Are We Defined by Our Mistakes?

Lately I’ve been frustrated with the personal finance blogosphere. Many of the sites I read have taken on an attitude toward poverty (or maybe it was there all along) that absolutely makes me sick. Basically, I’m talking about the attitude summarized in this article from the Washington Times, where Ted Nugent states:

Being poor is largely a choice, a daily, if not hourly, decision. If you decide to drop out of school, fail to learn a skill, have no work ethic or get divorced, a life of poverty is often the consequence.

Now, I will agree that those who drop out of school, fail to learn a skill, don’t develop a work ethic, or get divorced are more likely to end up poor than people who finish school, work hard, and stay married. However, I don’t believe that any of those things are just a choice someone makes one day. They are a culmination of multiple choices over time, some of which an individual cannot control.

Dropping Out of School

Think back to your freshman year of high school. You’re in your awkward stage, trying to avoid upperclassmen and adjust to a new school. The work is harder. The teachers are meaner. Your locker combination doesn’t work half the time. What if you became so frustrated you dropped out?

In my case, that wasn’t an option. First, because I was under 18, I couldn’t have dropped out without permission from my parents. Second, even if I could have quit, my mom and dad probably would’ve murdered me when I got home. Third, I was a nerd who loved school, made good grades, and wanted to go to college, so there’s no way it was happening.

But what about someone who doesn’t have those things going for him/her? What if neither of my parents graduated high school, and the first time I got upset, they agreed to sign for me to drop out? As a 14 year-old, I wasn’t capable of thinking about the long-term consequences of dropping out of school. If my parents had approved, I would have felt like it was okay.

No Skills, No Work Ethic

How do people develop skills or a work ethic? Usually through a lifetime of watching the important people in our lives work hard and benefit from their efforts. Our families teach us that we’re supposed to finish school, get a job, and contribute to society until we’re able to retire. People often learn skills as children or teenagers - usually from watching a parent or grandparent - and develop them further as they enter adulthood.

But what if you never saw any of that stuff growing up? What if your parents received SSI/disability? If you truly never spend time with anyone who goes to work every day, how do you develop a work ethic? How do you learn any skills when no one around you shows you anything worth emulating?

Some kids are lucky enough to have an outside influence, like a teacher or coach, who encourages them to do things differently. But many, many other kids grow up and fly through job after job. Because most of the time, work isn’t fun, and it’s hard to convince yourself to do it when everyone else in your family is sitting at home collecting a check.

I can’t imagine not working to earn money. However, I’m also honest enough to admit that if someone told me, “Hey, we’re going to give you enough money to get by, and you just get to sit at home,” I’d be like, “HELL YES!” I mean, technically, that’s what I’m doing now. Yes, I’m doing something to earn money, but I left my career to write for a living, which is far easier and will allow me to sit at home in my pajamas all day. And people have applauded that decision. Why is it so different?

Getting Divorced

Divorce is definitely a choice. But as someone who is divorced, I can tell you that it’s not a choice you make because you feel like it. It’s a choice that comes when the alternative is more than you can stand.

If your spouse cheats on you, refuses to stop drinking or using drugs, abuses you, or is convicted of molesting children, why is that YOUR fault? It’s not. If someone has the guts to get out of any of those horrible situations, I will be the first to praise him or her for a job well done.

I’m sorry, but if some guy ever hit me (luckily I’ve never been there), loss of income would be the last thing on my mind. I would be more concerned with protecting myself and my child. My own divorce, while not related to abuse, was a situation that was nonetheless unwise to remain in. And anyone who condemns me for it is an asshole.

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

It’s easy to sit back and blame poverty on poor decisions. But those decisions don’t happen in a vacuum. No one can pinpoint ONE thing that caused them to be poor. And there is no ONE way to eradicate poverty.

I’ve made a million mistakes in my life, many of which are directly correlated with poverty. First, I was a teenage mother. Then a spendaholic. Then divorced. And now technically unemployed. Were all of those things a result of choices I made? Yes. Were any of them a single, identifiable choice, separate from any other conditions or circumstances? No.

What saved me from a lifetime of poverty when so many others in those situations end up poor? Was it my superior decision-making skills? Obviously not. To put it very simply, I was equipped for success way before I started screwing things up.

I had great parents who were involved in my life. I was raised middle class (even though our income didn’t necessarily match up). I was a smart kid who loved to read and learned quickly. I had enough food. I had a reliable, safe home. I had the same clothes as everyone else. I had the “right” peer group in school. And when I did mess up, I had a family full of hard-working, intelligent people who provided guidance and support.

What if society had simply written me off? What if, the first time I messed up, I was immediately classified as “choosing to be poor” and told I was a burden to the American people? That sounds stupid, yet that’s what we do to people who “make poor choices,” a phrase that makes me want to choke people.

The Bottom Line

Of course there are people who abuse the system. Of course there are people who are perfectly capable of earning a living, yet prefer to live off taxpayer dollars. Look around online and you can find a million anecdotes about welfare queens, people selling food stamps for drugs, or someone committing fraud to receive social assistance.

But the question I’d love to ask Ted Nugent, as well as some of my fellow personal finance bloggers, is this: What about the people who AREN’T those people? What about the ones who are trying their hardest and just need some help figuring out how to recover?

When all you have to say is,”Oh, you screwed up. You made poor choices,” what exactly are those people supposed to gain from anything else you say? Why would they listen to your advice about money when you obviously have no clue what they’re dealing with?

Many of the people who are so quick to make assumptions about those in poverty have never been poor. And until they have, they need to shut their mouths. [steps off soapbox]

  • The Girl Next Door

    I respectfully disagree with most of this post.

    While I’m not one to start beating down on the poor, the reality is that regardless of our beginnings the hand we are dealt in life, ultimately each person is responsible for how their life turns out, and how their life turns out IS a result of their own decisions.

    Personally, I tragically lost my father at a very young age. Do you see me playing the victim? No. I recognize that the way my life turns out is a direct result of how I choose to handle it. So yes, while there are a lot of outside factors that cannot be helped when it comes to a person’s financial life, there are many, many more factors that are the direct result of that person’s decisions alone.

    I acknowledge that my financial situation is the result of my own bad decisions, regardless of what led me to make them.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Thanks for not growing a second head. I like when people disagree as long as they can stay calm about it!

      I do think I’m responsible for my financial situation. 100%. But I didn’t always make informed decisions. I didn’t think in my head, “Gosh, if I buy this handbag on credit, I’m going to end up bankrupt in a few years!” or “My student loans are going to crush me one day!” So while the choice to buy a purse or take on student debt was mine, I don’t necessarily think I knew the full consequences and decided to do it anyway.

