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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The high cost of being poor


I ran into a cousin of mine I hadn't seen recently. He never made all that much money, but always seemed to be getting by. Not lately, as it turns out. His older car needed a lot of repair work done. Then his furnace died and he could not replace it. To get through the winter he used portable electric heaters. His electric bills were over $900/month. Now he can't afford to fix the car again so is driving around on an unregistered motorcycle. If he gets caught that will set him back even more.

The plans to help poor people have hurtles of their own. My cousin discovered he qualifies for aid to get a new furnace. However, they won't buy him one because he has a lien on the house. Of course, the lien on the house is mostly due to him falling behind because of those big electric bills.

I know from personal experience it's often a pretty short and quick trip from doing fine to being on the hairy edge of disaster. Rich people suffer financial set backs, but they don't miss any meals because of it. They have resources they can draw on, family and friends who can cushion the fall. When all your friends and family are struggling like you are, there's not a lot of assistance they can give.

I live in an economically depressed area so opportunities for advancement are limited. So why don't people move to where the economy is doing better. For one thing it's not all that easy to get a job where nobody knows you and your qualifications don't stand out from the crowd. If you get a job, how will you move there? In the car that doesn't run anymore? Can you sell the house that you owe more money than it's worth? How will you get the money for an apartment?

Right now my cousin has a lot of free child care from his parents. He'd need a huge boost in income to replace that with paid child care. So people hold onto what little support they do get. They struggle along, hoping for a break.

This is a guy with a full time job who does some cash work on the side. His wife has medical problems that keep her from working. He doesn't have any drinking or drug problems. 50 years ago a guy like that would be doing pretty good. Now he can't get by at all.

I know of other people who look to be living the American Dream, but are are months behind on their house payments. There's another family who's falling behind because overtime pay dried up. His base income doesn't pay the bills.

It's seems there are a few big financial issues that are driving people to desperation. Car problems are a big one. Most people in America need a car to work -no car, no work. Medical issues are still a big one. Even if they have medical insurance, the co-pays alone can drive someone into bankruptcy. Housing is an issue not just the cost of a mortgage or rent, but things like repairs and utilities can break someone.

There are lot more people around me struggling than most people realise. People talk to me and tell me things. Maybe it's because sometimes I have some information that can make a difference. Often it's just because I can be a good listener who does not judge.

Hope things are better where you live. Here it's like an apple that looks good on the outside, but has rot deep to the core. In spite of that I woudn't want to live anywhere else. Funny how that works sometime.

-Sixbears

18 comments:

  1. Sorry your cousin is having a hard stretch. Some times its poor planning and not knowing alternative ways of living. Sometimes life treats you like a football and kicks the hell out of you for no reason. You may not be able to help financial but knowledge and advice can go further if he will take it.

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    1. I think he was just happy to have someone to talk to about all this.

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  2. I know the feeling. I'd counted on good health and overtime this summer, but am having neither. It makes it rough.

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    1. Hope you feel better soon. It seems that if you could get 6 months without any sort of problem you could get ahead a bit. Doesn't seem like too much to ask for, but it's slow in coming, isn't it?

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  3. Life isn't fair for a lot of people. These days just a small error of judgement can have huge ramifications. We live in crippling times. Unfortunately it's not going to get better anytime soon I think...

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    1. I think this is what collapse looks like. Thing just keep getting a bit worse all the time.

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  4. I saw the title of your post on Oklahoma Transient's blog list and couldn't resist a visit. We've always struggled to make ends meet so I can relate. Fortunately we've been able to stay out of debt except for a mortgage, which helps. Along those lines, it's always baffled me why interest rates are highest for those lease able to pay them, the poor. Everything is geared toward breaks for the rich, which the lower levels having to shoulder the burden. My heart goes out to your cousin. When the only goal a society has is the accumulation of wealth, the toll on human need is horrific.

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    1. Staying out of debt is huge -if you can do it.

      Society is focused on wealth, but that hardly seems like the way for humans to live.

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  5. I have found that a poor person needs to stay far away from newer cars as all off the government mandates such as air bag systems which will fail if a cup of even water is dumped in a seat. The cost of repair is like totaling the car into a tree since the warning light comes on and it won't pass inspection. Obviously one would want a working airbag but if it errors then you are screwed. There are just so many mandated systems that can fail and they seem to just be micromanaging the car with them, fine if they work but not if you cant repair the problems which weren't problems 30 years ago.

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    1. An old car that needs constant repair can break you too. Even if you can do most of the work yourself, parts are not cheap.

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  6. Rural areas are hit the hardest. Years ago everyone wanted to live in the country and didn't mind traveling to work. Now people are moving back to the towns and cities just trying to find any type of work. So many homes for sale are going for half of what people paid for them only 10 years ago.

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    1. 10 years ago, had I wanted to, I could have sold my house for twice what it's valued at now. It'd be worse than that but it has some market value as a vacation home.

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  7. I'm sorry to hear about your cousin. I wonder if he (or someone could for him) try to get help through GoFundMe.

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    1. I hope something breaks his way soon.

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  8. Things here in the Blue Ridge mountains are about like your area. There are the well off people who live at the lake, or those who bulldozed a mountain top flat and build a glass and chrome monstrosity on it so they could look down on everyone else. Then there are the vast majority, mainly retirees here, who live decent lives but are one disaster from the whole house of cards collapsing.

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    1. It's funny, I live on the lake, but could never afford to by here if my dad hadn't already owned the land. He bought in years ago and got a great deal back then. Even property values around the lake have dropped a lot.

      Most folks are just one disaster away from calamity.

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  9. Hermit's Baby SisJuly 27, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    So true, Sixbears. I have a friend who's just a few years from retirement, has a nice nest egg, but a mountain of old credit card debt. He knows he needs to be debt-free before retirement, and is doing the best he can to pay it down, but is terrified to use his 401 to pay it off in case of disaster. Some dilemma ...

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    1. At least he has options. Worse comes to worse the credit companies can go hang. That's better than going hungry.

      Tough decisions as one gets older.

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