I feel my situation is somewhat pertinent to the topic.
I am no longer "under the poverty line" for the US (in part because my husband died, leaving me half the number of people to support on one income) but I'm not middle class. I would come under "working poor" for most purposes. I make just under $10/hour which is not lavish by any means.
On the other hand, I just bought a new set of tires and a front end alignment for my car. Yes, I did put it on my credit card, but that was planned to keep my credit rating up (if you don't use your credit it decays, so a couple times a year I buy something on credit so if ever I truly do need to really borrow I will be able to do so at a better interest rate), truth is I have the money for it in the bank and the credit card will be paid off in full as soon as I get the bill. And I still have money in savings.
Now, about seven years ago I was pretty damn destitute but I crawled out of that.
I look around at some of my co-workers, though, and they constantly have money woes.
Some of it is "substance luxuries". I mean, I like my alcohol, too, but when I was rock-bottom financially I just quit drinking entirely. For that matter, when I was flying airplanes I was maybe having a drink just a couple times a year because I wanted to spend my money on flying and aviation and alcohol are a bad mix. I don't smoke - holy crap, tobacco is expensive! And I don't do weed, which is still illegal in my state and not cheap even where it is legal. Hell, I'll even downsize my daily diet, eating less meat and sticking to what's on sale. Some people just won't do this. And don't get me started on lottery tickets - yes, I've occasionally bought such tickets myself, but it's rare and when I have the money to spend a buck or two on frivolous perks. At work there are people who spend $50-100/week on them, which is thousands of dollars a year.
Some of it ties into the Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice (link in signature) - they buy cheap rather than quality. When I mentioned at work that I needed new car tires (this being rather obvious what with having a flat in the parking lot) a lot of folks started telling me where to get a set of used, refurbished tires. Yeah, sure, maybe half or 1/3 the price of new but you know what? I got new tires which will have a longer life AND came with a 65,000 mile warranty. This is only the third set of tires my car has needed in 15 years - I know people who buy "new" (that is, refurbished) tires every two years, which means in 15 years they go through seven sets and have more problems with leaks and flats. If you're paying half the price of new you're actually paying more over the long haul with that set up than if you buy new when you need them. Likewise, I pay about $200 a pair for my work shoes rather than get $50 shoes like most of my coworkers. Sure, not cheap, but after 8 hours of working on concrete floors I can go home and my feet don't hurt. I'm not spending the "savings" at the podiatrist and I feel a lot better and healthier. Oh, and my shoes do last longer, but that's in part because I'm a cobbler (I also have fixed co-workers shoes for free, because I'm nice like that).
Some of it is just... well, I don't know what to call it. I have coworkers that forgo the life insurance offered as a benefit at work. Granted, it's a low payout (particularly for worker family members) but it's literally only pennies a paycheck. The policy I had on my husband only paid out $5,000, which really isn't much, but it paid for his cremation, and for the time I took off work, and some of the other expenses incurred during the final months of his life, paying to have someone else do my laundry so I could spend more time with him, and the extra gas burned, and ... well, all the little expenses that add up, plus a bit left over (which has largely gone to maintaining the vehicles, but it's a necessary thing to do). Granted, the odds of one's partner or child dying in a given year is (I hope!) low, but in this case it saved me from what would have otherwise been a very serious economic drain on my resources. Ditto for people refusing to purchase even catastrophic health insurance.
So you've got people who won't spend a few pennies a week on insurance, and buy cheap, but then blow the savings (such as they are) on booze, cigs, weed, and so on. Some of this comes from hopelessness - if you don't think you get a better lot than your current one why scrimp, why not enjoy things today? That's part of it - down at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder there's a lot of hopelessness whether or not there should be. Some of it is ignorance. Some of it is blatant misinformation about how to manage life (a classic is "don't spend money going to the dentist since everyone loses their teeth by [arbitrary age] anyway).
And then you have susceptibility to advertising and upselling. Sure, the guy at the tire place offered me various packages more expensive than the one I chose in the end, but I didn't get the rock-bottom one either. I purchased based on past experience and my anticipated future driving. I didn't either cheap out completely (which is usually not a good long term strategy, see Sam Vimes again) but I didn't get the most expensive option either. Too many people think More Money=Better. Only up to a point. You have to know when you can go cheap and when you shouldn't, and when paying more really does get you more value. You can't be 100% correct on these things all the time, but you can improve from where you start in life. And some people are VERY vulnerable to advertising and upselling.
Bottom line, the Powers That Be have NO interest in actually educating poor and middle class people on how to really properly manage their finances because it would cut income for business and the people at the top. That doesn't mean a better educated populace would get so conservative as to crash the economy - I mean, even someone like me does spend money every month, and buy stuff, because I need to eat, somewhere to live, and stuff wears out - but it would cut profits down from present levels. So, unless you are fortunate enough to come from a family that will teach you how to manage finances you will probably keep repeating your parents' mistakes (a few people figure stuff out for themselves, but only a few). Which will tend to keep you poor, or make you poor.
Last edited by Broomstick
on 2017-05-19 01:20pm, edited 1 time in total.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy. Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy
Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice