Social Question

basstrom188's avatar

Why are people on welfare benefits often considered to be parasites?

Asked by basstrom188 (2053 points ) February 15th, 2014

People who i’m sure in the majority of cases have genuinely come upon hard times and would rather be making their own way in the world. Who in better times paid their taxes and insurance. When the need to call upon these services arise are then branded as scroungers and ne’er-do-wells.

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150 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Because there is a percentage of people on public assistance who really do work the system. They work minimal or no hours to maintain their free money from the government. They do behaviors that people perceive as keeping them in poverty, like having multiple babies they can’t afford. Or, never saving money when they have some, no money for a rainy day. They have smart phones and big screen TV’s and get public money when people who have a considerable amount of money don’t even always have those things, because they worry about financial planning, the future, putting their children through school, possible job loss, etc.

I think welfare is a great idea for people who hit a hard time, I want everyone to have that safety net. Any of us can find ourselves in the position of needing help. It’s when it is a way of life that it bothers people. Many people focus on those who abuse it.

hominid's avatar

It seems that it’s a result of the just-world fallacy.

Cruiser's avatar

You are certainly correct in that the majority of people on welfare genuinely need this support and a majority of those people are crushed and devastated that they have had to take this drastic course of action to provide a roof over their head and food on the table. I know of a young mother and wife who with the help of her 10 year old son, splits up to 10 cords of wood each fall with a hand ax in order to have some spare cash in the winter in order to not have to rely on food stamps through the winter.

That said @JLeslie succinctly points out the less savory side of welfare and she articulated a real world example of what a good friend of mines daughter has been doing for years without remorse and even brags at how well she is doing.

Another example is a friend I have at another forum has been out of work since September…I asked her what she did to supplement her income. Her answer was….“why should I work? I have one and a half more months of unemployment insurance benefits….we are making do and I am enjoying this paid for time off!”

To call these people parasites though IMHO is spiteful and mean spirited…they are only cunning and smart enough to know a good thing when they see it and given their situation in life I would also swing from every legal loop hole I had available to me. I do it…I grab every brass ring of tax deductions I can.

It is the parasites in Congress who turn a blind eye to both extremes in order to get the votes they need to be in office for another term.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie makes some excellent points. As someone who works in government and deals with the Department that distributes what is commonly called “welfare benefits,” now called “Public Assistance” I can assure you that many of the recipients have the latest phones, gold chains, gold name plates, the trendiest, costly jackets with whatever is the most current trendy labels on them, etc. They often do game the system. Yet there are many needy cases. Hungry children, neglected children, people who are genuinely needy. The really needy often get lumped into the mix with the ones who “get over” on the system and often know how to break the rules better than the workers can keep up with them. Unfortunately, proving that people are liars is often time consuming and almost impossible, so it continues.

One time, one of my clients said to me “your pocketbook is shabby.” Her comment made me look at the pocketbook and she was right. It was getting a little worn looking but my job had me out in the government car, in court (court for people like herself), and visiting people in their homes (their shabby homes). Yet I had a good job, good salary, security, good benefits. Having a pocketbook that was not shabby was apparently what was important. Having a job was not the important thing, apparently.

One of my coworkers pointed out to me, “You and me have one kid. These people in the lobby have 8 kids.” He made a good point. Us, the employed ones, will have 1, 2 or 3 kids. Being able to afford a child is often a big consideration with the number of children we will have. People on welfare often don’t consider “affording a child” because their benefits increase with each child, so they just keep having them without thinking about the cost.

Public assistance is definitely necessary and I hate to think of what our society would look like without it. People begging in the streets, crime rate up with desperate people trying to feed their families.

I think unemployment should not be lumped into “Public Assistance” or “welfare,” as unemployment is something that people actually pay into through their labor taxes. Honestly, if I were laid off from my job, I would not feel guilty getting unemployment, as I would figure I worked for it, earned it and I would probably stay on it as long as possible, providing I could live on it.

whitenoise's avatar

I am not aware of people that would – in general – consider people on welfare as parasites.

Must be an American phenomenon.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t include unemployment with other forms of public assistance. People rarely get to receive unemployment in their lifetimes. It isn’t really a way of life. It is only under soecific circumstances someone is entitled to unemployment. However, in my perception most people will ride out unemployment as long as possible and not actively really look for a new job. This happens at every income level from what I can tell. People who make a great income who never have and most likely never will be on any other form of public assistance will ride out their unemployment for a while. That’s why I have very mixed feelings about extending unemployment benefits.

@whitenoise I would think in some parts of Europe people feel this way also. I know you can’t speak for all of Europe, but from what I understand some immigrants come into a country and use the public systems. I thought some citizens in those countries are bothered by it. Maybe they quickly do become self sufficient so it isn’t looked down on.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: I mentioned unemployment because @Cruiser did.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Yes, I saw that. I was agreeing with you in not lumping unemployment with other forms of social benefits. I wasn’t really being judgemental about those who ride out unemployment, I would have ridden mine out longer, but I had a job fall into my lap. I have several friends who make great money and they rode theirs out, took advantage of the break. My sister has a friend who is riding out unemployment, but she cannot afford to, she just emptied her 401k and paid the penalty. That I think is ludicrous. She is very employable, just doesn’t feel like working I think. She could easily wind up on some sort of “welfare” soon.

