Author Topic: Stories from the poor  (Read 4184 times)

arebelspy

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Stories from the poor
« on: March 31, 2017, 06:55:47 PM »
I'm putting this in Off Topic, though it clearly is related to money.

The closest subforum we have, I suppose, is Antimustachian Wall of Shame and Comedy, as these stories are fairly Antimustachian, in that they're about people bad with money, but it doesn't quite fit there, as you'll see below.

I've been feeling a lot more empathy as of late, in general, and especially for people struggling with money.

Here on the MMM forums, we often "facepunch" those who make money mistakes (see: Antimustachian subforum), but I think there's a clear difference between people who currently have lavish amounts of wealth and are blowing it in ridiculous ways (though you might feel bad for them in other ways), and people who are currently genuinely struggling to get by (yes, even if they were previously some of the former, and are in the situation they're in due to their own choices).

I find it hard to feel anything but empathy for people struggling, and reading these money stories from the poor helps me get some perspective and gratitude for what I have.  I enjoy reading them, even if they make me uncomfortable.  I hope you might enjoy them as well, and perhaps share some of your own, either anecdotes, or links to longer stories.

With that in mind, I present two true narratives that I've recently read.

1) A Shot In The Arm. In this story, a tenure-track professor has massive student loans and begins to sell his plasma as a side-gig to help pay his rent.

2) Falling. A Pultzer-winning Washington Post book critic talks about descending into poverty as he ages.

Please refrain from mocking or making excuses why these people "deserve" it, or anything to that effect. Feel free to start an Antimustachian thread about them, if you desire, but that is not the purpose of this thread. Cheers!
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WhiteTrashCash

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2017, 08:05:10 PM »
I grew up in poverty and survived childhood thanks to government welfare programs. It was a very difficult way to live and a lot of people didn't have empathy for me. I got my first job at 14, which is the earliest you are allowed to legally work in the United States, and I have worked ever since. I've never been unemployed longer than six months. Only recently, however, was I able to join the middle class. For some reason, most people seem to need to personally experience poverty to be able to understand the struggle of it. Not knowing how to save yourself. Not having opportunities or even being able to understand those opportunities when a miracle arrives. The hopelessness and despair that sap your will to improve your life or sometimes even your will to live.

I feel badly for the kids like myself who were mocked for having holes in their shoes or having to eat free school lunch, because their parents couldn't or didn't provide better for them. It's terrible to be shamed for something you really can't do much about. When I was a teenager, I ended up buying my own clothes and food, but that didn't leave a lot left for trying to build a future for myself when I only earned minimum wage.

Thank God for student loans. That ended up being the golden ticket that allowed me to escape from being poor. I'm one of the lucky ones.

jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2017, 10:19:23 PM »
ARS, I was just saying to a visiting forum friend that I have witnessed your empathy develop over the past while, and that this has been a beautiful experience for me :)

My life and work have made clear to me that countless variables can result in real poverty -even in "developed" regions- and that poverty can be very tricky to get out of. It certainly CAN be done -we see that on the forum all the time- but depending on the factors that created it in the first place, it can require a weird amount of navigating to pull off such an exit and then to maintain that security.

On this topic, the book Scarcity (Shafir +) is groovy.

LonerMatt

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2017, 03:25:24 AM »
My current job (teacher at a school for students who have experienced trauma and will not attend other schools, or have been expelled) puts me in contact with extreme poverty daily.

It's lazy to say that people in this situation are there because of their choices. When their lives have literally affected their brain development (for the worse) it's a very haughty and slovenly attitude that families in extreme poverty could make more of their situation. Especially when drug, alcohol and generation violence are a part of the picture.

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Alim Nassor

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2017, 03:45:02 AM »
I too have empathy for the poor, but these 2 stories about people with huge debts and graduate degrees confound me.   People seem to equate higher education with success, no matter the cost.    I have an Associate degree, basically a trade school diploma, and will make 100k this year from my W-2 job.  Neither of my sons have anything beyond that yet one of them makes in the 250k range each year, and the other will make ~150k.  The higher paid one is a rig welder and the lower paid one is a pipe fitter.   My daughter is an RN.   She makes about 80k.  Good money for our area, and she is engaged to a man who is self employed doing things like baling hay, building metal buildings and fences and he makes damn good money too.

I see the years and dollars spent reaching for the brass ring of a PhD only to have the ring snatched from their hands and a millstone dropped around their neck and all I can do is shake my head and feel pity.


DoubleDown

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2017, 09:41:33 AM »
These stories always make me struggle between empathy and wanting to shake sense into people. While I feel bad for the people in the situation (and of course children who have no say in the matter), I have a lot of difficulty with people often profiled in stories like these who are struggling and taking handouts and claiming how "impossible it is to get ahead" while simultaneously smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, buying cases of beer every week, tapping things into their new iPhone7, etc. I don't know where to draw the line between empathy + help, and forcing people to take some responsibility for their lives.
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jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2017, 10:10:30 AM »
I hear ya, DoubleDown.

For figuring out that line, I like the models presented by the codependency field. Never a simple answer of what action to take or not take, but the lens helps me make my decisions as I go along.

For one neighbour -hard working, no alcohol, etc, spends infinitely less than the norm in our wealthy region yet much more than I do- I gave emergency cash and/or food in two instances, and subsequently have offered to support her in (a) writing up a budget and (b) navigating help-agencies. No more material gifts, per my awareness of her spending patterns.

