Poverty Isn’t a Choice

Poverty isnt a choice

It astounds me how often I hear people comment on how poor and homeless people should get out there and act toward a better future. They use language that you hear self-help gurus use, like, “Everything in life is a choice.”

This language works to sell books and expensive programs to people who long for an existence that will likely never come to pass. We would see many more successful people if willpower were all it took. This mindset blames the victim by planting the idea that they were lazy and it’s their fault for being sick or poor.

Escaping poverty and building wealth really does “take money to make money,” as the old saying goes.

In an interview, an honest financial advisor stated outright that wealth building has nothing to do with skipping your daily latte at the coffee shop. In that scenario, you may save $40 a week. That’s not going to make you a millionaire. That might not even save you enough to take a trip to Disney by the end of the year.

She went on to talk about real wealth building, and that was all about stocks and bonds and investment accounts and stuff that is truly alien to a person like me. But I know she was right.

The people I know who have any money and savings all have a stock portfolio and work with investment advisors, and they are investing many thousands of dollars. Being frugal about purchases would help save a little money, but it won’t make you rich. It doesn’t mean you can feel secure for life about housing.

So, tell me, how is a poverty-stricken person or the average homeless person supposed to make these massive investments that generate true wealth and financial security? Where is the money it takes to make money? Even if a poor person is frugal to the extent possible, they’re probably unable to put money away.

Then the critics say that people should get a job. Yes, many people DO work. Others would love to, but they aren’t qualified for jobs that pay a living wage. Or, they are too disabled to work, or they are past retirement age and not up to going out to work and earning a viable living.

Recently, I saw someone comment about the minimum wage still being under $8 an hour in many states. They said that no one in high school needs to earn anything over $12 an hour. What utter ignorance!

This is where the seeds are sown – people are devalued from the start of their work life.

Did this commenter ever stop to think that some kids are ambitious and want to start saving young? They might want to put money away toward college because their parents cannot help financially.

Perhaps the comment was made by a much older person who grew up in a very different era where teens earned a few bucks mowing the neighbor’s lawn to buy a malt at the local diner. But that isn’t today’s reality.

People who need to work three jobs to barely stay afloat have no time to get enough rest, no time or energy to cook healthy meals, and likely no money to buy quality food. Without a good head start, they can’t break out of the endless cycle of despair and will likely have chronic health problems at a young age.

I know a woman who is not even 40 yet and falls squarely into this description.

She works three jobs that are $12 an hour and still can’t make ends meet between rent, vehicle expenses, insurance, medical expenses, and all the other bills that beat her down. She has a growing list of chronic illness issues and isn’t even 40.

Where do you think she will be in ten years? No one can endure this kind of relentless abuse. The body wasn’t made to work so much with so little time off to recover.

Her family was impoverished, and through no fault of her own, she couldn’t break the cycle. She’s been working since she was 17 years old. Do you call that lazy? She has worked multiple jobs since her teens and is still at risk of homelessness!

I’d hardly call her the problem. It’s the system and society that is broken. Until that is fixed (which I am sure will never be), most people will not be able to break the cycle.

Those self-help gurus who sell books and seminars on building wealth say, “Everything is a choice,” which is very easy to say when you have a choice.

Its also amazing how many of those “gurus” claim to have been eating out of dumpsters in the back of a McDonald’s when they suddenly “made the choice” to dust themselves off and go to their friends and family, ask for loans to invest in real estate and other investments, and wa-la! Wealthy!

So let me get this straight:

The same friends and family who let you live as a homeless man and eat discarded food out of a dumpster were suddenly willing to loan you thousands upon thousands of dollars to invest in real estate and other investments, trusting that your expertise on the subject would afford you great wealth for yourself and the ability to pay them all back in a reasonable time?

So these “gurus” were wandering around knowing how to build actual wealth but chose to live homeless because?

Or did they, while wandering the land, meet a wealth expert who imparted the knowledge to them (free of charge), and then they called their family and friends who’d previously not helped them and convinced them all to loan them a lot of money?

Or maybe they found a “How to Get Rich” book in a dumpster next to a 30-minute-old Big Mac and some stale fries.

The fact is, Not everything is a choice.

There is a saying, “Life is what happens while you’re making plans.”

Circumstances beyond my control destroyed all my plans. So, I can “choose” to be happy today? That translates to, “I can choose to ignore the list of ailments I have and the list of horrors I am facing and put on a fake, plastic smile.”

But those things aren’t going away because I will them away.

Positive thinking has benefits, but there is a difference between positive thinking and denial. Certainly, unless you’ve been homeless or on the edge of it, you can’t know the horror. And if you truly can “choose happiness,” don’t forget to be grateful for the luck and circumstances that made that possible in your life. The universe is not so benevolent to everyone.

Homeless Loki

Homeless Loki


Homeless Loki is a disabled homeless person also on the autism spectrum currently homeless in upstate New York

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