Jaxk's avatar

Just a word about unemployment. You do not pay into unemployment. Your employer does. So if you think you’re only getting back your own money, that is not true. Also unemployment is only designed to provide benefits for 26 weeks. The extension to 99 weeks is not paid for by payroll taxes but rather by everybodies income taxes. The exte4nsion to 99 weeks is welfare and should be thought of the same way.

ibstubro's avatar

Because welfare was created without an ‘endgame’. Without a way to get people off of it. As a consequence, the US has created a class of ‘untouchables’ that are able to exist for generations on government assistance. As children are born into the welfare system, it becomes a way of life. That’s sad, but obviously looked down upon by those paying the taxes that pay for that way of life.

Somehow we’ve gone from helping people use their own bootstraps to pull themselves back up, to guaranteeing them a standard of living greater than that which I enjoyed the first 35 years of my life. And I’ve never considered myself, nor been considered, “poor”.

Coloma's avatar

Personally I don’t understand HOW people can think that getting welfare is easy or that people who do get it are somehow living the good life. I suppose there are people/families that collect multiple checks and share them amongst extended family but, my only experience, ever, with seeking aide was after a divorce 11 years ago when I was barely hanging on waiting for the divorce settlement to come through. I was told I was only eligible for about $30 a month in food stamps based on my income at the time and no cash benefits.
What a joke!

No, I did not take the food stamps, and learned that even if one has been a self supporting. tax paying, model citizen for years that you will be the LEAST likely to receive aide of any kind.
It was humiliating and a waste of time, something I would never repeat no matter how bad things got. Pfffft!

ibstubro's avatar

I bought my first house (a 3 bedroom, 2 story brick) in about 1991 for $34,000. A couple of years later, they closed a public park 2 blocks away and built $70,000, single family, section-8 houses there. R*E*S*E*N*T

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk Correct, except for two small things. First, unemployment is temporary and was only extended due to extraordinary circumstances while welfare is pretty much designed to keep you on it. Relatedly, last I checked, welfare never had any requirements to be actively seeking employment to maintain eligibility.
So, is it really welfare to help those who are trying to be productive members of society but cannot due to no fault of their own? Or are you merely considering anything that uses taxpayer dollars to help the disadvantaged to fall under the heading of “welfare”?

@ibstubro If you bought real estate that cheap anytime after 1981, you must live somewhere cheaper than anywhere I ever lived. I think that is about what my stepfather paid for a far smaller place back in 1974. And it’s that sort of locational difference in cost-of-living that makes reality tougher than what many in the South and Midwest where rents are one-third of what they are in the Northeast or on the West Coast that leads to an ideological divide over how much money one requires to get by. Minimum wage may get you a 2-bedroom apartment in Alabama, but it won’t even get you into a roommate situation here in Seattle unless you get food stamps.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma That’s terrible. I think that is what food stamps and welfare are for. When something significant happens in life and we need some help. Divorce or death of a spouse are events that can easily leave someone in a very difciult financial situation.

@ibstubro This is part of the reason I am for increasing the minimum wage, working has to be more financially desirable than living on the dole, or why would anyone work? Anyone near the poverty line to begin with.

@Jaxk Yes, but what the employer pays in is part of the cost of employing people. If you didn’t have to pay unemployment you could either pay a higher wage or keep more profts, depending how you look at it, no matter what, while an employee is working there are funds being paid in as a protection for them if they become unemployed.

Paradox25's avatar

There are people who do indeed abuse the system. Then you have many of these inner city women getting pregnant over and over again. This type of abuse takes the focus away from those who really need the help. At the same time I know of conservatives who criticize benefits such as welfare, food stamps and unemployment, but then use these themselves.

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, @jerv, that has always been part of my beef with federal aid. I had an excellent job for the area paying about $7.35. It was a nice house in a decent, older neighborhood, but without much yard or off-street parking. I remember my house payment was $240, and I had the house paid off in under 5 years, but I was working every minute I was allowed at time and ½ double-time.

I say this aloud, because that’s also the reason I disagree about minimum wage hikes, @JLeslie. I’m in the state of Illinois, and it might take $10+ an hour to live where the laws are made, Chicago Springfield, but locally it’s just a burden on local business. People have lately been migrating out of the cities, reversing the trend of all the rural talent moving to the city. Somehow people should be allowed to do with less amenities and pay less for it. If low income workers can’t avail themselves of the finer points of living in the city anyway, then we need to be encouraging them to disperse.

I’m from a rural town. I moved to the nearest big city in my 20’s. I was ‘getting by’ on minimum wage, riding the bus, working 2 crappy jobs. After a year, I thought “This BITES! All these cool things to do and I can’t afford a one of them, and don’t have the opportunity to meet anyone who can.” I moved back home, got a job, and bought a house. I’m now debt free, own all or part of 3 buildings and I’m semi-retired at 53.

