Poor people are not stupid: Lessons from a windfall
As a journalist, I’ve heard and read countless stories of people who hit rock bottom — financially, emotionally, mentally — before experiencing a financial windfall that changed their lives. But what happens next? How do people use this newfound wealth to shape their future, and what lessons can we learn from their experiences? Here’s the story of a woman from Texas who inherited over $150,000 five years ago and what she learned:
In September 2018, a woman from Texas wrote to the Moneyist asking for advice on how to invest her windfall of over $150,000. At the time, she was working two jobs — one full-time and one part-time — and earning $15 and $10 an hour, respectively. She had paid off her car and purchased a tiny house, but was still paying $1,050 a month in rent. Today, she’s making almost $4,000 a month and still living in her tiny house. Here’s what she’s learned:
Investing is empowering, no matter how much you have
For many people, investing seems like an activity reserved for the wealthy or those with a finance degree. But as the woman from Texas discovered, investing just a small amount of money — even $25 or $100 — can be empowering. “When I open my accounts and see how they are growing, it really fills me with a sense of pride and determination,” she wrote. She may never be Warren Buffet, but watching her investments grow gives her a sense of control over her financial future.
Tiny living can improve your quality of life
Living in a tiny house — or any small space — can be a radical change for many people used to living in larger homes or apartments. But for the woman from Texas, living tiny has changed her mindset about what makes her happy. “Tiny living forces you to be mindful, not only of your space, but also of yourself and how you live in your space,” she wrote. “It might sound strange to hear, but living tiny has truly made me a better person and improved my quality of life in ways other than financial.”
Poor people are not stupid
The woman from Texas was shocked at the condescension and judgement she received from some readers after sharing her story. Some people insisted that her letter was obviously fake because of how well she wrote, and that someone with her education level could not possibly be in the financial situation she’s in. But as she pointed out, poor people are not stupid. “We’re trying to make it work — usually by having 2-3 jobs,” she wrote. “There is a financial crisis in this country. I believe it comes from unchecked capitalism.”
- In the US, over 38 million people live below the poverty line
- The poverty rate is highest among Black and Hispanic communities
- The average rent in the US has increased by over 36% since 2000
- More than 44 million Americans have student loan debt, with an average balance of over $32,000
The woman from Texas’ story is a reminder that financial stability is not just about how much money you earn, but how you manage it. Investing can be empowering, no matter how much you have to invest. And as a society, we need to recognize that poverty is not a sign of stupidity or laziness, but a systemic issue that we need to address.
The woman from Texas’ story is just one example of how financial windfalls can change lives. But it’s important to remember that financial stability is not just about how much money you have, but how you manage it. Investing, living frugally, and recognizing the systemic issues that contribute to poverty can help us build more equitable and stable financial futures for ourselves and our communities.