Being Poor Without Being Pitiful
I have spent a good portion of my young life being poor. (I define poor, not as living below the poverty line, but as not having even enough liquid assets to maintain a healthy or productive lifestyle.) Growing up on a small family farm during the agriculture crises in the 80’s gave me perspective on what poverty really means. Eating cabbage soup for most meals, riding in cars with holes in the floorboards and doors welded shut, and picking out clothing from among the abandoned items in the school’s lost and found will always give me something to compare my financial situation to when times get a little tough.
While a living situation like that wouldn’t be allowed for very long today without some kind of government intervention, it is still important to know what leads to poverty.
Circumstances – These are the quickest way to becoming poor. Losing a job, facing a death in the family, sickness or disability, a natural disaster, or a major change in the economy can all turn financial stability into a situation of poverty. Circumstance can most often not be prevented.
Choices – This is how most people I know end up in poverty. Overextending their credit lines for “wanted” and not “needed” purchases, taking on too big of a mortgage too early in their lifetime, giving in to drugs/ alcohol/ gambling, and refusing to find work are all controllable actions that can lead to poverty. Choices are often small and successive. It can take months or years to fall into a state of being bankrupt by making poor decisions.
Because I was once poor, I chose long ago never to be pitiful. Feeling sorry for one’s self never improves a situation. I learned to accept that as long as my poverty came from circumstance and not choices, I am not financially dysfunctional as a person. When my husband lost his job last year, we went without many of the comforts I had grown accustomed to. But we didn’t stay in pity-mode for very long. Action needed to be taken to improve our situation, and we made the best of our savings and time.
I remember growing tired of a relative who continually couldn’t make their mortgage payment. They made three times the money my family did, but they were always overdrawn in their accounts, and complaining at how unfair life was. Their circumstances were ideal; their choices were not. There I stood with no income or job prospects on the horizon. I had no idea how I was going to pay my bills two months from then. But I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself! I had much more than my relative making all the money. I had common sense and discipline. I could persevere in any circumstance, and I had pity on them!
Finding yourself in a financial pickle doesn’t have to end your life. Regardless of how you got there, you can get out. Feeling sorry for yourself is never a good use of your time or energy, and taking small steps in the right direction will never be regrettable. Today is the best day to take control of your finances and start living victoriously. You can do it!