Finding the road out of poverty

Until I reached my early 20s, I believed that my childhood had fewer financial advantages than the average childhood. Once I gained more life experience, I saw that my family hadn't been as poor as I thought we were.

That doesn't mean we weren't poor, though. We wore hand-me-downs, didn't go on vacations much, qualified for reduced school lunches, things like that. But we were “poor with potential.” When I arrived, my parents were in their very early 20s, and my dad was at the beginning of establishing his farm. While they didn't have much money at that point, they knew how to manage it. And while they didn't have much income coming in from jobs, they knew what to do to make that happen. Things started to change when I was a teenager. In fact, my youngest sibling remembers a completely different childhood — vacations and new carpet, but nothing about the really difficult times.

Through the years, my eyes have been opened to the ugliness of what it really means to be poor in the US (which is, admittedly, different from other parts of the world). My kids go to a school where 67 percent of the students are low-income. A couple of acquaintances have also taught me a lot about the cycle of generational poverty.

Brandon (as I'll call him) became a single father while still a teenager, which immediately limited some of his career choices. And not only that, he has difficulty finding child care on second and third shifts. Last year, he wanted to borrow money from us against his tax refund to buy a different vehicle. We said no, but somehow he found the money anyway. He couldn't afford to insure it, however, which resulted in multiple offenses, traffic tickets and supposedly even a night in jail.

And then there is Leah, who was raised by parents with drug addictions. She's had some problems with drugs herself, and recently got out of prison for multiple felonies. Her new boyfriend beat her up last weekend, and her paycheck of $53 a week doesn't even cover her rent, let alone groceries, and utilities. But since one of her felonies was for retail theft, it's been difficult for her to find a job. So, her tiny paycheck meant she couldn't pay the rent, or she faced eviction. There aren't any homeless shelters in our county, and the next county does have a homeless shelter, but said that she would have to prove residency in that county to be allowed to stay there. Um, okay. The next step was to call family and ask them for her. Most of them have drug problems, and since she's trying to stay clean, she wants to avoid them if possible. An aunt not on drugs refused to help. She has no community to help her.

I could go on, but do you need more information to see these two people have some challenges? We want to help — and I mean, really help — them. Although they've asked us for money, it's just a band-aid for a much bigger problem. Our first idea was to help Brandon get through college so he could find a better job. Unfortunately, his idea of college was one of those for-profit colleges that, in my opinion, prey on potential students like Brandon. Next, we wanted to help him find a job. So we introduced him to someone with connections who eventually found him a job…that he lost a few weeks later. It was then we realized that teaching him to fish was going to take a lot more than handing him the fishing pole and some bait. He doesn't seem to know what he needs to go fishing in the first place. Helping him requires more than just saving money through his (sadly) multiple job losses. He has no assets and frequently can't pay bills like his phone bill.

Poverty

Unfortunately, Brandon and Leah aren't alone. According to www.povertyusa.org, 15 percent of the US lives in poverty, including one in five children and 30 percent of single-parent households headed by women. I've long had the goal of somehow helping fight rural poverty, so I also wasn't surprised to learn that a higher percentage of rural people live in poverty compared to urban populations.

Resources

It's one thing to read statistics and it's quite another to sit in dark apartments with empty refrigerators and wonder how to improve your life. How can people like Brandon and Leah dig themselves out of this hole their families have been mired in for generations?

Food

In 1964, President Johnson kicked off the War on Poverty. Before that, few programs were available to feed the hungry. Now there is, among others, the SNAP (formerly called food stamps) program, which provides food products for low-income households, the National School Lunch program, or WIC, a program that provides formula and baby food for infants. This doesn't even include food pantries that are found in many of the small towns around me. My employer, a community college, has started a Food Share program. Employees can bring in shelf-stable food for the hungry students to take. It seems like no one should be going hungry, right?

Clothing

In my own community, there are multiple sources of free clothing, so this also shouldn't be an issue. As I mentioned, my kids attend a low-income school. The teachers have a stash of snow pants, coats, hats, and gloves to hand out as needed.

Shelter

And then there's shelter, a necessity in the sub-zero temperatures that most of the US has been having this winter. Unfortunately, rent is expensive, and even more unfortunately, eviction usually awaits those who can't pay the rent. And eviction often leads to homelessness. There are government programs, like HUD housing that offer reduced rents to low-income people. But one thing that excites me is something that I've only just started hearing about: group homes with mentors.

A violence-free home is opened to women with children (usually). They learn budgeting, cooking, housekeeping, and eat meals together with the other people in the home. Mentors live in the house with them and are the ones who teach these skills. These women are encouraged to go to college, and child care is arranged for them while they are working or going to school.

I am still trying to think of ways to help, not enable, Brandon and Leah, but it feels like an uphill battle. Are these programs that I have mentioned enough to drive poverty away from them? I feel like the answer is more than a government program, but I am just not sure what it is.

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Jen
Jen
6 years ago

I was really hoping that people would have responded to this. I think that generational poverty is a huge problem, as you point out. Recently a report came out showing what it takes for someone born in the lowest income bracket to make it to a higher income bracket as an adult. The people most likely to get out of generational poverty had help as children. Preschool, where children learn impulse control and how to follow directions, and access to birth control as teenagers, made an enormous difference in childrens lives. I’m not entirely sure what can be done to… Read more »

Simple Money Concept
Simple Money Concept
6 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Jen,

I agree with you. When I was in Shanghai in 2007, I saw the biggest gap between the rich and the poor. And, unlike this country, the poor didn’t even have a chance to make it out!

I believe something has to be done with our educational system, starting with the preschool kids, because by that time, they already have the mental capacity to understand the concept of money. Why not teach it when they are still young?

As Warren Buffett said, “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken”.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago

Thank you for helping people begin to understand. I hate when people say things like “they should just go to school and get a better job” and ” we should teach personal finance in schools” when they have little or no understanding about the psychological effects of generational poverty. I think sometimes it isn’t a matter of simply providing opportunities and resources — people have to want to change. They have to feel they are good enough, capable enough and deserving enough to make that change. Teach personal finance in schools? Yes! But realize you have to address that poverty,… Read more »

Jon @ Money Smart Guides
Jon @ Money Smart Guides
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I think you touched on an important thing here: helping those in poverty feel as though they are good enough to be successful. We can’t help anyone that doesn’t want help in the first place, but many times, we can’t just start helping those people in the normal sense. We need to start to build them up, show them that they are loved, that they can be something in life. Only then can they be taught lessons on how to be smarter financially, career-wise, etc.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

They have to feel they are good enough, capable enough and deserving enough to make that change….But beware that some people are wary of good things because they’ve had little stability in their lives are afraid they’ll screw up. (And that fear turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy). Beth, you hit the nail on the head. Though I grew up in a semi middle class household, I attended schools that was anything but. I remember the conversations my classmates would have and they were all headed down the same path their parents went down. Potential options that had anything to do… Read more »

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
6 years ago

Again and again I see examples of poverty stemming from people having children before they can afford them and then those children falling into the same patterns. Maybe what we really need is better sex education and family planning resources.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago

While I think that more education may be a good start, it doesn’t erase the years of cultural norms. Most people know where babies come from, so while they may need to know prevention options, what they really need to understand is how much time, energy, and money children really require. Then, how does that child affect your life…not only today, but years in the future? And then, even more difficult, how does a product of generational poverty (and, say, teenaged parents) stand up and decide that they aren’t going to procreate for awhile? It’s really difficult, I am sure.… Read more »

kristen
kristen
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Most people may know where babies come from but it is absolutely clear that places with good sex ed have lower ages of first sexual intercourse, better utilization of birth control and lower STD rates among teens than places with abstinence only ed. Better sex ed and access to birth control really do help quite a bit.

