Compared to some, my life is luxurious...but compared to others, I live in poverty. Both experiences—being rich and poor—offer perspective.
If given the choice, most would choose to be rich instead of poor. I mean, really, it's a no-brainer: Poverty is difficult, uncomfortable, exhausting, and very un-fun. Can you think of any real advantage to being poor?
In my lifetime, I have experienced both poverty and luxury. Compared to some people, my life is very comfortable...but compared to others, I have relatively nothing. Of course, one's perspective is guided—at least in part—by their income level, but also by how long they've been in that tax bracket and various other influences. Plus, although the value of a person's assets might rise or fall overnight, their outlook tends to lag a couple steps behind.
So what do we mean by "rich" and "poor"? Estimations of wealth are relative and dependent on where you live, but...
- In the US, a person who earns $12,490 or less per year is said to live "under the poverty line."
- Where I live in California, a person who earns $58,450 or less per year is considered a "low income" earner.
- Not all rich people earn traditional salaries, but you’d need to make $300,000 or more per year (or have at least $2.3 million in assets) to be called “rich.”
- On the other hand, you have to earn at least $514,694 per year to be in the top 1%.
So in order to be more financially comfortable, all a poor US citizen would need to do is move to a less-rich place...if they had a job that allowed remote work or skills and permits that guaranteed employment, if family was not a consideration, and if they could afford to move. That's a lot of big "ifs." Ask any recent immigrant; they'll tell you it's just not that easy.
So what's a "poor person" supposed to do? Maybe the first thing is to look at the bright side. Is there really a bright side to poverty? Maybe, but it all depends on how you do it.
Below, you'll find 17 possible benefits to poverty followed by 17 possible detriments to wealth. If you're not stinking rich, these lists might make you feel a little better about it.
17 Possible Advantages of Being Poor
1. Because You Always Have to Do It Yourself, You May Know How to Do More
If you're poor, you've probably accumulated a wide variety of skills. You may be a breadwinner, accountant, housekeeper, and child-carer. If your drain gets clogged, you know how to snake it, and if your winter coat gets a hole, you know how to mend it. You have a collection of tools and the knowhow to use them. You might shovel snow, cut your family members' hair...and if the car breaks down, you fix it yourself. A rich person hires others to do these jobs, but you have to do them all...and you are more handy and capable as a result.
2. You Probably Know How to Work Hard
A poor person usually knows what it takes to do manual labor of one kind or another. A rich person might work long hours, but their work more likely consists of talking and tapping on an electronic device. However, you probably know how to dig a hole, lift something heavy without hurting your back, and survive a 12-hour shift on your feet. Of course, unless there's a huge disaster, this will only prepare you for more manual labor...but you never know.
3. You Are More Resourceful
Because you don't have access to many resources, if you're poor, you've probably had to find creative solutions. If you run out of toilet paper, if you don't have gas money, if your phone doesn't work...you always have a backup plan. Being poor requires a can-do attitude and a creative approach to problem-solving.
4. You Probably Have Superior Survival Skills
If society fell apart—a natural disaster or a long-term global pandemic, for example—a poor person would probably have the skills to survive longer than a pampered rich one. You know where to go to make a quick buck when times are tight. If the power goes out, you know exactly what to do. If the water gets shut off, you can probably still flush the toilet. If you are rural, you might know how to plant a garden or hunt for food, and if you're urban, you probably know several creative food and supply sources in your neighborhood. Your superior survival skills won't really add up to much unless there's a huge disruption, but you never know....
5. You Can Survive on Almost Nothing, With Limited Resources
When you don't have a lot, you learn to make do with what you have. You know how to stretch a meal, water things down, make do, and substitute. You've diluted things (milk, soap, shampoo) to make them last longer. You may know how to reduce gas usage in a car, and instead of buying new, you know how to make old things last longer.
