It seems to never occur to fools that merit and good fortune are closely united. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Life in America ultimately did not turn out to be what Frieda and her family had hoped for. When they first arrived they were full of hope for the future. However, work was difficult to find, even here. Leopold had to move around, looking for work where he could find it.
He had been a trained mechanical engineer in Poland before the war, with a university degree. However all those records were destroyed in the war, and he had no credentials to prove his educational background. This made finding work in his chosen profession nearly impossible.
To help make ends meet Frieda took on housekeeping jobs wherever they lived. From Chicago they migrated around the country to North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Florida, although always ending up back in Chicago one way or another. While they lived in Florida, Frieda took a job as a hotel maid at a local high-end hotel. She did such a good job she was eventually promoted to housekeeping manager and then hostess for the hotel restaurant. Unfortunately this did not last as Leopold eventually pulled the family back to Chicago again after only a few years.
In the mean time the children were growing up and trying to find their way in the world. Hans had a good head on his shoulders and was soon managing his own paper route and saving money. Gaby, on the other hand, was slightly more flighty and not any better with money and finances than her parents were. Often money was spent as quickly as was earned in this household. Hans was the only one with enough sense to save his money.
It was because of this lack of financial sense, always moving around looking for better work, and the loss of educational credentials, that kept the family fairly poor, or lower-middle-class in the best of times. Frieda became adept at purchasing items on lay-away, and seeking bargains in second-hand shops so that the family always looked better off than they were.
The appearance of wealth, or being well-to-do, was always very important to Frieda. Her parents had never tried to appear more wealthy than they were, and were treated accordingly. This scarred Frieda greatly in her childhood and she wanted to break the cycle of poverty. When she found herself unable to do so, she focused on ways to appear more well-off so that her children would not suffer the same fate of being stigmatized for being poor.