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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Your brain on poverty



According to NPR, being poor is stressful. Well duh! Being poor uses up a lot of mental bandwidth. When a person is constantly thinking about money, they have less mental energy to think of other things.

What can we do about that? Be rich, problem solved.

Okay, maybe that's not too easy. The NPR story didn't have any solutions.

It's tough to not have enough money to pay the bills. Most of know what it's like to worry about money. Unlike NPR I'm going to offer some ways of dealing with it.

The first is to get expenses well below income. Never mind the actual numbers. Here's an example: Let's say someone is barely getting by. Then they move into a less expensive apartment close enough to work to eliminate the need for a car. Suddenly they can buy a fancy coffee drink at Starbucks and not worry about every penny. Being able to buy a treat without having to wonder if it's in the budget does wonders for one's state of mind.

What if it's impossible to reduce expenses or increase income? What's the strategy for that? The problem is that poverty consumes too much of a person's attention. The constant grind wears a person down. Automatic bill pay can help. Having the regular fixed bills paid directly from your account frees up time and having to think about the bills. That frees up brain power for other things. It's not a total relief, but every little bit helps.

Then there's the situation where no matter what happens, expenses outstrip income. You've got to ask yourself, is this a temporary financial bind or is this a long term problem? Most of us get big unexpected expenses from time to time. Focusing some attention on the problem to help fix it is a good use of brain power. Then getting a little financial cushion to deal with that sort of problem in the future will remove future worries.

What if it's a situation where income will never exceed expenses? Many of us, through no fault of our own, find ourselves in such situations. Then all we can do is cultivate a serene attitude. It's like driving on an icy road and all traction is lost. The only thing you can do is hold on and pray. Either you'll get lucky and avoid the crash, or you won't. It's no longer in your hands. There's even a certain freedom in acceptance. Will avoiding buying that fancy coffee or an ice-cream cone make any difference at all? No? Then by all means treat yourself to one of the little pleasures in life.

Now it's time for me to take some of my own advice. I'd been in the icy road financial car crash scenario and had the good fortune to land wheels down. For a number of years I didn't worry about money. Not that I had much, but expenses were under control. Over the years, however, real income has slowly gone down while expenses have gone up. It's time to pay attention again to get things back into balance. I do not want to start worrying about being able to afford a cup of coffee.

-Sixbears





15 comments:

  1. It's hitting us all. Besides us blogger types, I hear it on the phones every day at work.

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    1. Your job must give you a front row seat on the economic pulse of middle America.

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  2. Good advice. Buying yourself a treat once in a while does wonders.

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    1. Keeping one's spirits up is important.

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  3. I've found that spending cash money makes purchases more difficult and I'm more thoughtful, vs. a credit card or even a check. I guess pulling out the money (creeeeaaak! :^) has that effect on me.

    I'm too paranoid for auto bill payment. I'm afraid there will be a charge mistake and I will miss it. But thats probably just me.

    I've had several periods in my life when I find myself 'short' at the end of the month. Health costs were the cause of it. I learned to put back a bit EVERY pay check for these emergencies. Its helped a lot.

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    1. Cash does focus the mind. It seems more real than using a card. Good tip.

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  4. "Only the dead have seen the end of woe." Euripedes.

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  5. We probably all have seen the expenses increase more than the income. I'm kinda facing that right now myself.

    Buckle up, hang on, and pray!

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    1. Getting hit with some significant vehicle repairs has set me back a bit. I budget for repairs, but not at this level. Hope to get to the end of it soon.

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  6. The most important thing to remember about this life is that no one gets out alive... at the poorest level, a lot of money worries are actually fear of death, but that is coming for us all, so concern yourself with making the most out of now, without leaving a big mess for people in the future (including your future self!)

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  7. We keep getting postcards from the Neptune Society for cremation services. Mainly my hubs, now he is almost 67 he said call them and have them send some literature, if one has to worry about death and taxes as the term is used it takes up a lot of time and effort, I say we ain't gonna go until we are gonna go, my Mother in Law saw a doctor at the e/r about once a week until she died in the same hospital 22 years after we came back to this area, she was nearly 87 and had about 9 kids only 8 lived though a husband who made the kids but never stayed around to actually support and give a rat's you know what about them, I am married to the oldest he worries I will be left high and dry I don't know why, I am a skinflint and I don't care what others think of me and my clothes etc. I am neat and presentable and saved like I was going on the titanic daily..our home is paid for, we got each other, one car he drives I don't even drive, I bike it and walk it everywhere..we have only one child who does very well, she is kind & loving, I say seize the day for love and affection and let whatever happens happen..The happiest people I ever met had little money but lots of love and familia and friends..ciao!

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    1. Money certainly isn't everything. Family and friends make all the difference -one way or the other. :)

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