Paul in cAshburn
Paul in cAshburn
6 years ago
Reply to  kristen

Um, don’t you mean “higher” ages of first sexual intercourse? The way you put it, it sounds like you favor younger children having sex at earlier ages.
Preserving innocence as long as possible is best – and turning off the TV will contribute to that goal.

Hmphh
Hmphh
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Lisa-
I admire your commitment to helping in a real way. Maybe your focus should be on Brandon’s child rather than Brandon? Can you take an active role in helping this child develop the skills/confidence/know-how to make it successfully in the world? Breaking the cycle with this child early may end up being more effective than focusing all of your efforts on Brandon. Not that you should abandon him, but maybe seeing his child develop skills and habits would inspire him as well.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Hmphh

To be honest, the only reason we are involved in Brandon’s life is because of his child. We babysit and give him everything we can (whether it’s a bath, nutritious food, reading to him, whatever we can do for him while he is in our home). I hope we can always be a part of his life.

cybrgeezer
cybrgeezer
6 years ago
Reply to  Hmphh

“Last year, he [Brandon] wanted to borrow money from us against his tax return …

In the U.S., our tax RETURN is the form we send the IRS. If we have money coming back, it’s a tax REFUND.

Linda Vergon
6 years ago
Reply to  cybrgeezer

[Editor’s note: Thanks, Hmphh. I’ve made the correction to the post.]

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago

I grew up in a very poor area of the US–the Appalachian Mountains. All of the friends that I grew up still live there. All of the girls had babies in high school or shortly after. Sex education may work for middle class and upper class kids who have options, but I don’t believe that it is very successful for impoverished kids who don’t feel like they can ever afford college and believe that making a family is the “next step” after high school. They find “love” in high school and aren’t that worried if they get pregnant. So teaching… Read more »

Amy F
Amy F
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

I couldn’t agree more with your comment. People assume that all young people want to prevent preganancy. While it’s true that many of them do, there is a shockingly high percentage who want to have a child. It’s what their grandparents and parent did, and it’s want their friends do. I learned this while volunteering for 3 years at a crisis pregnancy center. It was the number one shock that came from my experience there. The cycle of too-early pregnancy is rarely broken because it is as much a part of their reality as the expectation of college might be… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Having grown up in an impoverished area with very troubled schools, I could not agree with you more. Getting pregnant was a badge of honor for a lot of these girls. They wanted a baby that would love them and vice versa. I wanted to get pregnant at 15! Thankfully I didn't but I was in good company with how I felt.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Yes! I think people assume that all teen pregnancies must be unintentional–therefore, better access to birth control would solve the problem. But it’s way more complicated than that.

Charlotte
Charlotte
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

I heard an interesting study on NPR, that teen pregnancy was dropping directly because of shows like 16 and pregnant, Teen Mom, etc. They gauged it with social media data. Crazy stuff. Maybe seeing it on film changed their perspectives?

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Yes! There were some girls in my high school classes who got pregnant because having a baby meant they had someone who loved them and depended on them, and maybe they got to keep their boyfriend too.

These girls had the same sex-ed education and resources that I did, and I saw the same thing when I was teaching. Teaching kids stuff in school isn’t a cure all — not when you’re battling the influences of family, friends and social “norms” in different cultures and income brackets.

Jenne
Jenne
6 years ago

Bear in mind that just putting off having kids until later doesn’t actually help with the poverty aspect, if you start with no resources and a limited ability set. (And by limited ability I include the ability to work 12 hour days in construction and live in a men’s homeless center in another state, as someone JD interviewed years ago did.)

mrs bkwrm
mrs bkwrm
6 years ago

One study (http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2012/05/teen_moms_how_poverty_and_inequality_cause_teens_to_have_babies_not_the_other_way_around_.html) seems to indicate that the outcomes are not particularly different for young women who miscarry from those who carry their child to term. IOW, they really have nothing to lose by becoming parents. When will they ever be in a position to afford a child? One time is as good as another when all the times are bad.

scotteeth
scotteeth
6 years ago

wonderful thoughts on a very compelling and complex situation! this is the reason too many of the 1% don’t get it….they are completely out of touch and have never first handed witnessed or for that matter known anyone personally who has been there (poverty, struggling to get by, etc.) support groups are so important and the infrastructure that is lacking in too many communities that need it the most is appalling!! the rich get richer for a reason….they get the support and have the resources. schools are a wonderful place to start, as most teachers i know (no i am… Read more »

Steve
Steve
6 years ago
Reply to  scotteeth

To scotteeth (post #4): You say “this is the reason too many of the 1% don’t get it….they are completely out of touch and have never first handed witnessed or for that matter known anyone personally who has been there (poverty, struggling to get by, etc.” I’m not in the 1%, and know they don’t need me to rally to their defense. But I’ll bet they’re not out of touch at all. I’ll bet a good number of them in fact had “been there.” Frankly, I’m tired of the richest among us — who, by the way, pay most of… Read more »

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Great comment. There are certainly bad apples in all walks of life and at all income levels. I totally agree that many of the “rich” have been there in the bottom rungs and to castigate them for their wealth is both counter-productive and wrong-headed. They are not the reason that others cannot or will not get ahead.

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
6 years ago

Churches are a great resource and have experience with networking. Our church belongs to a network that houses homeless families for a week at a time, and the office provides support like finding a job or an apartment. They also have a food pantry and clothing donations room. I believe that coordination between various resources is key, and houses of worship are already doing it. If someone wants to help, check with them. They’ll be grateful for the help.

zoranian
zoranian
6 years ago

Community is the biggest thing you’ve mentioned. In my urban area, we have a “good” side of town and a “bad” side of town. I volunteered at a non-profit that teaches young felons the construction trade and helps them earn their GED at the same time. I also spent a very brief period teaching middle school math to 6th grade boys at a school on the “bad” side of town. Why are we still so segregated (and I mean this from a purely economic point of view). I was forced out of teaching due to a poor administration, but whether… Read more »

K-anon
K-anon
6 years ago
Reply to  zoranian

A few things I think are important to keep in mind: 1) Society will always have, and frankly needs, the “have-nots.” These types of people do the jobs that have to get done, mopping the floor, picking the food, stacking the boxes. 2) While I’m all for supporting the people, and kids, that have a desire to succeed. I think the small chance you’ll train someone to finally think they are worth it is a loosing proposition. For every 1 person who’s life you’ll change, you’ll run into 50 who will never change. 3) I agree that it comes down… Read more »

