American families better get ready to tighten their belts again. There is every indication that we are all going to really start feeling the squeeze in the months ahead. The price of gas is starting to spike again. The price of food is moving north. Health insurance premium increases are being announced coast to coast and a whole slate of tax increases is scheduled to go into effect in 2011. Meanwhile, household incomes are down substantially all over the nation and the U.S. government is indicating that there will not be an increase in Social Security benefits for the upcoming year once again. So if the cost of most of the basic things in our monthly budgets is going up and our incomes are going down what does that mean? It means that average American families are about to be squeezed like nothing we have seen in decades.
The reality is that it is getting really hard to make it out there. Not only do most households have both parents working, but in many cases both parents are getting second or even third jobs. Things have gotten so bad that millions of Americans have felt forced to turn to the government for assistance just to survive.
It can be really disheartening to come to the end of the month and realize that despite your best efforts you have less money than you did at the beginning of the month. But that is where millions upon millions of American families now find themselves.
The economic despair in the air is almost palpable. Already hordes of Americans are truly and honestly hurting and things are only going to get worse.
The following are ten reasons why ordinary hard-working Americans are about to really start feeling the squeeze....
#1 Gas prices are going up again. AAA says that the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States was $2.80 on Sunday. That is 32.6 cents higher than it was during the same time period in 2009. As oil and gas prices continue to go up, that is also going to have a significant impact on utility bills for American families this winter.
#2 The price of food is poised to rise substantially. Bloomberg is reporting that the the cost of meat in the United States is going nowhere but up. But meat is not the only thing that you will soon be paying much more for at the supermarket. Wheat, corn, soybeans and almost every other major agricultural commodity is absolutely soaring this fall. As this continues, it is inevitable that ordinary Americans will see much higher food prices at their local grocery stores.
On a previous article, a reader named Erica left a comment in which see detailed the stunning food inflation that she is seeing where she lives....
Food inflation is real, and it is here. Just yesterday I compared my receipt from a grocery run to prices I have from the same exact store from September 15, 2009. Bacon? Up 52% to $13.69 from $8.99 for 4 lbs. Butter? Up 73% to $9.99 from $5.79 for 4 lbs. Pure vanilla extract up 14% to $6.79 from $5.95. Chopped dried onions up a mere 2% but minced garlic (wet) was up 32%.
#3 It looks like those receiving Social Security are not going to be seeing cost-of-living increases again. The Associated Press is reporting that the U.S. government is expected to announce some time this week that the tens of millions of Americans that receive Social Security will go through yet another year without an increase in their monthly benefit payments. You see, Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are tied to the official government inflation numbers, and according to the U.S. government there is basically very little inflation right now. Of course we all know that is a lie, but it is what it is.
#4 The cost of health care continues to soar into the stratosphere. Americans already pay more for health care than anyone else in the world, and yet costs continue to spiral out of control. The cost of health care increased a staggering 9.6% for all U.S. households from 2007 to 2009. Now, health insurance companies from coast to coast are announcing that they must raise health insurance premiums substantially due to the new health care law that Barack Obama and the Democrats have pushed through. So in 2011 it looks like the average American family is going to have to carve out an even bigger chunk of the budget for health care.
#5 American families could desperately use a recovery in the housing industry, but that is simply not going to happen. Foreclosure-Gate is getting worse by the day, and it threatens to bring the U.S. real estate industry to a complete and total standstill. If it is ultimately proven that the paperwork for millions of mortgages in the United States is seriously deficient, it could push hordes of mortgage lenders into bankruptcy and render mountains of mortgage-backed securities nearly worthless. Regardless, it is now going to be much more difficult to get a mortgage, much more difficult to buy a home and much more difficult to sell a home. We could very well be looking at the next stage of the housing crash. Ordinary Americans could end up losing trillions more in home equity.
#6 More Americans than ever find themselves unable to pay their bills, and an increasing number of frustrated creditors are actually resorting to wage garnishment. Yes, you read the correctly. Creditors are starting to ruthlessly go after the weekly paychecks of debtors.
The following is an excerpt from a recent New York Times article that discussed the rise of wage garnishment as a weapon against debtors....
After winning, creditors can secure a court order to seize part of the debtor’s paycheck or the funds in a bank account, a procedure called garnishment. No national statistics are kept, but the pay seizures are rising fast in some areas — up 121 percent in the Phoenix area since 2005, and 55 percent in the Atlanta area since 2004. In Cleveland, garnishments jumped 30 percent between 2008 and 2009 alone.
So if you are getting behind on your debt, you better watch out - your creditors may soon decide to garnish your wages.
#7 Americans now owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards. As hard as that is to believe, that is actually true. Americans now owe more than $849 billion on student loans, which is a new all-time record.
Student loan payments can be absolutely crippling to a household budget. This is especially true for young Americans that have just gotten out of school. Sadly, student loan debt is nearly impossible to get rid of. Once you are committed, it will follow you around for the rest of your life.
#8 Even as expenses rise, incomes are down from coast to coast. Median household income in the U.S. declined from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 in 2009. There are very few areas that have not been affected. In fact, of the 52 largest metro areas in the United States, only the city of San Antonio did not see a decline in median household income during 2009.
#9 If all of this was not bad enough, now there are rumblings that the U.S. Federal Reserve is actually thinking that we need more inflation. A number of top Federal Reserve officials have come out recently and have publicly supported the notion that the Fed needs to purposely create more inflation in order to stimulate the economy. Of course what they don't tell the American people is that inflation is a hidden tax on every single dollar in our wallets and in our bank accounts. More inflation would be really bad news for ordinary Americans, because they are already having a tough time getting their dollars to stretch far enough.
#10 Apparently the U.S. government (and many state and local governments) think that this is a great time to stick it to the American people by hitting them with a slew of new taxes. There are so many tax increases scheduled to go into effect in 2011 that it is hard to keep track of them all. In fact, there are many (myself included) that are calling 2011 "the year of the tax increase". But the Americans that are going to get it the worst of all are those that are going to get hit with the Alternative Minimum Tax. One out of every six American households is going to be hit with a tax increase averaging $3,900 (thanks to the AMT) and most of them don't even know that it is coming.
So did you think that 2010 was bad?
Well, you haven't seen anything yet.
2010 was a Sunday picnic compared to what is coming.
Get ready to get squeezed.
Get ready for higher food prices, higher gas prices, higher health insurance premiums and higher taxes.
Get ready to try to do a lot more with a lot less.
Inflation is already here, but it is going to get a whole lot worse. Meanwhile, the U.S. government (along with state and local governments) is going to continue to have a voracious appetite for more revenue.
Average Americans are going to be squeezed until they have nothing left to give. Then they are going to be squeezed just a little bit more.
Are you ready?