This week I really struggled to not give a near-stranger $1000. He too is awesome, hardworking, good, clean-living, has saved up money...and circumstances meant he would ideally have a bit of transitional funding. On the other hand, does providing that prevent him from saving more for his needs? Does not providing that help him make some hard decisions? Dunno!

For me, the empathy is the easy part. Determining what actions to take, not so much! But yeah, the codependency filters help me somewhat with this.

MrsStubble

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2017, 10:14:27 AM »
maybe we need to initiate a sympathy facepunch for those who need a correction, but don't deserve a nosebleed?   I mean, i have full sympathy/empathy for people who are struggling to survive and really just have no idea what they are doing with money and are suffering for that.  They aren't lazy, entitled, or purposely making bad life choices just because they don't want to sacrifice a luxury. They are just trying to get by... sometimes in horrible situations.

 I have done volunteer work for years doing money classes in Wilm, DE for the "unbanked" population.  I give them a lot of information, i feel like 5% of it gets through to 1% of the attendees.  That's ok, it's enough to keep me doing it, even if the results are low, but i feel like I could do more. We could do more.  Maybe the mustacian community in general can crowdsource ideas to get the message out to people in poverty?  Free classes?  A manual that can be distributed at foodbanks or something?
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jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2017, 10:29:18 AM »
^ I wrote a book! :)    Linked to in signature. Case advocacy, workshops, then this have been my big efforts.

Love your bar for where the classes remain worth it for you to keep teaching, MrsStubble! I feel like most of my own financial evolution (from the streets) was a result of exactly that -people finding the "1% of the 5%" worth working for. I think I was one of those people, and it was most certainly lifechanging. I've done heaps to try to pay that forward :)     So, on behalf of those you are gifting, thank you!!

little_brown_dog

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2017, 12:41:56 PM »
I am completely with you ARS. As someone who managed to get herself 100k in student loan debt, I know that it is really easy for otherwise smart, good people to end up in difficult financial circumstances. All it takes is a few naïve mistakes – like going to that prestigious college, or getting that graduate degree that everyone tells you will definitely pay off. Academia is a financial minefield and NO ONE tells young people that.  I can honestly say from personal experience, it is REALLY difficult to dig out from massive student debt on a 40-50k/yr gross income, even if you are super frugal and don’t have a car, or buy anything nice. I was able to eliminate my debt in 5 years….as a DINK and with a husband who made way more than me and routinely received generous bonuses and raises due to his lucrative industry position. The truth is, most of the money that paid off that debt came from my husband, not me. On my own, or even with a partner who made less, such rapid repayment never would have been possible.

MrsStubble

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2017, 12:47:31 PM »
^ I wrote a book! :)    Linked to in signature. Case advocacy, workshops, then this have been my big efforts.

Love your bar for where the classes remain worth it for you to keep teaching, MrsStubble! I feel like most of my own financial evolution (from the streets) was a result of exactly that -people finding the "1% of the 5%" worth working for. I think I was one of those people, and it was most certainly lifechanging. I've done heaps to try to pay that forward :)     So, on behalf of those you are gifting, thank you!!

Jooniflorisploo thanks!  "Hey read this book it changed my life" is how i got started too.  Someone gave this poor immigrant's kid working in Barnes & Noble to pay for community college a tip to read "Rich Dad Poor Dad" which opened the door for me.  It took me years and lots of help to figure it out from there, but I was the same way! I teach to pay it forward as well.  I will check your book out! 
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marion10

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2017, 12:48:17 PM »
My husband and I are in the minority of our classmates who do not have advanced degrees- and we are definitely in better financial shape then most of them. I have a classmate who at age 55 finally landed a tenure track job. Another is pushing 60 and still trying to land one. We live in a very capitalistic society that is not forgiving of mistakes.

FireLane

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2017, 07:03:20 AM »
This thread reminds me of that old joke that experience is the thing you don't get until just after you need it.

On one hand, I feel like it'd be easy to blame the people in these stories for their financial misfortune. They're smart, well-educated, middle-class people who should have known full well what they were getting into. How could anyone have believed that taking on this much debt for a humanities degree was a good idea? What jobs and salaries were they expecting to get? Did they ever run the numbers?

On the other hand: Was I any better than them with money when I went to college? Not really. My CS degree has a higher ROI, but that's not why I picked it, I picked it because I liked computers and programming seemed like it would be fun. I happened to graduate in a time and place where those skills were in demand and led to a good job, but if I'm being honest, that was good luck, not foresight.

If you've never had to balance a checkbook or stick to a household budget, a debt total is just a number on a sheet of paper. How could anyone be expected to know, at the age of 18, the concrete ways it will impact their life for the next few decades? It's scarily easy to go through life never learning this stuff. That's all the more true considering the way we drum into young people's heads that higher education is never a bad investment and that you can't go wrong in life if you've got that degree.

Freedomin5

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2017, 07:41:42 AM »
My biggest takeaway from reading all the posts is that giving money doesn't solve the problem. Educating people on how to manage their money or solve their own problems solves problems.

It's really about broadening people's world views and letting them know there is another way to think about the world. That, and a bit of luck, because some of the people I've met here have been plain unlucky. I can't really fault someone for being poor if there are genuinely no opportunities here for some people.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2017, 10:34:30 AM »
This thread reminds me of that old joke that experience is the thing you don't get until just after you need it.

