Poor people are not stupid: Lessons from a financial windfall
As Americans, we tend to idolize the wealthy, but the truth is that poverty is much more widespread in this country. Yet, financial advice often ignores those making less than $50,000 a year, leaving them to figure things out on their own. This is why I want to share the story of a woman from Texas who inherited $150,000 and what she did with the windfall. Her story teaches us valuable lessons about money management and the reality of living in poverty.
Her journey to financial stability
When this woman first reached out to the Moneyist in 2018, she was working two jobs, earning $15 and $10 per hour, respectively. She didn’t have a college degree, and her monthly rent was $1,050. After paying off her car loan, she invested in a “tiny home,” topped up her retirement portfolio, and put $30,000 into emerging markets. She also invested $10,000 in safe dividend stocks and ETFs, maxed out her IRA, and spent $7,000 on dental work in Mexico.
Fast forward to today, five years after her windfall, and she has built up her finances and career. She landed a higher-paying job during the pandemic and now earns almost $4,000 a month after taxes. She still lives frugally in her tiny home, which has made her more mindful and happy. She has also learned that being poor does not equate to being stupid and that most “poor” Americans are working hard to make ends meet.
The criticism she faced
Despite her success and her story being an inspiration to others, she faced criticism from skeptics who doubted the authenticity of her story. Some suggested that someone with her education level could not have made the financial decisions she did. However, her response to this criticism is both powerful and eye-opening.
She points out that poverty affects people from all walks of life, including nurses, teachers, lawyers, and cops. She argues that the financial crisis in the United States comes from unchecked capitalism, where corporations buy up single-dwelling homes and banks/lending institutions prey on people with obscenely high interest rates. Such practices lead to an environment of exploitation, making it difficult for people to make ends meet without working multiple jobs.
- In the United States, 10.5% of households do not have access to a bank account (FDIC).
- 43.1 million Americans live in poverty, which is equivalent to 13.2% of the total population (U.S. Census Bureau).
- In 2020, the top 1% of Americans held 15 times more wealth than the bottom 50% (Inequality.org).
The story of this woman’s financial journey teaches us that financial stability and success are possible, even for those making less than $50,000 per year. Investing in stocks, saving for retirement, and being mindful of expenses all contribute to a better financial future. However, it’s important to recognize that poverty is not the result of personal failure; it’s a systemic issue that needs to be addressed through policies, laws, and cultural values that prioritize the needs and well-being of all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
As we move forward as a society, we must recognize the reality of poverty and its impact on millions of Americans. We must challenge our own biases and assumptions about wealth, hard work, and success, and we must advocate for policies that support economic stability and mobility for all. The story of this woman from Texas teaches us that poverty does not equate to stupidity or lack of ambition, and that we all have the potential to build a better financial future, regardless of our current circumstances.