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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?

11 Responses to “reflecting back”

  1. Petunia 100 Says:

    Oh yes, I definitely think it is easy to forget how hard it is to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Also, we have to realize that not everyone can. Not all of us are lucky enough to be bright, to have capacity to learn, to have at least one thing you are naturally good at. It takes hard work, yes, but it also takes luck.

    I can remember in childhood not having a coat one winter, having to make due with a sweatshirt. I can recall a time I had only 3 pairs of pants and they were all high-water and threadbare, as they were old and I had grown. I can recall lots of little struggles like that. It was important to me that my children would never experience what it is to do without something you need.

    Early in adult life, I struggled. I often worked 2 and 3 jobs simultaneously to be able to make the rent. My now ex-husband and I struggled for years under the weight of his consumer debt. Every unexpected expense, even a small one, was a huge obstacle as we had not a dollar to spare.

    Now I buy a new clothes whenever I want and think nothing of it. Or plan a trip. Or go out to a meal. You forget how those things at one time may have been completely out of reach.

  2. Smallsteps Says:

    It is a matter of perspective but working with paycheck to paycheck groups and working in an industry that dealt with those in poverty, my view became skewed because MORE often the not I saw bad choices after bad choices. The ratio in my world was probably 80% bad choice / 20% with no way out.
    I Still to this day when meeting people am often amazed at the stories and the actions or inaction taken by people. Most of these things are items they did not even know they told you.
    I DO understand for some there seems like NO way out but honestly those who are doing things that are self inflicted make it hard to stay empathetic for long.

  3. Carol Says:

    Thank you for this reflection. I thought back to my childhood and realized again how lucky I was in my parents and in my mother's ability to be frugal and to dream for her children and how lucky that we were able to realize those dreams . (Dreams of higher education, primarily.)

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    Except for the poor/disable relying only on government funds, I will always believe everyone can acquire emergency funds. I believe it to be THE most important building block of financial stability.

    Yes, you may wear hand me downs, you may walk to work, or trade services. These are not bad things, these are signs of responsible decision making. Not buying your child a coat because the parent buys beer and cigarettes almost daily is not a good decision.

    I'm not sure you can ask at your job, but do you have any idea how these people actually spend the income they have earned? What income level are you defining as poor?

    I do have sympathy as I know there are some definite things standing in peoples way. Mind set, lack of education on basic financial matters and even access to shopping with lower prices can make things much more difficult.

    We definitely spend more freely than we did when we were first married. Trips would have been impossible, car repairs were more difficult (actually did trade services for these a few times), only ate out when our parents treated us, and did buy used clothing for my kids for quite a few years.

  5. mumof2 Says:

    I grew up in the outback the youngest of 5 kids..we never had a lot of money but I never feel like we missed out...Due to illness we have lived pay check to paycheck at times...but sometimes people just don't know how to budget, they are never taught about money or how to write a budget etc...so yes you have those that make bad decisions but also a lot that don't know how to deal with money...I think it should be taught in schools...also you have society that can be a big hinderance at times...they expect kids to have computers and internet at home etc...and most can't afford it and puts them behind other kids/teens...but 1 thing I have done is taught our kids from a young age how to budget and about money...they can use the advice or not but at least I know they have it

  6. CB in the City Says:

    Well, my experiences were particularly bad. I've talked about them here before ... my father was an alcoholic (who eventually recovered) and we went through long periods of low income or no income. Then when I was grown up, my husband left me along with the lion's share of our "wealth" and I struggled for years. It took literally years to get on my feet. We talk about bad choices, but when you're on the edge, any choice can be a bad one. I remember feeling extreme shame about buying myself a nice coat; I beat myself up about that for a long time. When I finally figured out what I had to do to turn my life around, I had to fight everyone to do it. I got more criticism and shaming for doing the right things (buying used clothes, packing lunches, etc.) than I ever got for real mistakes like buying that coat. The general culture is so unkind to people who really try to live frugally and save -- you're supposed to keep up appearances instead, with a credit card. So what I'm saying is, yes, I understand how so many people live paycheck to paycheck. As a society, we need to stop admiring affluence and start supporting responsibility.

  7. ceejay74 Says:

    Thank you for this extremely sympathetic post, LAL. It's so easy to judge people for not getting ahead, for bad decisions, for addictions and lapses in judgment, for mental health issues, for job instability...but poverty and being working class is a multilayered struggle. And it's different now than before...wages have stagnated terribly for the working class; they're making a fraction of what they used to in the 50s, 60s, 70s, with fewer benefits and pensions. Elizabeth Warren often tells how her mother was able to keep up house payments on minimum wage as a single parent--in most areas of the U.S. minimum wage would never begin to cover it. In addition, usurous products like payday loans are a short term life line when people are desperate but only serve to put them farther behind. And credit is so widely available giving people the illusion they're getting by when actually they're slowly drowning.

