Friday, October 2, 2015

Could I Survive in Poverty?

What is poor and what is poverty?  According to the U. S. Government, this is the poverty level for various households sizes. There is an addendum chart for Alaska and Hawaii where the poverty levels are at higher incomes. There are obviously great diversity between the cost of living in the contiguous lower 48.  The cost of housing for my son living in a Los Angelos Suburb is more than twice as much as the cost of  my daughter's  living in a very small rural mid west town.  She though has much higher grocery costs, but he pays more in car fuel.  Strictly speaking, neither are in poverty according to the chart, but both are feeling very poor.  Add in their post grad student loans, and my son would probably say he is living in poverty as a significant amount of his income is out the door before it is even in. 

Still, despite the hand to mouth living, he has never, and probably will never know what it  is like to truly go without necessities in life. Maslovs hierarchy of needs will have that stable base in place. He and others in similar income brackets and above average costs in certain areas, might juggle bills, dine creatively, and make due mending or patching as needed to get to the next paycheck, but if things became truly dire, he has a safety net of family and friends. He is living the trade off  of picking a career and trying to make a go of It in a highly competitive and inconsistent paying work field of the arts. He has three roommates, no furniture and an 11 year old car that he cares for like a baby as he has no resources for a new one. If he had to, he could pack the bulk of his belongs, minus his bed, and relocate to wherever work is available. He is young, single, and has no obligations to anyone but himself. and of course Sallie Mae. 

I've been reading a lot reading a lot of blogs lately about personal financing, and stretching dollars to not just save for vacations, new houses, and retirement, but stretching dollars to survive.  Some are the result of living a more indulgent life of plenty in younger and more lucrative days, but now facing a mountain of debt. They blog about how they have now embraced the art and science of frugality, after digging themselves in pretty deep and are struggling to get out. Others are the result of health crisis or job loss or reduction when the job already barely covered the bills.They have children and spouses that they are supporting, and are looking for anyway to stretch the money coming in, and finding ways to increase those dollars if only pennies at a time. Regardless of how the blogger got to the situation they are in, it is so commendable that they are sharing their journey, giving very sound and realistic advice, even if the advice is just couched within their story. 

One thing in common amongst these bloggers is a spirit of hope. Sure, mistakes may have been made by some, and yes, children are expensive to raise, but despite the obstacles, the bad days, and the still unexpected expenses, they are not ostriches and working whatever magic they have to get to tomorrow.  I am very appreciative of the "haves' in my life, and so am striving to live in ways that will allow me to live smartly-not wasteful, give back, donate generously when I can, but also be a safety net to my love ones should it be needed. I was not smarter than any of these other bloggers, as I too made spending mistakes younger, and had unforeseen financial knocks that could have easily pushed our financial circumstances to the bottom most limits had it not been for some much needed intervention in the form of a job lead, a loan, and timely gifts. 

Poor bashing has seem to come back in style. When the recession hit, it seemed like people were in it together, sharing ways to save money, looking out for each other a bit more. That seems to have changed again, or maybe I am just more tuned to these discouraging behaviors. You only need to read a sensationalized account of a "welfare queen" to read the hateful and judgmental messages on many social media threads that suggest the most heinous of hateful "solutions" to what is portrayed as the abuse of taxpayer dollars. What the bashers often fail to take in is that  one, these are over the top anomalies cultivated without the full context to inspire anger against the poor and two, anyone of us or our family members could be in the same situation. In many cases, the difference between being poor and not poor, are the safety nets a person has in their life.  If those around you are equally struggling, there is no safety net of support, and the hole just gets wider.While this is my not so humble opinion, there are a slew of studies related to generational and geographical poverty. UC Davis has a center that studies wide causation of poverty.  What about you?  Could you survive if your income fell in the poverty range below?  What would you do, or have you done to make ends meet in the worst of times?

2015 Federal Poverty Guidelines

Federally facilitated marketplaces will use the 2015 guidelines to determine eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP.
 Household Size
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  1. It's something of a coincidence that I'm going to a session this evening on 'Simplicity'..... The lady who is running it had a well paid job during her marriage but is now divorced AND living on significantly reduced means. She's a fabulous facilitator and really good at leading reflective sessions so I will hold your post in my thoughts as she's talking. Jx

    1. I would be interested to hear her perspective on reframing a life because of such a large change of financial circumstance. The threshold for poverty of one person compared to two is a significant difference.

