But how well it works for you largely depends on how much initial capital you have to spend... if you can afford to buy a 20% equity stake in a company that's going to make a much bigger financial difference than buying stocks, especially for a large corporation.
Like... the company I work for has a stock price around $48 last I checked. Dividends were set at about $1.60. Assuming the dividend stays the same (which I know it won't) it's going to take something like seven years to break even. And once I do, how much difference is it really going to make to me? If I go with your recommendation of replacing my cable with stocks, I can buy, what, two or three stocks a month? Say I do that by saving up for a year so we can pretend all these stocks start profiting at the same time, and I'm making an extra $38.4-$57.6 a quarter, or $153.6-$230.4 a year. Sure, not an amount to sneeze at, but it's hardly turning me into Rockefeller, either.
Look, I get that at some point we're talking other things (like liquidity and cash flow) but this is a specious argument. Your argument is essentially "I shouldn't be required to do sound and disciplined fiscal planning!". Bernie's argument is simple: the economy is rigged for the 1%, and that is patently NOT TRUE. You're focusing on dividends; there are multiple ways to make money using these tools. You sell stocks that move quickly in one direction. You short others that are moving quickly in the other direction. You do your homework, instead of watching Survivor on television. Even with multiples, Trump didn't turn $1M into $4.9B using "dividends".
The argument actually works better the opposite direction: you have an extra couple hundred bucks a quarter or a year... that's a big deal to some families, and when you factor in taxes, hours cuts, etc. etc. the impact is potentially far greater than an increase in the minimum wage, and not dependent on the fickle nature of geography and politics.
So for the average person, sure, stocks might work as a retirement plan, but they're not going to realistically impact your standard of living while you're working, because after sacrificing TV I'm still not making as much on the stocks as I was spending on TV in a year... or even two months. The investment-centric economy favors those who have money already, not people who want to make money.
NO. That is the fallacy that Bernie wants - no, NEEDS - you to believe. There are 100's of thousands of people that have improved their standard of living using these tools. They are not guaranteed, and they are not foolproof, but they are sound, and they are NOT just for the "1%-ers to be more 1%". I've told this story before, I think: my ex-mother-in-law's best friend was a administrative assistant for GE for a number of years. She would squirrel away a couple dollars a paycheck into an index fund, and into a GE DRIP (Divident ReInvestment Plan). She was able to retire at 55, and basically has spent the last ten years traveling the United States.
They are, as well, a choice, and not always an easy one.
You're young, Genowyn, but I have a 15 year old, and I compare to when I was 15: we're SPOILED. Not my kid, necessarily, but us as a society. We have this expectation of ENTITLEMENT that is not justified, and it is not supported by the numbers. Yeah, wages haven't gone up like we want them to (do they ever?) but our discretionary spend has gone up by MULTIPLES. When I was 15, I had literally no expenses. No cellphone, no satellite radio, nothing. My radio was free (after the initial expense of the radio) and so was TV. Utilities (I contributed to the house, but didn't pay them totally) were electric and gas. If you had a car, you had gas and insurance. I don't remember the numbers, but even using todays numbers (slightly adjusted) and we're talking $50+$50+$50+$100 a month. $250. At $7.50 an hour, I've still only used about a quarter of my income on my expenses (I know, I haven't touched food or rent yet). My kid is 15 today. Now? Utilities are electric, gas, cable, internet, phone, cellphone. $150, $100, $200, $50, $125. Add to that the subscriptions (Spotify, Sirius, Netflix, etc.) and you're adding another $50 or $60 dollars. Gas and insurance are the same. We're at $950. Almost QUADRUPLE. And I KNOW I've missed something (PlayStation? PSN? Xbox Live?). I need $7.50 just for the LUXURIES ($950 a month is about $7.30 an hour, before taxes). We don't need $15 as a "living wage". We need $15 as an entitlement for a lifestyle. How many people do you think realize this? How many people do you think do the math on that "$9.99 a month" subscription and compare it to what that could get in terms of additional income?
In contrast, if you put $100 ($2 a week) into an index fund in 1985, it's over $1,600 now.
My point isn't "shoulda coulda woulda". My point is, this stuff isn't out of reach for people. It's a cop out or a campaign slogan to say that people CAN'T do this. My point is that we're not interested in the realities of the situation, we're interested in what feels good or what sounds good. Hell, if I could work the exact same amount of time, and I didn't have to put in the effort of furthering my education, and I didn't have to make any sacrifices, if I didn't have to move to where the work is... I'd take a bump to my hourly wage too! Who wouldn't? But to argue that it is required and necessary? We should be demanding more of our people, ALL of our people, not just the wallets of the 1%.