Hmphh
Hmphh
6 years ago
Reply to  K-anon

2) While I’m all for supporting the people, and kids, that have a desire to succeed. I think the small chance you’ll train someone to finally think they are worth it is a loosing proposition. For every 1 person who’s life you’ll change, you’ll run into 50 who will never change. I would argue that helping that one person is worth every ounce of effort “wasted” on the 50 who do not change. There’s an old story about a man walking along the beach tossing stranded starfish back into the water. Another man comes along and asks why he bothers.… Read more »

SAHMama
SAHMama
6 years ago

I grew up in a working poor household. My parents were non-union factory laborers. I was born when they were 19. They used birth control but unexpectedly got pregnant with my sister, who was born severely prematurely and was in the NICU for 7 months till she came home. My mom quit work for 3 years to care for my sister until my sister could start in the county’s special education program. My parents always lived paycheck to paycheck but we always had electricity and something to eat, even if it wasn’t tasty or healthy. They had vehicles but not… Read more »

David S.
David S.
6 years ago
Reply to  SAHMama

Actually sounds like they are at he root unhappy with their current lifestyle and are trying everything they can to fix it. Everything you listed (college education, dog, cat, house, kids, etc.) all are things that we are told will bring us happiness, but it is being content with life that will bring us the happiness they desire.
What is sad is instead of bringing them happiness it is actually causing more and more misery.

dmz
dmz
6 years ago
Reply to  David S.

if they were doing “everything they can” to fix it, they’d sell their expensive animals, downsize to a smaller house, and continue to put off children until they can better afford them. you don’t get to have everything you want when your finances are fixed, like most people. i too, can relate to too many family members with messed up priorities who overspend and undersave then complain about it only to tell me how “lucky” i am to be a stay-at-home-mom…never mind it took years of sacrificing and saving (including delaying having kids) to now have the “luxury” of staying… Read more »

Diane
Diane
6 years ago

When my father deserted the family, it threw us into poverty. My mother had been a housewife for 8 years. I was 4 years old and my sister was 6. On top of the financial hit, my mother “shut down” emotionally. We never heard the words “I love you” or even “happy birthday”. We were not allowed to bring friends inside our home nor go to their houses. I think the emotional scars of poverty are worse than the hunger. Even as a working adult, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. This might be what… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Diane

Thank you for sharing your hard story, illustrating so well that we all don’t start out at the same place. Some people have much more difficulty to even get out of the hole, let alone making it. After my father died, my mother was a single parent. I had an uncle who abandoned his family, which made my aunt a single parent. The effect of single parenthood was different on each family. My family was more secure, because we knew our dad had not wanted to die and he made sure he did everything he could to make sure we… Read more »

Diane
Diane
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I would like to add that my mother never applied for any kind of social programs. She felt shame at being poor and chose hunger rather than ask for help.

I think it is more difficult for children who grow up in Section 8 homes to understand the pride in being self-supporting. They only see the example their parents set for them.

Jenny
Jenny
6 years ago
Reply to  Diane

I lived in section 8 between my mother’s marriages from age 5 to 9. Chalking it up to parental example is very simplistic. The kids who have a shot at getting out–the smart ones, the ambitious ones, the talented ones–they often get dragged back by their peers and family. I can’t tell you how many times my own mother shouted “you think you’re so much better than us” at me as a teenager–even after we were completely independent of programs. She told me my professional ambitions were ridiculous. She didn’t want me to go hungry, but she didn’t want me… Read more »

gwb
gwb
6 years ago

sorry but yet more money thrown into these programs begets yet more people lining up to the trough to get their piece. In my hometown of NYC it seems you are a sucker if you are not lining up to get all these social welfare programs that seem to be throwing money at the “poor”. WIC, SNAP, Medicaid, welfare, did you know in NYC that all you have to pay is 1/4 toward rent in a NYC housing project and 3/4 is covered? I would think that it would be the other way around but I guess that makes too… Read more »

Ely
Ely
6 years ago
Reply to  gwb

I always wonder why people like you have these massive assumptions of systemic fraud, when in reality welfare etc. fraud is a very small percent of the actual payout. Beyond that, though, is it so important to prevent the ‘undeserving’ from getting ‘handouts’ that it’s worth letting decent people suffer with no way out?

Ben
Ben
6 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Where do you see fraud mentioned? GWB is angry that all these enabling handouts are LEGAL. You get what you pay for. Subsidize out-of-wedlock births, and you get more of them. There’s a lot of talk on this thread about “understanding” the trauma of being poor. It’s fine – but not necessary – to build up poor people’s self esteem. In previous generations the poor lived much worse – but certain behaviors were less prevalent. Guess what – Self-esteem is directly related to behavior. And the two biggest correctives to selfish, short-sighted behavior are social pressure and suffering the consequences… Read more »

Hibiscus
Hibiscus
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben

You are arrogant and yes, that makes you insensitive. How many times did you write “get it,” as if you knew it all and others did not. This is obviously a very complicated subject and you are so arrogant you miss out on all the nuances of this excellent discussion. For the original poster and so many responders, it does seem like a 70-30 rule is being seen here. 70% people in poverty might get out if there are some resources there to help. 30% are “greedy” and maybe a lost cause. I still believe in the programs that offer… Read more »

John
John
6 years ago
Reply to  Ely

As a manager of Section 8 housing for over 15 years, I’ve learned these lessens. 1. 30% in Section 8 housing, do not want to work (unless selling drugs is work), and that number seems to be nation wide. 2. A lot women will routinely have children, from different men, not have a job (I think it is their way to have a loving family), no one thinks this is bad. 3. Before the EIV System, Fraud was costing the tax payer, billions of dollars over the time (I can’t remember the total amount that the government said) as it… Read more »

Not using my name
Not using my name
6 years ago
Reply to  John

Since 70% of housing assistance recipients are elderly/disabled, your experience is outside the norm in 2014. The Earned Income Verification (EIV) system was a huge step forward and has saved the taxpayers millions, so I appreciate you pointing that out. I have been in the business for about as long as you have, and while I’ll acknowledge that our reforms need to go much farther, I want so badly to point out all the good people our programs have helped. We help veterans, the mentally and physically disabled, the old (who for whatever reason, can’t provide for their basic needs),… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  John

“as it stands now, the fraud in unclaimed income is very high (no one claims the boyfriend living with them).” [And no other examples given to substantiate the high fraud claim.) Pardon me, but if no one claims the boyfriend living with them, how do you know there is an income producing boyfriend that they’re not reporting, and high numbers of them? You don’t say that x% (or even “a very high number”) of single women on Section 8 are found by due process to have failed to report all household income. It doesn’t even make a lot of sense,… Read more »

gwb
gwb
6 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Ely – you must work in the social services and hey, I would probably be fighting and supporting these programs if my job was threatened as well. Oh yeah, compassion and not being mean and cruel…yeah right, that pulls everyone out of poverty…

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago
Reply to  gwb

I find this sort of mentality frustrating. I find it interesting that your biggest problem seems to be on women with children. Yes, let’s deny children food and healthcare–what crazy benefits. Of course, if we want single women with children working, we need to provide daycare, because daycare costs much more than minimum wage–oh but that’s additional money being thrown at the poor. So in other words, you don’t want to provide any benefits to the poor, you want them working, but you just ignore that a person cannot leave their children alone unsupervised. The reality of it is 76%… Read more »

Ben
Ben
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Where to begin? Quote: I find this sort of mentality frustrating. I find it interesting that your biggest problem seems to be on women with children. ———————— The problem is with women with children ON THE DOLE – women birthing children they are not prepared to support by themselves. The problem – amply demonstrated by studies – is women with children WITHOUT A MAN in the picture… and that’s enabled by government handouts. It didn’t happen in previous generations of poor people because there was no easy government money. Further: Yes, let’s deny children food and healthcare—what crazy benefits. ————————-… Read more »

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Thank you for this. I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Your opinions are NOT hateful nor insensitve.

