Sunday, December 8, 2013

Musings, Confusings...And Thoughts on Why Poor People Make Bad Decisions

Sunday night...I've been fighting off the flu. Couldn't get warm all afternoon -- but that may have been in part because it's FREEZING around here. Nearly every night, it's been below zero, and often around -10. We look on 30-degree temps as a heat wave!  (but gee, what am I griping about -- Antarctica just set a record -- more than 135 degrees BELOW ZERO.)
     Despite the iciness, the Broncos won today's game against the Titans. People were standing up a lot in the fourth quarter -- not because they were excited, so much that they could move around to keep warm. It was COLD out there on the field, with big plumes of breath coming up from the players. On the other hand, the field was dry, in spite of a quick morning snowfall. A lot more snow on the field for the Lions and other teams today. 
     The Brick went down the hill to close the chickies up this evening in the twilight. He was just coming back up from the coop when he heard a of the girls was sitting underneath the tree, rather than with her sisters. I'm so glad she said something, because she would most probably have frozen to death outside the coop. On the other hand, she may not have...these hens have weathered temps I would have thought would kill them, with no sign of discomfort at all. On the plus side, though, we keep a heat lamp in there that goes on at 40 degrees. 
     Holiday lights and decorations are shining up and down our street. I've got wreaths on the front door and a wooden arch by the steps, plus one little pathetic string of solar LED lights on the arch. Haven't done more because I've been trying to finish up a quilt restoration...and frankly, I just haven't felt up to it. Maybe in the next few days, after the quilt is delivered. And it warms up a little outside.

Update:   Linda lied -- both about her essay, and her current situation! See more here.

Now, on to thoughts about the guest post I recently posted, on why poor people make bad decisions. Thank you, Linda Tirado, for your willingness to share your thoughts on this subject!

I found this of special interest because I grew up pretty shorthanded in the income department. Our family would not have described ourselves as "poor," but we worked for everything we got. Both my brother and I had regular jobs beginning as soon as we were old enough to babysit, and or start working at stores. He worked at the tractor dealership my dad worked at -- I worked at the hardware store, beginning as a freshman in high school. We also both worked at the school cafeteria to earn our lunches, even though we also both did band and/or choir and sports.
     We did not go hungry, but we also did not buy tickets to events -- except for a subscription to a monthly travelogue, when I was little -- and our restaurant visits were reserved to birthdays or the Thursday night special at the local A&W. (Kids got a free drink, if the parents ordered one.) 
     There was also a number of years, back when the Brick went from being an engineer to driving a school bus, that we made less than $20,000 annually. (In fact, the first year, I remember it being $17,500.) This was with two middle-school-aged children and a mortgage payment. My business was just starting to establish itself; it brought in a little extra, but that was eaten up by expenses. I took every temp job I could, to help out, including some time working at Wal-Mart. (Which is not nearly as bad as the moaners imply. A fair amount of the people I knew who worked there had opportunities, but either didn't bother to apply for them, or didn't care. It was easier to gripe than try to improve.)
    Some memorable Christmases, nearly all the presents under the tree came via the thrift shop. Because that was all we could afford at the time. Both our girls worked part-time jobs to pay for clothes and incidentals; our youngest (like her mom and uncle before her) started at 14. (In Colorado, you can do this if you work fast food -- in her case, it was Taco Bell.)
     So, as someone who has known what it is to be poor, I feel I have a clearer look on the subject. 

  Linda begins by saying,
     They [the comments in this post] are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it's rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.

What follows seems to be a list of excuses -- and why they're okay, because after all, she's POOR.

"Rest is a luxury for the rich," she announces, and proceeds to list her daily schedule, including classes, two jobs, kids, etc. She then says she does have two days off a week from this hectic life, but she uses them for schoolwork, 'soothing' Husband and taking care of the kids.
     Welcome to life. We all have full schedules...and plenty of people with higher incomes feel exactly the same way you do. By the come your husband doesn't seem to be working at all? Did you apply for financial aid? (I would think you're eligible for a boatload of it, in your current position.) Have you applied for a scholarship?
     And, although it doesn't feel like that now, school will end eventually. Short-term hard times do not mean that you're doomed to have them last forever. Yes, I know it feels like things will never change. What you feel -- and what is true -- are not always the same thing.

Next on the list: "I smoke. It's expensive. It's also the best option. You see, I am always, always exhausted. It's a stimulant." She needs it because of her hectic schedule. (See previous paragraph.) Hmmm. Smoking isn't just expensive -- it's OUTRAGEOUS. Could that money be used to start a savings account, instead of going up in smoke every day? There are other stimulants that help, like caffeine. Or drop a job (and have the Mister go to work, instead!) and get some sleep.

I was also puzzled by the rant about not being able to get a hotel room with $1000 in cash in her pocket (did you ever know a place that wouldn't accept cash?); accusing the Patriot Act of making it impossible for her to get a bank account (??), and describing herself as "not good enough" for anything but a kitchen job. (Honey, could it be your attitude that's not getting interviews, instead of your "bad teeth?" You look pretty good in the photo that accompanies the post...a heck of a lot cuter than me. And in spite of little money, I managed to get interviews for jobs. Hired, even. Obviously, you did too, since you have two jobs.)

"I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don't pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? It's not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn't that I blow five bucks at Wendy's. It's that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be. It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to. There's a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there's money in your pocket, because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway."
     Oh yeah? Has it ever occurred to you that this attitude -- and certainly your response to even trying to economize, or put money away -- is precisely what's keeping you poor?  Actually, small sacrifices can and will result in "improved circumstances." Even temporary sacrifices help. And why in the world would you think that it's not only okay, but important to spend every bit of money you've got, all the time? Won't your kids need food and clothes in the future? If you're not willing to save for your own sake, do it for theirs. Don't you want life to be better for them, at least?

"I am not asking for sympathy. I am just trying to explain, on a human level, how it is that people make what look from the outside like awful decisions. This is what our lives are like, and here are our defense mechanisms, and here is why we think differently. It's certainly self-defeating, but it's safer."

     Familiar, yes. Safer, no. Keep up your life this way, and when you're finally eligible for Social Security, you will have little else. Even worse, you will have brought up your children to think this is the way that everyone lives -- day to day, never planning for the future, never thinking about the consequences of your quickie decisions. They will expect to be taken care of, either by you or the government, instead of taking care of themselves.
     Not only that -- they'll be teaching their children the same thing. So the cycle continues.

    Is this what you REALLY want?

In her update, she mentions that a lot of people have given her money via Paypal, and substantially increased her yearly income, in the process. So let's see -- if she follows her credo, that extra will not go into an emergency fund, or buy food or clothing ahead for her kids. Instead, it will go for "luxuries." In a week or two, she'll be back in the same position, only this time with the knowledge that she just wasted a golden opportunity, with little to show for it.

     I really, really hope she uses it to change. She could. But I have my doubts.


Anonymous said...

She's a scammer - search & read!

Cindy Brick said...

I checked -- and you're right! AARGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG...

see my update on this.

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