    I've never been really really poor. But I've read and listened and I believe the struggle is real. No one would keep themselves in poverty if they had the tools and wherewithal to get out of it.

  8. MonkeyMama Says:

    Agreed with ceejay. My experiences were different from hers, but agreeing entirely with her first paragraph. I am not participating in any "blame the poor" discussion.

    My dad dug himself out of extreme poverty, just barely. I don't know that he would have been able to without being higher IQ. I think genetics/personality can play a big part. Pretty much everyone in his family got out, but they had the personality to be able to do so. They did well in college with absolutely no support whatsoever, no idea what they were doing, etc. The stories I have been told is my dad made it just barely, even so. (He was just so weird and backwards, due to his upbringing). He had to be able to quickly adjust to the culture and to be able to work several jobs and keep up with his studies. I think very few would literally be able to overcome the odds.

    I grew up in a melting pot of immigrants. So it was pretty much the norm that everyone I knew dug themselves out of poverty. But I don't think that has anything whatsoever to do with systemic poverty. It's actually more like the complete opposite, because the color of your skin didn't really matter and everyone is telling you it can be done because they did it. It was just a really unique culture to grow up in, but I also think it's completely N/A as to the income equality in this country, poverty, the politics that are all wrapped up in that, etc. Oh, and the opportunities were also pretty endless. I didn't need my parents to help me find a job. There was always jobs. That has been a stark 180 in our current city. I expect it will be a lot harder for my kids to find work on their own. I read some article in the past year or so how it's pretty much impossible to find work in my current city if you are under 25 and don't have a college degree. Less companies are hiring 16-year-olds, everywhere. IT's just very different than "if you have a pulse I have a job" economy I grew up in.

  9. MonkeyMama Says:

    P.S. Any paycheck-to-paycheck living I have ever mentioned is very middle class. Definitely a middle class problem too. None of my tax clients saved anything for retirement but most of them had more job stability than most, had very high incomes, etc. They were in their 40s and 50s and still couldn't bother to save for retirement. That is just insane, but I think sometimes lower income people take offense to these discussions. & it's just, "Not at all what I was talking about."

  10. rob62521 Says:

    I grew up poor. I was fortunate because we always had food and always had a roof over our heads. My dad worked full time and my parents ran some side business as long as I could remember. There were times when we didn't eat extremely well because things were tight. Very tight. Through it all, but parents kept drilling into me three things: save anything you can, don't waste anything, and get an education so you don't have to struggle as hard as we did.

    A number of years ago my school district required us to undergo Ruby Payne training which was a training on working with children in poverty. One thing that many don't realize is that the mindset has a lot to do with how one deals with every day money dealings. I grew up with a middle class mindset and that is, if you can you save something for a rainy day. But some people who live in poverty because they never had that upbringing, don't realize there is a value to saving for a rainy day because their upbringing has always been life it tough, live for now. I'm not judging anyone on their mindset -- but this training certainly opened things up to me. I guess we always think people live and think the way we do.

    That being said, I have a couple of friends who make good pensions, but they live pension check to pension check and what they can't afford they either use the credit card and get a home equity loan to pay for stuff like vacations. They are well educated and make good money, but choose to live beyond their means.

  11. livingalmostlarge Says:

    Some of it is also your family when poor. They are constantly looking for another handout. Sometimes it's really difficult because you know they are trying. My aunts and uncle gave my mom extra food and clothes because she was a single parent looking for a second job. My uncle said no you need to be at home at some point and stop working to make ends meet take this. Ends weren't meeting. I'm sure they could have gotten ahead faster if they weren't trying to help their sister and parents. That's what happens you make some money and send it back to help those get further. My DH's family was like that. They all supported their parents and sent money to live.

    But we were extremely lucky/fortunate. My mom had extremely supportive parents and grandmother who gave free babysitting non-stop. We aren't talking like 9-5 but more like 24/7. But at the same time my great-grandmother, came and lived with us often through weekends because she lived in the country, liked the indoor bathroom, and had nothing else to do. So my mom would work non-stop and I had personal babysitting 100% care. Plus we had tv and a washing machine. So wins all around.

    But now it's way harder to break out of. Now the family unit is not generational living as much. We have more debt from student loans, payday loans, etc. It seems so much harder.

    And now it seems like you have to give your kids a hand out to keep them on the side of the haves versus have nots.

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