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6. Managing Finances Might Be More Straightforward
When you don't make a lot, you're likely to know exactly what you have, where it is, and what you will do with it. As long as you can stick within your budget, your financial situation could be fairly simple and straightforward. You may not have any investments or property that needs managing, and your taxes are relatively simple to do (you might even get a refund!). And at work, your decisions might not affect the lives of hundreds or thousands of employees and their families.
7. Your Carbon Footprint Might Be Smaller
The less you buy, the better it is for the environment. Because your home is smaller, you take up less land and require less energy. You can't afford things you don't need, so you use fewer things for longer. Every used item you buy saves waste from the landfill.
8. You Might Have More Empathy
If you know what being poor feels like, you are much more likely to understand people and their struggles. Most people in this world are poor, and you share that common perspective.
9. You May Be Closer With Your Family
Poor people will have to do more to help their family survive. You'll have to take care of the older generation and raise your children yourself...as a result, your familial connections will be tighter. When a parent gets old, you might find a way to take them in. A rich person can afford to be an independent individual, but in order to survive, a poor family will have to work as a team.
10. You Probably Have Fewer "Entitlement Issues"
Of course you might often feel like you deserve more, but you never really expect it. Richer people often have that sense of entitlement, that "unrealistic, unmerited, or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others." Since nothing has been easy for you, and little has been given freely, you probably don't take much for granted. Instead of expecting things to be handed to you, you know that the world owes you nothing.
11. You Are a Member of the "Noble Poor"
Poverty can instill virtues that just can’t be inherited as wealth can. Many teachings convey the idea that money is the root of all evil. "Noble Poverty" is the belief that not having money is a virtue and that only poor people can be truly good. So if you're poor, you enjoy the reputation of being much less evil.
12. You Probably Have Inner Strength
Bad things have happened to you before: You have been lost it all, been hungry, gone without. The pains of labor, hunger, and strife all sharpen the blade of your inner strength and fortitude.
13. Your Friends Are More Likely to Love You Authentically, for You
Rich people can never be sure that the people they meet are drawn to them authentically, personally...or if others are only attracted to their power or money. If you're poor, you know that no one respects or admires you for any other reason than your plain, unvarnished self.
15. You Can Make a Bigger Positive Difference In Your Lifetime
If you're rich, you always have a lot to lose; but if you have nothing, you might find the luck and stamina to change your financial situation for the better. Many millionaires are self-made, and their history of poverty might be what gave them the discipline, tenacity, frugality, resourcefulness, and work ethic they needed to succeed.
16. You Have Less to Lose
Rich people can lose everything, but poor people don't have much to lose. You could leave your door unlocked...you have nothing anybody wants to steal, anyway.
17. You Value What Little You Have
If you only own one pair of good shoes, those shoes mean a lot to you. If you had to do odd jobs for years to save up for that car, it means a lot more than if your parents bought it, brand new, for your 16th birthday. You know that what little you have might easily be lost, so you cherish it more.
17 Possible Disadvantages of Being Rich
1. You Think You Deserve Your Wealth; You Think You Are Special
The funny thing about having a ton of money is that in order not to feel guilty about it, some people do the opposite—they absolve themselves of all guilty feelings by telling themselves that they are somehow more special than others, that they deserve everything they own, and that their contributions are more valuable than others. But the plain truth is that nobody "deserves" to be poor, and they don't "deserve" to be rich, either.
2. Your Children May End Up Spoiled
If you are rich, your kids will probably never have to worry about money. They will grow up with the assumption that it will always be there for them. They'll never have to struggle, or work very hard, or build a life for themselves. You might think this is a good thing...but you might be wrong.
3. You Might Lack Basic Survival Skills
If you hired people to do all those "little things" for you, you may lack the basic life skills and street smarts you'd need to take care of yourself without those helpers. You may not value those skills much (since you pay so little for them)—and you'll probably never need those skills anyway—but you never know.
4. You May Believe That You Are Above the Law
Lots of super-rich people act like the laws and rules don't apply to them. They think that they can buy their way out of any problem. On a small scale, for example, they might drive their sports car as fast as they want since the price of a ticket is negligible. They assume that even if they did go to jail, it would be one of those fancy jails for white-collar offenders. They might be right...but there may also be situations no one could buy their way out of.