Sheesh, it’s windy in here today!

jca's avatar

@Paradox25 brings up a good point. Rich people who hide their money legally and then receive Medicaid and food stamps and other benefits. I used to work for an estate planning lawyer who specialized in this, and then working for the government, doing home visits of elderly who receive Medicaid, believe me, I have been to see people who live in great homes, yet receive Medicaid and food stamps (and may have their “rent” paid to relatives that they live with, in a landlord/tenant relationship). Yet these same people will be critical of welfare fraud and for the reduction of aid to the poor, and not think of themselves as the same type.

hominid's avatar

It’s funny how everyone seems to have a creation story of how they pulled “themselves” up by their bootstraps. And they use this to justify their victim-blaming. “Well, what was she wearing?” anyone?

jca's avatar

I never pulled myself up from my bootstraps.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@ibstubro I think you’re spot on. There is no “path to salvation” in many welfare cases. I feel like if there was then the whole system would probably work. What is really disgusting is that the average tax paying working guy sometimes has less take-home pay than some of the welfare recipients. I think we need a social safety net for those who cannot make it on their own but in many cases whole generations of people become prisoners of the system. It’s not just inner city either, there is a large component of rural south who are in the same perpetual cycle. There is some politics involved but generally it’s a lack of regulation and policing of those who are taking advantage. Part of it is the culture too. It was frankly racism that forced inner city housing projects to develop the way they did. Now it’s a cultural sect and growing up with that world-view is counter to individual success. For the rural situations where the system is being gamed I don’t think we can make many excuses. The people who are the real losers here are the ones who have genuine need and the tax payers who are borderline needing it themselves.

Paradox25's avatar

@jca :-) The irony is that most guys that I work with are staunch Republicans and/or conservatives. However, it is very common for them to game the employment system in order to collect benefits. Many guys that I had worked with deliberately gotten fired in order to collect benefits. Some of them do this while working a side job too (under the table).

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I don’t want anyone to have to work two jobs if they are already working on full time job. That is not living on minimum wage. Are you married? Were you married when you were making minimum? Was that the household income? People making minimum get EIC money I would guess. They are not paying into federal taxes and sometimes are even getting extra money at the end of the year. So they are not living on minimum in the same way people who make more money live on their salary.

I love the idea of small towns, although very rural can be expensive when it comes to getting around. Having to drive everywhere adds up. My sister spends loads of dollars less on transportation living in NYC than I do living in the burbs. Her subway/bus card is $112 a month I think. I pay out that much a week in gas alone, forget owning the car, servicing the car, paying for insurance on the car. Of course, NY is an extreme example and the housing is a fortune. But, small towns with walkable sidewalks and a “city” center I think are wonderful and I am glad to see that around the country they are being developed and revived. My grandmother moved from the burbs to Manhattan, because in Manhattan she could have heavy items delivered, could use public transportation (and I think she had a senior discount) and had access to the arts, which she enjoyed. It would be nice if housing was reasonable around the country in general and people could live where it suits them.

ibstubro's avatar

Someone blamed a victim? @hominid. Where? Who? What did I miss?
Funny how every time someone tries to discuss the current system, someone immediately screams “Victim!”
I have not seen a single mean spirited word or intent on this thread.

Great, thoughtful discussion, @ARE_you_kidding_me.

I was working 2 part time jobs, @JLeslie. I was single when I was in the city. I bought 90%+ of what I currently have to my current relationship, having sold the brick home and paid my half of the 3 br, brick ranch on 5 acres where I now live. I’m between 2 smaller towns, 7 miles to one, 12 to the other.
The problem with universally affordable housing is that I’d be in NYC in a heartbeat if I could afford it. I can’t. But life is great where I can afford it.

ragingloli's avatar

Instead of complaining how welfare recipients “get too much”, how about asking yourself why you make so little?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ibstubro You mentioned 2 numbers: $7.35 per hour and $34,000 for your wage and house cost in 1991. In 2011 dollars that is $13.45 per hour and $62,220. Sadly the minimum wage has not kept pace. Could you have afforded your house if your $7.35 per hour was $4.11 per hour (the current minimum “send back in time” to 1991? I’m guessing it would have been very difficult to make your $240 per month house payment.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@ragingloli That plays into it, it’s a valid question. Unregulated free market economics is the answer. I always felt that once a laissez-faire system is in place and takes hold we actually loose free market economics. Not allowing companies to jack up prices three-fold what a minimum wage hike costs them is a good start.

jca's avatar

@ragingloli: I think, at least in my case, it’s not necessarily a matter of making so little. If I wanted the latest phone, trendiest jacket and gold chains, I could easily afford them. It’s more a matter of choosing not to spend my money that way.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I also agree that one shouldn’t lump unemployment benefits in with “welfare.’

I think everyone has said everything there is to say. I will add, though, that not only does welfare not provide a plan to get out, it makes it damn near impossible. If you live in section 8 housing and get food stamps, then get a job, well you have to start paying a certain portion of your own rent, based on your new income, and food stamps benefits are reduced based on your new income. What happens is your entire paycheck goes to make all of that up with nothing left over. You’re right where you were before, but nothing to show for it except lost time with your children who you have to take to a babysitter so you can work. It’s easier, and in many ways more logical, to not work.

ibstubro's avatar

I adjust my standard of living so that it is below my available means, @LuckyGuy. I have never been in a position where I couldn’t put a few dollars a week back, including on unemployment in the 80’s. I moved from a 2 bedroom, sometimes roach infested, $150 a month apartment into my first house. I had worked at my $7.35 job 2 years (before that, unemployed, before that slightly above minimum), and had $12,000 down. (And and yes, it was 100% savings from my own wages, mostly cooking in restaurants.) I’m 53, my sister 56, my brother 59, my B-I-Law 58 and we’ve all been retired to a middle class life for at least 2 years (some longer). I had frugal parents despite the fact that they never had less that $10,000 between them and were given the house I was raised in and provided a new car every year or 2 and gas.

