The other day, My Money Design wrote a post asking why poor people have two or more TVs. The post was interesting, the comments were informative, and I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Last year, the Heritage Foundation did a study (YouTube, has sound) that found that most poor people in America have refrigerators and microwaves, and they wanted to say that, because of that, they weren’t really poor.
I think (nay! know!) that this is a politically charged issue. It’s not abortion, and it’s not gay marriage, but the question of “do we have too many handouts in our society?” is one that really gets people fired up. The thing that gets me is, how can we possibly judge someone else’s financial decision? Unless we’re related to them (or they keep a blog discussing how much money they make and spend!) we can only know part of the story, at most.
But it rubs me the wrong way. Especially because many people I know are just a few missed paychecks away from a bad financial situation. Since when did we get all high and mighty? It’s so easy to say “poor people shouldn’t have ____” and say a silent thanks that we’re not in that place.
It’s the same as giving money to someone on the street. Many people won’t do that — who knows what the homeless person will use that money for?
But I say, if you’re hard up enough to stand in a busy intersection, in full view of hundreds of passing cars, willing to be humiliated? Then yes, some of my dollars can get you a beer. Or whatever. Once it’s out of my hands, it’s out of my control.
It’s easy to judge poor people because they’re terrible at advocating for themselves. The thing that separates us from the poor is that we, however we define our economic situation, have a higher margin of error and can more easily afford to make mistakes.
Many blogs I read talk about getting out of debt. But they come from middle class backgrounds and, once the debt is gone, they’ll happily settle into middle class (or better) lives. We don’t judge them.
We applaud their successes. And rightfully so!
If I bought a DSLR (sorry, I keep going there!) then it wouldn’t be the best financial decision in the world.
But if I bought it, then lost my job, then lost my other job, then had to move in with my friends or my parents, and still had it? Then I’d be one of the “poor people with nice things” that seem to make people upset.