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Archive for February, 2019

poor and stuck

February 10th, 2019 at 06:51 pm

So for about 3 months DH and I lived in a ghetto. I hate to use that word but I don't know how else to describe it. I found a rental online and had no idea about a new city. It was cheap and month to month, close to my work, took dogs, and we didn't have many choices. We hoped it would be short term and it was. It was pretty much our first and only time living in a city. Previously and since we never have and have made a conscious decision to live in suburbia and further out because we hate city living. I can't sleep, the noise, the closeness of people, I don't care to walk everywhere. It's not us. And while I grew up lower middle class it was more rural/small town. Never had I lived in a city like this.

But back then we were young and crazy. So we moved into a neighborhood we certainly stood out. The people were very nice. Our neighbors talked to us, more than one actually warned me to stop walking my cute white dog (bichon frise) alone even during the day. She said "you're that girl with the white dog. Everyone is talking about you. You should be over in that other neighborhood where you would fit in." This was probably true.

So I stopped walking the dog. One day across the street from us a dog was impaled on the spokes of the fence. Another time there was the home invasion, probably looking for drugs according to the landlord. It was not a safe place.

But what did I learn? Buses don't stop in poor neighborhoods. You have to jump out in front of them and wave but they just keep going. You stand under the sign and they aren't full but they keep going. There aren't many bus routes and they don't seem to run late, unlike richer/nicer neighborhoods. A lot of people are always waiting for the next bus that never shows up because it's breaking down. Funny how it's the buses to the poorer area that seem to break down more. There are less train/subway lines as well.

The gas station had a cashier behind bars and you had to prepay cash for gas. The gas was also ridiculously over priced at this small gas station versus going down the road to even the big 76 or chevron or shell in another town.

The local grocery store was still about a mile away from where we lived. The food was disgusting. It was like all the going to spoil meat, fruit, veggies from every other neighborhood had been sent there as a last stop before being thrown out. The store itself was also more run down and not as clean. It was constantly packed even though the food was more expensive than driving 15 minutes to another nicer neighborhood same chain store.

DH and I made an effort to only shop at costco 40 minutes away and grocery stores in the neighborhoods we were looking for a townhouse 20 minutes. We noticed a huge difference. But I mean realistically I wonder how many of our neighbors could afford to drive outside the neighborhood and get better food for less money? At the same time if they did they could fill up for less money since gas was about 30 cent more per gallon.

Because of this we definitely rushed a bit picking our next place than we might have. But it also 10 years later affected how we shopped for apartments. Instead of me picking a place again online, we drove into the city and rented a hotel room for 1 week. We drove around and saw all the places first. This time we decided we weren't going to take the same risk of picking a place we didn't like.

But this short experience made me realize that many people don't have the same opportunities. That people in a lot of these situations are stuck. The only thing they know are being poor. I can see an EF being helpful. But there are also these roadblocks that make it really difficult to get ahead. How do you know that driving means you can get cheaper gas and better food? That it might be cheaper to live further out in a nice neighborhood with better schools? But how to do you afford the car that won't break down and gas to get to your job? How do you know to get job in suburbia that is similar to what they have now.

But how do you change the system?

staying in poverty

February 8th, 2019 at 05:49 pm

So I have to further explain to CCF how hard it is to get out of poverty. It really is when people are always telling you no and not helping you.

So my grandfather wanted to be a engineer. His dad said no way. No money and go get a job to help support the family. Lucky for him he was born number 9 out of 13 kids. He got to finish high school. His older brother finished 6th grade and got jobs for money to help support the family. This is why I always give a $1 to every salvation army bell ringer I see. I make my kids because my grandpa always did. He got their Holiday Baskets growing up. Wearing rice bags sucked since they couldn't afford clothes, good thing hawaii was warm.

Anyway he had dreams, but the dreams were beaten down by his family who said why bother with education? Go work. You don't need to study. Make money. The example was to drink and gamble. So it wasn't exactly encouraging. So he gambled and worked and had 4 kids. Lucky for them the Ob/Gyn said Mrs C you can't afford more kids lets sterilize you. THANK GOD or my mom would have been really poor. Yeah I don't think Dr are supposed to do that and now they would be sued.

But my grandparents were fun, young, caring parents. When he went on a gambling winning streak there was money and food. That's when you pay rent, shoes, clothes, and food. They didn't have a checking account until the 1970s when all their kids had checking/savings accounts and my uncle helped them.

My uncle at age 14 went to work and started paying the bills. He took each younger sister and taught her how a checking account work. How to pay using checks, how to be frugal. He said it was something he heard about from others not within our family. The rest of the family well they weren't exactly model citizens on my grandpa's side and my grandma's side was just poor.

Her father passed shortly after she left home and left a single mother with 6 kids at home. My great grandmother needed all the kids at home to work and help her financially as she cleaned homes, museum, and took in laundry and sewing and her mom lived with her. My aunts aunts on that side also learned after leaving home from their husbands. They lived in the country so they had very little and no way to help.

So it's not like people sit there and teach you how to budget. They also don't encourage you to save money. I guess they knew but there was never enough money.