All that speaks to the points made that the biggest disservice we’re making is allowing generations to be raised by the government. I admit I’m ‘the victim’ of an extremely frugal upbringing, and can’t break out of it.

jca's avatar

@Dutchess: if the housing does not exceed ⅓rd of the tenant’s income, which is how I believe that it’s calculated, and a “welfare to work” program pays day care, I’m not sure how there wouldn’t be money left over?

ibstubro's avatar

Well said ”... not only does welfare not provide a plan to get out, it makes it damn near impossible.” @Dutchess_III. And then it can become the case that the kids grow up, fall in love and look for section-8 near mom.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jca The biggest problem my daughter had the last time she went to work (at a minimum wage job,) was that the baby sitter she took the kids to was paid by SRS. However, about a week later the woman started demanding money over and above what SRS paid. She started raising her rates every week. I always thought it was illegal to do that, but when I talked to SRS they said it wasn’t. So Corrie wound up in the negative. She really had no choice but to quit her job because she couldn’t afford the daycare. She desperately wants out.

@ibstubro Please read this.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Another roadblock my daughter faced: Before she got pg with the twins she was attending Community College working on her para-legal degree. She finished one semester then had to drop out because she was having the twins. I asked her about continuing her eduction via an on line program. Well, in order to do that she had to have a computer. She finally secured a lap top only to learn that she didn’t have free internet service that the section 8 housing advertised it had. Only those units closest to the main office have free internet. They have since taken that advertising down.

She can’t afford to pay for internet.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, and just for my own personal record, she doesn’t have cable either, and her pocket book is pretty damn ratty! :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh and when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas she said a pair of Ugg boots. Well, the ones I found turned out to cost $160!!! Well, it was Christmas, what the hell. I bought them for her…..and she was afraid to wear them for the longest time because she’s never owned anything that expensive. In fact, she chastised me for spending that kind of money on a pair of boots! I soon learned that I could have gotten knock-offs for a whole lot less, which was what she was expecting me to get.

Those boots really freaked her out! She damn near wanted to cover them in gold and put them on the fire place mantle. Except she doesn’t have a fire place. :)

ibstubro's avatar

Stop blaming the victim, @Dutchess_III.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, and also, for my own personal record, when she realized she really had to quit her job, she cried.

What are you talking about, @ibstubro, “Blaming the victim?” I’m blaming the system. Although, the victim certainly deserves some blame. Dumbshit for allowing herself to get pregnant again. She kicked herself good and hard for that while she was still pg. But Lord…those twins are the light of our lives! :)

ibstubro's avatar

I was jokin ya, @Dutchess_III

El_Cadejo's avatar

I’m going to go with Reagan and that whole Welfare Queen story he was so fond of.

Coloma's avatar

Well….in my case, in CA. how in the hell could an “income” of $609 after taxes be considered “too much” to qualify for more than $30 in freaking food stamps?
I was working part time, actively seeking full time during my divorce and seriously….I only qualified for $30 in assistance!!! I was flabbergasted to say the least and have never been so humiliated in my life! So whoever these mysterious welfare kings and queens are, well…beats me!

Symbeline's avatar

Maybe some people are fine living on that, and do nothing to get out of it, even if they could. Which sucks, because this is our tax money at work, and some people really do need the welfare. Some people will exploit it.
I’ve been on welfare before though, and you get so little. Seriously, you pay the rent and you maybe have ten bucks left for the month? At the time I was on it, my electrical bills went through the roof because I couldn’t pay. I was eating barely anything, it was hell. Therefore, I don’t understand how people could WANT to just sit around on welfare. It was so bad for me that I couldn’t wait to find work. I never wanna go on welfare again.

GloPro's avatar

OK, here’s my two cents: I lost my job two weeks ago. I am BORED out of my mind and would love to work. However, this is the first time in my life I have not had a job. I am choosing to take unemployment for as long as they will pay me because my payout will cover all of my expenses. I trimmed them by canceling my gym memberships, cutting out several aspects of my cable, cutting off the home phone, etc. so that my money will go farther.

I went to the “social services” office and applied for medical, so that I remain insured while on unemployment (at no cost to me because I have no income).

WHY am I choosing to “ride the system”? Because if you are taking classes to improve your lot in life then unemployment does not make you look for a job. So, yeah, I am taking advantage of that offer. I am taking classes so that when I go for a job there will be a broader spectrum that I am qualified for. Also, I want to find the right job, not just a job. Sure, I could get a bartending gig right now. But then I would come off of unemployment, be taking classes and working long hours, and stressing about earning enough to pay for myself.

Do I feel guilty? Kind of. I hate asking for a handout. But it is my opportunity to better qualify myself to be a more productive and stable member of the workforce. I consider my use of unemployment a symbiotic, not parasitic, one.