On one hand, I feel like it'd be easy to blame the people in these stories for their financial misfortune. They're smart, well-educated, middle-class people who should have known full well what they were getting into. How could anyone have believed that taking on this much debt for a humanities degree was a good idea? What jobs and salaries were they expecting to get? Did they ever run the numbers?

On the other hand: Was I any better than them with money when I went to college? Not really. My CS degree has a higher ROI, but that's not why I picked it, I picked it because I liked computers and programming seemed like it would be fun. I happened to graduate in a time and place where those skills were in demand and led to a good job, but if I'm being honest, that was good luck, not foresight.

If you've never had to balance a checkbook or stick to a household budget, a debt total is just a number on a sheet of paper. How could anyone be expected to know, at the age of 18, the concrete ways it will impact their life for the next few decades? It's scarily easy to go through life never learning this stuff. That's all the more true considering the way we drum into young people's heads that higher education is never a bad investment and that you can't go wrong in life if you've got that degree.

I think this is the key piece of it….20 year olds are actually not that great at thinking through really long term consequences. The brain is still developing it’s analytic capacity during the traditional college years, and it is unreasonable to expect an 18-20yr old to have the same type of foresight as a 30 year old, especially if they have not been taught personal finance and good habits from their own parents. People who say “well they should have just KNOWN” are missing a key point – just because you know something intellectually (someone told you, you read it, etc), doesn’t mean you fully absorb that information intuitively and can successfully navigate all the possible long term consequences that might flow from such a decision. A typical 18 year old college student knows 100k in debt is a big number and a scary number…but they don’t know what it can MEAN for them at 25 or 30 years old - not getting the wedding or home you want, not being able to save for retirement, financial instability, etc.

I made the decision to go to grad school and fund it with loans at the age of 21. I knew that I should keep the loan amount as low as possible, and that I should work to pay for expenses, and that I would need to be diligent about paying them back. I thought I was being financially responsible by only taking out the minimum I needed for tuition, getting some scholarships, and using a patchwork of part time jobs to cover my living expenses. But I didn’t really comprehend just how big of an impact those tuition loans could have on my future self, and my lack of awareness was not helped by all the people I trusted (family, friends, professors) who were urging me to go. I suspect the vast majority of kids at that age are in a similar boat.

BeanCounter

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2017, 10:55:26 AM »
I think we would do our youth a big favor if we did more education in finance in high schools and also more career counseling. So many kids are not aware of all the career and education options are out there for them. Most of them only think of what their parents and grandparents do for a living.
I would also like to see schools bring back Home Economics to teach cooking and budgeting.

SomedayStache

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2017, 11:08:11 AM »
I have done volunteer work for years doing money classes in Wilm, DE for the "unbanked" population.  I give them a lot of information, i feel like 5% of it gets through to 1% of the attendees.  That's ok, it's enough to keep me doing it, even if the results are low, but i feel like I could do more. We could do more.  Maybe the mustacian community in general can crowdsource ideas to get the message out to people in poverty?  Free classes?  A manual that can be distributed at foodbanks or something?

I was a newly married, 20 year old, full-time college student & full-time waitress barely scraping by (as in "I need $30 bucks in tips tonight to make rent tomorrow" and I 'borrowed' extra toilet paper rolls from the university stalls!).  Hubbie and I tried to apply for a car loan at the credit union affiliated with my university.  The lady processing our loan application took extra time out of her day to explain to us why we didn't qualify for their loan, she brought to my attention the 2 credit cards I had opened a year before in a different state and didn't even realize I had (probably opened them for a free t-shirt or something and then moved away before the actual card arrived in the mail.), she talked about credit scores and gaining access to 3 free annual credit scores, she walked me through how I could contact the credit card companies about my mystery credit cards.

We didn't get a loan at that credit union.  We ended up getting fleeced by Wells Fargo instead with a $3k loan that had something like $1500 of fees.  It was a learning experience and because of that one conversation with the helpful bank officer I followed up on my credit cards and I started learning about credit scores and how to qualify for loans.  It was the beginning of my journey to personal finance knowledge and I tried to look up that loan officer a few years later to let her know how that one simple conversation had ended up changing our financial direction.  I never found her.  If she were to remember us it would probably be as one of those 'lost cause' couples.  But we weren't!

So maybe you are helping more than 5% of people.  Or maybe you're putting a bug in their ear that they will follow up on sometime later. 

jengod

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2017, 11:18:29 AM »
I would like to contribute pointers to two childhood-memoir books about living with less joyfully and incredibly resourcefully:

* Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

* Little Britches and sequel Man of the Family by Ralph Moody
« Last Edit: April 03, 2017, 01:12:00 PM by jengod »
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FireLane

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2017, 12:29:50 PM »
Thinking about this some more, one change in the law that would really help would be to make it possible to wipe out student loans through bankruptcy. That's pretty much impossible right now.

From the lender's perspective, I see why that makes sense. You can't repossess an education. There shouldn't be an incentive for a young person with no assets to graduate and then file for an immediate strategic default.