Like I said I always feel bad my mom went into debt for us to go to Disneyland. But she said she never regretted it. We took out a personal loan from the bank. I mean when she got divorced from my dad she cut up all her CC and never charged what we couldn't afford. But what we could afford was meager. The real problem was we had a hard time saving. But things got better.

But by the same token my DH came from middle class. His parents both worked but they had no idea how to navigate this country when they arrived. They worked stereotypical immigrant jobs like delivering chinese food/driving a cab, bakery/dry cleaner. Again they had no idea how to manage money but DH's uncle, the one who died, he came first and fortunately smart guy sent money home to the rest of the family and helped each of his siblings come over and figure out how money worked. DH's dad grew up in a shelter and went to boarding school because they were smart and couldn't afford to live otherwise. So it was really hard to get ahead without the one person who quickly learned how to survive. His uncle always said it was luck.

So I think we need more education programs to help people learn about having more. Otherwise all they hear is they can't do anything. They can't figure out without help how to get out of their situation. But nowadays it just seems harder than ever. Wages have stagnated. No more pensions. Instead you have to save for yourself. A lot of these low-middle income people could retire because you didn't have to save or know how to save or invest (like my mom). Instead you work 30 years and there is your retirement! Presto!

I know it's not feasible but I think pensions help lower income people by far more than higher income people who usually know how to manage.

Have you seen people able to get out of lower income levels? Have you done it? If you have, how did they do it?

reflecting back

February 7th, 2019 at 06:26 pm

I've been reflecting back lately on a lot of people talking about the government shutdown and how people are paycheck to paycheck. I do feel bad. Yes I understand they should have planned better. They should have not been living paycheck to paycheck. Hopefully they learned their lesson. Doubtful but maybe.

Doing taxes I see a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to make the rent. They take out an advance against their tax refund to make ends meet. I want to shake them. I want them to make better decisions.

Truthfully I feel awful for those working poor. I don't know how you get ahead. It's so hard when you barely make enough that you can't repair the car. You can't buy the bulk packaging because you don't have the cash.

That was me. I grew up definitely like that. Looking back I didn't know any better till I got older, and I'm sure my mom and grandma knew better but we just didn't have the money to do it.

We had food stamps so we bought what we could with them. Stuff that wasn't food stamps we only bought when on sale and what was on sale. We couldn't buy the biggest size for the cheapest price because sometimes we didn't have the cash for it. And I remember the days of waiting for the food stamps to come and it was a great day to go shopping. It used to be this little coupon book that you tore out and you had to be really careful on what you bought. But when we got it we almost always bought steak for a steak dinner. End of the month and no food stamps? Lots of rice and tofu and poi. Of course sometimes we killed the chickens or my grandfather went hunting and we had wild pig.

So I get it. Saving $1000 was a huge deal. I remember my grandfather would often trade work for repairing the car with friends. He'd help doing a home repair or something and he'd get free mechanical work. And the cars we had sucked big time. They were constantly needing work but that was the real problem with cheap second hand cars. We even had second hand tires.

So people think it's easy to tell those living paycheck to paycheck to save. It's really not. One stupid car repair, one medical bill and you are wiped out. It's impossible to get ahead. You can't even buy clothes on clearance because you don't have money. Goodwill and hand me downs are the way to go. I had a lot of hand me downs from my boy cousins. I wore a lot of blue and green until age 5.

When I compare myself to now I realize boy have I changed a lot. I have gotten extremely priviledged and i'm a little shocked. Shocked by quick the turn around happened. I admit I'm nervous too. My kids have no idea. They were born to us when we had lots of money comparatively.

I guess that's why I feel bad when people talk about living on a budget and saving. I know how hard it is. I guess like is more like the conners/roseanne than people admit. And it's a lot less easier to climb the socio-economic ladder than people think or imagine.

I can tell you talking with my mom. When you don't know any better like how to maintain a house, maintain a car, what is a stock/bond/cd, how to balance a check book, what is a savings account, that even that "middle" class lifestyle is beyond what you can imagine or try to do.

Did you experience the same thing? Have you changed your circumstances so drastically?

It's girl scout cookie time

February 4th, 2019 at 05:29 pm

It's girl scout cookie time. Funny how fast it goes by time. My kiddos want the prize at 400 boxes each, an inflatable chair. I said they have to work hard. Sell cookies presales and do a lot of booths. Right now we are at 275 each but it's way not enough. I'm curious if we can make it.

As to the trouble in my troop? One kid I said can't come without supervision. Her mom decided to pull her. The second one is on a tight leash. If she gets a call for misbehaving she's also gone. One parent is because she's too busy. Other parent because it's a privilege for extracurricular. Third parent is going to try and stay but unsure how things will play out.

I'm hoping that next year I have a smaller troop with less drama. I'm really annoyed that people see it as free babysitting. I'm really annoyed that so many moms also are not putting any effort into participating. I am unsure how to change it next year. Ideally I'd like to kick out some of these parents who are not participating. But I'm unsure how to frame it nicely.

So many are such good sports. And these couple of rotten apples? Well it's made this year not pleasant to be leading the troop. It was so much more pleasant last year.