I did find it appalling that as a single woman I qualify for only one welfare program (medi-cal), while if I were pregnant or have a child, I qualify for 5 additional programs. That’s a load of crap. It seems to encourage illegitimate children. I was the only one at Social Services without at least one in tow

Coloma's avatar

@GloPro Agreed 100%. As a “middle class” woman who had never had to ask for a handout in the 43 years of my life at that time I was blown away at how little was available for a person such as myself, other than a few bucks in food stamps and the medical option. I guess I should have been a minority refugee with 11 children to reap the big money. lol

ibstubro's avatar

I don’t know your country, @GloPro, but here in Illinois/us unemployment is income. I was on unemployment from the state of Missouri for a few months a while back, and not only did I have to pay tax on it, I was assessed a penalty of $50 for not estimating my income and paying in by the quarter. I have no problem, personally, with what you’re doing. Ultimately, you’ll ‘repay’ the ‘loan’ by paying more taxes on your higher income. Big thumbs up at cutting back so you could make it work.

Keep your head up and stay ahead of them, is all I’m saying.

GloPro's avatar

@ibstubro Yeah, I chose taxes taken out before $ given to me, so I won’t screw myself next April.
The Unemployment Office, believe it or not, was the one that suggested I file for Medi-Cal before they started paying me so that I would qualify for government insurance and be within Obamacare’s rules. I will most likely have to pay the $95 fine regardless, as I intend to begin looking for work in the fall and even one paycheck more would put me over the poverty income level and be booted off of government healthcare. Until then, tho, it’s better to have coverage than not.
@Coloma Don’t misunderstand my needs. I, thankfully, don’t need any other program. I just chose government insurance because of the way the system is set up. It makes way more sense to have government insurance at no cost to me than for me to increase my expenses by $400 a month to get a plan on my own. I’m totally taking advantage of what is offered to me because of my current income.
However, if I wanted to work the system all I would need to do is get preggers. Then they apparently will pay 100% of the pregnancy needs, provide WIC, food stamps, and CASH at the tune of $150 a week to me. That is CRAZY! No wonder California is broke. There has to be a better way than to just pay for things if people can’t provide for themselves.

ibstubro's avatar

You got a good Unemployment Office worker, @GloPro.
Now, see, on the one hand you’re sort of working the system, on the other hand you’re an example of the system at it’s best. Taking advantage of the opportunity to better yourself in a way that you’ll pay back many times over during your lifetime.

GloPro's avatar

I also agree with @Dutchess_III in the opinion that the system is set up to be damn near impossible to get out of. Your bennies do get cut the minute you get a job. Then you are facing needing a job that pays at least $10 an hour to keep up with what you were getting from assistance. It’s tough. I’ve never been in that position, but it seems pretty devastating mentally.

ucme's avatar

Probably because the minority of “bad eggs” makes for juicy gossip for those preoccupied with that kind of thing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

If you have kids the amount of food stamps you get will blow your mind!

jca's avatar

People with kids and low income are also eligible for WIC.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They don’t lack for food, that’s for sure!

When ever I visit Corrie, I look around at the really nice apartment complex she lives in. There is a big yard, a grassy area for the kids to play between two buildings. It’s always kept nicely mowed. It’s nice.

ibstubro's avatar

Now, see, @Dutchess_III, that’s the problem with the way benefits are distributed. If your daughter lived in an area where the cost of living was very high, those same benefits might only get her by. I have a friend that gets more food from the food pantries that they can consume, and SNAP. I now know why people sell their Snap cards or trade groceries for services.

My brother used to work on cars and mow yards in exchange for SNAP purchased groceries.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think $800 a month for food would get her by any where she went! She doesn’t receive cash assistance.
There was one time she applied for cash assistance, right after Aden was born, 8 years ago. I think she got $600. She didn’t realize that the state would go after the father to recoup that. They did. It pissed him off and he turned around and hired an attorney (they have lots of money) and sued for custody and sued her for child support. She didn’t know he had done it because they sent notification of the court hearing to a non-existent address so she missed the hearing. He won, hands down.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I don’t know but I was homeless in america for a bit and all you got was foodstamps. That was it. And a 40$ petrol card if you took a job seeking class. I have seen the weaves, the rims, the nails and iphones, I thought only people with kids got money and housing, and saved up for the extras. I was on welfare for a while in australia and it did not cover the rent. At all. Minimum wage here is $16.40 an hour and I have no idea how people in america live on 10$ an hour. I understand unemployment there is very hard and conditional to get.

dxs's avatar

$16.40?! Minimum wage in my state is less than half of that!

trailsillustrated's avatar

@dxs yes and I make $24 hourly and I am still considered low income enough to qualify for some benefits like: council housing, health card ( which limits what they can charge you for precriptions to $6, and you get bulk billed which means your health care costs nothing. I don’t live in council housing, my rent takes about half my income.

ibstubro's avatar

$16.40, @trailsillustrated.

You have to give us Yanks a perspective on that. There was a question here recently about the cost of a gallon of milk, and even in the States the variation was from under $2 to (I think) over $5.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to compare wages and cost of living because of the way the government collects it’s share (taxes), administration of social programs and in-country regional differences. There are areas in the US where you’d be in the same boat with $24. Where I live, you could live like a monarch.

@Luckyguy estimates that at today’s minimum wage rate, making $13.45 per hour it would take me $62,220 to buy my starter home, which is pushing it’s evaluation today.

