Underearners Anonymous

Genevieve Smith checks in with the group:

Underearning, according to UA’s adherents, is more a reflection of the feeling that we’re not where we thought we’d be, whether in terms of savings, career goals, or however else we measure prosperity and success. It was this anxiety, more than my sorry bank account, that drew me to my first UA meeting. I’d come not because I was destitute (I’m not), but because I’d grown anxious that I’d ever achieve the financial security I’d always assumed was inevitable.

Given that there’s a lot of real poverty in the United States, I was sure I’d be exposed as an employed, debt-free fraud and booted from the proceedings. As it turned out, the underearners were a diverse coalition. Sure, there were those struggling with debt, eviction, and long bouts of unemployment, but there were also many people whose financial circumstances seemed enviable—one guy claimed to be bringing in more than $200,000 a year—who nevertheless felt they were underachievers.