Feeling Poor Doesn’t Stop When You Make Money

Ever since the day I got my first job as a trolley pusher at Walmart, I’ve lived from paycheck to paycheck for years. I hovered around the poverty line, hoping to hold out until next month’s rent. It seemed normal at the time. It was only after I started making more money that I realized the psychological scars that poor life had left on me.

Being poor is not just a balance sheet. This is a state of mind. For years, I felt worthless because I was poor, and because I was worthless, I didn’t think I deserved more. All this guilt, shame and fear that kept me (and millions of others still struggling) from striving for the best. It was an endless cycle of self-destruction. If you are still in this situation, do not feel that you should be in it. The system is often set up to make you fail, but one of the worst mechanisms of this system is to make you believe that you deserve to be stuck in it.

Money finally means freedom to make the right decisions.

When I lived paycheck to paycheck, I knew what a bad financial decision was. If I had $ 300 in my account and needed $ 250 for rent and $ 50 for food, then going to the movies that week was a bad decision. Of course, sometimes I made the wrong decisions. I love movies, so sometimes I went to the theater when I shouldn’t have at all. It might have been a bad decision, but I decided to make it anyway.

When you’re broke, the only freedom you have is to make bad decisions. Paying rent is not so much a “good decision” as a responsibility. You don’t get slapped on the back for rent. It’s great when you can do it – you can’t always be sure that you can when you are poor – but it’s just a step in the water. You cannot choose to invest wisely or save on contingencies.

However, the first time I made a little more money, I discovered flexibility in my budget that I was not familiar with. Suddenly, I could choose whether to do wise, previously distant things, like actually saving for retirement (as opposed to $ 5 each month, which I saved more as gestures than anything else). I could attend classes or buy software that helped my career. I could pay off the debt. These were all good decisions and, shockingly, I could choose what to do.

This I did not understand when I was broke. I always had enough money to make ends meet, so I saw money as something that everyone wants from me. I only sought a higher salary because I needed to keep up. I even felt guilty for wanting more than the minimum required. It didn’t occur to me until much later that the desire to make money was not greedy or selfish. The vicious poverty trap was that I began to train myself to believe that I did not deserve the freedom that everyone else had. All of the financial blogs taught me how to avoid lifestyle inflation, but nothing prepared me for the psychological adjustments it took to realize that I had been hurting myself for years.

Self-service is expensive

If you’re poor in your 20s, you probably don’t see your doctor often. It’s no secret that low-income families ignore conventional treatment because they simply cannot afford it. It makes sense. If $ 20 is the difference between eating and fasting for you this week, you’re not going to spend it on a copay for a doctor visit you don’t know what you need.

In my case, I didn’t even have the option. I had back pains, toothaches and sometimes I got sick, but I never bothered to get it done professionally because I just didn’t have the money to spend, or insurance to pay for it.

Check out what your insurance covers. Preventive care is usually paid very generously. There is a reason for this. If an insurance company can pay $ 50 for treatment today that avoids $ 2,000 a year treatment, they will be happy to do so. I did not share their views then. $ 50 was an impossible amount for me.

Once I finally got insurance, there was a lot to catch up with. The dental work was the worst. I missed out on many opportunities to fill the cavities. Fixing and / or replacing what was left of my teeth was costly. Much more expensive than if I had time to get to the dentist as soon as possible. Even now, I’m wondering if it was worth a few missed rent payments or taking a third job so that I could afford the insurance I need to prevent it. At that time I made the best choice, but it didn’t make it any cheaper.

Being poor in the past meant that I remain poorer than I should be now. Even if I could afford the preventative dental care I needed, there were other areas I neglected and it would always be more expensive to catch up. Once I started getting a decent salary, I made it my priority to make up for all the health problems I avoided before they got more expensive. If you can, do not neglect your health if you have the opportunity . However, I know all too well that sometimes this is not an option.

When you have money, you are afraid of losing it.

When you’re broke, the idea of ​​having money seems like a dream. As soon as I arrive, you tell yourself, everything will be fine. Life will be better . You are convinced that all you really need is just a little more money to break out of the paycheck to paycheck life cycle, and all the problems you are struggling with will be off your shoulders.

And you’re right. Of course, there is a limit when more money doesn’t make you happier , but having it is definitely better than not having it. Once you have money, you can pay for things that will make your life better. You can buy food in bulk or get a car that doesn’t break down all the time . Money can definitely make you happier. This is why the thought of losing it is scary.

When you are poor, making money sounds like a milestone in which you enter a new, permanent era in your life. In fact, this money probably comes in the form of a salary. The salary that you constantly remind yourself can be lost at any moment.

When I worked at Walmart, there were times when I felt like I might lose my job. Maybe I screwed something up, or maybe my boss was having a bad day and took it out with me. I worried that I would lose my minimum wage job rolling shopping carts in the parking lot. Big fucking exclamation. Even when I’m worried, I never bothered.

When I got a better job, that fear became exponentially worse. Every time I had a bad week, I was afraid that everything would collapse. If I get fired, who will hire me? I’ll never get lucky in a job like this again. I’ll have to take a worse job, make less money, and lose all my indulgent luxuries like going to the dentist.

This is partly the impostor syndrome raising his ugly head, but it is also a more intuitive fear that arises from knowing what you have to lose. For years, I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, to the bar, or to pursue a hobby like cosplay . Someone who grew up with money may be afraid of losing their job and not having access to these things until they find another, but for people like me, this is not just fear. This is a memory.

You will never stop feeling poor

It has been about three years since I started earning a salary that exceeded federal poverty standards . It’s not a very long time, but it’s long enough for me to feel like I should have adjusted by now. I did not know. Sudden spending of $ 20 still worries me. I still mentally believe that I can’t afford anything more than $ 100 without agonizing over the decision. It certainly helped me stay lean, but it underscores how ingrained the poverty mindset is .

It struck me a few months ago when I decided to buy an Xbox. I now have a pretty decent gaming PC that I use if I ever want to play a game (which I always bought years after release, during a Steam sale, usually for $ 5). I’ve updated my computer piece by piece over the years, so I’ve never had to spend more than $ 100 at a time. The thought of spending $ 300 on a console seemed insane and impossible.

It took me several months to make a decision. until it finally dawned on me. I don’t have to justify buying what I want if I can afford it . Even writing this sentence seems like treason. Regardless, I realized that I was paying my bills, saving for the future, and paying off my debts. There will always be something better that I could do with my money, but finally I had the opportunity to buy something solely because I wanted it, and not because I found some external reason to prove that it was the right decision.

I still feel guilty about buying this Xbox. I probably always will be. Of course, I could spend that money on something else, or try something else to play games in my living room, or just be happy with what I have. I hear this criticism because this is what I tell myself all the time. Years of poverty taught me that my financial decisions can be wrong. This voice did not disappear when my salary was changed. It probably never will. No matter how hard I try to get out of the financial hole in which I was before, I always carry a part of the hole with me. This is not necessarily good or bad. It’s just the way it is.


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