Coloma's avatar

@GloPro No misunderstanding, just relatting on the points you make exactly.
The systems flaws.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@ibstubro I am not a yank, but i do know what it’s like to be poor and or homeless in america. I live really close the city in a nice neighbourhood in a 3 bdrm house. In 2000 I lived really close to a medium sized american city on the west coast in a similar neighbourhood in a similar sized house on a smaller plot of land. My mortgage was exactly the same as my present rent. I just bought a 3 litre bottle of milk for 3$. You can’t touch a home anywhere in this city for under 425k

1TubeGuru's avatar

I would not wish welfare benefits on my worst enemy. the bible touting conservatives who continue to ignore the original teachings of Christ keep beating this dead horse because it is all that they have got,

jerv's avatar

At $12/hr and averaging 45 hrs/week in the outskirts of Seattle, my net pay was enough for the rent on a modest 2-bedroom apartment, and the heat/electric. Anything else like food, gas/insurance for the car, medical, clothes, or anything like that came from my wife’s income.
As for starter homes, well., you might get one around here for $180k….

stanleybmanly's avatar

There is a powerful and necessary urge in our society to label the poor as “defective”. This is particularly necessary if it is preferred that wealth flow upstream to the top. Now the poor may indeed be “defective” for craving television sets or tasteless gaudy jewelry like the rest of us, but all of this is just a convenient distraction from the REAL issue, which is never discussed. Why is there endemic poverty and a need for welfare in a nation with the wealth and resources of the United States?

Cruiser's avatar

@stanleybmanly Because the USA represents the land of opportunity and democratic freedom that so many billions do not have in their native country. People risk their lives to come here and better their lives and many millions do. A large portion make their relative small fortunes here and return to their homelands and live better lives because of it.

.

ragingloli's avatar

Because the USA represents the land of opportunity and democratic freedom
LOL

jca's avatar

There are many opportunities in the USA. However, for a variety of reasons (mental illness, substance abuse, being lazy, growing up with limited opportunities, growing up in families or neighborhoods where welfare is the norm, maybe a minimum wage job is not a better opportunity for them than a welfare check, popping out babies that you can’t afford is not an issue since they just collect more money), many people feel that a public assistance check is better than a job.

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser Less true as time goes on though. That doesn’t count the native-born leaving for more opportunity and freedom. Let that sink in for a moment, and it might hit you that 2014 isn’t 1954, or even 2004.

Cruiser's avatar

@jerv…I thought about your suggestion and I don’t see where the native born who may have migrated elsewhere has made even a noticeable change in our state of affairs…nice try though as there is no where else on the planet that offers more opportunity and freedom than the USA…you just have to let go of the Government teat to realize the full potential on has right in front of him/her

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser Australia doesn’t exist? I better let my buddy know; he moved there 15 years ago….

Cruiser's avatar

@jerv One person as an example does not constitute a trend nor a teachable moment

keobooks's avatar

I think even the most liberal of us have been fed lines of BS by very rich people who want to keep all their money. They want us to feel resentment to poor people so we don’t feel so bad when they get their SNAP benefits slashed by Washington. The rich people don’t want to pay an extra 1% of taxes to make up for those welfare benefits/

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser No, that was merely a smartass remark. Lighten up!

bolwerk's avatar

Why are people who need help considered parasites? Because the actual parasites are winning the propaganda war.

BTW, if you are more offended about welfare fraud than you are about actual abortions of justice and human rights like this or this born of top-down fascism, you’re a shitty failure as a hu-man being.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Cruiser So widespread poverty among the citizenry is necessary to provide freedom and economic opportunity for immigrants?

trailsillustrated's avatar

@Cruiser . @jerv —unless you want to own a bunch of firearms, I see no difference in freedoms or opportunities, perhaps even less in the US, in comparison. Except for mandatory voting which is weird but whatever.

JLeslie's avatar

@stanleybmanly I agree there is a problem in our country that needs to be addressed. Why do we have so many poor people in such a prosporous country. I care about higher wages and closing the income gap and people living innsafe neighborhoods and children getting good educations. I don’t want to get far off topic and talk about what I think will solve some of those issues, I just want you to know before I make my next statement that I have a similar perspective on that topic.

What I disagree with is not everyone buys big flat screen TV’s and smart phones. My big TV is still one of those huge boxes from 15 years ago. It still works so I can’t get rid of it. I also have another big fat TV with the old technology that I am waiting for it to die. My other television is a smallish flat screen that I bought a few years ago when the other big TV died. I realize having three TV’s already doesn’t sound like a very poor person, but I can afford any TV I want. I could buy one of those fancy new 3D TV’s, but I don’t while I still have these other ones working. I have some fancy cars too, but we waited and waited until we could afford them. We didn’t buy anything we could not afford. If someone is receiving government money they really can’t afford anything but the basics. To me a smart phone is not a basic. Nor is a fancy TV.

I’ve been trying to get my husband to buy some new work clothes. He went shopping right before we moved to TN 8 years ago, and basically has not bought any new work clothes since. I see poor people wearing expensive sneakers, sun glasses, and yes, handbags.

My BIL who has made over $200k a year at times had to borrow several thousand from my husband and I because when his business fell off he could barely last three months where he was living. He is poor to me, poor mentality. Not that all poor people have a poor mentality, I don’t think that at all. He is always within a few months away from the “poor house” even with his huge income. Not quite that dire, because he still had some business, but he really does nothing to survive through bad times, no planning, no real savings, he is cash poor. Hits a hard time and has to move, lose money (lose security deposits, last months rent, ruin credit, and has to ask for money). He has a lot of pretty and expensive things though. Watches, clothing, statues, artwork, expensive vacations, and on and on. I don’t love lending someone money who has spent thousand and thousands on the most expensive everything, who never wants to plan for a rainy day. He was on my dole essentially. Temporarily. I had the money because I did save money and did not buy everything I wanted.

ibstubro's avatar

@stanleybmanly I agree there is a problem in the U.S. For a prosperous country, we have too many poor people and need to close the income gap. I believe people should live in safe neighborhoods, and all children should have a good education. I want to make my position clear before I make the following statements.

