For years I lived on Chicago’s North Side not far from the Wrigleyville neighborhood. In the early ’90s, my neighborhood was a blue collar kind of area. Middle class all the way. Slowly though, the yuppies started moving in. Property values skyrocketed, making it impossible for the average middle class family to continue paying the property taxes. Families were leaving in droves, making way for the DINKs (dual-income, no kids).

Keeping up with the Jones’ became really difficult. There were BMW’s and Hummers parked on the street. Sometimes several to one home. The old homes built in the 1900s were leveled for huge monstrosities that blocked out the sun. The neighborhood was no longer the same. People were buying the property for millions of dollars for land once worth $50,000 20 years ago.

I often wondered how these people got all their toys and could afford them. I was living off two very good incomes and could only afford a small town home in the suburbs for around $130,000. How were these people able to pay for a million dollar home and all the fancy vehicles and I couldn’t?

Well, after a few years and a recent visit to my old neighborhood, I see what really happened. Many of the yuppie neighbors have moved. I saw one BMW with a for sale sign in the window. One of the homes were foreclosed. The secret was out! Like many other Americans, these families just got in way over their heads. They couldn’t truly afford the things they were buying in the first place.

It all made sense now. I also thought back to the way some my old neighbors lived. They would often be the type of people fighting with a clerk at a grocery store over a 50 cent coupon. They penny pinched and probably went without many normal things just to make ends meet.

I spent quite a few years feeling down about my place in life. Not only because I thought my neighbors had so much more than me, but you can’t go a day without hearing about some fool hitting it big and making millions of dollars a year. I began to think something was very wrong with me. Little did I know, it was everybody else.