What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Poor and in Poverty?
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
- 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.
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.
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
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?
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.Helpful 17
From what kind of perspective are you writing about living poor? Were you ever poor? Was someone you knew before poor?
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.Helpful 13
Why don't people want to think that poverty contributes to poor health?
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.Helpful 8
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?
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.Helpful 7
© 2011 Shasta Matova