What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Poor and in Poverty? - ToughNickel - Money
Updated date:

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Poor and in Poverty?

I take pride in living frugally on my meager earnings and looking for the upsides.

How poverty might be an advantage.

How poverty might be an advantage.

Pros and Cons of Being Poor

Are there any advantages to being poor?

This is a weird question to ask. Being poor is hard: You struggle every day, making tough financial decisions and trying to find ways to make ends meet. You have to do without basic things that some consider necessities. Most people think that being broke is the worst and that there couldn't be any advantage.

But are there any advantages to being poor? I take pride in living frugally on my meager earnings and looking for the upsides, and I can tell you yes, there are many, and they mainly fall in the two categories I describe below.

What Are the Advantages of Being Poor?

  • Getting Assistance.When you are poor, you are able to get assistance from a variety of sources: the government, community organizations, or from friends and neighbors. See a full description of options below.
  • Skill Development. People without money have the opportunity to develop many skills that rich people will likely never be exposed to. Below, I explain several of these skills.

Benefits From Poverty With Assistance

Government Assistance

  • When you are poor, you are qualified to receive assistance if you apply for help from governmental agencies and social services. You might be able to get monthly stipends, help with your rent, heating assistance, and food stamps.
  • You may be able to get free medical services.
  • You do not have to file a tax return when you make very little income. You may even be able to get an earned income credit and receive more back in taxes than you paid.
  • Your children may get free or reduced lunch at school, plus lots of financial assistance to go to college or other school.
  • You may also be able to get free job training.

Assistance From People

In addition to assistance from the government, you are also more likely to get help from church members, neighbors, and family members, especially if your poverty is due to a catastrophe of some kind. If your house burned down or if you have a medical problem, others are likely to want to help you.

Sometimes, this assistance may come in the form of cash, but it can also come in many other forms, such as an offer of a place to live, assistance with food, and free transportation. Plus, this help almost always comes with advice, which may or may not be helpful.

Assistance From Community Organizations

There are many community organizations that have set up programs to assist people with various problems.

When I was younger, I worked for an organization that helped Cambodians settle into the country. We helped people find apartments and furnish them, find jobs, and learn English. It may take some time to find the organizations and programs that meet your particular needs, but it is worth the effort. The local United Way, the local directory, the governor's office, and your friends and neighbors may be able to direct you to those needed resources.

Living in poverty is very difficult, but it helps you develop skills and build strength and endurance.

Living in poverty is very difficult, but it helps you develop skills and build strength and endurance.

Benefit From Poverty by Developing Skills

When you are poor, you develop skills that a wealthier person never has the opportunity to learn. There are many things you can learn simply by doing, and when you are poor, you have to do most things for yourself.

  • You know how to cook your own food, clean your own house, and do basic home and auto repairs, because you cannot afford to outsource that work.
  • You learn how to juggle schedules when you have more than one job at a time.
  • You know where to find help and how to coordinate resources in a way that works best for your situation.
  • You also understand the importance of a good network, and probably have strong ties with the community.
  • You will often trade favors with friends and family.
  • When you are poor, you learn to make do with what you have.
  • You are creative with finding ways to do things in an economical fashion.
  • You also know how to do without many things that other people consider necessities.
  • When you are poor, you do not feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. Even if you wanted to, you couldn't afford to.
  • You buy less stuff, which helps keep your house cleaner and makes it easier to move from your current location to another one if the landlord increases the rent.
  • Since you buy less stuff and use less energy to save money, you are better for the environment and have a smaller carbon footprint.
  • When you are poor, you develop personal strength. You know you are capable of facing adversity because you have had lots of practice. You know that you can handle the tough times because you have gone through them and survived.
  • If you are unemployed, you have free time. Even though you may feel uncomfortable or guilty about not working, unemployment gives you time to spend with your children, clean the house, pursue additional education, and enjoy inexpensive hobbies.
  • The biggest advantage is that handling adversity makes you stronger.

What Are the Disadvantages of Being Poor?

Of course, there are many disadvantages of being poor.