Jen
Jen
6 years ago
Reply to  Ben

I agree with your menatilty; HOWEVER, who does not feeding the children hurt? Is it really punishing the person you want it to? or do you really want children to go hungry? These kids didn’t ask to be put into single parent homes. Also, I’m offended by the idea of needing A MAN (as you so eloquently put it). I believe in not having children until you’re capable of providing a stable, supportive environment, but how that hinges on the presence of a MAN (in capitals) is confusing. I make enough money to be a single mother, I don’t need… Read more »

PawPrint
PawPrint
6 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Nowhere in your post do you mention the men who are fathering these children. You’re right–they should be “in the picture.” They should be stepping up and taking at least financial responsibility. Perhaps your opinions are not hateful or insensitive, but they certainly are misogynistic.

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  Ben

I couldn’t agree with PawPrint more. Your obsession with young women “getting themselves” pregnant and wanting to make single mothers “socially unacceptable” is terrifying, and extremely sexist. Sexism in its most basic, Victorian, misogynistic form. I’m appalled by all the likes and supportive comments this has garnered.

Tracy
Tracy
6 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Oh, please. The problem is that the MEN get the WOMEN pregnant and then they disappear and are not forced to be accountable for those children in any way. If the fathers were forced to pay all those “benefits” instead of the government, things would start to change. The single mothers are the ones who have to take care of the children. A family unit of a father and a mother in one household with those children makes all the difference in the world.

Emmy
Emmy
6 years ago
Reply to  Ben

As the commenters above have said, it takes two to tango.

Ben David
Ben David
6 years ago
Reply to  Ben

I agree with all those who commented on my post saying “it takes 2 to tango”. However…. walk into your nearest Natural History museum, and locate the diorama showing our Neanderthal ancestors. Guess which of the manikins has a baby hanging off its teats? Reality is unfair…. but it is there to be observed. (one could say this is the flip side of “a woman’s right to choose”…) This comes back to the “social pressure” I mentioned in my post – it requires social pressure (and an internalized moral code) to convince men to not just hang around, but to… Read more »

PawPrint
PawPrint
6 years ago
Reply to  gwb

If this were true, it’s just a drop in the bucket to the corporate welfare that’s dished out.

Tracy
Tracy
6 years ago
Reply to  PawPrint

They’re both wrong, but we’re talking about poor people in this post.

M
M
6 years ago
Reply to  gwb

GWB – comment 13 – Actually, that’s not correct. Residents in assisted housing across the country pay 30% of their adjusted income towards rent. That could mean they pay 90% of the total gross rent or 10%. People are considered rent burdened if more than 30% of their income goes towards rent. It’s the same reason that market-rate apartment complexes want you to make 3x the rent and it’s the reason that mortgages are underwritten with similar percentages. A huge percentage of Americans direct over 50% of their income towards rent or a mortgage, which normally leaves nothing for other… Read more »

dmz
dmz
6 years ago

speaking as a teacher, inner city tutor, previous homeless shelter worker now stay at home mom who grew up in poverty but has no debt (other than a small home), a college degree, and a nice start on retirement savings, i think the BEST thing we can be teaching people is the value of delayed gratification. someone else wrote about impulse control…exactly. this applies to spending habits but also those things that spur poverty on (having unprotected sex when you have no way to raise a child (just say no), quitting a job for stupid reasons, dropping out of a… Read more »

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  dmz

Yes and thank you.

Chelsey
Chelsey
6 years ago

I find it troubling that no one has asked or mentioned why Brandon can’t hold down a job. Does he not have the skills required? Can he not cope in a work environment? Is he unable to get along with co-workers? Does he struggle with authority? These all require very different approaches. It seems to me that Brandon is not as disadvantaged as he is portrayed to be if he is able to procure all these jobs. Honestly, I believe that in most of these situations counseling and mentoring would do more good than government handouts and public assistance. People… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Chelsey

Chelsey, I am not sure of the reasons. I know what he tells us: “Not getting enough hours, I showed up late to work ONE TIME and got fired, I was injured and got fired…” You get the idea. But I am not sure of the truth. Does he have problems getting along with people, not understand that a job requires punctuality and dependability, or what? No idea. As far as I know, he doesn’t have any skills, so don’t be too impressed with the number of jobs he’s had. Most have been the gas station cashier, pizza maker variety.… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

None of those jobs have to be a “dead end” job. All of them can lead to advancement, getting money saved for more education, etc.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

That is a good point. Thank you for reminding me not to be so dismissive of job opportunities. And thank you for reminding me that I have had several “dead end” jobs myself :).

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  Chelsey

I completely agree with what you’ve said. The problem I see is with expecting government to manage the “counseling”. They would do it alright, given the necessary changes to current law, but it would be a disaster, quite likely as bad or worse than what we have now. For one thing, truly good and inspired counselors would not likely work for what a government office would pay them, and even if the salary was acceptable, most would not tolerate all the bureaucratic “guidelines” they’d have to work within. So, the needy who are crippled for lack of social skills, etc.,… Read more »

Jenne
Jenne
6 years ago

Reliable transportation is another issue that is important in generational poverty. Even reliable workers who struggle with public transport or borrowed, junker or other unreliable vehicles are at risk for losing your job do to inability to make it to work. Community networks– specifically transport assistance through family, friends etc. — can really be vital. Reliable public transit, too, is something to work for.

Diane
Diane
6 years ago
Reply to  Jenne

I agree with you. When my father deserted the family, we lived in Philadelphia. It has always had excellent public transportation. My mother was able to get a job without a car because the buses/trains were so reliable.

Since moving to the south, I’ve noticed that people here seem to think that scum ride the bus. This attitude is probably why southern cities have inadequate bus service.

Steve K
Steve K
5 years ago
Reply to  Diane

Not sure about other cities in the south, but San Antonio, my ‘fair city,” has modern, clean, plentiful and on-time buses.

Just trying to set the record straight.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

I have no idea how to save everyone, and I am skeptical that it is actually possible. These problems are heavy with theory I don’t know enough about (sociology, economics, education, etc). Besides, this debate tends to break down partisan lines and people get entrenched in their positions. I’m wondering about a different approach that applies more directly to PF though– what measures can Leah or Brandon take to help get themselves out of poverty, if help isn’t coming? If you were writing a survival+prosperity manual for the poor– like that “surviving at sea” manual in “Life of Pi”– what… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Only El Nerdo could say exactly what I meant in fewer words (and with more clarity). Thanks :).

Another Beth
Another Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo, I want to see this happen! It would be so cool if someone could tackle this topic and write something that’s both compassionate and informational.

And Lisa, thank you for such a thought-provoking article. I plan to discuss this later today with a few people.

Sara
Sara
6 years ago
Reply to  Another Beth

I’d be very interested in seeing something like this as well. I have a brother-in-law that moved in with us nearly a year ago ‘for a few weeks’ until he found a new place to live. In the year, he’s had 3 jobs and been unemployed and not paying rent for more months that he’s paid rent. I feel like I have the knowledge to help him out, but because he’s family, I can’t bring the subject up without hurt feelings. I got a double dip of the generational poverty by living with two siblings from a family that has… Read more »

Thomas @ i need money ASAP
Thomas @ i need money ASAP
6 years ago

The cycle of poverty is a very real thing. It can be very tough to get out without help. There are some government programs that help but more financial education wouldn’t hurt either.

Sally
Sally
6 years ago

Your “Brandon” character sounds very much like my youngest brother, let’s call him “Jake”. “Leah” could be my stepsister, lets call her “Lauren”. I grew up in a family of four with some abuse. My stepsister grew up with an alcoholic mother(who was thankfully not my mother, thankfully). Our combined income when I applied to college was $25,000 for a family of 6. I benefited from a program that 1)Allowed me to eat lunch when I was a child, and then, on private donations and federal programs that 2)Allowed me to attend college for a minimal cost with a comparably(to… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Sally

First, can I just say how much I enjoy the comments this article has generated. As someone who is definitely not polarizing in real life, it’s really interested to see the variety of opinions/stories. Since I don’t know anything about you, Sally, other than what you’ve shared, I am going to make some assumptions about you. You escaped a bad situation. Statistically, you should still be there. How did you get out? You mention methods to save money, but how did you know to do those things? I am going to assume that you’re extremely intelligent, that you are persistent,… Read more »

Sally
Sally
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Lisa, You’ve made several assumptions about me, which, not knowing me, makes sense, just as I only have your online material to form opinions about you. I do consider myself smart, and as you say, stubborn, but since that word has a negative connotation, I prefer persistent or determined. However, smart does not equal rich or poor. There isn’t a single person in my family who is stupid, although they make many many decisions that I find ill-advised. As for how did I do better? I’d have to say, it started with the day I finally understand letters=words=amazing books. Several… Read more »

Steve
Steve
6 years ago
Reply to  Sally

Sally, you’re wonderful. Wish we lived nearby; I’d love to know you. (I was also dirt poor, also remember the thrill of books at an early age, also have ended up on top of the turnip heap.) This week’s topic has made me fear for the future of our country. Doesn’t it seem that 1) it’s a self-perpetuating cycle, always growing, and 2) those getting benefits are outvoting those of us paying for them? I think the problem is cultural. Vietnamese who came to America after the war arrived with little more than the shirts on their backs. Koreans, Jews,… Read more »

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago

Excellent comment. Kudos to you for all the assistance you’ve provided to your family members. I don’t think I’d have the fortitude or patience to take on such challenges. You should be commended for both your helping and your tough love.

jen
jen
6 years ago

Between my husband and I we have been laid off from probably ten jobs in the last five years. Maybe more. I should probably do an actual count. Not being able to hold down a job can mean so many things. We are working our way out of poverty right now but still are very much in the thick of it. I think the answer is absolutely more than a government program. I think hope is what is necessary. People have good days and bad days but when you have try and fail, every time you have to try again… Read more »

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

This is an interesting post with interesting responses, and I would like to add one more from a different angle of “what to do about the poor”. It is: TREAT POOR PEOPLE YOU ENCOUNTER IN DAILY LIFE AS IF THEY ARE WORTHY OF THE SAME RESPECT AS RICH PEOPLE. I was raised in a single-parent family (due to father’s death after parents married for 9 years and all children born in wedlock, thank you very much) that straddled the poverty line, so bear with me as I have a clue what I’m talking about here. The poor are treated like… Read more »

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Thank you for this comment. I think most people are unaware of how much these small things wear a person down, wear away their spirit and their willpower and their self-respect, when they happen constantly.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Yes and yes! I’m not sure this has to do with class as much as it does status. I come from a (barely) middle class background and have worked several service positions. One thing I’ve noticed is that people can be inconsiderate jerks at any income level when they see you as a “servant”. You don’t just get it from customers — sometimes management treats you that way too! Even good income professions like teaching and nursing face the “not good enough” prejudice. (Well, you’re not a doctor or in a STEM career, are you?) IMHO, no one deserves to… Read more »

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Okay, I realize that “class” and “status” are often inseparable, but I’ve learned that middle class people can be rude to other middle class people in service positions.

Laura
Laura
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I see your point, and maybe it is a “status” thing rather than a “class” thing per se, although you are also correct that they’re not always separable. That particular post I made wasn’t edited; that was just what flowed out. I guess I feel pretty strongly about the topic. 🙂

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I work in a school setting in the office. Some of the rudest people I’ve encountered have been those who could be considered poor. There is sometimes an entitled attitude and a chip on the shoulder that no amount of helpfulness, kindness, accommodation, etc. seems to soften.

Laura
Laura
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeannine

I can see this. I live in a lower-class neighborhood and I see this a lot on the bus. When you’re poor, you get treated so badly so much of the time that you do develop a chip on your shoulder and you can act entitled in an attempt to force some respect from society. I think the difference is that wealthier folks might feel that respect is their birthright, whereas poorer folks try to demand it. But yeah, you find jerks in every social class. 🙂 My original point is simply that the less social status one has, which… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Two things I find appalling: 1. That there are so many people who look down on others, if that is what they do. It is also possible that they are wrapped up in their own lives (as are we) and simply focus on getting done what they believe they need to get done. 2. That there are so many people who rationalize a chip on their own shoulder because of perceived slights from others. We all have the choice to react to what we perceive. I choose to believe that most people are basically good people who may be having… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Wow. I think I agree with you , though, although I hadn’t though of it in exactly that way. I know and talk to people like the mailman, the janitor at my son’s elementary school, my trash and recycling guys. People are always surprised that I know their names, and then I’m surprised that they don’t. Why wouldn’t you know and greet people you see regularly? A little more compassion and empathy and friendliness would go a long way.

kc
kc
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

fantastic comment Laura, thanks so much for sharing your perspective. i do make an effort to be kind to people but sometimes get caught up in my own issues. thanks for this reminder.

Serena
Serena
6 years ago

I was JUST talking about this with my husband. This is so much on my mind right now and in my daily life. I was raised in a low income household, but always knew I would get out of it, and college was my path. It took me a long time, and lots of debt, but I’m in a great space now, working as a nurse practitioner doing primary care. Every day I see patients who are on a life trajectory that does not include upward mobility. I see the teen moms, and under-educated young men, and hear about their… Read more »

Steve
Steve
6 years ago
Reply to  Serena

Serena (post 54) —

Disability is a sore subject with me. It’s so clearly an abused program.