      Contrast that with a former client of mine (who I was thinking about when I wrote this post). His mom pulled him out of school when he was in 9th grade, because she was heavily addicted to pain pills and needed him to get them for her. Was that his choice? Nope! He had grown up watching her sell, pawn, steal, or whatever to get pills, and that was normal for him. He didn’t have any other example to go by.

      When I met him, he was 19 and in drug court for prescription fraud. Tested clean himself on arrest, and every week when he came in for drug court, but was still out hustling for his mom and got caught. We talked a lot about getting a legitimate job, and he was completely clueless about what to do. Working was just not a part of what he grew up knowing. He didn’t even know what a resume was or what people did at job interviews. He came to group barefoot half the time because he never had shoes as a kid.

      For some people, working is just as foreign as NOT working would be for us. And while I think it’s easy to say, “He should just go get a job and contribute to society,” he didn’t know how. He learned, but it was hard for him to do that when everyone around him was making easy money dealing drugs and pills. I don’t know if he was able to maintain employment, but I do know if we followed Ted Nugent’s advice and cut all social programs, he never would have been in my office learning to fill out job applications. He would have been in prison for a crime that he was taught to commit by his mother at a very young age. And I don’t see any way to make that his fault.

      • Grumpyrumblings

        That brings up a good point. If we cut all social safety net programs, we would have to spend a lot more on things like street cleaning dead bodies off the street (and more medical stuff because dead bodies aren’t healthy) and more to the point, on jails. Jail is expensive. Jail can be more expensive than some of these programs that get kids food, or preschooling etc. Some social welfare programs are actually cost effective because they reduce crime and jail space. Even the most cold-hearted conservative should be in favor of them for that reason. Because we have to keep society safe and we have to spend money to do that.

        Moral hazard encompasses the idea that if you offer a benefit, people are going to change their behavior in order to take it. It mathematically happens if we assume that people are rational. Some people with higher values of leisure will take leisure if a program is poorly targeted, even if they would have worked without the benefit. It’s the main argument against these kinds of programs. If we could perfectly target people who are actually disabled, actually unable to find work etc., it would be easier to sell these kinds of benefits. Since we can’t figure out who really needs them and who doesn’t, we’re going to be making mistakes both ways- not helping people who need it and helping people who don’t. It just falls out of the equations.

        Kids don’t have moral hazard because they’re not the ones making the decisions. That’s why even Ron Paul says we should feed hungry kids (he said this either on the Daily Show or the Colbert Report, I don’t remember which one). There’s no downside to the kids. Sure, some parents who might have fed their kids will be less likely to (moral hazard at the parent level), but it’s not a kid’s fault if a parent would rather buy cigarettes than food, and when a kid isn’t fed, the kid is more likely to have developmental delays and eventually become a cost to society rather than a productive member.

  • CommonCents

    I agree with you, it’s easy to judge what you have never experienced.

  • Denise @ The SIngle Saver

    I am not really sure how I feel about this post. I think I fall somewhere between you and Ted in my opinion on the subject. Some things in our lives are beyond our control, but all in all our choices impact us in all ways… especially financially.

    In your situation, we have applauded your decision to ‘sit at home in your pajamas and write’ (I love it!) because it is what you want to do and it will make you happy! That’s a great thing. You have realized it will take hard work and you may not make as much money at first, but you have plans to deal with that. I can applaud your decision. But let’s say six months from now you have made no money, are whining daily about being broke, and are relying on tax dollars to pay for all your expenses… that is when my opinion would change. That is when I would say you have skills you can use to make a living, so do it.

    I read a blog daily that is written by an unemployed lady. I really like her blog, despite disagreeing with most of her choices. She has been out of work for a couple years and can not find a job. She lives in California where the unemployment rate is high and has no family for support there. She also refused (until recently) to look for a job not in her field. Many people suggested moving to the midwest because the cost of living was so much cheaper than Cali, but she refused because she liked Cali. Fine and dandy… but by choosing to live in an expensive area with high unemployment and by refusing to take jobs she felt were beneath her, she made the choice to stay poor.

    Anyway, I ramble… I will just finish by saying that while I feel sorry for the poor (especially the working poor who just can’t get ahead) I also acknowledge that there are many, many people who are poor because the refuse to consider all their options.

    • Anonymous

      Well said!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I think it definitely makes a difference that I have skills I can use. But it sounds like you’re saying it would be different if I didn’t have those skills. And that’s exactly what I’m arguing - if a person doesn’t grow up with a skill set, it’s not necessarily because s/he chose that.

      As for the lady in California, while it does sound like she’s making choices, I’d have to know the reasons why first. For example, I refuse to move to a place with more jobs, but that’s because all my family is here. (Doesn’t sound like that’s the case for her.) I do wonder if she’s able to afford to move since she’s been unemployed for so long. When I got divorced and moved into my house, there was no renting a moving truck - we made about 140 trips back and forth in my mom’s SUV to move all my stuff. Luckily it was only a few miles. But if I hadn’t had anyone to help me, AND no job to pay for movers, I’m not sure how I’d pull off a move to another state.

      • The Single Saver

        I see your point about not having a skill set. But if you don’t have a skill set… or even if your current skills are no longer working for you… there are many inexpensive options for learning a new skill. Yes, it takes work and a desire to succeed, but it is possible.

    • Deni

      What is the name of the blog? I’d be interested in reading it.

  • Bogofdebt

    I’ve started 3 comments and will sum them up with: I agree completley with your post. I’ve been on both sides of the coin-and when I was poor, it was never a choice to be there.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I’ve never had personal experience with being just really poor - I’ve been BROKE, not poor. But my parents have been there. And it wasn’t because they made a choice to be poor.

      • Bogofdebt

        I remember being poor vividly. It’s not something I’m ashamed of but I also know that I didn’t stop being poor by myself-I had help. And sometimes that help was something that I didn’t know I could ask for.

        I try to not judge unless the full story is known. For instance, I was broke (no hours at my work and I was not able to find another job that paid as much and offered the flexibility I needed) but my current boyfriend was not. He drove me to the grocery store where I used my mom’s food stamps to buy her groceries as she was not able to go. As he drove a SUV, I was glared at and judged very wrongly. My mom was at the time disabled and I didn’t have the money to just buy her groceries which is something I tried to do on occasion to help her out. So this sticks in my mind when someone says “oh they drove this gas guzzling SUV…”etc.

