You’re Broke, Not Poor – How Everyday Choices Dictate Your Financial Life

You’re Broke, Not Poor – How Everyday Choices Dictate Your Financial Life

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It’s time for a tough question; are you actually poor or are you just broke? All too often, I see people complain about how poor they are. They blame the system or their circumstances. It’s a victim mentality and one that will leave you broke your whole life. It reminds me of this gif (to be honest, I don’t even know what movie its from).

Are there some real issues in the world? Absolutely. Even in “the greatest country in the world”, The United States Of America, we have some big problems that hold people back. I’m not trying to discount any true disparities that prevent the opportunity for financial growth. For a lot of us though, this isn’t the case and I would challenge you to shift your mentality.

If you live in the U.S., it’s hard for me to find a valid excuse to not take control of your finances. I don’t care if you were born in the Bronx, Detroit or the Midwest. I don’t care if you are white, brown, black, purple, or green. I don’t care where you’re from, who your parents are, or what school you went to.

At the end of the day you have the internet, you have knowledge in your hands. You can learn, read, or watch anything about anything. In addition, you probably aren’t reading this article from a free public library computer. Instead, you are on your $500+ smartphone.

You aren’t poor, you’re just broke.

Being Broke

I’ve mentioned before on the blog that I’ve been broke. No, not poor, just broke and I’m very thankful for that. You see, I made the choice to move to Atlanta in 2016 and take a massive pay cut. I’ve always had a plan (or more of an outline) to regain that lost income but it was a rough year and a half working for $11.65 an hour.

Add in the fact that I moved to Atlanta, where the cost of living is much more expensive and I had a perfect recipe to become broke.

I’ll be honest, I had to dip into my emergency fund a couple of times because I simply didn’t have the money. But I would take every overtime or weekend shift possible just so I could earn a little more. Leftovers and free entertainment were my friends.

Was it fun? No.

Did I make it work and not blame being poor on others? Yes.

Being broke for this period of my life taught me so many lessons that I will forever be thankful for. It taught me how to prioritize my spending and made me establish the habit of actively tracking my finances. I learned to live below my means when my means was only $1,400 a month. That $1,400 wasn’t much but I was still above the poverty line (I talk about that more in a minute).

What Does It Mean To Be Poor?

The truth is most people don’t know what poor is. They think they are poor and while they may have the mentality of poverty, they aren’t actually in poverty. They are simply just broke. In my opinion, the U.S. government has it wrong when it comes to qualifying what actually is poverty.

Hear me out.

When I think of someone in poverty, I think of someone struggling in all aspects of their life. They are working but making minimum wage and not much else. They’re most likely trying to support more people than just themselves. This makes stretching the dollars they earn even harder. They may have bills that they can’t pay and because of their situation, they may not be able to afford medications, food, and other necessities. It’s a terrible thing to even type, let alone think about and I’m grateful to have never been in this position.

Does the U.S. government have the same view? Well, not exactly. The government sets income thresholds for different groups of people (which I agree with). The government states that if your yearly income is at or below these amounts, you are below the poverty line. For example, if you are a single person under 65 then it’s $11,770. If you are married and have two children then that number is $24,250. This income level doesn’t take into account any benefits provided by the government. Food stamps, housing vouchers, and tax credit programs are all excluded from counting towards income.

The worst part of the census report is where they state that most classified poor households have a car, cable or satellite TV, computers, and the internet. Does that sound like poor to you? It sounds like incorrect prioritization to me.

We have a problem with how government assistance programs are used in this country, that’s no secret. Should they exist? Yes, absolutely. Are they abused? More often than not. This was something I saw first hand in Atlanta when I was buying my deli ham and cheese (that’s all I ate for lunch) and in front of me was an individual with two carts full who paid with an EBT card.

As I left Publix, I saw them get into a brand new Cadillac Escalade with spinners (not even kidding) and that’s what led me to ask; what does it really mean to be poor?

We Have Choices Everyday

I’ve said it multiple times in this article but I do think there are people in the world and the U.S. specifically that are in true poverty and need help. As a taxpayer, I have no problem with them getting assistance. As long as it is used correctly. Where I have an issue is people exploiting the system or refusing to take responsibility for their own actions and choices.

I wholeheartedly believe that we make choices every single day that can lead you towards a broke life or a financially free one. No, I’m not talking about buying a latte or something insignificant like that. What I’m talking about are the big choices that can cost you thousands. I tweeted this summarizing my thoughts:

Whether you want to believe it or not, if you live in America then those are all choices that you make. Just because you want something doesn’t mean you should do it or get it. Moreover, it definitely doesn’t mean someone else should pay for it while you sit behind your phone complaining about how poor you are.

If you can’t afford children, don’t have them.
If you can’t afford rent or your mortgage, then move.
If you can’t afford college, then find a job so you can or choose a different career.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to buy 100 acres of land and build a beautiful house on it but I know I can’t afford that. I know if I did, I would put myself in a position that would be tough financially. Me making this decision is no different than people choosing to wait a couple of years before they buy a different car, etc. etc. etc.

The Bottom Line

This article may have come off a little harsh at times, I know that. I let it be harsh because I really do think people have some amazing opportunities to do some amazing things but they are standing in their own way. The blame game, victim mentality and so on are all the opposite of what YD&NB stands for.

It’s time to do some self-reflection and realize how our choices are going to affect us in the long run. Yes, having that new car is going to bring you happiness for a month or two but what about after that? That $500 monthly payment (or worse) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

To wrap this article up, let me just put some other takes out there. These mostly call out the flaws of our government but just like everything, these are my opinion.

Do I think things will get better over time? Yes, I’m an optimist but nothing is going to change overnight. No matter what happens to the system, the only thing that can change you is yourself.

In the end, you probably aren’t poor, you’re just broke. Today’s the day to stop being broke and find your way to financial freedom.

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