I’d want disability payments to be given only 1) to those incapable of any work at all, 2) to those disabled through no fault of their own, and 3) for a short period of time, not effectively forever.

As you remind us, that’s not at all how it works.

As a taxpayer and someone who’s been working the past fifty years, I find the disability program legalized theft of money from my wallet so it can be placed into the wallets of others.

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Hey Steve,

You know what I think, every time I run into one of you short-sighted, small-minded and mean-spirited people who thinks you’re getting ripped off by taxpayer money going to support sick and disabled people?

I hope you get something really nasty, incurable, painful and that robs your ability to function. And I hope you get to find out what it’s like to live when you can no longer work or even function well enough to make money passively.

I imagine you’ll be singing a different tune then, and deeply grateful you paid into Social Security.

Steve
Steve
6 years ago

Deborah, you may be right, I might be “short-sighted, small-minded and mean-spirited.” But my wife of 44 years doesn’t think so, which is all that matters.

If you’ll reread my comment, I don’t have a problem with disability payments as long as they’re temporary and go to those who can’t do any work at all.

A larger question is why YOU should give ME money when I can’t work. Why don’t I use my life savings? Why doesn’t my family help me out? Why not my friends and neighbors, my church?

Why you?

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago

So, Steve, how long will you give a permanently disabled person to live before you decide to cut them off? No fault of their own? How do you define that? Someone who decided to go mountain biking and sustained a severe head injury? Someone who had the poor taste to be born with strong diabetic genes, never weighed an ounce over ideal, and still loses both legs and her kidneys? Someone driving carelessly who gets injured? And are you going to force someone to hire them when they are “too old” or “too sick” or “too stupid” or whatever? And… Read more »

Jenny
Jenny
6 years ago

Based on my own life experiences and observations, the only people who rise from poverty or very low income are those who want it bad enough. My mother had that spark, that burning desire to get out. She married young to escape, and had a child (me), and when that brief marriage ended, she found herself digging back out from the bottom once again. She did what she had to do to have a better life. And today she is comfortably middle class, while most of her siblings maintain the entitlement mentality, raising children who will continue the cycle. I… Read more »

PawPrint
PawPrint
6 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

Thank you for sharing this. You are the reason that government programs exist, IMHO. The safety net was there to help you back on your feet. I, too, had to use that safety net for a year when I became a single parent because of domestic abuse. Like you, I was able to get back on my feet because I had access to that assistance.

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

My mother came from a family of nine children and they were very poor. They didn’t have indoor plumbing until she was 16. Every one of those kids rose out of that poverty and went on to better things, in spite of the lack of encouragement and support at home. My mom would point to those being the days BEFORE all the government programs. There wasn’t a choice then, you had to take care of yourself and make a life for yourself because no one else was going to do it for you.

Jenny
Jenny
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeannine

While a federal welfare program was not implemented until the 1930s, relief was often available–usually funded by local governments–in the 1800s and early 1900s. Single mothers in particular were often given aid in many forms so they could stay home and take care of their children, able-bodied individuals were given labor jobs by local government, and the rest (elderly, disabled) could get assistance at a poorhouse. It’s likely that your grandparents and their children did get support of some kind in lifting themselves out of poverty.

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

They really didn’t (get government support). They had a farm, which they farmed and my grandfather worked, but it often wasn’t enough. The kids all had to work hard on the farm (and the girls, also, in the house). Some of the girls, when they were older, went to live in town with another family, working for them as babysitters/housekeepers and making a little money. My mom remembers sometimes being the only child in her class who couldn’t attend a special event during school hours because she didn’t have the 10 cent fee (so she had to sit out). They… Read more »

Waverly
Waverly
6 years ago

It doesn’t bode well for Leah, with her past felony conviction. She might be able to hook up with an organization that helps ex-cons.

One really good thing you could do for her would be to buy her a norplant or an iud. Otherwise, she might get pregnant and subject the next generation to her mistakes and her parents’ mistakes.

Waverly
Waverly
6 years ago
Reply to  Waverly

I just realized that my comment is sexist. As Brandon has proved, it’s not only poor women who need passive, permanent birth control. It’s men, too.

So, I would also recommend that you pay for Brandon to get a vasectomy. They aren’t that expensive and they are outpatient.

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
6 years ago

Scalzi talks about what it means to be poor:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

“Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.”

This.

Margo
Margo
6 years ago

Two thoughts on escaping poverty: (1) You probably have to turn your back on your family and friends, at least for a few years, to really make a run for it to get yourself into a better position. You can’t try to help other people climb out of poverty until you’re safely over the top yourself. If you try to help them while you’re climbing, they’re far more likely to pull you back down. Petty remarks, constant “Who does she think she is” and “you’ve gotten so arrogant since you did XYZ” attitudes, etc. Surround yourself with success. Get over… Read more »

Laura
Laura
6 years ago
Reply to  Margo

Like X 1000. This is one of the smartest and most accurate replies to Lisa’s original post. You are absolutely correct. I definitely had to do #1, and in thinking on it, you’re correct as well about #2. It requires such a shift in mindset.

Marcus
Marcus
6 years ago

May I share an inspirational story about a poor guy getting out of poverty? Kurt’s mother died when he was 3 years old. His father re-married, but unfortunately his new step-mom wasn’t kind to him. On the opposite, one could call the step-mom downright abusive, giving him a very, very hard time. Kurt ran away from home several times during his early teens, only to be collected by the authorities and the circle started again. Kurt joined the army at the age of 17, back then the legal minimum age of joining the forces. He participated in several conflicts until… Read more »

Bill
Bill
6 years ago

Sometimes a country’s systems let the people down. As a Zimbabwean, I have seen how corruption has created poverty and made it very difficult for even the most motivated entrepreneurs to succeed.

I like lending what I have via kiva.org. It’s a great way to get critical finance to micro business owners who are desperate to make a living. It’s my hope that these small businesses will grow thereby demonstrating to others how to get out of poverty.

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

Very thought provoking. Generational poverty is very hard to break without the support of the community or a mentor. I would hope the government would look at this issue and resolve it somehow.

Steve
Steve
6 years ago
Reply to  Nick

Nick — “I would hope the government would look at this issue and resolve it somehow.” Anyone but the government. It’s government policies that have us in this mess in the first place. And where in the Constitution does it say it’s the government’s responsibility to teach self-discipline, having children after marriage not before, and paying your own way? I submit it’s the responsibility of our churches and our media. Maybe also our schools, though the liberal mindset of most educators makes this unlikely. The family has fractured. The rate of out-of-wedlock births are staggering. “Among non-Hispanic blacks, the figure… Read more »

scooze
scooze
6 years ago

I don’t know that i have any answers. Life is very hard for in poverty. I know someone in and out of shelters. .. he can’t afford to wash his clothes. When he looks for work, he’s wearing the same clothes he has for a month. He gets food stamps but nothing more to help with other things. There are many other issues at play. In his family no one had worked consistently. How do you teach those skills to people who’ve never had working ingrained in their families? Who should do it? Also this post did not show up… Read more »

dmz
dmz
6 years ago

what’s going to help end generational poverty is PARENT EDUCATION. all research shows that when parents actually parent their babies and young children, achievement gaps can close. as a kindergarten teacher, i know that when i get a student at age 5 who hasn’t been read to or engaged in conversations, but instead saw a tv as a babysitter, there’s nothing any school program or curriculum can do to bring that child up to speed. that child will always be behind in life. drs need to start including this kind of information in prenatal visits, delivery/hospital stays etc. our govt… Read more »

Michelle
Michelle
6 years ago

There is a program called Bridges out of Poverty that has been very successful. There is an entire website and much of the information is free. It hits a person hard to read some of the issues because you know it’s real when you read it. The program pairs people with mentors over a period of time who help teach them how even the simplest of actions has a large impact.