But that just creates a bad incentive in the other direction. If you can never get free of student loans, the lenders have no reason not to aid and abet youthful ignorance and irresponsibility. They'll happily give you as much money as you want with no concern for the cost or earning potential of your degree. Not our problem that someone took on six figures of debt to attend the cool college with the rock-climbing wall and the pool tables!

If student loans could be discharged through bankruptcy, even if it were difficult, the lenders would have to be more cautious. They'd start denying loans for excessive tuition bills that offer bad value. Colleges would have to charge less for degrees with less earning power. They'd be forced to cut down on bureaucratic deadwood and lavish campus amenities. Bottom-feeder for-profit schools would go out of business entirely, and good riddance. Best of all, tuition costs would have to fall in line with the actual expected lifetime value of the degree.

solon

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2017, 12:33:49 PM »
I too have empathy for the poor, but these 2 stories about people with huge debts and graduate degrees confound me.   People seem to equate higher education with success, no matter the cost.    I have an Associate degree, basically a trade school diploma, and will make 100k this year from my W-2 job.  Neither of my sons have anything beyond that yet one of them makes in the 250k range each year, and the other will make ~150k.  The higher paid one is a rig welder and the lower paid one is a pipe fitter.   My daughter is an RN.   She makes about 80k.  Good money for our area, and she is engaged to a man who is self employed doing things like baling hay, building metal buildings and fences and he makes damn good money too.

I see the years and dollars spent reaching for the brass ring of a PhD only to have the ring snatched from their hands and a millstone dropped around their neck and all I can do is shake my head and feel pity.

I have a son who is a welder. When I told him about this, he wants to know if your rig-welder son is on an oil rig? Or does he have his own rig? And are they hiring?

jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #20 on: April 03, 2017, 12:35:42 PM »
Firelane, love it!!!

In a related vein, I like what's happening here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/nova-scotia-private-colleges-students-conditions-jobs-1.4039896

Quote
Before enrolling for certain programs at some private colleges, students must sign letters acknowledging they may have to move away to find employment, or that they don't even need the course to get a job in their desired line of work.

golden1

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #21 on: April 04, 2017, 08:57:32 AM »
My mother is one of these stories.  It is really heart breaking, and while a lot of my mom's story is about making some bad choices, I really believe that trauma complicates everything and can make it tremendously difficult to walk the right path, even with the best natural gifts and a lot of hard work.

My mom was repeatedly physically and sexually abused by a family member as a child.  She was also extremely bright and ambitious.  She made it out of her home environment and went to college, getting a degree in Medical Technology (essentially a masters level degree).  She worked really hard and had a successful career.  Her home life was not so easy.  She married my father, who suffered from depression and was an alcoholic.  My mother was also depressed, and so the two of them were a bad combination, and they divorced when I was 5.  My mother met a man who was almost the direct opposite of personality to my father, but he was verbally and psychologically abusive.  My mother began to suffer bouts of severe depression and later self medicated with alcohol.  She was able to remain high functioning and continue to advance her career to management level.  By the time she was my age, she was managing the blood lab at one of the world's best hospitals.  At the same time, she was essentially being terrorized at home, and went to for multiple stays in mental institutions for a week or so at a time for suicide attempts.  (Very little of this was known to me at the time as I was in high school and college and it was hidden - I was told my mom was on business trips).

My mom was under complete control of my stepfather, and was convinced to leave her career and travel with him to the caribbean to charter boats (Boating was one of their hobbies).  For a variety of reasons, this failed disastrously and they lost all of their money and savings.  When she came back to the states, she was able to get a job very quickly.  She ended up supporting my step-father who as an attorney had a harder time establishing himself.  Also, he began suffering mental health issues of his own.  Eventually, after some very high drama antics on her part, I helped her obtain a divorce. 

Being naive, and not ever really seeing my mom without my step-fathers problems to overshadow her own, I thought that now that she was free of him, she would begin to finally enjoy her life and things would get better.  She had a good job, and seemed to be doing well, but the self medicating with alcohol had, without my knowledge, become worse.  She got fired from one job, got another, kept it for a year, got fired, and then could not find another job.  She was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, and she was placed on disability. 

For whatever reason, and I have never really been able to get much out of her, she has absolutely nothing saved from 40 years of working.  She seems really embarrassed about it, and I haven't pushed her very hard to explain why.    My guess is she thought that she either didn't need to save since my stepfather made a lot of money as an attorney when they were married, or maybe she took loans out.  But either way, now she lives on a few thousand in disability payments a month plus a little left over from her when her mother passed on.  Her health has rapidly deteriorated and she had a major health scare last year when she had a clot in her aorta that nearly killed her.  She is a shell, physically, emotionally and spiritually of the woman she once was. 

To see someone go from being fully functional and seemingly strong in youth and middle age to decline to this point is very troubling.  If you were to ask me if it was because she made poor decisions, I would say "Yes".  If you were to ask me if it was due to forces beyond her control I would also say "Yes".

Sometimes, I breeze through these forums and I sense a certain amount of fear and denial.  People desperately WANT to believe (see avatar) that their lives are fully in their control, and that nothing could ever happen, that they can run away from the demons of the past that haunt them, but I can tell you that sometimes they never really go away, and re emerge in ways that you can't anticipate.  When stuff happens to you in childhood, it shapes who you are, and makes you have gut reactions to situations before your brain kicks in and gives you time to think it through.  It makes you seek out people that aren't necessarily good for you, and makes decisions that seem to be completely irrational to others make sense to your brain.

