Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I am the 99% and NO I can't afford that!

Based on the 2010 US Census I am under the median income for the State I live in and under the US median income.  Money is always a hot issue with me and today I’m going to visit money issues.  It is my opinion that we have to talk about money issues. 

Today’s post looks at the overall misunderstanding of what people can afford to have or buy.

I've found over the course of my life that a lot people who have money assume -  that everyone can have and do what they have and do.  They are so removed from how other people live that in some cases they say things that are almost downright rude and offensive to others - based on money issues.  They have no idea what they just said is inappropriate.  They just don't understand.

It is my opinion that anyone or household that makes over $100,000 per year – has absolutely no idea how the rest of us live.  Yes, they may have been “poor” at one time in their life – but they have totally forgotten what it means to live from paycheck to paycheck – which is what most of us do who are at or below the median income.

I can hear someone whining out there – I only make $100,000 a year and things are not so good for me.  Oh, shut up!  Or – there they go again – $100,000 isn’t that much, I’m not any better off than when I was making $40,000.  Shut up!  Or – she doesn’t understand how frugal I am.  Being frugal equals more money in the bank or in investments – Shut Up!

It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you earn (or don’t earn) – we all pay the same rates for electricity, natural gas, water, gallon of gasoline, a quart of milk or a loaf of bread.  People forget that it doesn’t matter how much money you earn (or don’t earn) –certain things the cost is the same for everybody.  People don’t realize that a crappy apartment can cost as much as a mortgage payment on a modest home.  The impact of these “fixed” costs hit people earning less - harder.  Buying gas to drive to work is a major issue for someone making $40,000 a year – not so much for someone making $100,000 a year.

The items listed below are real – I asked around and added to my own list.  The things below are real for a lot of people and only briefly touch on the tip of the iceberg of money issues that 99% of the people people encounter on a daily basis.

If you don’t think they are real situations or you can’t understand why they would be issues– then you really have no idea how the others deal with day to day issues.  Those who live it – understand it and believe it – because it’s real.
  • I don’t walk for exercise – I walk places because I have to.  Why does everyone assume people can afford a car?
  • Put away money for a rainy day? WHAT?     after my bills are paid, food is bought and gas is put in the car, there is nothing left!
  • Every time I have to take off work for any reason (dentist, doctor (me or my kids) sick, child sick, have to go to the my kids school)– I lose pay – when I lose pay, my problems multiply.
  • On-going problem: when the due date of my bills and the date of my paychecks never coordinate
  • On-going stress: Desperately need a second job – can’t find one
  • On-going stress: Have no idea what I will do if my car breaks down.
  • Choices – Buy gas to go to work or buy food
  • Choices – Buy a gift for boss at holidays (expected) or gift for my kids – can’t do both
  • Choices – bring food for the potluck at work or go without food at home – can’t do both
  • Choices – go to the company holiday party (because I have to) – try to figure out how I am going to pay for the extra gas, the extra parking, the money for a sitter.  Company holiday luncheon across town – how am I supposed to get there and back?
  • Choices – Secret Santa at work is ONLY $20 – are you nuts?
  • Choices – I can go visit my family for Christmas – but I can’t afford presents for them.
  • Regularly go without lunch or dinner – because gas is more important.
  • You want me to go out and buy four lunches for your business meeting and use my checkbook or my credit card (both which don't have enough money in them for your business lunch).  Are you joking?
  • I bring my own lunch to work – Subway is not an option for me – PLEASE don’t ask me to go with you.
  • My health insurance at work will pay $20 a month toward a health club membership if I go there 12 times a month?  They consider that a perk on my health benefits?  What planet are they from if they think I can afford a health club membership?  How am I going to pay for that ($20 doesn’t even come close to covering the cost)?  and the extra gas? to get there and the time away from my kids?
  • Company sponsored HSA – with a $1,500 deductible literally means no health insurance for me.  To the boss it’s a great “tax credit” – to me it means shit!  Where do they  think I’m going to get $1,500 00 from to put into an HSA to pay for medical expenses?
  • A scholarship for my kid(s) to attend something or do something special doesn’t help if transportation isn’t included.
  • I can’t afford new glasses, I need new glasses.
  • I don’t go to the dentist unless there is a problem and then something else is not going to get paid.
  • I’ve gone from basic cable to no cable – which means no TV reception or really bad TV reception.  My only source of entertainment is gone. Everyone says I should start reading – reading what – I can’t afford cable, so that means I can’t afford to buy books.  Going to the library isn’t an option – it means extra gas to drive to and from the library.
  • Everyone assumes you have a fancy phone, high speed internet and that’s not so – people don’t realize how much others DON’T have.
  • Can’t even dream of owning a LED flat screen TV – someone told me I could get one on Black Friday for ONLY $299 – ONLY – are they joking????
  • You’re going on vacation to somewhere nice (again, sigh)… can’t even dream of doing that.
  • Company decided to donate money on my behalf to a charity at the holidays, instead of giving us the turkey which I really needed.
  • I get a holiday present from my boss that makes absolutely no sense to me, based on my needs / wants.  Really bothers me that other people can just waste money like that.
  • You think I should be donating “how much?” to retirement – Are you joking? – I don’t care if there is a match – I can’t afford that.

Everything that is on the list above is a non-issue for people who have money.
And I said before – those that have – have absolutely no idea how those that don’t live.

I am the 99% - these other folks are the 99%.
The items on this list are real and we have to know that and we have to listen and we have to start NOT assuming that others can do what we can do - regardless of our income level.

Having these types of discussions is difficult – but these discussions have to happen, so we can better understand.

We need to say these things out loud, rather than be embarrassed to say them.
We have to say out loud, "I can't afford that" - and not be embarassed when we say it.
The truth doesn't hurt anyone.  It's what is real!

We should not be embarassed - we are not alone.
It just feels like we are alone - because we don't vocalize what is happening.
We have to start saying out loud, "I can't afford that" - Otherwise no one will ever understand.
It's what is real - it is not an embarassment - it is what must be done.
That is the only way we can help others understand.

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