Ruby Payne has a ton of info and books out there on just this subject. Here is a PDF file that addresses some of the issues: http://www.jalc.edu/cbi/meth_conference/2010/pdfs/bridges_out_of_poverty.pdf

Kadi
Kadi
6 years ago

Hello! Weird question… but relevant to this post. I am a social worker and I work with adults with disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, mental health diagnoses, etc. I work with a young lady (in her late 20’s) who has a legal guardian and should not be able to obtain credit without her guardian’s consent. Unfortunately creditors don’t know this, and she has agreed to pay for cell phones, credit cards, home shopping network items, and college courses that she cannot afford. She has racked up debts in the thousands that her guardian is ultimately responsible to pay,… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  Kadi

I fail to see how the guardian is in any way legally responsible for the debts. If the guardian did not apply for the credit, there should be no legal liability.

She should freeze the credit so that nobody can open any more. And get an attorney if necessary to dispute the bills.

Brenda Spandrio
Brenda Spandrio
6 years ago

I grew up “poor” (knowing that the little I had would seem like enormous wealth in other countries) and in the early years of my first marriage qualified for WIC and other welfare benefits. As you point out, sometimes poverty is a result of a mindset, not lack of opportunity or even skill. There was a time when I believed that there was no way out of the pit I was in and was tempted to resign myself to staying there forever. Fortunately, I was helped to understand the alternatives. But that doesn’t work for everyone. I have a son… Read more »

2 Copper Coins
2 Copper Coins
6 years ago

I work with an organization similar to the mentor in a shelter program you mentioned and I’ve seen the success of the mentoring relationship helpful. There are definitely no quick fixes when it comes to generational poverty, but trying to help someone reframe their situation with the future in mind is the only thing that works. People in poverty are always in fight or flight and their choices reflect this – if I can eat today and feed my children today I don’t care about poor decisions (moral or otherwise). If we can help stabilize them and then consistently ask… Read more »

marc J.
marc J.
6 years ago

The author’s heart was in the right place, but forgot to leave the forwarding address for his brain to follow. People will find ways to be however they wish to be – whether poor, rich, healthy, sick, fashionable or sloppy. There is no legitimate arguement to be made about how “there’s not enough education!” Regarding these issues – rather, it’s a case of the individual not placing the importance on seeking/applying the information. Best example I can come up with off the top of my head; go to any interactive/community type web forum and you’ll find people asking questions that… Read more »

Mary
Mary
6 years ago

Our community took a several prong approach. We had a teen pregnancy class for teen mothers to be. When I first moved here, the teen pregnancy was 20 in that year and went from that to 0 within ten years. Now the class is mostly preventative, but we still get one or two teen pregnancies still yet. We also started incubator kitchens for low income persons. What we learned was that it wasn’t enough to get them into the kitchens to start their businesses. We often times had to solve basic issues like child care, transportation. These were people who… Read more »

Anne
Anne
6 years ago

I would like to see real answers. How does one get out of poverty? Maybe in another post we can see some answers to this question. I’m disabled and live with my (nuclear) family. We don’t always get along, but it does help with finances.

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  Anne

You pose an excellent question, Anne, one I puzzled over for many years after my health collapsed and I became solely dependent on Social Security disability. I really had no choice since my illness was so severe I couldn’t even do light work. I sold stuff on eBay for awhile, but as my health continued to decline even that became physically impossible. I still don’t have a good answer to your question, though I’m becoming more hopeful and and I’m seeing some positive movement in that direction for myself. I’m definitely living better, saving more and getting more ideas about… Read more »

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago

Good for you! For what it’s worth, I would just like to suggest that you take a look at this link before considering investing your savings: http://www.boglehead.org/forum This is a site run by and posted on by people from all walks of life who invest in Vanguard Mutual Funds (Vanguard.com). I invested with Vanguard long before finding the Boglehead site. I am not a poster on the site, but have learned much from the various questions asked and answers given. I strongly caution you against investing your hard earned savings in silver/gold/bitcoins. Silver and gold can be a part of… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeannine

Aw, come on! Where’s your spirit of adventure?

If I spend $10 to buy some (tiny) fraction of a Bitcoin, parlay that into a million bucks, then lose all but a few thou, what have I lost? I would lose $10, in any imaginable outcome.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeannine

I’ve never had a big spirit of adventure! You can probably tell that from my response to you. You’re right – investing $10 is minuscule and if you should hit it big, good for you. My concern was that you were only looking at investing in silver, gold or bitcoins.

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago

@Jeannine: “My concern was that you were only looking at investing in silver, gold or bitcoins.” Oh, I’m interested in investing in other things alright. As far as I can tell, with only Social Security for income and very limited capacity to do real work, the only way I’m going to get anywhere is by investing – speculatively and hopefully with perspicacity. I’ve always mistrusted the stock market, and will warm to that very slowly. Even making good in precious metals is a lot more risk and luck than maneuverability. But I come from a mathematics and engineering background, and… Read more »

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago

Good luck. I hope it works out for you.

Sue
Sue
6 years ago

The right kind of faith will move mountains. In WW2, many prisoners survived dire circumstances. The right kind of faith gives hope that we will not be tried beyond what we can bear. Honesty and humility. Many has lost jobs for various reasons. Rarely the extremely honest and hardworking employee. And of course the poor will always be amongst us. But the same principles applies to them too. Keep in mind that all forms of government has already being tried and tested. Not one of them has solved the problems of humankind. In many cases they took from Paul to… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago

@Steve, This is where the short-sighted, small-minded and mean-spirited come in: Short-sighted and small-minded, because you think all illnesses and disabilities are temporary and many of them aren’t. Do you think the guy who got both his legs chopped off by a machine is magically going to grow new ones? Or someone who has MS will magically defy all scientific odds and have a miraculous recovery? Also because you think everyone can have sufficient savings to live on for the rest of their lives at any point in their lives. If some medical catastrophe were to hit you today, do… Read more »

Steve
Steve
6 years ago

“Short-sighted and small-minded, because you think all illnesses and disabilities are temporary and many of them aren’t.” Of course I don’t think all illnesses and disabilities are temporary. But many, maybe most, are. Unfortunately many/most of the payments go on forever. “…the guy who got both his legs chopped off by a machine” should get a year or two of disability payments, and then get on with his life. Might sound cold to you, but countless others have overcome greater handicaps. Some of the jobs he could do without legs are, after getting trained or certified, working in a library,… Read more »

Jeannine
Jeannine
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Thanks for your response to the comments, Steve. All good points. I, too, have witnessed too much waste and believe things need to be reformed. It has become unsustainable.

