Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Two Income Trap by Elizabeth Warren

What is wrong with the following statement?

"But the two-income family didn't just lose its safety net. By sending both adults into the labor force, these families actually increased the chances that they would need that safety net. In fact, they doubled the risk. With two adults in the workforce, the dual-income family has double the odds that someone could get laid off, downsized, or other wise left without a paycheck. Mom or Dad could suddenly lose a job."

You've just read the fundamental thesis of The Two-Income Trap. If you agree with it--although I truly hope you're a better critical thinker than that--you'll have your views reinforced. Thus reading this book would be an unadulterated waste of your time.

If on the other hand you are capable of critical thinking and you can successfully see through hilariously unrigorous "logic" of the above statement, then this book will still be a waste of your time (unless you like reading books for the sheer pleasure of laughing at their lack of rigor).

Either way, you'll have to wade through 162 pages of hand-wringing and one-sided statistics to get to any actual solutions--and those solutions should have been written on a 3x5 card that says:

1) Don't incur high fixed costs--manage your big-ticket spending items like housing and cars so they don't crush you down the road.
2) Don't compete with your neighbors.
3) Save money.

Better still, watch this Saturday Night Live skit instead. There. I just saved you four precious hours of your life.


Anonymous said...

I doubt this is worth my time, but I can't let your irresponsible post remain unchallenged.

Just answer one question: Do you believe the home mortgage industry has, in recent years, been behaving in a way that enabled the average home buyer to make sound decisions so they could "manage" what is probably their biggest ticket item with honesty & transparency?

This is a trick question because if you say yes, you are a fool & shouldn't be trusted to give anyone financial advice & if you say no then your post is disingenuous & speaks for itself.

I suggest you write your own book & see if can get you the national recognition & admiration of the American people that Ms. Warren has.


Daniel said...

CD: I'm flattered you took the time to engage with me. However, I hope you don't mind if I take a pass on answering your, uh, trick question.

Clearly we differ as to whether my post is irresponsible. I would make the contra-case that this book is irresponsible. It sells fear, it's unrigorous, and the premise of the book is fundamentally flawed.


High_Life said...


Thanks for writing your honest review here. While I actually strongly agree with commenter CD's suggestion that the mortgage industry was wantonly, shamelessly irresponsible in the last decade, I'm writing simply to thank you for creating a negative book review, an all too uncommon thing these days. Many writers, myself included I must admit, feel some obligation to find and write about what is good in a book and I take inspiration from you (not for the first time!).

Happy New Year,


Daniel said...

Hi Shauna, I don't overtly disagree with your statment (or CD's for that matter), but it's irrelevant to quality (or lack thereof) of the book.

This book was written in 2003, before the mortgage industry began its egregious behavior--the evils of the mortgage industry simply aren't a fundamental part of the book's thesis.


Daniel said...

One other thought I'll add: there are few things more intellectually challenging than to read a book you totally disagree with, or a book that you think has tremendous flaws, and to articulate those flaws and the reasons for your disagreement in a critical review. I highly recommend it.

In fact, maybe we should start a "bad" book club just for that purpose!


High_Life said...

Hey, not a bad idea. I'm usually looking for the good in everything, so this is another way of looking at things I'm not accustomed to, which I'm always up for (see comment below about not finishing books I don't like).

Funnily (?) enough, I agree that the comment about mortgage co's had nothing to do with whether the book in question had a valid premise, and my 'nice' way of saying that was to not really say it at all...the very same thing that keeps me from writing an honest book review about a book I do not enjoy (and usually wouldn't finish). Hmmm...

cm said...

Hi there,
I agree with your argument that moving from a single to a dual income family does not double the risks associated with job loss in itself. It occured to me though, that the author may have been alluding to a situation where a family increases their spending according to its income with two earners. If both earners lost their jobs the family would potentially be in twice as much debt.

Daniel said...

CM: Yes, agreed. But where's the rule that says a two-income family has to increase their spending in this way? That's the point.

Only in the warped illogic of this book can making more money actually create more risk.