So my advice to most people when it comes to finances is that most of the time, your financial temperament is rooted in your personality and experiences.  Get to know and understand the feelings behind what you spend your money on, and really reflect on that.  Poverty is such a hard problem because it isn't a money problem, it's a people problem. 

jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2017, 09:07:08 AM »
(((golden1))) ....phenomenal post!

bwall

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #23 on: April 04, 2017, 10:08:19 AM »
I grew up in poverty and survived childhood thanks to government welfare programs. It was a very difficult way to live and a lot of people didn't have empathy for me. I got my first job at 14, which is the earliest you are allowed to legally work in the United States, and I have worked ever since. I've never been unemployed longer than six months. Only recently, however, was I able to join the middle class. For some reason, most people seem to need to personally experience poverty to be able to understand the struggle of it. Not knowing how to save yourself. Not having opportunities or even being able to understand those opportunities when a miracle arrives. The hopelessness and despair that sap your will to improve your life or sometimes even your will to live.

I feel badly for the kids like myself who were mocked for having holes in their shoes or having to eat free school lunch, because their parents couldn't or didn't provide better for them. It's terrible to be shamed for something you really can't do much about. When I was a teenager, I ended up buying my own clothes and food, but that didn't leave a lot left for trying to build a future for myself when I only earned minimum wage.

Thank God for student loans. That ended up being the golden ticket that allowed me to escape from being poor. I'm one of the lucky ones.

Congrats on getting out of poverty. Your story is more inspirational because of how far you came. I hope you are able to stay in the middle class and raise your children in better conditions than you experienced.

A couple of years ago I was at the bank once in a HCOL area, filled with wealthy Americans. The woman in front of me was the only other customer in the bank. She was talking about the charity work that she was doing in some far-off country, to help people get out of poverty. And, she made an aside that struck with me, 'In America we don't care about the poor.' Meaning, we Americans care more about the poor in another country than we do about the poor people next door.

I grew up in a LCOL area filled with poor people, and I knew instinctively that she was right. I'd never heard it vocalized quite like that, though.

And, to me this thread about poverty just re-inforces that statement.

iris lily

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #24 on: April 04, 2017, 11:11:19 AM »
I would like to contribute pointers to two childhood-memoir books about living with less joyfully and incredibly resourcefully:

* Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

* Little Britches and sequel Man of the Family by Ralph Moody

Little Heathens describes my father's childhood on a farm. Different times for sure. He would be nearly 100 if still alive. I don't know how much of that is relevant today but , but some of it is.

That is the book where the mom had an insight that stuck with me. She never sent her kids in a group of 3 to do any chore because two always gang up on one. This is sticking in my head today because
I have two foster/rescue dogs here and they have formed a coalition against my own dog. Prior to dog #3 coming in, my dog and Rescue #2 got along fine.


Tasty Pinecones

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #25 on: April 05, 2017, 11:04:48 AM »
What an educational experience this forum is. I am thankful.

dca

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #26 on: April 05, 2017, 07:26:05 PM »
Profile of a child living in NYC's shelter system:

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/?chapt=0

Long heart-breaking read.

Alim Nassor

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #27 on: April 05, 2017, 08:34:48 PM »
I too have empathy for the poor, but these 2 stories about people with huge debts and graduate degrees confound me.   People seem to equate higher education with success, no matter the cost.    I have an Associate degree, basically a trade school diploma, and will make 100k this year from my W-2 job.  Neither of my sons have anything beyond that yet one of them makes in the 250k range each year, and the other will make ~150k.  The higher paid one is a rig welder and the lower paid one is a pipe fitter.   My daughter is an RN.   She makes about 80k.  Good money for our area, and she is engaged to a man who is self employed doing things like baling hay, building metal buildings and fences and he makes damn good money too.

I see the years and dollars spent reaching for the brass ring of a PhD only to have the ring snatched from their hands and a millstone dropped around their neck and all I can do is shake my head and feel pity.

I have a son who is a welder. When I told him about this, he wants to know if your rig-welder son is on an oil rig? Or does he have his own rig? And are they hiring?

He has his own rig, a 1 ton truck with an SA300 welder and all the tools in the back.   He works on various projects around the country.  Rarely on an oil well site, but lots of refineries and food processing plants.   If your son wants to do the same he needs to be able to pass a 6G tests and other things I don't remember.   Like being able to do a root and cap tig weld?   It may take a while to get a reputation, but once he does, it's usually easy to find work. 

ElleFiji

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #28 on: April 05, 2017, 09:02:06 PM »
This is a wonderful thread, and I'm so happy to see all the empathy here. I came so close to many of these stories, and still could wind up that way. And the friends I know who slid a little too far down the path have taken ownership of their situations, but can't always climb out.
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Olivia

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #29 on: April 05, 2017, 09:30:26 PM »
It is interesting to read the stories ARS posted.  Intelligent people who make a series of bad decisions.  Getting into a hole is easier than getting out of one.  I can't help but notice that simple mustachian lifestyle choices would turn around the situation for the almost tenured professor in Maine.  Some intelligent lifestyle choices would make his situation much better in short order.

