Can someone please tell me why the Washington Post thought that this story ("Squeaking by on $300,000") deserved to be on the front page of Sunday's paper? It's not a terrible story, not like the Times' claim that pot bellies are hip, but I don't think it qualifies as serious news by any standard.
It's clear that almost everyone the reporter talked to was totally unwilling to be quoted for the record. That probably showed good judgment -- it's hard to imagine any possible upside to being featured in this story. It made me wonder what Steins was hoping to get out of it, since she struck me from the article as being more or less sane and having some sense of perspective. She has to have known that she's going to get trashed by a significant share of the people who read the article.
Moreover, it's not at all clear to me that Steins is really all that affected by the recession. Ok, so her bonus is less. But if she's pulling $50,000 a year out of savings to make her budget balance, it sounds like she'd still have a hole of $30,000 to $40,000 even with her usual bonus. Her real problem is that she and her ex-husband bought a house that she just can't afford on her own, even with very generous alimony/child support. And she bought him out in 2006, close to the peak of the market. If the real estate market was better, maybe she'd downsize and get out of the hole. But it also sounds like she doesn't want to move her kids out of their school.
Fundamentally, I thought this article mostly illustrated the logic to the 60 percent solution. If your fixed expense are such a high fraction of your income, you can squeeze the little things to death -- not buying a fancy cell phone for your kid, going longer between hair colorings -- and it doesn't fundamentally change the big picture. Unless Steins has enough savings to keep pulling out $50k a year for the next decade, she needs to bite the bullet and go after the big things -- the house, the nanny, the second car.