  • Dependency. You can become dependent on the help you receive. Most of the help uses an income range as a criteria of people they are willing to help. If your income is close to the outside range, it may be scary to try to increase your income, because you know you will stop getting help, and sometimes the amount of help you are receiving is greater than the initial increase in income.
  • Low Esteem. Some people will look down on you because you are poor. They may think you are lazy, fat, or stupid. Many people feel shame when they are poor.
  • Health Issues. When you are poor, you may forgo nutrition for calories just to save money. By eating a lot of starches, you may gain weight. You may also have medical issues that are unresolved because you cannot afford to go to the doctor for preventative checkups.
  • Limited Network. When you are poor, you tend to have a limited network. Poor people tend to live around and mingle with other poor people. These people cannot afford to help you very much since they are barely trying to make ends meet themselves. They also lack the skills and network to help overcome poverty.
  • No Role Models. It is harder to get out of poverty because you don't have positive role models to show you the way. If you don't see people going to jobs that they like, who are able to buy the things they want, then you may not see the benefits of working. Even if you know there are benefits, you may find it hard to learn how to write a resume or make connections that help you find the resources you need to get out of poverty. (Although with the help of the internet, I hope that some of these resources are more available.)
  • Low Self Esteem. Being poor can lower your morale and make you feel unworthy. When people aren't willing to give you a job or pay you more, you may think your low income determines how much you are worth as a person.
  • Growing Accustomed to Poverty. Even though you have the time to clean your house, you may not have the motivation to do so. You may find that it is too expensive to fix many things that go wrong in the house, and let them go. Over time, you may habitually learn to live with problems, even problems that are cheap and easy to solve. You may develop a mentality that forgets that most problems can be solved. It is easy to get depressed under these circumstances.
  • Not Getting Basic Needs Met. When you are poor, you have to do without many things that you want, and sometimes even things you need.
  • Being Poor Is Expensive. Your credit may be bad because you are not able to pay your bills on time, causing you to pay late fees, and increased interest on loans, if you can even qualify for loans. You might have to make decisions that are bad for you in the long term just to get cash in the short term, from payday lenders, tax anticipation loans, check cashing places, and pawn shops.
  • Stress. Poverty causes stress, and the stress will often be seen in relationships, as the family members argue on how to best to juggle the bills and deal with the problems.
Is the piggy bank half full or half empty? These are the pros and cons of being poor.

Is the piggy bank half full or half empty? These are the pros and cons of being poor.

Tips on Surviving Being Poor

Dealing with poverty is difficult, but I do know from experience that it is possible to get out of it. Here are some Millionaire Tips on how to get out of poverty.

  • Take advantage of services. I have worked with several governmental agencies who were disappointed when no one was using the new service they had created. These programs are there to help you, and if you qualify, you should certainly take advantage of them. There is no shame in taking what is offered to you.
  • Hang in there. While you may be feeling low, unworthy, or full of shame, keep in mind that you are not a bad person. What you do with honesty and sincerity is not wrong. You just need a little help to get through a rough patch. You will get out of this soon.
  • Plan your way out. Get some job training. Education may be your key to getting out of poverty. Focus on your job and work on getting promotions. It is very scary to step out of the assistance cocoon, but it is a necessary step. Just like moving out of your parents' home is scary because you are out in the world (possibly without a net), so is being out in the world on your own without assistance. Yes, you will struggle—you may have fewer resources for a time, but with perseverance, you will be able to get to a point where you can take pride in the fact that you do not need them.
  • Get advice. Get advice from people who have gotten out of poverty, who have the type of job you want, and even from those who are successful but have never been in poverty. Even if you don't know these people yet, you should try to learn from them. Most people are honored that someone values their opinion.
  • Don't ever forget. You learned many things when you were poor. Don't forget that you do not need to keep up with the Joneses and that you have a strength that others who have not had your experience don't have. Don't forget how to economize and make do with less money. You can leverage those skills and strengths to get richer faster. Since you know that you need very little money to get by, you can save the rest and save money much faster than someone who is used to living the cushy life. Becoming richer day by day might actually be easier for you.

For more ideas, read Quick Basics for Those Learning to Live Poor.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why don't people want to think that poverty contributes to poor health?

Answer: Poverty can contribute to poor health as people may have to make do with finding food that fills their hunger instead of finding the most nutritious food, which sometimes is more expensive. They may also not be able to see a doctor for preventative checkups and may let some illnesses linger because they cannot afford to get medical treatment. It can be overwhelming, but it is important for all people to take care of themselves and find the solutions. Often, you can buy nutritious food that is not expensive if you make an effort to find ways to get help with medical bills. Besides government help, many churches and organizations offer help with buying food and some clinics offer medical help on a sliding scale fee based on your income.