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          Exactly! I mean, for all they know, the SUV was paid off and the person couldn’t qualify for a loan to get another car. Or it was a gift. Or the person borrowed it. I mean, I own some nice things that I purchased when I made more money. But those things don’t disappear the minute you become poor. You may have to sell them eventually, but if my grandmother gave me an expensive piece of jewelry before she died, there’s no way in hell I’m selling it. So I could technically be shopping with food stamps while wearing a diamond ring or something. People just don’t get that.

  • World of Finance

    Most people have a hard time putting themselves in the other person’s shoes….

  • Aloysa

    I’ve been poor once in my life and learned very valuable lesson: no one ever can guarantee that you will never be poor. For one year my family had to eat noodles and bread because that was all we could afford (many years ago in a different country, in a different life.) All my family is well-educated (teachers), I got my Master’s by then and we definitely did not make a choice to become poor. In fact, this choice was made for most of the people in my country by our government. So, poverty is not some consequences of choices people make. It can happen to anyone. Great post, Andrea!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Great point - no matter what you have, you can never say never. Crazy things can happen, and that doesn’t mean the person chose poverty. They might have made excellent choices their entire lives, but all that can be gone in a second.

  • Jeffrey Trull

    I couldn’t agree more with this post! You nailed it!

    Most of the people (like Ted Nugent) that make comments about poverty have never lived in poverty themselves. In fact, they’ve probably never even been around poverty or interacted with the poor. It’s a shame that these folks make judgement without making any real effort to understand the problems.

    What those lucky enough to have good parents and role models and experiences growing up in their life don’t realize is that not everyone is as fortunate.

    It’s hard to imagine that anyone living in poverty is willing to stay there without making some attempt to get out. It’s an awful life. But the fact is that many of those people don’t know HOW to get out of it. They’ve never been taught, and that’s why they often fail.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      “But the fact is that many of those people don’t know HOW to get out of it. They’ve never been taught, and that’s why they often fail.”

      YES. So much this!

  • Niki

    Some people just have no empathy.

    While I do think some people do abuse the system, for the most part I agree with you. There are people that are never given the opportunity to become contributing members of society. Many children are growing up without any role model and how can they be expected to know anything different. When these children grow up and become criminals or can’t hold down a job, we as a society call them idiots but what else can we expect.

    People do make their own choices and that, of course, impacts how their lives turn out. With that said, I think people take for granted how advantageous it is to go to a school in a good part of town or have parents/family that are role models. I’ll never believe for a second I am not where I am today in large part because of those factors. Having wonderful people in my life and going to a great public school most certainly gives me a leg up.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Exactly! Where we end up in life depends on SO many things, some of which are choices we make but some of which we can’t control at all. Poverty isn’t easy to understand because it’s different for different people.

  • Jeannie

    Wonderful post! I would also add that statistically who are the poorest? Children. Do children have this great variety of choice Nugent is talking about? I don’t think so.

    I will also add that I was once solidly middle class and am now officially poor and I will tell you it can happen to anyone, particularly with the lack of health care available to so many in this country. Yes, there is health insurance. I had health insurance. But then it was cancelled in mid-treatment and because of my illness no company would ever give me health insurance again. So I spent all of my retirement money on medical bills and am now on Medicaid and SSI since I have stage 4 terminal cancer, even after working for more than 20 years.

    The national maximum monthly payment for those on SSI is $674 a month. Some states supplement this a little, but many don’t. I am also a single parent (I adopted as a single parent when I had a fulltime job and no cancer!) so this monthly check is supporting two of us.

    I am very grateful for this government safety net, but can’t believe how many people think that SSI recipients are living it up! Anyone who is is clearly committing fraud because from my experience I will tell you they check everything (as they should).

    And still there’s this myth of the fancy Candillac-driving (or substitute any fancy car) welfare queen. In my state you can own and car and get help, but that car cannot be worth more than $4,250 and believe me, they check that thorougly!

    Bravo for sticking up for and understanding those who are less fortunate!

    • Shannyn

      Jeannie- great point about the children. Children have virtually no choices when it comes to growing up in poverty, and coincidentally, when is the time most of our habits and world outlook are solidly formed? Our childhood experiences shape who we are, and it’s impossible to hold everyone to the standard of just “suck it up and work hard” when we have no idea what they’ve been through.

      I grew up in an odd situation, a mix of rich and poor depending on the time of my life. My mom and sister both struggled with addiction, and I grew up to attend college and I don’t have those problems…but what do I attribute to my growing out of a bad situation? I had mentors from school and extracurriculars that sensed what was going on at home and INSISTED I participate. When mom was too drunk to take me to events, they came out to the boonies and got me. When I needed dresses or materials for projects, they went the extra mile to make sure I had what I needed. They even promised to help find me scholarships if I went to college, and they stuck by their word. Additionally, my gram made me promise on her deathbed I would finish college- had those demands not been made, and the other people in my life not provided assistance to do meet the struggles of college life, I may not have gone.

      Also, I dated a man that was a foster child (Abuse, neglect and drug addiction in his family) and it used to stun me how he was never taught basic things like I was. He told me that when you’re 18 it’s “time to fly,” and you get very little parenting when you’re out of the system. He had behavioral problems, and frequently got speeding tickets, and poured his money into his car- financially ruining him. I was shocked at how “little common sense” he had, but realized that common sense is not something inherent but is social. He didn’t know to “think ahead” or to pay down debt, and while I don’t want to say that poor people are stupid- they’re not, I will say that what we take for granted as common knowledge when it comes to building wealth and creating skills, etc. isn’t available to everyone.

      Great post Andrea. I think we all need a reality check from time to time!

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I could write a whole post on disability. People act like recipients are out there living it up when many of them do well to pay their utilities.

      I know there are people who abuse it - as a therapist, I had clients come in constantly who were referred by their lawyer. I saw my fair share of people who seriously had nothing wrong with them and just wanted a check. But for every one of those, I saw probably 20 clients who desperately needed disability and weren’t able to get approved.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Praying for you and your family!

  • Jeannie

    OK! Just looked at the article. Ted Nugent? Ha. He’s got eight kids with many different women and acutally supported or even helped to raise in any way very, very few of them and has been in and out of court for failing to pay child support. Consider the source.

  • Deni

    That article made me mad.
    There are so many factors in life that can totally change what you do and how you turn out. What if you do ALL the right things and have ALL the good breaks?
    But then say, you house burns down due to lightning. And it happens to burn down the month that you were a bit tight on money so that is a month where you let your insurance lapse because you’re wife has been sick and you needed to pay her Rx bills before you could pay the insurance?

    So now you’re suddenly homeless and without a lot of things EVEN THOUGH you have a good job, went to school, and have little debt. People think that they are safe in their own worlds when they look down on others not realizing that the only difference between the woman in the fur coat with the nice car and the lady on the street pushing the rusty shopping cart are chance.

