripples to Revolution”, there is a section called, “Personal Responsibility.” If you read any part of this book, please read those few pages (jump to page 201 if you’re in hardback). This is some of the best personal finance advice you could ever hope to read. Sadly, that section runs counter to every other part of the book. It’s as if someone else wrote it. Had the author done a better job of balancing the content of the book with this stance on personal responsibility it would have been a more enjoyable read.
In conclusion, (Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents was an interesting book to read, if only for the money profiles. It just comes across a bit too whiny for my taste.
I got the sense that the author developed the theory (declining middle class) and then went and found a bunch of people struggling with their finances to support that theory. I have no idea, but I suspect that the author solicited interviews by asking, “is there anyone out there in the middle class that is struggling financially?” This, I believe, led to the disproportionate number of “poor me” types found in the book.
I’m of the opinion that there are a lot of middle class people who are in poor financial shape because they put themselves there. The author hardly ever nods in that direction though. The profiles are mostly portrayed as victims of our current government, economy, and society.
An In-Depth Review And Other Thoughts
For a deeper dive into the book, please visit the chapter-by-chapter review by Being Frugal. See an additional review at Alpha Consumer, and the US News interview with author Nan Mooney.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Have you read the book? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. Leave your comments below…
Want To Read This Book?
If you’d like to read this book for yourself, please contact me. This Friday, 7/25, I’ll randomly select one person and mail them the book.