Question: I'm homeless and I don't know how to go about getting my state ID without having an address. What step do I take?

Answer: You would need to check into the laws in your state but the registrar's office should be able to help you find a solution. The people at the homeless shelter may be able to also tell you how people have solved this problem. The key is to be resourceful and persistent in finding a solution.

Question: From what kind of perspective are you writing about living poor? Were you ever poor? Was someone you knew before poor?

Answer: I was brought up with a single mother with four kids. She had a minimum wage job, and sometimes she would get a dime or a quarter of a raise, but then minimum wage would go up and she would be at minimum wage again. I too was a single mother, raising a baby with very little support from the father. I had a full-time job, being paid close to minimum wage, and going to college at the same time. I am very familiar with being poor and know lots of people who are poor.

Question: I am on full disability for several medical reasons. After Medicare is taken from my check, I am left with $1000 a month. I am in dire need of dental help, and I don't know what to do. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: We have medical centers here that offer dental services on a sliding fee basis. They look at your income to decide how much to charge. You can look into them.

© 2011 Shasta Matova

What do you think? What are other pros and cons of being broke?

Avery on July 15, 2020:

The advantages of being in poverty don't sound convincing to me. Neither have I heard from poor people saying that they were at the advantage nor from rich people saying it's disadvantageous to be rich.

Kyson Parks from San Diego, CA on April 22, 2020:

Interesting. I'm glad you mentioned health and stress as important disadvantages. Lots of chronic health problems have a lot to do with poverty.

Chacha on February 19, 2020:

This will be good for my pro and con chart about poverty

This was very good advantages and disadvantages of poverty on October 05, 2019:

Awesome

Gatdiet Diang on September 24, 2019:

What are the clear explanation for advantages of poverty

Shzie Thobani on August 13, 2019:

Advantages and disadvantages of social grants and nutrition and school fees and health care in hospitals and RDP

Thabang Tshabalala on July 25, 2019:

I want Disavantages and advantages of poverty

Fortnite Legend on June 13, 2018:

Thanks very helpful

Waqar Ali Baloch Adv on March 30, 2018:

No doubt that poverty is a curse and its one of the main reason of any crime in our sociaty.

The only way to remove poverty is Struggle in your deeds

Mohammed imran on February 24, 2018:

Poor people who R mine friends also. They lack financial education which is biggest obstacle for them to break this poverty line.

Richard Dong on January 23, 2018:

Good to read!

Nice answer on November 01, 2017:

Nice answer

Nina L James from chicago, Illinois on October 19, 2017:

I for one don't like being this way. What started out as a two income household ended up to being a single mother struggling to take care of her family. But I'm not about to let that stop me. Yes, it was very hard in the beginning but I learned to adapt and survive. Great hub.

Jemimah on June 01, 2017:

Thanks ...very helpful

Beth on December 07, 2016:

This article was so full of crap advice it should come with a roll of toilet paper. "Hang in there." Really? As though we have a choice. Get help from churches, neighbors, friends. Uh huh. Because everyone is just dying for the chance to take their money and give it to someone else. Government assistance? Not if you worked all your life and then suffered two catastrophic illnesses/injuries in your family. You make too much (by a few dollars a year) and never mind the nearly one MILLION dollars in ongoing medicals costs.

Something tells me the author lives a VERY comfortable life doling out ridiculous advice about topics he's never experienced.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 03, 2015:

Thanks peachpurple. Sounds like you are wise indeed, having learned the hard way. Glad you are spending wisely and being tolerant.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 10, 2015:

very true indeed, when you are poor, you learn to spend wisely, use wisely and learn to tolerate, voted up

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on September 23, 2014:

Thank you for your comment Bob. I respect your opinion and understand that it is not easy to get out of poverty. In fact, it is quite hard work. But I did do it, so it is possible. The key is to focus on your education and keeping a focus on getting the promotions. In fact, when I got a promotion at work, I would ask my boss what it would take to get the next one. No stealing required.

bob on September 22, 2014:

this is the dumbest shit I've ever read. your an idiot for posting it, you've never been poor if you think you can just walk out of it, it doesn't work. period. the only way you can get rich is stealing from everyone like the rich do.

erick hazard on November 13, 2013:

poverty is a disease and it should be eliminated at all ways

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on June 10, 2013:

That's so true Tamara. It is scary to allow yourself to pass the income limit on your benefits, knowing that you will have to be on your own without help, and sometimes you may wind up having even less than you would with benefits, but it is the only way to get out of poverty. Thank you for your suggestion.

Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on June 09, 2013:

To get out of poverty, don't let the income limits on benefits hold you back. If you never work full time, never take the higher paying job, you'll never get out of poverty.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 08, 2013:

Thanks idigwebsites. I think we should be proud of having gone through the struggle of poverty and not be ashamed of it. As you mentioned, an advantage of having gone through it is the knowledge that you are capable of going through those kinds of obstacles.

Thanks Don Fairchild. That's true, it is a big advantage to learn how to live frugally, and if you continue to do that even when you start getting more money, you can wind up being richer in the long run.

Thank you for your comment inthethirdperson. I am sorry that you didn't agree with my advantages of being poor. I found them to be advantages in my life. Hopefully you have found other advantages that are not listed here. I am glad you liked most of the tips section.

Thanks Bibi. I am glad you liked it.

Bibi on March 06, 2013:

I loved this sooo much that i've printed it and hope to present it to other people...poor people.

In The Third Person from Maryland on February 18, 2013:

I couldn't find one advantage of being poor that was listed,that I agree with. They examples were actually quite bizarre to me. Within the tips section,I liked all of them listed except the "hang in there" part.

Don Fairchild from Belgrade, ME on February 18, 2013:

I like your style, we are also frugal people. We liked to put total emphasis on our ability to "make do". By being creative and thinking outside of the box, we are able to do just about anything that people with a huge budget might do. Our generation didn't like to be dependent on others for assistance, so we would work it out for ourselves.

And one big advantage to doing all this frugality is that you eventually end up being quite rich in the long run.

idigwebsites from United States on February 18, 2013:

At least when you get to be well-off, you know the value of money -- well, anything, I guess! If you're on your right mind, you will be thankful (and not ashamed at all) that you were poor once and if you fall on hard times again (which I hope will not happen), you know how to stand up to and overcome those challenges. Voted up and useful. :)

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on December 12, 2012:

Thanks ienjoythis. Living minimalistically, you are getting great training on how to live frugally. I hope you use these skills you are learning throughout your life.

M Carnahan from Nevada on December 09, 2012:

As a college student, I certainly know what it's like to live minimalistically. A great learning experience for sure. Great hub!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on September 30, 2012:

Thanks for your comment sweepeasmom. I can see why you would feel ashamed, especially if others blame you for being in that situation, but you are a stronger person for having gone through it, and that situation made you the way you are. I am proud that I went through the struggle, because I know I can overcome it, and now I live frugally even when I have money so I don't have to go through it again.

sweepeasmom on September 29, 2012:

I am ashamed that I was ever poor and now that I am not I'm doing everything in my power to forget that I ever was. I never wanna be without money and nice things ever again! In my opinion nothing good ever came out of me being poor. I felt worthless and discusting when I was.

butterflystar on September 09, 2012:

I loved this hub:)

Jennifer Arnett from California on May 07, 2012:

Millionaire tips, thank you for the warm welcome to this site. We both share a passion for frugal, simple living with the goal of financial freedom. I love your hubs and will check back frequently.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on May 07, 2012:

Thank you for your insight Availasvision. Resourcefulness, adaptability, and generosity are learned traits of the poor.

Jennifer Arnett from California on May 06, 2012:

The poor have the gift of being reseourceful. They can't just go buy something when they need it. They make it or use something supplemental. They can cope better with their circumstances and surroundings. Some of the happiest people I have met have been endowed with a big heart but very few economic resources.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 03, 2012:

Thank you for reading and commenting nina64. While it is not fun to go through, being unemployed gives you a new perspective and teaches you a great deal. I am glad you were able to find a job and have not forgotten the lessons you learned. I think that continuing to live on the lower income and saving the difference is a great way to help for those feelings that you can slip again.

