But, my kids are growing up poor. My oldest is figuring it out but the 3 younger kids don't really grasp the concept yet. Which is good. No child should have to worry about money.
Before our family joined the ranks of the working poor, we were completely ignorant to how someone could go from having everything to having nothing. I often wondered what mistakes folks had made to get them to that point. And while I'm sure that everyone makes a financial faux-paus along the way, I now understand that it takes very little to completely unravel somebody's life.
I guess I thought if I told a little of our story, it'd kill some of the myths associated with poor people.
And I use the term poor instead of "low-income" because "low-income" is a phrase that someone came up with because poor just makes people uncomfortable.
But that's what we, and a lot of people are: poor.
I'm not going to put a bow on it so that it's more palatable. You can look away if you want, but I really suggest you do otherwise.
Back to our story:
In 2009 my husband and I grossed over $100,000. He worked full time as a Systems Analyst and I worked part time in retail. We had a nice apartment in the business district of a newly developed Sacramento suburb.
Then Spring came and all Hell broke loose. First, my husband's job was outsourced and my hours were cut drastically. Then, our son received an initial diagnosis of PDD-NOS, which resulted in expensive therapy and meds. We burned through our savings paying for rent, groceries and other necessities in just a few months.
Luckily, my husband was able to land a job pretty quickly, the only drawback being a huge pay reduction.
With an income of roughly half what it once was, we decided the only option would be to move to a house with a lot less rent. So we did. We switched to cheaper phone service, took our cable & internet down to basic. Made a pact to never buy anything new unless we absolutely could not find it used.
We were starting to get by again and then we were hit with something else: rising insurance premiums.
Having 6 kids between us, health insurance is an absolute necessity, and ours went up by almost $400 a month. Then, the insurance stopped covering therapy and meds for our son.
In just 18months, our family went from upper-middle class to poor. Simple as that.
So here I am, using WIC checks to pay for milk & bread, googling times & dates that the food bank is open, scouring Freecycle, and trying desperately to hold onto Netflix, our last bastion of fun.
I often hear people who've never wanted for anything in life say "Poor people shouldn't....."
Poor people shouldn't go to the movies.
Poor people shouldn't eat out.
Poor people shouldn't take a vacation.
Poor people shouldn't have date night.
Poor people shouldn't have cable.
Poor people shouldn't have internet.
Poor people shouldn't live in nice neighborhoods.
Poor people shouldn't have kids.
Poor people shouldn't have nice things.
And on & on & on.......
What I want you to know is that poor people should.
We are just as deserving of living a full and happy life as anyone else.
There is something that I have gained through this that I would not trade for a million dollars and that is: perspective. it's something that I find a lot of people to be lacking these days.
People line the blocks to get the newest iPad, whatever the cost, and arrange telethons when other countries are in need because it makes them look like they care.
But most people would not give an orange from the tree in their front yard to feed a homeless man.
Someone, not knowing my situation, recently asked me what I'm doing for the disadvantaged in our area.
I responded that the only thing I have to give is my time, and I give it wherever and whenever I can.
I encourage everyone for one month, take the money and time you would have spent having a spa day or over-paying for coffee and dedicate it to contributing to a more worthy cause.
Volunteer at the Food Bank or donate your abundance of fruit to urban gleaning.
We need to stop punishing the poor and rally together to figure out how we can give each other a collective hand up, because homelessness and poverty are not going to just go away. Even if you live in a sparkling suburban community, you are not immune to losing everything. I am a living, breathing testament to that fact.
So, instead of thinking about what poor people shouldn't do, think about what you can do to create change and most of all: stop the judgement.