Wednesday, September 14, 2011

People are Poor for a Reason

This going to be a tough one for you to take. It's a good thing no one reads this. ;) I want to preface this post by saying there are exceptions to every rule. That being said, rich people are rich for a reason and poor people are poor for a reason. I once read that if all the wealth in the world was dispersed evenly throughout the world's population, within in 10 years the same distributions of wealth would return.

Yesterday the Census Bureau released it's findings that poverty hit a record numbers last year. The thing that gets me is that according to the U.S. Department of Energy (Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2005) the people that are "poor" have it pretty well off. Below are a few of the facts that bother me.

        Item                   % Poor That Have It             Do I Have It?
        AC                            76.7%                                Yes (used)
More Than 1 TV                80.7%                                 No
Cable or Satellite TV          61.8%                                 No
       Stereo                        58.4%                                 No
Video Game System          53.9%                                 Yes (gift)
Internet Service                36.7%                                 Yes
Separate Freezer               21.2%                                  No
Big Screen TV                  23.4%                                  No

It took my wife bugging me for months before I finally agreed to buy a USED airconditioning unit for a single room. Over 1/2 of poor households own a video game system! I only have mine because it was given to us as a gift. My TV is one of those box TVs that they stopped making over 10 years ago. It as well was given to us.

I wish that this survey had asked how often they ate out, or what is the total value of their cars. I've spent a significant amount of time working in lower income neighborhoods. Without fail there is always numerous households that have nicer cars than homes. I've talked to several people that were struggling to pay their rent and yet their cable bill got paid on time every month. To them, cable is a necessity.

My point is not that poor people aren't poor. My point is that poor people are poor because of the things they spend their money on. Instead of saving and investing their money they spend it on toys and status symbols. They go into debt in order to buy a nicer car. They use credit cards to purchase nicer clothes. They go out to eat every night so they don't have to cook.

I once read a story of a man that made himself a multi-millionaire three different times. The first was in an Asian country that decided to take his money from him and left him penniless. He traded the few things he had to escape to another asian country. Within a few years he had made himself a multi-millionaire again. He traded all his money and everything he had to get himself and his wife to America. There he had a cousin that gave him a job in a bakery. He and his wife slept in the back of the shop for a year while he saved enough money to buy the bakery. Within a few years he had opened several more bakeries and was once again a multi-millionaire.

Every day I see people on the corner begging for money. With in a mile from that same corner there is a homeless medical clinic, a food bank, two soup kitchens, a large homeless shelter and employment services. I already knew that those people were begging because they chose too. Then one day I saw a man that was renting one of my apartments. He receives about $1,300 in SS income each month, his rent is paid for by the city, his utilities are paid for by the utility company, and he gets food stamps. Yet there he was, on the very same corner holding a cardboard sign.

No matter the challenges we face, we can overcome them. It is the way we use our money that determines our wealth or lack thereof. Most people are in their current financial situation because of ignorance or choice. Educate yourself. Rent books from a public library. Use the free internet at the public library. Choose to use your money wisely. Change your stars.


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