Nina L James from chicago, Illinois on March 03, 2012:

I can truly relate to your hub. Once upon a time, I was considered poor due to lack of employment. During that time, I learned to appreciate what I had for me and my family. Nine years later, I take nothing for granted and thank God for all that I have. Being poor is such a humbling experience and it gave me a much different perspective on life. Now I try to watch how much I spend and I try to be as frugal as possible whenever I can. Sometimes, I still feel as though I'm one paycheck from being in poverty. But, I will continue to take one day at a time. Great hub.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on January 20, 2012:

Thank you carozy. When I went to college and almost everyone was richer than I was, I was initially having low self-worth and feeling sorry for myself, until I realized that I had strengths because of my background that these people did not have. I had perspective - and the little things didn't bother me as much as it bothered them.

carozy from San Francisco on January 19, 2012:

I liked your insightful article and the advice you've given I think is truly helpful.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on December 29, 2011:

kshimmel - you know, I feel sorry for them too, even though many of my friends are envious. Thanks for reading and for your insightful comment.

Kimberly Schimmel from North Carolina, USA on December 29, 2011:

I have to agree that being poor helps develop skills and habits that are very useful. I feel a bit sorry for those who have never been poor, since they won't know how to cope if they ever fall upon hard times.

I know how to darn socks, wash cloth diapers, sew anything, and cook with dried beans--things I wouldn't have learned if I'd been born Paris Hilton:)

ehsan121 from Karachi on December 24, 2011:

It is really meaninigful hub, Thanks for sharing Millionaire Tips:!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on December 24, 2011:

Thank you ITcoach. That's true, not all poor people get benefits, especially those in other parts of the world. I would like to think they get more help from charities and other people, but then I like to believe the best about everyone.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on December 23, 2011:

Thanks for reading and commenting Sherry. You're right it is easy to get used to living high and let your expenses higher to fit your expanding income, but if you keep your expenses low, you are able to accumulate a savings account and get wealthier much more quickly.

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 23, 2011:

You are right Millionare Tips, when your fortunes improve it is easy to get used to living high and forget those lessons you have learned.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on December 10, 2011:

Thanks Ashantina - you are forced to learn being frugal pretty quickly when you don't have the cash. The key is to use these lessons when you recover.

Ashantina on December 10, 2011:

...so true. Experiencing poverty can be a great learning curve to achieving wealth quicker by being frugal :)

Great hub MT!!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on November 26, 2011:

msviolets - I am sorry you are going through a hard time. I do not know of all the available services, but here is what I would do.

Go to Job and Family Services (or the equivalent in your area), and ask them. If I qualified, they would sign me up for benefits and food stamps. If I had children, I believe they do Aid to Dependent Children as well. Then I would contact my heating company for energy assistance. On their form, they give you a list that asks you what other benefits you get, to see if you qualify. Try those places. Once you get one service, the other services come easier. There is also a service that gives you free basic cell phone service.

Mostly, talking to other people who are in your shoes will be the best way to find the resources in your area.

msviolets on November 25, 2011:

How do you find out about services you might qualify for, though? I find that in seeking ways to improve our situation, sometimes the resulting frustration and depression simply doesn't help.

It's hard to have financial challenges, but you're so right in the fact that it increases one's creativity and internal strength. Great hub, thanks for sharing!

rlaha from Spartanburg, SC on November 22, 2011:

Yes, life is a learning process. Thanks!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on November 22, 2011:

riaha - thanks for visiting and commenting. Consider this a learning experience that will help you grow stronger.

rlaha from Spartanburg, SC on November 22, 2011:

This is a great hub. As a "poor" college student, I have often felt upset or sad that I cannot afford to go out and have a nice meal once in a while with my husband. He is also a grad student so we are basically just living on his stipend (which really isn't much). Food stamps have been a big help and we were lucky to be approved for them. I just hope that once I graduate I can find a decent paying job so that we won't have to use the food stamps.

AllSuretyBonds on November 21, 2011:

I agree with a lot of things you have written here. One big advantage to being poor may be when you finally get out of that and you become wealthier you appreciate the things you have. You do not take little luxuries for granted.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on November 06, 2011:

Thank you, successful blogger. I found that my experience as a poor person helped me a great deal in acquiring wealth.

successfulblogger from Los Angeles,Ca on November 06, 2011:

Very insightful.