This was spurred by a couple of recent and unrelated threads on two separate forums where people asked how people who are poor ought to do things that they cannot afford to do. The first came in a thread where someone who made $20,000 a year and spends $20,600 a year, can possibly save for retirement. The second was a thread encouraging people to save money for pet emergency care, especially when one is living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Is it wrong that I think the people in both threads are idiots? Although I think the ultimate causes in both are similar, the situations are different so I’ll address those first.
In the first case, it describes a guy whose wife has died and who has two kids. He makes $20k per year and, according to the expenses listed, he spends about $20,600 a year on just the “necessities”. However can he hope to save for retirement if he spends more than he makes? Of course, the whole point of the exercise is a liberal demand that people not have to save for retirement, that it all just be given to them by the government. I called bullshit. First off, apparently this guy has been around for a while, his wife has been dead for a couple of years and seemingly, his kids are not infants, therefore we can assume this guy is at least in his early 30s. What is a guy in his early 30s doing making $20k? I’m assuming that’s post-tax, which puts his income around $26,600, that’s just over $12.78 an hour, assuming a 40 hour work week. Sure, that might sound like a lot, considering the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but let’s be honest, the minimum wage exists, not for families to live on, but for kids to get their first jobs on, kids who are still living under the same roof as their parents. Anyone who is trying to raise a family on minimum wage is an irresponsible idiot.
Now sure, I could understand if the wife was the breadwinner of the family and the man stayed home with the kids, he might have no work experience, he might have no education, but that’s not the indication given in the story. Regardless, it doesn’t change my advice because it doesn’t change the situation.
In the second case, sorry, but people who cannot afford basic medical care or have don’t enough money for general emergencies shouldn’t have pets, or kids for that matter, in the first place. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is idiotic. If that’s all you’re doing, you’re living beyond your means. I’ve been poor in my life, I’ve lived at the point where we had to closely budget to make it from one paycheck to the next, but I’ve never, ever been at the point where any unexpected expense sends me into a panic or makes me beg for money. Cars break down. Kids get sick. Animals have problems. There needs to be a back-up fund or credit card available for these situations. Living with all of your credit cards maxed and not having a penny to spend is ridiculous. If that’s how you live, get rid of your animals now. You’re not doing them any good.
In both cases though, the solution is to be a better, more productive person. Get a better job. Yeah, I know the economy sucks, but these aren’t people who were downsized, these are people who never had a decent career in the first place. Improve your lot in life. Work hard at your job. Learn everything you can. Get raises. Get promotions. If you hit the ceiling at your current employer, move laterally to another. There really is no excuse for anyone with half a brain in their head not to be in management within a couple of years at any employer. None. There are very few fields where hard work won’t get you ahead and if you need more education, get it. There are tons of online schools now that will let you work around any schedule you might have to get a degree. You really have no one to blame but yourself for failing to better yourself. I see people who have been doing the exact same job for 20 years and think they’re idiots. Why? Do you have no ambition? Do you have no skills? Are you really that lazy? Get off your ass and do something!
Once you do, then come back to me and ask about retirement and pets. Until then, I’m just not sympathetic.