    Yes. CHOICE is important and so is personal responsibility, but there are times where you can not predict how the world is going to treat you. You cannot predict how life is going to go or move or break.

    We can’t control what the world throws at us, but we can control ourselves and keep our own dignity. That is what we can do and that is about all that we can do.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      That’s a very good point - I know lots of people who have become poor due to circumstances completely beyond their control.

      Unfortunately, none of us have crystal balls. It would be awesome if we were always able to see the domino effect of our choices, but since we can’t, we have to go with what seems like the best plan at the time. And one person’s best plan may be another’s nightmare - how wonderful that we all don’t have to be the same.

    • Shannyn

      Deni- I agree with you to a point. Yes, it is all about choices, we need to take responsibility for those choices, but I know that if I didn’t have someone bailing me out as a wild teenager (my parents) and setting boundaries and expectations (the wonderful after school activities I was involved in) those choices I make today would not have been formed.

      I totally don’t want to say “everyone who is poor should have sympathy/money/a free ticket” but likewise we shouldn’t paint them all with the same brush. Let’s give people tools to make better choices, so far that seems the best response in my mind.

  • Deena Dollars

    I think you have exactly the right view on all of this, Andrea. It’s hard for me to make an articulate comment on this, because I care so much that it hurts.

    It is easy for people to swing too far the other way in reaction to the “poor people are lazy” trope and go toward “the system is screwing poor people it’s not their fault!” You did not follow either one of these extremes, and I applaud that. I think the reality is nuanced: people do make bad choices, and the system does screw them, and usually both in some sort of reinforcing loop that gets complicated really quickly.

    I work at a research center that studies poverty and inequality, so my perspective is not from dealing with clients directly, but rather being barraged with studies and statistics. There is a pattern to all this, it is not random — you would not see families in poverty for generation after generation after generation if individual choice was driving the bus.

    We love to think of the US as a meritocracy where everything is fair and people deserve what they get. Sorry, but no, it just isn’t.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Thanks so much for your perspective. I was hoping you’d chime in on this.

      You said exactly what I was thinking, only in a much more concise way. Yes, choices are involved in many cases. But that’s not all, and it’s an insult to assume that choice alone results in the generational poverty that we see so often. Our system is completely broken. The solution is FIXING it, not taking it away completely. When people are empowered and educated, they never choose poverty for themselves. But they do when they don’t know there are other options.

  • TeacHer

    I completely agree with you on this one. I actually wrote a post about it a couple of months ago (link at the bottom). I know that I was set up for success in a lot of ways, and I’m the first to admit it - unlike a LOT of people who claim that they worked SO hard (i.e., they’re so much better than poor people) and that’s why they’re successful. In order to justify their social status, they WAY overemphasize the role that “hard work” has played in their lives.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Exactly. I’ll be the first to admit that I have never TRULY worked hard. Yes, I busted ass in college and grad school to finish and make good grades. But since school comes easily for me, it wasn’t really a struggle. Even when I was bankrupt and couldn’t pay my bills, I was sitting in my heated house with cable and internet access and a cell phone, with plenty of food. So I wasn’t really “poor” even then, just stupid.

      My upbringing has given me countless advantages even in my dumbest moments. And I never fail to remember that when I think about others who didn’t have that head start in life.

  • Katie

    As I’m sure you know, I agree with everything you wrote here. I want to blow this post up and hang it all around Knoxville, sit people down and force them to read it. But (as is evidenced by some comments here) people still don’t understand what being impoverished really means or what these people face on a daily basis.

    It’s easy for me to say my place in life is a result of the good choices I made. I went to college and have a decent-paying job. And it’s easy to want to attribute my position to my hard work and not to circumstances I was born in to. But like you, I was born into a middle class family with a great support system. I was born white. None of these things were choices I made. I don’t think it would have even been possible for me to drop out of school or not go to college. If I had made those choices, they would have been at the expense of losing the support of my family and feeling like a total disappointment/disgrace every day of my life. I reap the benefits of these non-choices every day. They partly made my success possible.

    People don’t care to know that abuse of the system (depending on how you slice “abuse”) is much lower than politicians would like us to believe. Research backs that up. Research also shows that 60% of the single mothers on welfare (the majority of welfare recipients are single mothers and children) are abuse victims. How can anyone come to this blog and equate the loss of a parent (which is awful, don’t get me wrong) with being sexually molested by your parent or beat by the parent of your child? How can they read your post about filling out paperwork for healthcare for your son and not see what a broken system we have, a system and a public that does treat the poor like they’re a money suck not worthy of our time or attention? How would I feel if I was born a minority in this country or born poor to parents who were drug addicts, who abused me, who taught me that college wasn’t for people like us? Do people seriously believe that given those circumstances they would end up exactly where they are today, in a middle class (or upper class) life with a college education and a good job? Sadly, some people do believe that.

    There are people who rise above the circumstances into which they’re born. My husband is one of those people. But it’s not easy. For him, it took having a support system, having people who believed in him every day and told him as much, and even now, he’s still dealing with the consequences of growing up in a home with a mentally ill parent who cared more about food stamps than her children, growing up in a home where he had to steal food from the local grocer to make sure that he and his youngest brother had something to eat and was physically and emotionally abused on a daily basis. Someone is seriously going to say that the kind of upbringing where you feel worthless and unloved can produce the same end result as one in a loving home with supportive family members who feed and cloth you and tell you that college is not an option but a requirement?

    Anyone who believes that, who seriously thinks that given a hellish home life for the first 18 years of their lives they’d end up just as successful as they are today has no empathy and no sense of reality. You’re deluding yourself if you believe that everyone can be successful in America regardless of status or birth. We’re not there yet. And we’ll never get there as long as people like Ted Nugent keep spouting their inanities and people actually nod their heads in agreement.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I love you and I feel like I should just delete my post and publish your comment instead.

    • Anonymous

      “How can anyone come to this blog and equate the loss of a parent (which is awful, don’t get me wrong) with being sexually molested by your parent or beat by the parent of your child?”
      I absolutely did not say that, so don’t put words in my mouth. I was using my own situation to make a point - that not everyone who comes from a broken home ends up impoverished and/or on government assistance.

      I also have not said that every single person who is poor would not be poor if they made better decisions, because that isn’t true. I’d like to point out that there are plenty of people who are given every advantage in life who end up addicts or with other issues who live off of their family’s money and contribute absolutely nothing to society. How do you account for that?