I wonder how far empathy would go.  ARS, you are a landlord.  You may very well at some point have a tenant in this type of situation.  If you were aware of the issues, would you accommodate the tenant by accepting delayed or temporarily reduced rent payments?  Maybe forego a rent increase?  Not evict the tenant because of non payment of rent because they will be homeless?  But that would have an impact on your own FIRE position.  Would empathy affect your decisions as a landlord?  I am not trying to judge you.  Rather, I wonder how empathy for a fellow human being would influence your personal actions.  In my professional career, I have made concessions to people in financial distress.  Maybe the beneficiaries were the most effective at eliciting empathy.  I know I have been taken by people who were financially well off, but were very persuasive story tellers of sob stories.  It really is complicated because you can't help everybody who needs help.


OthalaFehu

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #30 on: April 05, 2017, 09:38:59 PM »

I was poor because of divorce and the 1980's mentality of boomers (can you tell I am a bitter Xer?)

anyway, nowadays I am doing great. I would just like to take a minute and thank 3 things;

a good public school education

PELL grants for poor kids to go to college

US Navy and GI Bill

I have a lot but I always remember where I came from.
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gatortator

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #31 on: April 06, 2017, 01:22:38 PM »
I saw this thread shortly after reading this recent post by Joshua Becker.

"Here’s to All of You Trying to Make the Most of a Bad Situation"
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/bad-situation/

Both has a similar tone, so I thought I would include the link.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #32 on: April 06, 2017, 02:20:25 PM »
I have a former student who I've kept in touch with for years. She moved back to the area after college and is now living with several roommates working as an intern journalist at an awesome independent news website for Honolulu.

I'm so proud of this girl; we had her over for dinner a few weeks ago and it was a treat to talk to her. The conversation turned to "adulting"--she's 22 and living on her own for the first time. She started asking questions about frugal skills like cooking for yourself and keeping a grocery bill low, and I realized that the start-up costs to frugality can actually be high. I recommended getting a crockpot from craigslist and investing in a set of basic knives and spices.

People in roommate living situations  who don't have a car to get to Costco and don't have a big freezer to store things and don't have quality pots and pans or a set of spices or good kitchen knives or room to store bulk goods have to deal with less optimized spending.

I remember back when I was in that place--living with roommates, no freezer, etc.--and how it just seemed easier and even cheaper to get takeout all the time. It's funny how frugality actually takes some money, and I think that fact is why it can be really hard to scratch one's way out of poverty.

jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #33 on: April 06, 2017, 02:25:28 PM »
It's funny how frugality actually takes some money, and I think that fact is why it can be really hard to scratch one's way out of poverty.

Well said!

And, every time I see a TV show or Youtube vandweller video of a person chopping veggies with a paring knife, and lifting it off for each cut, I think, "No wonder people think cooking takes so much time and effort!" A quality chef's knife for every teen and up on the planet, please!

frugalparagon

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #34 on: April 06, 2017, 02:56:28 PM »
The book Evicted was really eye-opening for me. The people in it have made mistakes, sometimes dreadful one. One person had gotten frostbite on a crack binge and lost both his feet, for instance. But they come across as... people. Mothers, fathers, sons. The deck is stacked against them in every conceivable way.

I compare that to my situation. I am a level of poor. I have CICP (a health care relief program) but not Medicaid; my kids are on reduced but not free lunch and my preschooler qualified for free tuition.

But I'm just newly-divorced, under-employed poor--situational poverty. My grandfather bought me a car. My mother covers most of the cost if I come on a family vacation. My friends from college asked if I needed money. I am awash in supportive resources. I have only sympathy for those with less money (at least I have good health insurance at my part-time job) and no one to buy them a reliable used car.

Incidentally, getting CICP--which has saved me several thousand dollars on my deductibles as my kids have both had stitches--was really difficult. If I wasn't an overeducated middle-class white woman with reliable transportation and a supportive employer,* I might well have given up.

*I was 15 minutes late for the first appointment because parking was much, much harder than I expected and I was told I would have to reschedule. So it took two trips.
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iris lily

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #35 on: April 06, 2017, 05:19:38 PM »
I have a former student who I've kept in touch with for years. She moved back to the area after college and is now living with several roommates working as an intern journalist at an awesome independent news website for Honolulu.

I'm so proud of this girl; we had her over for dinner a few weeks ago and it was a treat to talk to her. The conversation turned to "adulting"--she's 22 and living on her own for the first time. She started asking questions about frugal skills like cooking for yourself and keeping a grocery bill low, and I realized that the start-up costs to frugality can actually be high. I recommended getting a crockpot from craigslist and investing in a set of basic knives and spices.

People in roommate living situations  who don't have a car to get to Costco and don't have a big freezer to store things and don't have quality pots and pans or a set of spices or good kitchen knives or room to store bulk goods have to deal with less optimized spending.

I remember back when I was in that place--living with roommates, no freezer, etc.--and how it just seemed easier and even cheaper to get takeout all the time. It's funny how frugality actually takes some money, and I think that fact is why it can be really hard to scratch one's way out of poverty.

In no place, in no time, did I ever think that take out was "even cheaper" even when I didn't eat especially well. I do remember buying low end cheap frozen dinners, but take out, no way.

iris lily

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #36 on: April 06, 2017, 05:22:16 PM »
The book Evicted was really eye-opening for me. The people in it have made mistakes, sometimes dreadful one. One person had gotten frostbite on a crack binge and lost both his feet, for instance. But they come across as... people. Mothers, fathers, sons. The deck is stacked against them in every conceivable way.