5. Your Sense of Self-Worth Might Be Inflated and Variable
If a poor person has self-respect, it probably wasn't inspired by the meager sum on their paycheck. But if you're making a hefty salary, it's like getting a huge reward every month just for being yourself—for good behavior. Your money becomes who you are. If you lose your job, if the stock market crashes, if your investments fail, then you lose your self-respect, too.
6. The More You Have, the More You Need to Worry About
Managing a pile of money is a job in itself. You'll need to pay more taxes, or pay someone to help you avoid them. You'll need contracts, nondisclosures, prenuptial agreements, etc., to ensure no one takes that pile away from you, and for that, you'll need a team of consultants, accountants, and lawyers. Not only that, but on a moral level, human-to-human, it is true that "with great power comes great responsibility," and you owe something more to the world.
Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don't want..to impress people that they don't like.
— Will Rogers
7. Your Carbon Footprint Is Larger
You have a bigger home, extra homes, more closets, and more stuff to fill them all...fancy cars, more cars, more clothes, private jets, more travel, the fanciest electronics on the market, the latest gadgets. You always buy new, the latest style, the fanciest imported foodstuffs. Consumption is just what you do.
8. You May Lack Empathy and Lose Touch With Reality
The mega-wealthy exist in a shiny little bubble, cut off from the ugly dirt and pain in the world. They lose sight of what life is like for most people. "What you don't see won't hurt you," so you become jaded and lose empathy for the suffering of others. You may be happily willing to overlook the connection between your success and others people's suffering.
9. Your Money Might Come Between You and Your Loved Ones
Just as your self-worth is tied to your money, others' evaluations of you may be dependent on your wealth. Your kids may want handouts, and your heirs want inheritance, distant relatives want help, potential spouses want a piece of the pie. You might think people love you, but what they really love is your money. Not only that, but you might fall so in love with your own money that you don't have room for anything else.
10. You May Suffer From Entitlement Issues
You might believe that yours is the only valuable outlook or opinion. Especially if you were born with lots of money or have had it for quite a long time, you might have acquired certain expectations about how you will (should?) be treated in life.
You might expect to be able to get into a fancy restaurant without a reservation and into the best college without good grades. If you're unhappy with the service/education, you can just ask to speak to the manager/dean and say, "Do you know who I am?" Many rich people have completely warped senses of their own rights.
11. Rich People Are Viewed as Being Evil
Oh, the poor rich people have such a bad rap. In so many films and stories they are the greedy money lenders, the bad landlords, the predatory villains, and the overindulged partiers. Most religions have stern words for them (easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to go to heaven, after all). No matter what a good guy you are, you'll be lumped in with the filthy, decadent rich at some point.
13. People Might Be Attracted to You Only for Your Money
Rich people can never be sure that the people they meet are drawn to them personally, or if they are only attracted to power and money. They may never know for sure, and after years of inauthentic relationships, they might forget what true, bona fide feelings feel like.
16. You Have a Lot to Lose
Yes, the more you have, the more you have to lose. Ironically, billionaires have the potential to be the biggest losers.
17. Things Lose Their Value
On their death beds, people notoriously discount the wealth they amassed and the trophies they won. Instead, they look back at their relationships and remember the small, priceless moments. Even after an entire life spent buying things and chasing bucks, all that really matters, in the end, is who you loved.
So...What About the Cons of Being Poor and the Pros of Being Rich?
Don't be silly—everyone knows what those are!
What do you think?
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 23, 2020:
This is a beautiful article. Nice reading. Thanks.
Bhavishya HR Gandhi from Austin, Texas on April 23, 2020:
Awolesi Abiodun Adedola from Ikorodu, Lagos State, Nigeria on April 23, 2020:
Great points Joanna. All the same I'll rather be wealthy and then be of help to the poor.