Steve
Steve
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeannine

Jeannine —

So there’s two of us who are short-sighted, small-minded and mean-spirited.

I appreciate your support. Maybe it’ll make the “haters” open to the idea there’s another side to this issue.

— Steve

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Ok, I didn’t see this one from you until just now. I’m very happy to see that you’ve put at least some thought into it, unlike a lot of others of your persuasion that I’ve met. My problem with your point of view is that it’s too hard nosed, although I do see your point and agree with it to some extent. It’s wonderful when someone who’s suffered a tragedy like losing one or more of their limbs manages to pull themselves together and get back into the swim of it. But to set a deadline by which they must,… Read more »

NojuanEspecial
NojuanEspecial
4 years ago

” I certainly couldn’t have afforded or have been able to hire a lawyer and deal with him or her when I applied, and I have a hard time imagining anyone in those desperate straits who could. Anyone who can afford a lawyer and is able to jump through all those hoops quite likely does not need disability support.” Oh Gods you poor, poor thing!!!! No. Oh, you did it the hard way for no reason, and you’re ignorantly condemning people who don’t needlessly do things the hard way. NO ONE needs to go through the disability process WITHOUT a… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago

@Steve,

Oh there’s another side to this issue alright. It’s the short-sighted, small-minded and mean-spirited one. Apparently you don’t mind being on the pig sty side of the fence.

K-anon
K-anon
6 years ago

I support Steve. Too many people taking advantage of Social Security Disability. In my opinion, if no one cares enough to take care of you, then you should get the bare minimum to survive from a government program. And when I mean the bare minimum. I’m talking like $75 a month. This is quadruple the amount a huge percentage of the world lives on, so that should be plenty for someone to live on. There are free meals aplenty all over the united states. And, if you get cold enough, you’ll start walking south, to somewhere warmer. If we give… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  K-anon

Why bother giving them $75 a month? That would still be a death sentence, so why don’t you man up and say what you really mean? You’re obviously a stupid and ignorant person, if you think a person can survive in America on merely quadruple what people survive on in other parts of the world. More stupid when you say a severely disabled person can just walk to a warmer place. You “hardworking” stupid people really should have to live in a world of your own making, just the way you want it. Unfortunately that’s not possible in this completely… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago

Let me be clear. I am a social libertarian. I think our government is power drunk and out of control, and it needs to be reined in. But I also believe in social responsibility, and that we have collective stewardship of our fellow citizens. This is only possible because we as a nation are wealthy enough, so it is a new social order in the world. Without this element of social responsibility, millions would die in horrible filthy ways, and precisely because the great majority of Americans are so comfortable and well off that they all expect someone else will… Read more »

Tiffany
Tiffany
5 years ago

This whole discussion was depressing. It also made me realize that there are a high number of Americans that are selfish and arrogant weasels. To watch as people who have never been poor speak so knowingly about what should be done with the poor is nauseating…

Gene
Gene
5 years ago

I am about to embark on an adventure.

In just under two weeks, I am bringing a poverty stricken family of five into my home in an attempt to help them crawl from the economic abyss that has become their lives.

I will bookmark this article. I will revisit for advice from some of you that have come to understand this situation.

I will also post of the young famiy’s progress.

Pray for me or wish me luck, whichever fits each of you.

Jeannine
Jeannine
5 years ago
Reply to  Gene

I will both pray for you and wish you luck. I hope you are able to make a difference in this family’s life and that they grow from your good counsel. I don’t think I could do what you are doing – you most certainly are a good Samaritan. I pray that this works out well for everyone involved.

Gene
Gene
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeannine

Howdy All, It has been over a year since my last post. That post discussed the poverty stricken family of five I took “under the wing” in an attempt to teach them how to live. The scenario as of February 1, 2015: The family of five had fallen to the bottom of the economic abyss. They were about to be ejected from a single motel room where they had been living off the American Red Cross, the local town trustee, and an area church. They had over $23,000 of debt(didn’t know it), no money, one part-time job between the two… Read more »

Gloria
Gloria
5 years ago

Another thing to think about is, people who have literally no money to start out with and possibly already have some debt may be terrified of adding to their debt. Sure, you can get loans and get a degree. But what if you don’t have what it takes to get the job to pay off the loans? A $20,000 dollar education is one heck of a sum for someone who currently can’t afford $300 a month for rent…

Milo
Milo
5 years ago

As a late comer to this conversation, a lot has already been said. Having been one of those poor kids in poverty, I recognize a number of comments that directly capture my situation when young. In the book that I’m writing about finances,in the editing process, I dedicate two chapters and numerous other parts to those in poverty. My parents struggled in poverty and excaped it about the time I left home. I was 4th of 5 kids. I’m now 60, soon to retire and have a networth of $3/4 million. It is possible not only to excape poverty but… Read more »

James
James
4 years ago
Reply to  Milo

hi Id like to know how you did this, for me it seems to be some type of fear, I can do alot of things so all I need is confidence in my self, when the economy went down this last time I went down slowly, never been here before, sincerely, Jim

Milo
Milo
4 years ago
Reply to  James

Jim,

Please send a note to my email address and I will be happy to send you my book which will provide a lot of how I did it. [email protected]

I’m in Afghanistan right now but once home in a few months I will be asking up to 10 families struggling with poverty to work with me to see if we can help move them from poverty to wealth.

Looking forward to talk to you more.

Milo

Robert Bunton
Robert Bunton
4 years ago

Possibly set up a assembling products business on a huge scale with government assisted funding.Large conglomerates would ship products to you and have their products assembled.Quality of workmanship skills could be taught.Entrepreneurship and business development skills could be taught.All kinds of skills could be taught.Have profit sharing to keep them there.Run ad on what you are going to do and possibly someone will help with a building.Sort of press release.Many start on a small scale at a community center and grow to a full scale high profit business.
Just a idea.

Karen
Karen
4 years ago

I’m struggling to get out of poverty. At 32 I still hadn’t made it out the hood despite getting several degrees (computer science, computer engineering, database management, business administration, information systems & information technology). At the time (2005), I couldn’t find work because no one wanted to hire a black female programmer. (They assumed I was Caucasian she they saw my name. I know the look she I come in smile do the interview and hear we’ll all you back. They never do.) No matter how well I spoke or dressed or studied until my eyes bled for multiple credentials… Read more »

Cassandra
Cassandra
4 years ago

Thanks for the info. I am one of those individuals that was never taught about money or the importance of saving or how to save. Now I am an adult with adult children that are making some of the same money mistakes that I made. What can we do to stop the cycle? I’m not sure how to turn things around. Am I too far gone for help. Is there still help for my children? I have a 15 yr old that I don’t want to make the same mistakes that me and my adult children have made. The struggle… Read more »

Sierra Stacey
Sierra Stacey
4 years ago

That’s just it its additional help we need! it’s unity we need but God first I’m a witness to poverty single parent with two children age 26 lack of education but have to work to provide needing assistance to steer to the next level of Success

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