  2. Every single person has made at least one financial mistake in their lifetime. No one is immune. Any one of us can be knocked down and out in a snap of a finger. If people could just latch on to that reality, we'd all be living in a much more supportive environment. It's only human nature that when money is flowing, you spend accordingly. It's when the money faucet reduces to a drip does anyone then realize the true value of income. IMHO. And then they change accordingly, changed forever.
    Live and learn.
    Our income has dropped from middle class to poorer class and I hope we have adjusted successfully. I learned it really doesn't take much to make us happy. And I most surely do not look down on anybody. Because (I heard this quote in a movie) a person you may be calling an ass this month may be the same exact ass you have to kiss next month in order to keep your job (or whatever).
    Good blog post.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. There is no immunity from hard times. There is also little risk to our own posterity by lending a hand when needed. I like your "circular" connection about treating all with respect.

  3. I only wish my income of social security and disability check were at the poverty level instead of almost half that amount! Good post. I came here from slugmama.

    1. It is true there is no safety net, really, with anything tied to government. Even if it was true at one time, the rules can and do change at whim. We really just have ourselves and each other. Thanks for coming over for a read.

  4. We have a little above the lowest figure for 3 people ( despite being at university KL is here for a lot of the year), and a lot less than the 133% figure! Almost 50% of that amount is spent on our mortgage and council tax ( a monthly charge made by our local council and ours is amongst the highest charging in England - higher than very expensive areas of London). We manage to save some money each month ,overpay the mortgage by a small amount and give a small monthly cash donation to a local charity because we don't do or own a lot of things which are seen as a ' necessity' by many these days. Almost everything we buy is secondhand- clothing, gifts and items for our home. We don't have takeaways, we rarely eat out, we don't go to the cinema, theatre or sporting events, we don't have a car, we don't have gym memberships, we don't buy books, CDs or DVDs, we dont have pets, John and I haven't bought gifts for each other for over 25 years, I spend less than £10 per year on make-up, I dont colour my hair, I cut John's hair ( he has his head shaved), we grow a lot of our own food, we are very careful with our energy usage so that we keep it at around half of the national average, our grocery budget is £100 per month, our cooking facilities are a mini-oven with 2 rings on the top of it, and a slo-cooker. If we don't have the cash to pay for something then we don't buy it.We save up for large purchases ( such as the new radiators which were installed a year ago). We find that it makes for a much simpler life and for us, it makes for a happier one too. We have each other and our small family unit is strong, respectful and loving. We appreciate what we have and it makes our hearts sing to see our daughters supporting those less well off than themselves. Some people may think that our life sounds miserable, but far from it. It is full of love and laughter and shared interests that cost nothing other than a pair of decent trainers - John's cost £20 in a sale, mine were £25 also in a sale, paid for with money made by selling unwanted items!
    At the moment life is good, no matter how hard our government is trying to destroy us.

    1. I think your family is a success story-the ones I reference that do what needs to be done, and goals in life are not material goals. We did live on very low wages in our early parenting days but had a cushion from saving prekid when living expenses were low. Well done to you for creating a happy life despite challenges.

  5. I read frugal blogs, although I don't write about frugal living. That isn't because we have loads of money - we certainly haven't, but probably because we have always lived this way we are careful because of complex circumstances.

    I suppose it's all relative, as before we married I never thought much about lack of possessions, heat, food or clothing, but I realise in retrospect that we are infinitely better off now than we were when we were growing up post war. (I'm 66; my husband 67)

    So grateful for a roof over our heads and no debts - but life can change in an instant so there can never be complacency.

    Both my dad's brother and sister and respective families went to America in the 1950's. My uncle to work as a blacksmith and farrier for Walt Disney who had just bought an orange grove to turn into a theme park. In latter years one of my cousin's daughters worked as PA for a very well known actor.

    The lives of my dad's siblings and their children were SO different from ours! We seemed to live in grey world whilst they appeared to live in fairyland - but were they any happier than us? I doubt it.


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