    • Anonymous

      “How can anyone come to this blog and equate the loss of a parent (which is awful, don’t get me wrong) with being sexually molested by your parent or beat by the parent of your child?”
      I absolutely did not say that, so don’t put words in my mouth. I was using my own situation to make a point - that not everyone who comes from a broken home ends up impoverished and/or on government assistance.

      I also have not said that every single person who is poor would not be poor if they made better decisions, because that isn’t true. I’d like to point out that there are plenty of people who are given every advantage in life who end up addicts or with other issues who live off of their family’s money and contribute absolutely nothing to society. How do you account for that?

  • Marissa

    When I was in grade 8, I was asked to help out with a grade 2 class for half a day, every week (I think my teachers wanted a break from me). The thing that has stayed with me throughout the years, and possibly shaped my opinion when it comes to poverty dealing with 3 children who clearly came from a different background that I did. My parents are both highly educated, but they did whatever was necessary to make sure that we fed/healthy/happy. These 3 kids did not.

    Kid # 1′s mom had been a teen mom, but she busted her ass for her kid. He had clean clothes, food and generally looked happy and well adjusted. She worked 2 jobs to make sure he was well provided for. She also had help from her parents who watched him after school some days.

    Kid # 2 came from a middle class- background but his parent didn’t care. He would come to school with dirty clothes, half a lunch and his homework never completed.

    Kid # 3 lived in the projects, didn’t have anyone to walk him sometimes and smelled like urine on occasion.I am not quite sure what his mother was addicted to- but she wasn’t coherent most days.His grandma worked to help provide for him but she couldn’t be there all the time. He was extremely bright, and very curious, and loved learning and reading. Because of this teachers took a liking to him and find kids to walk him home, and give him lunch from the school cubby, find books for him to read at home and follow up on those to make sure he learned.

    The point of the rant above is- yes, sometimes we don’t have control over our circumstances, and we end up in situations that are outside our control, but thats how we build character and deal with unpleasant situations.

    Sure kid #1′s mom could have collected social security (or welfare in Canada) and done nothing, but she didn’t. She worked her ass off to make sure provided. I bet you that lessons that he learned when it comes to hard work are priceless. That is opposite of kid 2. Sometimes live throws curveballs your way and it takes a while to get on your feet.

    Anyone can be poor as a result of events that they no control over- it is the support network that we have around us that help us get up and deal with it. And yes, we do have a say. It is ultimately our choice to do something positive to turn the situation around or just accept defeat and mosey on.

    End of rant.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I think I see what you’re saying here. But I can’t help wondering where kid #3 would be if teachers hadn’t taken an interest in him, or if he hadn’t been smart. The support system makes all the difference in the world. It’s hard for me to imagine what my life would have turned into without family, friends, church, and teachers who helped me along the way. But I do know from working with poor people that many of them wouldn’t be in that situation if they had the support I did.

      • Marissa

        Thats exactly what I am. You can have the best situation in the world but if the support system is crappy then you have nothing to model after.

  • Pingback: Some Link Love and Randomness « bogofdebt

  • eemusings

    It’s true. Nobody is responsible but YOU for the choices that you make.

    But the things that play into how you make those choices? So much more complicated than that.

    It was easy for me to go to university. I always knew I would. I knew what I would study. I got a scholarship. I have enough money saved to go on holiday to buy a car, because I never went into debt and I do not have broke family dragging me down, asking for loans and generally being a financial burden (and unless you’ve been there yourself, saying no to lending your mother or sister money is easier said than done).

    I have seen how a broke family lives ( And I don’t think their situation is unique. It is not impossible, but it is very very hard to pull yourself out of that mire when you have no role models. Put this way, T and I are doing better at 23 than his entire family of adults are doing collectively. And I can state with 99% certainty that this will not ever change in the future. It is sad, and it is more a cause for guilt than gloating.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Recovering from one’s upbringing can go one of two ways. We either emulate what we saw growing up, or we run as far away from it as possible. I’m not smart enough to know all the reasons why some people lean one way or the other, but I’ve seen it happen. And I think that’s the point where intervention is needed - before we allow people’s circumstances to fuel a host of poor decisions.

  • JT

    This goes both ways. If failure cannot be attributed to one or many decisions, then the same logic implies that success is wholly dependent on luck.
    I think this catch-22 is worse than the holier than thou attitude that poverty can come from decision-making. For example, minorities are subject to the catch-22 of success. If a minority student goes on to college, he or she “got in only because they’re black/Asian/whatever.” If he or she graduates and find a job, it’s because “the company needed to fulfill affirmative action requirements.” If they don’t go on, but don’t graduate, then the racists have a field day. I’m lucky to not have to deal with that.If we embrace the idea that poverty is due to luck, then success is also due to luck. Why should anyone do anything to be successful if others are going to say they’re lucky.I’ve been told that my own small successes were the result of luck. I find that offensive. It’s analogous to a game of darts. If both players have equal skill, yet one manages to throw 10 and the other throws only 5, then it should be quite obvious why one person does better than the other. Is he or she merely lucky for finding the extra darts to throw?

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I think there’s an error in that logic. I would say that, just like failure can’t be attributed to one decision or moment, success also can’t be attributed to one decision or moment. Both are subject to a host of other factors, some of which are choices and some of which are not.

      If I am chosen for a job as a therapist, is that luck? Not necessarily. I have the required education and experience. But I also tend to interview well, which is a matter of preference among interviewers. Sometimes I’ve been “lucky” in that I was the only person who sent a thank you note, or I interviewed immediately after someone who totally sucked (things I found out after being hired). In one case, I know I was hired because I am reasonably attractive when my competing interviewee was less attractive. (Definitely not a skill!) In the end, though, the fact that I went to college for a million years is what qualifies me for jobs in the first place.

      Now, it would be fair to say to someone, “You aren’t qualified for this job because you don’t have a master’s degree. Apply again when you have the right qualifications.” That’s the way jobs work. But if the interviewer or HR person berated them, saying “You should have gone to grad school! You didn’t make the right choices so now you deserve to be punished,” that’s where I have a problem with it.

      As for the dart analogy - did both players have the same chance to find extra darts? Or did one person have them in his pocket when he walked in? If one person was blindfolded or didn’t know what darts looked like, how was he supposed to find them?

      • JT

        Both are subject to a series of choices, which is what Nugent said about being poor. Outliers are made of a series of good or bad choices. Several bad choices in a row results in poverty; several good choices in a row results in success.

        No one deserves to be punished. But there’s no reason to cheer bad choices, either.

  • Pingback: Link Love Christmas Eve Edition

  • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

    Thanks for sharing that link - some very interesting points in that article!