No one “deserves” a big flat screen TV or smart phone. My “Big Screen” TV still works, and the other tube TVs work so well I can’t get rid of then. I have a small flat screen, but it’s not new., and replaced an old big screen. I realize having three TV’s already doesn’t sound modest, but fact of the matter, is I could buy one of those fancy new 3D TV’s, but I don’t while I still have these other ones working.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie Months? Like many Americans,I’m about a paycheck away. When I had my car accident and didn’t get paid for 6 weeks while they handled my insurance claims (fortunately, I had disability insurance, unlike many), I had to borrow heavily just to make rent. And that’s an improvement over when I used to burn sick/vacation days because I spent my gas money on heat or food. Both beat spending a New England winter living in a panel truck like my early childhood.

My point is simply that one should always remember the difference between those that are poor by their own doing and those that are just poor.

@ibstubro True, luxuries must be earned. I have a bit of a tech fetish, but I’m finally at a point where, bycareful budgeting, I can pay my bills, stash a little in my 401k, and still get the occasional shiny object. But you don’t have to be a skilled tradesman or member of aristocracy to deserve 3 hots and a cot, or an education sufficient to prepare you to become a productive member of society.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I agree that months is not the same as paycheck to paycheck, but honestly I think he ran out of money before a few months, I assume he was not paying all of his bills within a few weeks, but NY laws it takes a few months to evict someone. The point is he made a shitload of money for many years and spent it where he easily could have been saving. He has said there is no point in saving to me point blank.

His new boyfriend seems to be a positive influence on him that they he does pay his credit cards now, but I guess not positive enough to have some savings. I think I said on this Q (or was it another) that it is different for people who really are at the poverty level, because they don’t have much if any discretionary income to save. The question is when they do get more money what do they do? Spend it all? Or, start saving? That goes to poor mentality or not. That is assuming they were living check to check and affording everything necessary before the additional income. If a person can’t live on their income they are constantly in the hole, and the hole costs extra money. I don’t want anyone to be in that situation, and the people who earn very low wages it is almost impossible to avoid. It’s awful. It wreaks all sorts of havoc for the individual, their family, and affects society. It’s why I support a higher minimum wage.

Delaying gratification is a significant factor in building wealth. My BIL has zero wealth, just a big income. Maybe zero is extreme, if he sold his car and pawned/sold his goodies he might have $30k. Maybe an addition $10—$20k if he sold his jewelry. He has made more than my husband and I in the last ten years all totalled up and has nothing to show for it, that’s ridiculous. He lives in NYC, which is an expensive city, but he has easily made double what my sister makes living there and she owns an apartment and has savings.

I saw Iyanla on Oprah. It was the last few episodes of Oprah’s old show. Kind of a what happened to some of the people we used to see on Oprah episode. Iyanla told Oprah she wound up poor again. All the millions she was making spent. Her explanation for it was she still was in the mind set of the check comes in (for some reason I think she might have used the term welfare check, but I might be remembering wrong) and you spend it and then the next check comes in. I think she called it a poor mentality also, but she might have used a different expression.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Big screen tv’s. They are so affordable now so why does everyone act like it’s a sin to have one. I don’t have have poor mentality.. I just don’t earn alot. What helps me is I have no debt, no credit cards. I have never heard of Iyania? I live paycheque to paycheque. That means that when the surgeon I work for goes to Sydney for week I miss a week’s wages. I pay rent fortnightly, it’s going to hurt. I am not working to buy a handbag or shoes. I don’t have a month up my sleeve. I think alot of people live like this. They should have a wage that makes them able to pay rent and buy food. Simple.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Perhaps one of the reasons for sustained poverty is the fact that the poor are hounded by marketing to make bad choices. It often puzzles me that people are so willing to fault the have nots for coveting “things” which on television brazenly authenticate that “I am not poor”

jca's avatar

@stanleybmanly: Perhaps they should ask themselves “Do I really need this?” or “Can I afford this?” That’s what I ask myself when I consider a purchase, and I’m not poor. However, if I went compulsively making purchases, I would be poor very rapidly.

JLeslie's avatar

@trailsillustrated The TV example applies more to ten years ago, but even now a smaller TV is less expensive than a big one. Every few hundred dollars counts, the extra $30 a month for a smart phone counts. If suddenly you earned more would you save it until you had some nest egg? I have a feeling you would. Some people wouldn’t.

@stanleybmanly How come I can pass up on those things? Right now I have a lot of things, but when I had much less money we didn’t. Ever hear of the book The Millionaire Next Door? Basically about people who have a million+ dollars in wealth, but drive a 6 year old modest car, have an average house, etc. They don’t buy every new gadget or compete with the Jones’. That’s why after many years of not very high salaries they have a lot of money. Arguably they never were below the poverty line though, but some live on very low salaries and still wind up with a nice nest egg.

