Poor People are Not Stupid: Lessons from a Windfall
Poverty is not a choice, and it’s not a result of stupidity or laziness. It’s a systemic issue that’s deeply rooted in our economic structures and social hierarchies. And yet, many people still believe that poor people are to blame for their own misfortunes. They assume that poverty is a symptom of personal incompetence or moral failure, rather than a consequence of external factors beyond one’s control.
But as a woman from Texas who inherited over $150,000, I can attest that poor people are not stupid. We are not incapable of making smart financial decisions or managing our money wisely. We are not ignorant or illiterate or clueless. We are simply people who are struggling to make ends meet in a society that values wealth and status over human dignity and wellbeing.
Lessons from My Windfall
When I received my windfall, I was overjoyed and overwhelmed. I had never seen such a large sum of money in my life, and I had no idea what to do with it. But I knew that I wanted to use it wisely, to improve my life and my future prospects.
So I paid off my car and bought a tiny home, which I now own free and clear. I deposited $70,000 in a high-yield online savings account, topped up my retirement portfolio, and invested $30,000 in emerging markets. I maxed out my IRA and invested $10,000 in very safe dividend stocks and ETFs. I also spent $7,000 on dental work in Mexico, which was much cheaper than getting it done in the US.
Today, five years after my windfall, I am doing beautifully. I got a job opportunity that landed in my lap because of the pandemic, and I now make almost $4,000 a month after taxes. I still live frugally, on about $1,800 a month, and I invest the rest in savings and retirement accounts. My tiny house has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made, and has truly changed my whole mindset on what makes me happy.
Poor People Are Not Stupid
One of the things that struck me when I read the comments on my previous letter was how many people assumed that I must be lying or mistaken. They couldn’t believe that someone with my education level could be in the financial situation I was in. They thought that poor people are inherently stupid or ignorant, and that anyone with half a brain would be able to avoid poverty.
This is a dangerous and misguided assumption. Poverty is not a sign of intellectual deficiency, but rather a consequence of an unjust system that perpetuates inequality and marginalizes certain groups of people. Poor people are not stupid; we are simply victims of a system that values profits over people.
Many of us work multiple jobs, struggle to pay rent, and have to forego basic necessities like food, healthcare, and education. We are not lazy or complacent; we are fighting to survive in a world that is stacked against us.
- Almost 40 million Americans live in poverty, with a poverty rate of 10.5%.
- People of color are disproportionately affected by poverty, with poverty rates of 18.8% for Black Americans, 15.7% for Hispanic Americans, and 8.1% for non-Hispanic White Americans.
- According to a survey by the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected expense of $400.
- The US has the highest income inequality among developed countries, with the top 1% owning 40% of the country’s wealth.
It’s time to acknowledge that poverty is not the fault of the poor. It’s a systemic issue that requires systemic solutions, such as affordable healthcare, education, housing, and wages. Poor people are not stupid or lazy or incompetent; we are simply trying to make it work in a world that is rigged against us. We need to start valuing human lives over corporate profits, and prioritize the needs of the many over the greed of the few.
As a society, we need to stop blaming the poor for their own misfortunes. We need to recognize that poverty is a result of economic and political policies that benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. We need to start investing in people, rather than corporations, and ensure that everyone has access to the basic necessities of life.
And to the naysayers who doubt the intelligence and competence of poor people, I say this: we are not stupid. We are strong, resilient, and resourceful. We are fighting for our dignity and our rights, and we will not be silenced or marginalized any longer.