I compare that to my situation. I am a level of poor. I have CICP (a health care relief program) but not Medicaid; my kids are on reduced but not free lunch and my preschooler qualified for free tuition.

But I'm just newly-divorced, under-employed poor--situational poverty. My grandfather bought me a car. My mother covers most of the cost if I come on a family vacation. My friends from college asked if I needed money. I am awash in supportive resources. I have only sympathy for those with less money (at least I have good health insurance at my part-time job) and no one to buy them a reliable used car.

Incidentally, getting CICP--which has saved me several thousand dollars on my deductibles as my kids have both had stitches--was really difficult. If I wasn't an overeducated middle-class white woman with reliable transportation and a supportive employer,* I might well have given up.

*I was 15 minutes late for the first appointment because parking was much, much harder than I expected and I was told I would have to reschedule. So it took two trips.

I was on the wait list for Evicted and set it back in the hold que. But I do want to read it.

My bottom line is this: I always had parents who would provide a room and food if I fell on very hard times. If health issues, for sure they would have stepped forward. But they always made it clear that they would not be taking me in with child.

frugalparagon

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #37 on: April 06, 2017, 05:26:48 PM »
...

My bottom line is this: I always had parents who would provide a room and food if I fell on very hard times. If health issues, for sure they would have stepped forward. But they always made it clear that they would not be taking me in with child.

My parents would not take me in with an able-bodied spouse. With child(ren)? They would. I mean, not forever, but they would absolutely offer me space in their basement while I regrouped. If I had wanted to go that route after my divorce, for instance. There are a variety of reasons why I prefer sleeping on the couch (well, daybed) in a one-bedroom apartment to my parents' basement, but the option was there.

I think their siblings feel similarly. A married cousin of mine and her husband fell on hard times when her two children were small. She asked her parents if she and her family could move in with her mom. Mom said that (Cousin) and her boys were always welcome. Implied: If your husband is a wastrel, he can fend for himself.

If I came from poverty, I would not have parents with a basement that I could go live in if push came to shove.
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jengod

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #38 on: April 06, 2017, 11:14:38 PM »
I have a former student who I've kept in touch with for years. She moved back to the area after college and is now living with several roommates working as an intern journalist at an awesome independent news website for Honolulu.

I'm so proud of this girl; we had her over for dinner a few weeks ago and it was a treat to talk to her. The conversation turned to "adulting"--she's 22 and living on her own for the first time. She started asking questions about frugal skills like cooking for yourself and keeping a grocery bill low, and I realized that the start-up costs to frugality can actually be high. I recommended getting a crockpot from craigslist and investing in a set of basic knives and spices.

People in roommate living situations  who don't have a car to get to Costco and don't have a big freezer to store things and don't have quality pots and pans or a set of spices or good kitchen knives or room to store bulk goods have to deal with less optimized spending.

I remember back when I was in that place--living with roommates, no freezer, etc.--and how it just seemed easier and even cheaper to get takeout all the time. It's funny how frugality actually takes some money, and I think that fact is why it can be really hard to scratch one's way out of poverty.

The book Independence Days by Sharon Astyk includes some very good advice on how to build a food stockpile/pantry even if you have no money. I outlined the gist of it in this thread:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/mustachian-book-club/independence-days-sustainable-food-storage-preservation-by-sharon-astyk/
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BeanCounter

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #39 on: April 07, 2017, 07:04:01 AM »
I have really enjoyed the different links others have posted. Good reading. I read Evicted last fall and it was really interesting for me. Exposed me to problems that I had no idea existed.
My mom once told me that having parents with means was the equivalent of starting the game of life on third base. It's so true. Even if your parents can't pay for college tuition, just having someone who could provide a bag of groceries, a tank of gas, a few bucks, a ride or a temporary roof over your head is a huge help. Which makes me wonder why we can't offer more people simple services like that.
And why do we make obtaining services like Medicaid, or housing vouchers so difficult? It seems like it actually gets in the way of working. And how big of a problem access to transportation is. It's almost a vicious circle.

iris lily

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #40 on: April 07, 2017, 09:57:39 AM »
I have really enjoyed the different links others have posted. Good reading. I read Evicted last fall and it was really interesting for me. Exposed me to problems that I had no idea existed.
My mom once told me that having parents with means was the equivalent of starting the game of life on third base. It's so true. Even if your parents can't pay for college tuition, just having someone who could provide a bag of groceries, a tank of gas, a few bucks, a ride or a temporary roof over your head is a huge help. Which makes me wonder why we can't offer more people simple services like that.
And why do we make obtaining services like Medicaid, or housing vouchers so difficult? It seems like it actually gets in the way of working. And how big of a problem access to transportation is. It's almost a vicious circle.

It has been pointed out many times that the working poor have a tougher time of it than parents on the dole no kidding, they have even less time to jump through the hoops of govern,net handouts.

marion10

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #41 on: April 07, 2017, 03:04:38 PM »
I do wonder if a universal basic income would be part of the solution.

jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #42 on: April 07, 2017, 08:12:20 PM »
BeanCounter, you put it all so well, and I LOVE what your mama said! Right on.

