Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Huge financial mistake
"She sent this to YOU. She knows you’re poor." Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Back by popular demand (and also before I forget, because I’m nowhere near as organized as I’d like to be), here’s guest writer Kristine Levine, last seen here October 19.
Don’t know how to money
I am about to make a huge financial mistake.
This is not new. Like other chronically poor people, I have always made huge financial mistakes. I have overdrawn my bank accounts, not had bank accounts (Western Union isn’t a bank?); I’ve never had a credit card or any credit at all.
I’ve dealt with constant teasing from friends and family:
“How do you not even have a credit card?”
I know they don’t really expect an answer, but I try to explain earnestly:
“Oh, you see I was married for a long time and my husband just handled everything, so I didn’t know…”
It always trails off to, “I didn’t know...”
Though I really don’t know how I got here, I feel like I’ve never been anywhere else. Struggle is intimately familiar to me. Those who are woo-woo minded would say it’s my comfort zone.
I’m good at being poor. I’m good at surviving.
I instinctively knew to switch the electricity check with the water check in the envelope, to say, ‘I paid it but oh, look at me, fiddle-dee-dee I’m so silly sorry for the mix up…’
I wasn’t paying the bills as much as I was borrowing time till payday.
I figured out how to make my own dog food before it was on chi-chi websites because you can’t buy dog food with food stamps.
I learned to make soups out of leftovers so my kids wouldn’t know we didn’t have food. I knew how to steal my neighbor’s internet just until mine was turned back on.
I knew how to fix bus passes so we could reuse them. I knew how to get by.
I felt like I was part of a very smart, resourceful club. We aren’t poor. We’re rebels. We are survivors.
Then a friend recently sent me an article, “Your Brain on Poverty: Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions.”
My first reaction was: “OH THIS IS INTERESTING.”
Then, a whisper came to me: "She sent this to YOU. She knows you’re poor. That's how she sees you."
Until then, I'd thought I was clever. Now, I'd never been more embarrassed in my life.
I wish I wasn’t so good at this. I think people who aren’t good at being poor are more likely to find a way not to be poor.
As I write this, I am just a couple hours away from signing my car away for a title loan. My parents gave me my car. It was my grandfather’s. I love them so much; I’m so filled with shame and guilt that I have failed again.
I’ll cry when I sign the papers but I need the relief of knowing my rent is paid for another month.
I don’t know anything about money, but I do know we, the Army of Poor to whom these awful things like payday and title loans are marketed, WE aren’t supposed to do this! All the signs say stop! All the Yelp reviews say, “DANGER AHEAD.”
And yet, I keep moving forward. Deeper until there’s nothing left to pawn.
Being poor with the illusion of survival, believing you’re resourceful and smart while you’re making ridiculous decisions is seductive.
When I thought of the title loan, I felt a quiet peace. I felt empowered because it meant not calling my parents and begging for help. I guess it makes sense. I don’t know anything about money except how to not have it and how to give it to people who do.
If you’re poor and you’re reading this, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry you’re in this same hole-filled dinghy with me. Here’s a bucket, start bailing, you know the drill. But while you’re doing that, try to teach your children better.
When the lights get shut off, don’t make it fun and tell your kids, “We’re camping!”
Tell them what really happened. Tell them you’re a fuck up. Let them feel it. If you have friends or family who can give them another perspective on money, expose them to it.
I’m convinced poverty is a disease, and that the cure is education. It’s not too late for me and it’s not too late for you. We can learn about money. There are non-profits with a mission of teaching how to handle money. Every community college offers a non-credit course on personal finance. There are even videos on YouTube, if you don’t want people to know that you’re trying to change how you handle what little money you have.
More importantly, we can change how we feel about money.
Where I come from, there is this foggy culture of cool poverty and lack that I got sucked into. I saw people with money as the bad guys, the developers and trust fund babies who take old neighborhoods away from the artists who made the good old days so fun to begin with.
We artsy-fartsy types don’t fight back, we don’t feel powerful enough to. Instead, we just keep living with more and more people, diving in more dumpsters, planting more gardens for food. And while that’s great—we are so creative and resourceful that we can survive in a changing landscape—we aren’t fixing the root problem.
Now I say, embrace the Money. Love the Money coming in from those California rich bitches and Trustafarians; hold out your hands and let it fall into your pockets. If you’re a part-time barista, go get more work and save. If you’re an artist, charge more for your art, your sculpture, or your show.
Your rent is going up, and most of your seven roommates aren't going to read this article.
Editor’s note: Kristine originally wrote this in 2019. Her life is a bit different now. I’ll invite her back to explain more.
7 other things worth knowing today
Anguished survivors of the Parkland school shooting and grieving relatives of victims faced the gunman in court before he’s sentenced to life in prison, testifying Tuesday about the loved ones and sense of security he stole from them, and expressing anger over a jury’s decision not to recommend he be put to death. “You don’t know me, but you tried to kill me,” teacher Stacey Lippel told Nikolas Cruz, who attended court in a red prison jumpsuit, thick eyeglasses and a medical mask. (CNN)
A rare ‘first edition’ copy of U.S. Constitution is expected to sell for up to $30 million. Separately (obviously), the e original mechanical model from ET is going on sale as part of 40th anniversary celebrations. Estimated winning bid? $3 million. (Fortune, The Guardian)
Elon Musk is tweeting about a plan to charge $8 a month for people to keep their “verified blue checkmarks” on Twitter, and got into a back and forth with author Stephen King about it. (King: "F--- that, they should pay me.") (Hollywood Reporter)
Air travel demand is showing no sign of easing, but Airbus and Boeing are struggling to hand over planes on time, a trend that’s limiting airline growth and keeping fares high. Examples: JetBlue says it was supposed to receive 29 planes from Airbus next year but will only get about 22; American expects to take delivery of 19 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in 2023, compared with 27 it previously expected. (CNBC)
Food prices are through the roof. So are corporate profits. Example: PepsiCo, whose prices for its drinks and chips were up 17 percent in the latest quarter from year-earlier levels, reported that its third-quarter profit grew more than 20 percent. (NYT)
U.S. News came out with its list of best places to retire in the USA. Number 1, for reasons I don't understand: Lancaster, PA. (US News)
Julie Powell, the writer whose decision to spend a year cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” led to a popular food blog and a movie starring Meryl Streep, died on Oct. 26 at her home in Olivebridge, in upstate New York. She was 49. Her husband, Eric Powell, said the cause was cardiac arrest. (NYT)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. Thanks again to Kristine Levine. See you in the comments!