Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Most people will be able to answer the question without thinking about it. But are the answers accurate? What makes things better or worse for you? Here’s a scientifically valid checklist to help you analyze your life. It’s foolproof and has been tested two or three times with very small children.


Own your house?

(5 points)


(If "yes," 5 points. If you are/were retired, 2 points)

  Foreclosed on in previous 12 months? (-5 points)

  Car you own less than five years old? (3 points)

  Children in the house? (1 point. 2 points if they’re yours)

  Children at college? (-1 point)

  Grandchildren? (2 points. 3 points if they’re your daughter’s)

  Sports team you follow having a winning season? (If "yes," 1 point for each team)

  Cable or satellite TV? (1 point. If no TV in the house, 5 points)

  In love? (5 points. If the other person loves you back: 10 points)

  Have a newspaper delivered? (1 point)

  Obtained a college degree? (2 points)

  Own a smartphone? (1 point. If not a smartphone owner: 2 points)

  Own a dog ( 2 points)

  Own a cat (1 point)

  Pet died in last year (-1 point)

  More money in savings than the year before? (4 points)

  Health is generally good? (6 points)

  Paroled from prison (1 point)

  Don’t — or didn’t — know the name of the lieutenant governor (1 point)

  Is a parent living and is over 85? (-1 point)

  Did you take a vacation during the year? (2 points. 3 points if you didn’t Tweet or use Facebook during the vacation)

  The candidate you support is the one in office? (15 points)



  • Shannon

    55 points.

    I’m happy with my life and feel that I’m better off – but I’ve always been an optimist (and a Democrat).

  • 31 four years ago, 20 today.

  • Amy

    Good checklist! This just reaffirms what I already know-that things are exactly where they were 4 years ago for me. Now had a Republican governor made it to office, I certainly don’t think I could say the same thing. As a state employee, I’m sure I’d have joined the ranks of the unemployed in the past four years. As it is, I lost 3 weeks of pay and have yet to have a contract, so perhaps I am a little worse off, but its no fault of the democrats in office.

  • BJ

    6 more points now than 4 years ago.

    Have a dog now and savings actually increased last year.

  • andy

    Four years ago: 27

    Now: 53

    I’ll take it!

  • Kassie

    If you asked me if I’m better off now than 4 years ago, I probably would say yes. BUT, I took the quiz and my score for four years ago was a 32. This year is is a 12. I guess I’m not doing better at all. I live a sad, sad life if we judge it by this scale.

  • 4 years ago: 18

    Now: 58

    Sounds good to me.

  • Christin

    22 fours years ago, 51 today. Debating the role Obama or Romney would/have played in this. Thanks Bob!

  • Shannon

    Fool proof indeed but obviously not idiot proof.

    4 years ago my score was 40 and now 55.

  • Heather

    I am up by 7 points over 4 years ago. But I’ve been hired for the job I’ve been “temping” in that entire time, so there’s a big change unaccounted for in this list. Kind of like I wouldn’t have qualified for unemployment if I’d lost the job before getting “hired on”.

  • Jeff

    58 four years ago; 58 now. Life is good.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Other than the value of my home and my investment savings taking a big hit (the 401k came back, the house value did not), I’m doing about the same.

    All in all, we are doing all right. And no, I don’t believe the nation has “lost its way” or is on the wrong path. I wish more of our brothers and sisters in uniform were home safe, and that Congress would stop their silly games, but it could be a lot worse.

    Four years ago, the future was a bit more uncertain.

  • LindaL

    Even using this checklist, I’m worse off than I was four years ago. The only good news is that I am doing less badly than I was for the past two years, where each month’s house payment was always late and nearly 30 days past due.

    Good checklist though.

  • Kat S

    I am 17 points better off, according to the checklist, than I was 4 years ago. 15 of those are due to the candidate question. The other 2 are due to the birth of my daughter. On my own personal in-my-head checklist, I confess I weight those two a bit differently, but same result: I’ve been doing a lot of running to stay in place the last 4 years, economically speaking, but I definitely FEEL better off.

  • Snyder

    I am at 33 now and was at 24 four years ago. About the only thing that’s changed on the list is savings, but my savings are lower now through my own fault.

    It’s certainly not the President’s or Congress’s fault that I paid for fixing my car out of savings after skidding on some ice on the freeway and scraping up my front bumper. Maybe I could blame that on MnDOT for not having the freeway properly salted?

  • Properly Salted

    34 four years ago… 55 now. Interestingly, the numbers bear it out pretty accurately, as 4 years ago I was in a job I hated, moments away from being laid off and losing our house due to nearly two and a half years of unemployment and a very painful surprise separation from my wife. We’re back together, our relationship is stronger, and I’m gainfully employed making nearly double what I was making when I was laid off. We pay rent instead of a house payment, and frankly, are better off because of it. We owed over 4 times what our house was worth when the bank took it back. I have high hopes for the future!

  • Kassie

    The more comments I read, the worse I feel about my score of 12. I guess that means my score can only go up, right?

  • Suzanne

    I got 23 four years ago versus 48 for today. Nice!

  • Jamie

    I’m not sure I understand this. For one thing, I don’t think this is necessarily The Big Question that should be answered: So what if I’m better off? Even in the aggregate, it doesn’t mean the country, or my immediate community, is better off or not. Also, we have a “new normal” developing here, and I expect more people will not be better off for a long time.

    For another thing, my values don’t coincide with some of the apparent values indicated by some of these questions.

    It actually seems like a joke questionnaire to me.

  • doug sandels

    Sheesh, I went from 42 to 31. Like many other knuckleheads in Minnesota, I think I’ll blame Joe Mauer.

  • bsimon

    “For one thing, I don’t think this is necessarily The Big Question that should be answered: So what if I’m better off?”

    A reasonable point. In a perfect world, the quiz would be more predictive. How are your prospects today vs 4 years ago?

    Personally, I’m not feeling a huge impact from the macroeconomic / political arena, though I am better off & feel better about the future than I did then.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Highly accurate exercise. But would I really be better off had purchased the 2007 Chevy Aveo instead of the ’39 Bugatti?


  • Tim

    39 points four years ago. 52 points today. Though I think several of these things are highly subjective, I do overall think I’m in a better place than I was four years ago.

  • kennedy

    Am I the only one who feels that the party membership of an elected official is worth a lot less than 15 points? If a person recovered from illness, doubled their bank balance and took a vacation they would be better off exchanging it all for a red/blue/green president? Come on. Candidates and parties like to paint the opposition as a threat to the very future of the nation. I’m not buying that.

  • Bob Collins

    The large point score based on politics is reflective of the fact that we see the same thing through two different views, depending on which political party we’re in. In other words, we tend to be hypocrites. :*)

  • Amanda H

    I had 28 points 4 years ago and 60 points today! I added a point for each cat though (for a total of 2). As one of the millienials who is “screwed” I’m actually doing alright.

  • allie

    Well played, Bob. Well played. (…Are people actually taking this quiz seriously?)

  • Bob Collins

    So it would appear.

    I thought sure we’d have a big fight over why cats are only half as valuable as dogs. But maybe that’s a “duh” point.

  • Jim Shapiro

    My favorite serious question is the one that barely masks a call for geriatricide.