When Lance told me that he was going to write a post to participate in Blog Action Day 08 to talk about poverty, I was right there with him. This is not only because it’s an extraordinarily important issue (which it is), but because with the way that the economy is going right now, poverty is becoming more than an idea to many Americans–it’s being redefined as it becomes many people’s reality.
What Do I Know About Poverty?
On the surface, not much. I live in a nice house, I have a pool, some pets, I’m a vegetarian (and if saying that you won’t eat certain foods isn’t a sign of wealth, I don’t know what is). However, I’ve been living beyond my means: I have about $14K in credit card debt and about $90K in student loan debt. If the BF didn’t have a great job that let him pay for most of our rent I’d be screwed, and as it is, I’m going to have to put all my student loan repayments on forbearance just to make my credit card minimums.
And speaking of the BF, he’s lucky, too–he has about $50K in credit card debt and $100K in student loan debt. He wanted more than anything to buy a house when he moved to Phoenix a year and a half ago, and thank god he couldn’t afford it, because he would have lost at least $60K within that year and probably ended up in forclosure. I had to sit him down the other day and say that we could no longer afford to buy whatever we wanted at the grocery store–we’re not going to go hungry, but we certainly need to make a list and stick to it.
Poverty And the Average American
And I’m fully aware that the BF and I are the lucky ones, because even though we are pinching pennies and putting off paying back various loans, we are paying the credit cards off and not making new charges; we don’t own a home and we’re just starting to save for retirement, which in this economy means we’re buying at a discount things that will be worth much more later.
What about those people who’ve lost their homes, abandoned their pets, not been able to afford health care, or told their kids, “sorry, we can’t afford to pay for you to go to college?” I’m aware, and Lance touches on this in his blog, that in many parts of the world (and even here in the U.S.) poverty means not having enough to eat, or suffering from chronic diseases because of lack of access to health care. But I contend that we’re facing a new idea of what poverty is and means in this country, at least for the forseeable future.
The New Definition of Poverty
My own (and, increasingly, the BF’s, as I bombard him with my views until they become his ) definition of poverty has become living beyond your means for a lengthy period of time. It’s not until your means change that you realize not only how fragile your standard of living was–and suddenly, not only can you not maintain that standard, you’ve got to decrease it substantially.
Since this is a dating and relationship blog (okay, Lance, sex, too!) I have to point out how incredibly important it is to have conversations about money early on with a potential significant other. Incredibly, at least to me, there are many, many folks out there who haven’t made these realizations, and if you’re making every effort to live within your means, you just can’t risk a potential partner who may compromise your financial security that way.
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