Why are YOU so poor (or not richer than you are)?

Inspired by some other discussion about socioeconomic class, I’m interested in the perceptions and realities of what keeps people in the style they have become accustomed to and what they perceive are the class barriers that are preventing them from having a higher standard of living.

Couple of assumptions:
I purposely left the definition of “poor” or “rich” as undefined. You can be a bartender or a senior partner in a law firm. Doesn’t matter.

Lets assume the average salaries for jobs are the going market rate. So IOW, if you chose to be a schoolteacher and make whatever teachers make, then you can’t say “I should be making more money as a teacher”. “I’m stuck working as a math teacher because I couldn’t find anything after losing my I-banking job at Bear Sterns” is acceptible.

Also, lets also not assume you would be successful at something you have never demonstrated an aptitude or interest in. IE no “I would be a millionare if I played for the Yankees” when you never picked up a ball and bat in your life. “I might have been a professional football player (or at least college educated) if I only accepted that Division I varsity scholarship instead of taking care of my sick mother” is acceptable.

Examples would be things like:
-stupid choices, especially if they were due to societal or peer pressure
-missed opportunities
-cultural mis-fits
-major unforseen events or circumstances
-people who undermined or failed to provide necessary support
-specific skills or knowledge you feel you are lacking

Sure you can. Even in the private sector, the markets are not completely omniscient or nondiscriminatory. The obvious case is where one person is exactly as competent at their job duties as another but receives less pay because their boss doesn’t like them (for instance if they are the “wrong” race or gender)

But in public sector jobs, complaining about your pay is simply being another participant in the political process. After all, it is a political process that determines the pay rate of public employees, and those who have government jobs have as much right as anyone else to voice their opinion on how the government should value those jobs.

I stayed in enterprise software instead of consumer focused sw, turning down early jobs at some marquee firms that hit IPO and I would not be working, just posting to the Dope full time.

I followed my wife’s career, forcing me to leave a few jobs and look again due to changing geographic circumstances.

I dedicate a large percentage of my time to my kids (coaching, Scout leader, etc.). This keeps me from putting in the extra hours earlier in my career that might have taken me higher.

I regret none of that. Life is good, household income is great, etc. I just make my peers pick up the tab.

No ambition whatsoever.
I’ve decided fairly early on that “winning” wasn’t worth it by a long shot. I also decided life was too fucking short to be working “alimentary” jobs. If it bores me, I won’t do it no matter how good the money or how badly I need it. By and large, I work hard when my account’s drying up or when a good client or friend needs me stat!, freewheel it the rest of the time. On an average year I probably make less than a steady minimum wage job would net me, and I’m pretty sure I’d qualify for any number of social programs, which I won’t touch out of a mixture of pride and laziness.
But since my life is pretty damn frugal, I don’t have kids (or plan on having them), don’t have or need a car and am not particularly interested in longevity, it works for me.

Don’t get me wrong, with my skillset, edumacation and personal characteristics I do think I could make semi-big bucks if I applied myself to (though the antisocial/introverted personality would be a problem). Not worth my time, that’s all.

Shortly after college and getting my first real job, my then girlfriend (now wife) became pregnant (or am I supposed to say we got pregnant?). She’s from another country with no family here and really no support. My family didn’t live close enough to help out either. So it was just the 2 of us and the baby.

My new job was the sort where there was good opportunity for advancement, but new hires were expected to put in 70 hours a week w/o overtime pay. I just couldn’t do this with the wife and baby at home so I stayed in an entry level postion for 2 years.

The company then decided to close the branch I was working in. Luckily I was able to find another job, but with 2 years of entry level work under my belt my new job was entry level also. This new company is in an industry that has been squeezed badly in the last 15 years and frankly I’ve been lucky just to manage to hold onto my job and even get promoted to a manager position.

A few years ago we had another baby and my wife decided she wanted to go back to work so I had to pick up a lot of the childcare duties. I pick up the kids from school every day make them dinner and help with homework. In short I can’t put in the kind of hours needed to get noticed and earn a promotion when many of my coworkers routinely get in at 7:30 and stay till 6:00.

Kids and the life choices associated with them.

I’m a teacher. I like being a teacher. I am well-paid as a teacher.

Why is The Man keeping me down? WHY AM I BEING PERSECUTED?

I’m not richer than I am because I’ve had more than 50% of my portfolio in stocks over the past decade and I bought a condo at the beginning of the bubble.

But I’m richer than many of my peers because I’ve had far less than 75% of my portfolio in stocks (which were basically flat over the decade, while my bonds have done quite well), and even during the bubble my condo was only 40K, while everyone was telling me that I could easily afford the 250K + homes everyone else in my age and income bracket were buying, which are now worth mid-100s if that.

I’m well off, but not to the point where I could just stop working forever if I wanted. I’m not richer because I prioritize my family and my sanity above my career. My job is there to facilitate my personal life. It does that quite nicely right now. I’m not 100% comfortable with my development in my current job (read: no promotion because I’m about at the highest point I can get to in this company) and that does nag at me frequently, but at the same time, it’s hard to force myself to find something else because that would mean time away from things I feel are more important, even if it could help in the long run.

I’m as rich as I am because I treat my assets as though they’re not there. I’m also a borderline miser and rabid about paying off all my bills fully the moment they become due.

As I said in the other thread, I’m a teacher by choice. I could be earning more money in some other career but I have no desire to. As I see, having the teacher’s salary rather than the banker’s or the lawyer’s provides several advantages. I don’t have to sit up at night wondering if all my money is safe. I’m not a good target for financial scams. Relatives and friends won’t try to beg, borrow, or steal money from me. Plus I believe that Jesus was onto something when he said that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.

