This September, the Wall Street Journal released an episode of their podcast Your Money Briefing detailing the inventive ways post-graduates across America live with a yearly salary of $50,000. Looking after themselves and living in mid-sized cities such as Charlotte or Minneapolis, the highlighted postgrads can afford health care and contribute to their 401(k), all while paying off student loans. Podcast host JR Whelan and his guest reporter Francesca Fontana believe that in order to do this those spotlighted need to live thrifty, frugal lifestyles: sharing checked bags on vacation, hunting for red meat to eat, and overcoming the challenge of driving to work and paying for gas.
Fontana praises the graduates for being “upfront” about their money struggles and for being “inventive” and “resourceful.” There is clearly a glaring gap—what about the people who struggle to eat, keep amenities in their homes, let alone afford a trip? The Department of Health and Human Services’ classification of the Federal Poverty Line for a one-person household is a yearly salary of $12,940. Even a four-person households’ is just half of said college graduates’ at $25,750 a year. Speaking to one of these family members and hearing how they manage to provide for themselves and their family, on a daily basis, may prove to be a more effective way to learn about serious money struggles in the real world.
Granted,Your Money Briefingmay not be the most representative in subject matter or attitude towards money, as loyal readers and listeners of the WSJ likely do not have the same day-to-day worries as the 38.1 million Americans living in poverty. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for the fact that there was not one mention of the privilege of having an education, or even the ability to have money to spare for insurance or savings they deemed necessary for their future life. The problem isn’t in the fact that this small group was praised for their money-saving skills, it’s in the lack of mention of the real need of other millions who are doomed to live in poverty, and worse, their children having the same plight.
While the reporters may have served their purpose for the WSJ, they neglect an entire population of Americans. A blind eye is turned to the people who really deserve credit for how they scrape by on next to nothing. Even more so, the podcast was so class-specific on its outlook of lifestyle and money that from two minutes in, someone from a lower socioeconomic would realize the message does not apply to them. Products of such a relevant news source should be informative and audience-based, but not so much as to exclude the masses of people in the country who still deserve credit for what they manage to do on a daily basis. WSJ can do better, and they should start by forcing listeners to worry about things like the 38.1 million.