Low Income Isn’t Poor

Perhaps the one thing that drives me the most crazy is those people in North America that give up because they have a low income.  They seem to resign themselves to their current life with no hope of a long term happiness.  They believe their lives suck because they are poor.  Yet if you ask if they are doing anything to get out of that trap they look at you funny.

Low income isn’t poor.  Poor is more of metal state, then barely having two cents to hold on to.  Poor is saying there is no point in trying to make things better because I don’t have the income.  It’s laying blame for your life at the feet of your paycheck, but never trying to improve that paycheque or build up a little bit of savings to help cushion the blows of regular life.  Poor is about giving up on getting a better life and living in a viscous circle of blame.

I’m not saying that being low income in easy.  I actually have a deep respect for those that don’t make a lot of money, but they spend it wisely and try to improve their lives.  It’s not easy to do, but the results can be stunning over a long period of time.  In general being low income improves the value of each dollar you have.  You resources are even more important because you have a limited supply of them to do all the basics in life and work on being a little bit happy about everything.

I’ve been at a low income before right after university for a year, but I’ve never been poor.  I never let myself fall into that trap, but I’ve got friends who seem to resign themselves to being poor.  You try to help, but it never seems to work because you can’t help them until they want to help themselves.  Yes, being poor sucks, but being low income doesn’t have to.

So what’s your view?  Is poor and low income two different states of mind or not?

7 thoughts on “Low Income Isn’t Poor”

  1. I hear what you’re saying. I followed a similar discussion on another blog and someone made the point that there’s a huge difference between spending little voluntarily and being in a situation where you actually have little to spend and not a lot of capacity to earn more.
    In terms of my annual spending, I live below the “poverty line” but it’s because I want to and there’s no stress associated with that decision (in fact it is because it is so stress-free that it appeals to me). That makes a huge difference. Remember that the majority of people living below that line are women (often single mothers) and children. I don’t think it’s fair to say that all people who are and remain poor are in that situation because they’ve resigned themselves. Aside from women and children a lot of abuse victims and people who are addicted face grinding poverty. The pull yourself up by your bootstraps philosophy presupposes everyone is well enough to realize their capacity and ignores the burdens borne by women who primarily care for children.

  2. I can see what you’re trying to say, but I think there’s a big difference between being “poor” and having given up.

    People who think their lives suck because they are poor are not the end-all be-all of the term “poor”. That’s like saying some students give up when they have low grades, therefore all students with low grades have given up.
    It sounds more like an attempt to make an distinction between low-income people who are happy or are trying to improve, and low-income people who have given up, but since poor already has a definition that does not include a mental state, I think it’s a poor choice of words (if you’ll pardon the pun).

    I would say “giving up” is a state of mind far more than “poor” is a state of mind.

  3. I agree with Caitlin. Poor is when you have to go to a food back because you don’t have enough money to eat and pay rent. Poor is when you don’t have the luxury of a University education.

    Giving up is different, and it can happen to all. How many middle-class people declare bankruptcy every year?

  4. Julie,

    Point taken. Spending less because you can is completely different from spending less because you don’t have it.


    I think perhaps you are onto something. You see what I’m getting at, but your correct the term ‘poor’ is a bit too wide for this use. Giving up is actually more descriptive.


    Too true. Giving up seems to be happening in record numbers regardless of class right now. It is sad, but true.

    Thanks everyone. Good comments.


  5. A young guy working with me just declared bankrupties at 19 on $8000.00.
    quite his job he figured he was to “poor” to pay of these bills.But quiting his job with 30 hours a week he though was to low of a income to pay this debt off any time sone. In his mind.We’ll each there own.Unless we live in there boats its really hard for the “average” person to understand what being “poor” really is .
    he bankrupted the money he owed a lawyer


  6. Low income and poor are different states of mind. ‘Poor’ people don’t realize that the luxuries available to people with higher incomes are not necessary and simply not worth the debt. When you have a low income, and you want an expensive pair of shoes/cable package/new car/whatever, then you feel poor because you can’t afford these things (or you’ve bought them on credit and feel even poorer because a portion of your small income is now going to the bank to pay for something you didn’t need.)

  7. I agree that there is a difference between “low income” and “poor”. I grew up in a home with a single income, and even though we did not have a lot of money (“low income”) I never thought we were “poor”, because as a family, and with others in our neighbourhood we did lots of inexpensive activities (picnics in the park, walks/biking, movie nights at home). Too many people these days feel “poor” because they can’t afford new nike shoes etc. And then they feel sorry for themselves, and don’t work to change it.

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