I've been trying to position myself so that my kid is as close to third base as possible, given all our tricky circumstances. I can't create perfection given our respective starting points, but this is definitely my guide. I do hope he stays aware and empathetic enough to share from that position with others who didn't/don't have that.

havregryn

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #43 on: April 09, 2017, 12:52:12 AM »
I stumbled upon this today and found it heartbreaking.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/she-had-a-newborn-and-no-money-signing-up-for-uber-drove-her-into-debt/2017/04/07/b5ee9510-05d1-11e7-b9fa-ed727b644a0b_story.html?tid=hybrid_collaborative_1_na&utm_term=.522d92e6c979

Honestly, reading this from Europe where parental leave is just as given as I don' know, being buried if you die, it sounds downright barbaric and I honestly feel I could facepunch any person who would even attempt to make an argument for this kind of a system.

jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #44 on: April 09, 2017, 07:17:14 AM »
^ An awful post-partum situation indeed. She sounds hardworking, smart, commited, and creative. Her debts were minimal. But those aren't enough to navigate certain situations and come out free and clear.

With those qualities, though, she is likely to come out on top, so long as no tragedy strikes to knock her over.

In Canada, I too had no leave when I (sole parent) gave birth, so I worked right through, with him on my lap. (My luck was that my work was from home, online.) Before that, when my work was home support, the industry got an exemption to the government requirement for minimum hours. When most jobs had to pay for at least four hours, we were guaranteed only two. So, I could set aside day after day, and get a a bunch of two-hour shifts, while most other fields automatically paid a minimum of four. So many ways stuff doesn't work.

marty998

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #45 on: April 09, 2017, 07:18:05 AM »
It's very sad when a society has no compassion or understanding, and shies aways from putting their money where their mouth is.

How much better the world would be if everyone was able to help their neighbour.

madgeylou

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #46 on: April 09, 2017, 08:17:26 AM »
This is an amazing thread, and I'm happy I clicked on it!

I grew up in poverty, as well as being neglected and moving around a lot after my mom died and my dad turned to drugs and alcohol. Before my mom died, we were middle class, and our grandparents were middle class, too, but this trauma hit our family and we never really recovered from it to move forward in a positive direction. We kind of imploded.

For whatever reason, I always knew this way of life was something I could and would get out of, and I did, even though it took me maybe 10 years of being an adult before I figured out how to operate with money.

My brother and sister are still quite poor, though. Some of it I'm sure is due to the trauma we went through as kids -- and I know I was protected from some of that because I was the baby of the family -- and some of it is just getting into some bad habits and not ever getting out of them. I have a lot of empathy and sympathy for both of them, though I have also chosen to stay out of my sister's life and not to get involved with my brother financially, though we do have a pretty good relationship emotionally. I have tried to educate my brother on money and other adulting skills, but he's always kind of just ... seemed like he gave up on trying for anything better a long time ago, you know? It bums me out, because he's a brilliant guy in so many ways. But I can't force him to do anything. And I'm his baby sister, which I guess makes it hard for him to hear me in an advisory role sometimes.

I have been extraordinarily lucky but I will never forget the feeling of being made fun of for wearing ugly clothes and eating free lunch and having dirty hair and skin rashes because no one made me bathe. I feel so grateful for the confluence of factors that allowed me to create something different in my adult life -- the luck to be born with a sturdy constitution, the curiosity that led me to educate myself about money and such.

I resonated with the poster above who said that public schooling was one of the best things that ever happened to them. Same here. Hard same. I shudder to think where I'd be without public schools because school is where I got almost all of my validation and structure as a kid.
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jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #47 on: April 09, 2017, 08:24:19 AM »
^ Yesterday I listened to a podcast on CBC radio called School Saved My Life. It was an adult's story of post-secondary, but same idea. His circumstances sucked to an extreme, and he tells of the same benefits, madgeylou.

For me, school was so awful -the place I was bullied even more, etc, just with no avenue of escape. But I can appreciate that any given option may be good for one person and sucky for another, depending on the details.

For me, salvation was nature and my dog. If I could be left alone to those, I was okay :)

madgeylou

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #48 on: April 09, 2017, 09:07:10 AM »
^ Yesterday I listened to a podcast on CBC radio called School Saved My Life. It was an adult's story of post-secondary, but same idea. His circumstances sucked to an extreme, and he tells of the same benefits, madgeylou.

For me, school was so awful -the place I was bullied even more, etc, just with no avenue of escape. But I can appreciate that any given option may be good for one person and sucky for another, depending on the details.

For me, salvation was nature and my dog. If I could be left alone to those, I was okay :)

I can totally see school being an awful place for some kids. Ironically I think moving around so much helped me out here, because I could only be bullied by someone for a few months at a time, and there was no sense of being entrenched in any one situation. Also the way my brain works was a good fit for school, and I know that's not the case with a lot of kids.

Sigh. The income inequality in the US, the crazy housing market all over the place, the lack of critical thinking skills -- I just don't know how we turn the corner with all of this in play. How do we make things more fair, so that more people have a chance?
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Poundwise

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #49 on: April 09, 2017, 05:55:38 PM »
Quote
What is “lunch shaming?” It happens when a child can’t pay a school lunch bill.

In Alabama, a child short on funds was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” In some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.

In what its supporters say is the first such legislation in the country, New Mexico has outlawed shaming children whose parents are behind on school lunch payments.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/well/family/new-mexico-outlaws-school-lunch-shaming.html