    Above, you said exactly what I think about poverty. It’s a combination of circumstances and decisions. But I don’t think it comes from decisions alone.

  • Financial Samurai

    Andrea, what a beautifully written post. I believe that until we stand in someone else’s shoes, we cannot judge them openly. We can shut up and focus on bettering ourselves, and perhaps helping others though.

    If all you see are your parents and mentor figures live off welfare, that’s all you know. We are a product of our surroundings. We need to be more compassionate with others. There will ALWAYS be cases where people abuse the system. We should look beyond this.

    I realize not everybody will work as hard, but I do know that in America, it’s as free and open as any country in the world to make something for oneself.

    Best, Sam

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Thanks, Sam. I completely agree - all of us are products of our surroundings. If we attain excellence, it’s because we have seen and appreciated excellence. If we never see it, I don’t know how we’re supposed to get there. This country provides the most opportunities of any in the world, but people have to realize how to take advantage of them.

      • Jill Hound

        You know, it really isn’t as hard as you’re making out. It’s not a secret that getting pregnant as a teen is a bad idea. Ditto working hard at your education or doing drugs. None of this is privileged information. Certainly not these days, when the poorest individual has access to television and the Internet.

        And there are always people to help if someone wanting that help reaches out. Teachers, social workers, coaches, whatever.

        I also don’t think you have to walk in someone’s shoes to judge them. That’s a stupid cliche. I don’t have to be a homeless crack addict, like a friend of mine is, to know he needs to get off the pipe. He’s been offered help and given a bed and rehab stays over and over again. I judge him, yes I do.

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          Okay, Jill. So getting pregnant as a teen is a bad idea. Do you really think I did that on purpose? Did I wake up and go, “ZOMG I HEART BAYBEEZ” and go out looking for someone to knock me up? No. But it happened. Am I supposed to be punished for the rest of my life for it? Should society wash its hands of me just because I made a mistake? Should my son be hanged in the public square because his mother was still in high school when he was born? Everyone can’t be as level-headed and perfect as you’ve apparently been your entire life. People mess up and all they can do is move on the best they can. Obviously people can judge whoever they want, because you’re certainly doing a good job of it right now.

          • Jill Hound

            >Do you really think I did that on purpose?

            So does that mean you didn’t make a stupid choice? “It was an accident” is a cop out. There are things you could have done to prevent teen pregnancy and didn’t.

            The rest of your reply is just foolish and emotional. No one wrote or implied that your child should be “hanged in the public square” or that you should be “punished the rest of your life” over it. Give me a break. Own your bad choices and acknowledge them instead of making excuses and then you’ll possibly sound like a grownup instead of a petulant child.

  • Invest It Wisely

    Hey Andrea,

    I agree and don’t agree with you. I agree that much of life is deterministic, in terms of our genetics, our parents, and our upbringing. There are some aspects of our personalities that we can control, and some that we have less control over.

    I grew up in a rather crappy situation myself, with no father, an abusive step-father, and an unloving mother. I was destined for failure and who knows where I would have ended up if not for the great support of a loving grandmother, and later, a great girlfriend.

    However, this is where I start to disagree with you. This support was in the form of tough love, in the form of “I know you are not destined for failure, and I know that you can do better”. Even if free will is an illusion, what matters is what we believe and how we play the cards we’ve been dealt. In many ways I am blessed, but I would never know it if I never took the opportunities that I have been given to become a better person and to make something of myself.

    That can never be achieved through giving up responsibility or handouts. Self-responsibility and discipline is the only sustainable way forward. I agree with that way of viewing the world, but I also believe in helping out others and in second chances, because I’ve been there, too.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Support doesn’t have to mean rainbows and unicorns. I think tough love is one of the best kinds of support - telling you to get your shit together NOW while you still have a chance. But they still do it because they know you can do better. If they didn’t think so, they’d save their breath.

      I’m glad you turned your situation around and now all of us get to benefit from your experiences.

  • Teinegurl

    All i have to say to say is AMEN! preach it sister

  • Jill Hound

    I also kind of disagree. Yes, divorce is a choice. Every one of my friends who’s been divorced married the wrong person for them. They got married because their husband was a cool rock star, or because they were pushing 30 and no one else would ever want them, or etc etc etc. And now they’re divorced. If people spent a little longer figuring out what makes for a good marriage, there’d be a lot fewer divorces. Take ownership of your own bad choices, people.

    I myself am pretty successful, and yeah, I do feel it’s because of my own hard work and good choices. I’m the first person in my family to go to college, and I figured it all out on my own. I also worked full time and paid for it all on my own while supporting myself. And it was an Ivy-League-level school. No one helped me. I’ve always worked hard, figured things out on my own, and made smart choices, and now I’m reaping the benefits: financial security, a good marriage of 22 years, and a satisfying career. I married the steady, smart, nice guy who isn’t as good looking as the rock star, and we’re better off and happier than the rock star and his ex. I didn’t go off to live in Paris for a year-I stuck to my corporate job with great benefits instead. And instead of going out partying, I bettered myself by studying on weekends.

    And I’m certainly not going to pretend it was just luck, or my white skin (ha), or family connections that got me here. It was being smart and making good choices.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      It sounds like you made some wise choices. Good for you! I do think that divorce is a choice, but it also depends on circumstances. For example, I have a friend who had an excellent marriage. Her husband was a wonderful provider. Then he got injured at work, became addicted to pain pills, and started physically abusing my friend and their children. Yes, she chose to file for divorce, but was it really a choice? The alternative of staying in the marriage was not a possibility. And in 5 years of dating and the first 4 years of their marriage, there was no way to predict what happened. He had no history of substance abuse OR violent behavior. Honestly, the fact that you have friends who marry rock stars or take off to Paris tells me that you exist in a completely different social realm than anyone I know.

      • Jill Hound

        The rock star is now broke-and he wasn’t a household name, but was in a fairly well known band. Anyone can take off to live in Paris for a year with no money if they’re young and without ties-it only takes a couple thousand bucks if you have a place to stay.

        I come from a working class background where people struggle hard and no one goes to college. But you know, make sure to discount what I write.

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          Sorry if you felt like I discounted what you said. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around your situation - because I’ve never been there myself. I would guess that probably 95% of the people I know have never even been on a plane and probably never will. But it sounds like you have worked your way from the same kind of background into one that is much more viable, and I don’t in any way mean to condemn you for that.

  • Greg

    I’m trying to find anything positive or forward-thinking on this blog. Maybe it’s hidden in the members-only section.

    The very subtitle of your blog paints you as handicapped. Why is financial freedom out of reach?