-stupid choices, especially if they were due to societal or peer pressure
-missed opportunities
-cultural mis-fits
-major unforseen events or circumstances
-people who undermined or failed to provide necessary support
-specific skills or knowledge you feel you are lacking

Kind of some of all of the above, plus a distinct lack of ambition. I simply don’t comprehend people who look at a company and say “I want to run things”. I have never wanted to. I am content with a simple little life…I can save money, I can have nice things. Sure, I can’t buy a yacht, but I rent a nice little house in a nice town, go on vacations, put nice food on the table, etc. My SO makes about 10 grand more than me and our combined household income is pretty decent.

I would like to have a so-called “career”. I could go back to school and think about it every so often but it’s fucking daunting. Tuition costs are going up constantly and I am afraid that I will pay a lot of money for school and then end up with no job after all. I think about trade schools a lot but options are limited in my town and again, there’s no guarantee that there will be a job. The one field that is growing by leaps and bounds - medicine - is one of the fields that I hate the very idea of.

What I want to do, what I love to do, has limited career options.

And I am not really willing to put in more than 40 or 45 hour weeks. Other people can, but I have a life outside of work. I’m 35 now, and we only live maybe 80 years on this planet - I want to enjoy and not work my butt off. I have no children so no guilt there and my nephews and nieces are not my problem. If I could be making $5-$10 grand more than I do, I’d probably be perfectly content. I also work for a nonprofit so I feel like my work is making a difference.

I had a child straight out of college, and have no support from her father. She has autism, which meant that working full-time was more difficult for me than for the average parent - all those appointments, childcare being more difficult, her being sent out of school, her not being able to get herself ready for school, that sort of thing. But I also chose not to look for full-time work till she started school - that was my choice, and it was the right one, but it does cost money.

I have narcolepsy and as of yet have no effective treatment for it. That makes it very difficult to keep up a job with regular hours.

My parents were both poor, so I never had any money from them as an investment, for extra university fees, things like that.

I don’t have great skills when it comes to maths. Arithmetic, yeah, but not proper maths. Many of the best jobs involve maths.

I also made some bad decisions and I could probably have more money if I chose to do some other work that can be done from home, but I choose not to.

A few years ago, Mr. Horseshoe and I were doing pretty OK: we were both working full-time jobs, had some savings, and were talking about buying a house.

Then, I got laid off. We scraped by OK on his salary + my unemployment benefits.

Then, he got laid off, after surviving round after round of harrowing layoffs at his company. We scraped by on my unemployment + his unemployment, but my credit cards starting mounting. We still had to eat, after all (every day, if possible - I know, addicted!) and if/when one of us got a job interview, we still had to put gas in the car to drive out.

Then, my unemployment ran out. We squeaked by on his unemployment, but it was getting hairy.

Then, his unemployment ran out. We were a 2-person (and 2-cat) household with zero income. None. Anything we needed went on the credit cards, and our definition of “need” had already been tightened.

Now we’re both working again, full time for both of us, thank heavens, but the interest payments on those long-ago purchases are keeping us where we are, unable to pay off or move ahead. :frowning:

At least for now, this seems like more of an IMHO topic. Moved from Great Debates.

I’m working on it. I’m a grad school in a professional program that should, with any luck, bring me to a fairly comfortable standard of living. For now, I’m doing the student thing (roommates, bus pass, etc.) but I know it is a temporary thing.

My big monetary regret would be that I didn’t find this kind of focus earlier in my life. I’m doing something that basically nobody I knew growing up or in my college years had even heard of, so I had no way of knowing what the path forward was until I just happened to stumble in to a new group of people. I think a lot of poor people simply don’t know what is out there or how to envision it in their lives- I was brought up to think I’d end up working in a mid-low state job, and never prepared for anything different. The very concept that I could, in theory, be a leader was just not in my world.

I think another thing that would have helped me was having the resources and connections to do a good internship directly out of undergrad, rather than having to support myself with the first job I got (which was waiting tables.) Internships are increasingly the way that young people get in to entry-level professional jobs, and it’s just not possible for many people to work for free for large chunks fo time.

Well, I guess the official story is that I didn’t exactly apply myself to my education when I was in high school, and then I became a single mother when I was 20. Really though, it’s been 20 years since then, so…

I’ll just let Anaamika speak for me.


And this. The idea of going back to school is both financially daunting and frankly fucking exhausting. I only have a high school diploma (well, a GED ;)), and I refuse to spend time and money on a BA that won’t even benefit my financially until I’ve gotten an advanced degree to go with it, all as the years of my life rapidly slip away.

Even more, I would have liked to have found something that so inspired me that I would love to have made a career of it, but…

Yeah, that too.

So, soooooooo much this.

I am very, very grateful that the opportunities for abortion exist in this country. I have talked about my abortion before. I would have had a 14 YO child now - me, who never wanted kids at all! That would have been significantly more detrimental to me.

:slight_smile: great minds think alike…and so do ours!

#1, I’m terrible at negotiation, so my first salary at my current employer was probably lowballed and I took it.

#2, I’m terrible at negotiation - I’m not hard nosed about trying to push for a higher salary.

#3, I’m a “homebody” who hates job search stuff, I’m the guy who would spend 40 years at his corporate job. No job hopping for me. 11 years and counting

#4, I have a job where I can work from home, it’s terribly convenient, and I get to spend lots of time with my family that I wouldn’t get to otherwise. Is it worth missing out on my son’s pre-school years, just to have a nicer car?

Frankly, I actually do have a good job, for good pay, probably in the top 30% of household earnings, but I think I could be earning 30-50% more if I had more ambition and pushed my career harder.

#1 Laziness

#2 I enjoy partying too much

The more of #2 the more of #1.

I chose a career that has too many other people in it, many of whom have more skills and talent than I do, and not enough jobs. And a lack of drive.