    Your premise today is easy to counter. But from the way you’ve phrased it, it’s equally easy for you to defend. If someone were to post that he’d achieved success despite a number of overwhelming stumbling blocks, I’m guessing you or your lockstep commenters would say “good for you, but what about the other people who didn’t have (tiny positive attribute in your life that wasn’t present in theirs)?” You say you became a millionaire despite being born with spina bifida and no legs? Yes, but you had a 5th grade teacher who believed in you and no family history of alcoholism!

    You obviously take the time to craft grammatically sound, correctly spelled posts. Why not spend that time doing something other than whining and making excuses?

    “I’m not whining and making excuses.”Sure you are. I mean, my God. Look at the post titles that appear in the sidebar. Right now I see “I’ve Really, Really Screwed Up”, “Life Just Keeps Sucking”, and “My Paychecks Make No Sense” (because you didn’t bother to get the terms of your pay in writing before starting a job.)

    Look, I get that “personal finance” blogging consists of little more than sharing one’s too-personal daily events with others and having them tell you how great you are (punctuated with too many exclamation points), but to what end? The post about your paychecks making no sense even says “I know this is hopelessly boring”. On what planet does a writer engage readers by admitting that what she wrote is boring?

    Your criticism of Ted Nugent’s quote is incorrect. I don’t mean I disagree with it, I mean it’s incorrect. “An individual cannot control” whether she stays in school, learns a skill, has a work ethic or gets divorced? I won’t address the first three - I think even you believe that whether someone has a work ethic is up to that person - but what about getting divorced? Sure, tens of millions of people - including Ted Nugent himself, and me for that matter - have gotten divorced. But getting divorced is indeed a choice. A smart choice sometimes, and certainly better than getting beaten up or living with a crack smoker, but a choice nonetheless. A failed marriage is almost always the result of two ultimately incompatible people finally coming to that realization years after they should have. The people who stay married are going to be better equipped to build wealth and raise children than those who, for whatever reason, don’t. Again, I’m not saying divorce is never good, nor that two people who hate each other should stay together.

    Being told that you made poor choices may “make (you) want to choke people”, and you might even succeed in choking them, but that doesn’t make the choices any less poor. Find me a kid from a broken home who doesn’t get pregnant early, doesn’t get divorced, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t incur unnecessary expenses she can’t pay for, and doesn’t cry over minutiae, and I’ll take her chances over someone who comes from a good home yet does all those things.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Wow, your first sentence sums up my exact sentiments the one time I visited your blog! Maybe you can make me the next retard of the month. If you spent half the time writing relevant posts that you spend insulting people, I would probably take your comment more seriously.

  • Newlyweds on a Budget

    Paint me as one of those people with very little empathy. The argument you made in the comments about the 9th grader whose mom made him quit school for painkillers-is the same argument lawyers use in court for child sex offenders. “He was raised in an abusive home…he didn’t know any better…etc etc etc”. And what it boils down to is self-responsibility. At what point do we stop painting people as victims and make them responsible for their own choices? So you were raised differently, so you got dealt a bad hand…how long are you going to milk that? (and i am using “you” as a general term, not specifically “you”)
    I see SO much abuse of our social welfare programs. Not your average run of the mill, but just abuse in general. My aunt is a head of one of our local programs, and I volunteered with her in high school. There are women who keep having kids because they know the government will give them more money for each kid. And this is not one or two cases-this is RAMPANT. It is very hard in my case to support these types of programs. And when I heard about single women with five children receiving help? I don’t think she needs gifts for her kids, I think she needs to have her tubes tied. Yes the children suffer, but it is a vicious VICIOUS cycle. How many years of help do they need to receive before they get the picture?

    I’m a first generation Mexican. My dad grew up starving most of his life because his mom had 8 kids to feed. My dad knows poor. And he could have been a victim like his youngest sister, who grew up in the same family as my dad, but decided to stay at home because work was too much…well, work.

    I wish I had more empathy-but when you see what I see-it’s really hard. For every “they’re really poor” story, I have about ten of my own “abuse of the system” stories to relate to.

    I’m glad there are people like you who fight against people like me-because then I know the real people will get the help they need : )

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      I agree with you that there IS a ton of abuse of the system. After nearly 7 years working in the social services and mental health fields, I’ve seen and heard it all. People having a million babies to get bigger tax returns, more food stamps, etc. People faking mental illness to help their disability case. People who sell their food stamps to buy cocaine and snort it off their baby’s crib rails.

      Down to an 18 year-old high school kid whose mom wouldn’t let him get a job because she was scared he’d lose his SSI check. The check she got for his “supposed” ADHD (there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with this kid). I watched him struggle to rise above the way he was raised, only to be held back by a mother who cared more about $600 a month than her child’s future. And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he gives up and collects a check his entire life.

      But I don’t blame him for that - I blame his mother. And I blame a system that basically gives people incentives to stay in the cycle. I don’t at all believe that people don’t have a degree of responsibility for their own lives; I just think we need to do something about it on a macro level instead of sitting around talking about how awful poor people are. Ted Nugent advocates complete removal of all social programs to “force” poor people to make better decisions. But I’m firm in my belief that doing so wouldn’t fix the problem. What needs to happen is a new social program - one that puts a social worker or other professional IN THE HOME to teach things like cleaning, applying for jobs, cooking real meals, budgeting, and just basic living skills that the generationally poor simply don’t have.

      Just like we wouldn’t want to take jobs as nuclear physicists, because we have no clue how to do that kind of work, people who have lived in poverty their whole lives tend to have no clue how to do ANYTHING. So let’s teach them. You (generic you) don’t get a check every month; you get someone to come teach you the skills you missed out on. You get the encouragement you never got from your family. You get another chance to make up for chances you missed out on regardless of the reason why. Then what you choose to do with that is up to you.

      There ARE people out there who truly need the services available. And until recently, it was my job to separate those people from the ones abusing the system and do everything in my power to help them succeed. I can’t turn off the feeling that people deserve that chance no matter how badly they’ve screwed up, because I know how my own life would have turned out if everyone had given up on me.

      • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

        Wow, I think I just wrote a whole other post. Holy comments, Batman!

  • Smart Money Chicks

    Very interesting post and the comments are even better. For the most part my thoughts have been conveyed already in several of the comments. I will just say that the saying “when you know better, you do better” makes all the difference. I would venture to say that what should be added to that saying is “when you see better, you know better then do better” I firmly agree that we are products of our environment. In most inner cities, what children see are singers, basketball players, rappers or people who are stuck in their same situation. So, they grow up and want become the Basketball Player, The Rapper because that is what is in front of them(the only option to have a different life.). They do not see the person with a 4 year degree living a middle income life that is much better than the life they live. They see what is on TV. Not really sure whose fault that is. I think their is plenty of blame for everyone.

    What bothers me is that some feel like a person should instinctively know that their is better out there, they just have to work harder for it, that could not be further from the truth. How does one know what they haven’t been exposed to?

    I grew up in a interracial household, by real dad died at a very young age, my mom married my step dad when I was 3. I absolutely could not stand him at all, not at all. No love lost. However, the person I am today is partly because of him, my work ethic is just one example. I really do not know what it is like to go without and because of that I have made choices that could have been detrimental. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that if my mother wouldn’t have married my step dad, my life would have been very very different. I look at other relatives that I am far removed from and see them in low income areas, never graduated from high school, some have been in jail since we were kids. We were born in the same place and yet our lives are so much different, I am so sure that is because I was exposed to different things, my home life was different. I didn’t know until I was older that my mother always made more money than my step dad and that her childhood was different than her relatives of the same age. For the most part she had the same exact upbringing my brother and I did. She never went without, her mom and her dad both worked and in her neighborhood, they were considered the “rich ones”. Where my step dad did grow up in Lincoln Nebraska in poverty,8 kids sharing 2 rooms and going without many times.

    I would venture to say that the person who grows up in poverty but is exposed to a different lifestyle, a different career path, a curiosity for more and has a support system would grow up making different choices. Sadly, that is not the case for most. Some people have never left there neighborhood, so that is all they know. If that has been the case for generations before them. How will it ever be different for them?

  • Insomniac Lab Rat

    I know I’m about a million years late here, but I’m still catching up after Christmas.

    Anyway, I agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve never been poor, but my dad grew up very poor, and I was friends with quite a few children from poor families when I was younger. I’m well aware that this doesn’t give me the same knowledge or experience as someone who actually lived being poor, and a few years of being broke in college is nothing, but although I’ve had a privileged life, I have at least seen the other side a little bit.

    What I really wanted to say, though, was that I also can’t really demonize the people who don’t get it. I mean, I think the world would generally be a better place if people tried to be less judgmental, or at least kept those judgements to themselves, especially when they have no understanding of the matter at hand. But, sometimes smart, good people just don’t get it, because they’ve been sheltered for their entire lives. I think my husband is a good example of this, though of course I’m biased and may be reading his reaction wrong. He grew up in a rich, white, suburb-like city, surrounded by middle to upper class families, went to a high school with like a 99% graduation rate, and something like 98% of them went to college. I’d be willing to bet that less than 5% were first-generation college students.

    So, now we live in a big city, and I’m volunteering for a program that helps minority students prepare for college and a career. [Note: I'm not saying that college=not poor, this just happens to be the program, so I'll use college as the example] Not surprisingly, some of these kids have never known anyone who went to college and have no idea how to go about applying to or choosing colleges. I’ll admit that I was a little surprised at just how much some of these kids didn’t know, but hubby didn’t get it at all. He didn’t understand why these kids would get up on a Saturday morning to come learn about college and career choices. He is a nice, understanding, intelligent man, and he is generally someone who displays empathy, but he just can’t imagine a world where college is so foreign. I wanted to scream at him “NOT EVERYONE COMES FROM A RICH WHITE SUBURB LIKE YOU! No one has ever told these kids that they CAN go to college, let alone that they should!” But he doesn’t remember anyone ever saying specifically the words “you should go to college”, because it was just implied, and probably no one ever said those words. He did research about schools on his own, but he did it (and so did I) because it was expected. But it took me telling him about these kids, explaining to him what little glimpse of their lives I’ve seen, for him to realize that just because someone is smart enough to go to college, doesn’t mean that they know how to get there. Some will figure it out on their own, no doubt, but some need that extra push or help, and some are already working. Some of these kids are so poor that they are more concerned about whether they’re getting to eat that day than what they’re doing in 5 years, and they love the program because they get breakfast, and that might be the only day of the week that they get something to eat before lunch. They stuff leftovers in their bags or pockets to take home, because some of them probably don’t get lunch on the weekends, or have siblings or parents that won’t get anything to eat that day otherwise.

    I’m going to stop ranting about this now, but I just wanted to agree with the point that it can be hard to do something different than what you see growing up- and point out that it goes both ways, it’s hard to rise above, but it can also be hard to see “down” to what other people are experiencing. (though in no way does that excuse some of the things people say)

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences. Those are exactly the types of things I was trying to point out. I’ve had a lot of similar experiences, especially since I live in a rural area with a LOT of poverty.

  • Pingback: The DQYDJ Weekender (Week of 12/26/11)

  • Doglover

    Being that about half of all personal bankruptcies are filed due to medical reasons…I find it strange, even appalling, that being ill or disabled as a reason for being poor rarely comes up. I’m not talking about the heart disease or type 2 diabetes that we can argue that the person did it to him/herself. I’m talking about many disabling healthy conditions that are long term, and maybe even a lifetime, and that are very expensive to treat even with health insurance, where Medicare and SSDI cannot fully cover the costs. Unless you or someone you know is in this situation, you don’t realize the Medicare does not cover many, many things and patients will have to pay out of pocket. Oftentimes, people with such disabling conditions either have to quit working all together or cut their hours and take on jobs with less responsibility and lower pay. People have no control over whether or not they or their spouse or child will get hit with something like this…and if it causes them to be poor, then how can it be their fault, and how can it be their choice?

    • Doglover

      I also wanted to add that having a disabling health condition isn’t as rare as you may think. Most people with conditions that disabling tend to become homebound and most likely bedbound and have retreated from life. The fact that they are not in the public eye makes it seem as if it is rare.

    • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

      VERY good point, Doglover. I’m thinking of a friend of mine who was hit by a drunk driver and had to have both legs amputated. What choice did he make other than the choice to leave home the day of the wreck? He is definitely living in poverty as he tries to exist on a disability check. Thanks so much for bringing that up.

      • Invest It Wisely

        That is a nightmare. Why didn’t insurance step in? Was the drunk driver uninsured? Not completely sure how these things work in the US.

        • Andrea @ SoOverDebt

          Insurance paid all his medical bills, but obviously he was unable to continue working (he was in construction) with no legs. So he ended up drawing disability due to his inability to work. It makes me sick that someone so capable is sitting at home with nothing.

          • Doglover

            That is awful! I hope that he isn’t suffering from severe and life-long pain. That is very expensive to deal with, unless the insurance company will pay for his pain-care for the rest of his life.

  • Pingback: Reading for Your Week: New Year Edition | Invest It Wisely