“I am not poor.” Yes, that might be part of it. Either not wanting to appear poor or not wanting to feel poor. Basically bourgeoisie, but previously we typically used it for the middle class, now everyone wants to have high tech things and designer goods. But, a good portion of those who are financially sound aren’t obsessed with brand names and the newest gadget. We look at someone who “appears” to have money, but has none in the bank as cash poor. So the people who fit that are impressing their socioeconomic peers maybe, but not the real people with money. Although, of ten we don’t know the real financial situations of our friends, so they can get away with it as long as they don’t have any bad bumps in the road.

jerv's avatar

@trailsillustrated Last I checked, a decent big-screen was still around a month’s take-home pay for somebody earning around $15–20/hr, or about 2–3 month’s rent on a 2BR apartment. Or are you thinking that 32–35” TVs (the ones that actually are so affordable now) are big?

@JLeslie I know people who earn less than I do driving around in cars that cost more than I make in a year. Some people have screwy priorities. I just drive off in my paid-for ‘86 Corolla and laugh, knowing that even if they manage to avoid getting their car repossessed or getting evicted and living in that car, my little ‘yota will outlive their flashy display of faux wealth.

jca's avatar

I had coworkers who made less than I did, and drove around in new Acuras, yet they didn’t have $5 the day before pay day. I called it the “welfare mentality.”

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv Everyone spends money on different things, so I am not completely critical, and try not to be too fast to judge. It has to do with the entire picture. I probably would have a newer car and less expensive computer stuff than you do. I might be mixing you up with someone else, so correct me if I am wrong, but you spend a lot of money on technology/computer stuff if I am not mistaken. I certainly am not assuming anything about any jelly. I have no idea how much savings someone has here, except jellies who have revealed such a thing.

We had a Q of a jelly who feels too much money in the bank makes her feel like she should be helping someone else. It’s wonderful to want to help others, but aside from that some of us brought up she risks we tax payers having to help her when she hits a bad time, because she isn’t saving enough if she loses her job or can’t work. She was surprised we liberals cared about “personal responsibility.” At the beginning of the Q we did not know she knew someone in very much need of help, I don’t think it matters, because philosophically, or habitually, she just isn’t accustomed to having a lot of money in savings. Like something has to be done with it. I don’t think she is a big spender, I think she very much cares about affording her life and paying her bills.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When I was poor I certainly didn’t have modern TV’s. I didn’t even have cable or internet. It was all I could do to make my phone bill each month. I felt a phone was a necessity. However, I couldn’t help but notice that many people who seemed to be in the same boat that I was, on food stamps, SRS paying for day care, etc. DID have all of that and about $1000.00 worth of Christmas presents for their kids each year. I don’t have any idea how they swung that. I just know I sure couldn’t.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Over 200k a year and he still couldn’t make it? haha
I can live like a queen on about 40k.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@jerv I have a 44? inch panasonic flat screen that I got here,where electronics are way more expensive, for about $250 ex- rental return. I was talking to someone in the us and they were telling me how cheap these huge tvs have gotten. I have a 17 year old mazda. I have a used iphone and prepaid service a whopping $30 dollars a month. I am trying to figure out how to make it on 99$ for a fortnite, rent is paid and shopping done. If I got a large sum of course I would squirrel it away.

jerv's avatar

@trailsillustrated I was thinking the 60” and larger. Those still go for a pretty penny.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma They were making it, but not saving anything. When the economy headed south it really affected their business and their incomes went down sharply. They have an event planning business and also delivered floral arrangements to businesses as a study business. Some businesses had cancelled their weekly floral arrangements and people were not doing as many eloborate parties. Their rent was about $6k a month. They owned a car in NYC (parking in NYC is expensive, I don’t know what it cost for them, and they had a payment on the car, however the car was tax deductable so I am not sure how that works out). Like I said they travel and buy expensive things. Expensive meals, expensive alcohol, expensive art pieces. Two pampered dogs. I don’t know does that add up to $140k more or less? I think it does. We need to take out some taxes from the $200k.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I meant 70$ for a fortnight. ehhhh.

JLeslie's avatar

@trailsillustrated $70 US for two weeks? For food and any other necessities?

talljasperman's avatar

In Northern Alberta $84,000 a year puts you on the poverty line, for a single male. A part of an unheated garage can cost up to and beyond $4,000 a month to live in. So that’s $48,000 a year minimum for rent. For working on the tar sands, “big money” doesn’t mean a higher standard of living.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@JLeslie 70$ aud for two weeks- I have food but will have to get bread, milk little things.

jerv's avatar

@talljasperman Many of those opposed to raising minimum wage here live where rents are one-tenth that, and either refuse to believe that other places have rents starting at $800–1600/month,or think moving is free. And personally, I don’t feel like moving to a place with higher unemployment and crime just to cut my rent in half.

jonsblond's avatar

You can get a 52” Sony Bravia for approximately $1200 at Walmart. The tax return many working poor get in February can easily pay for that. Or you can go to Rent a Center and pay about $19.99 per week for the same thing. Going to Rent a Center isn’t ideal, but sometimes it’s the only option for the working poor.

I would also like to say that not every person who has children and receives food stamps gets more than they need. I know. I’ve been there.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond The only way I would buy a $1200 TV is if I was still going to have at least $10k in the bank after buying it.

@jerv I think where we live is very important for all over happiness, so I get where you are coming from. However, my husband and I have moved several times, and it was basically in the pursuit of money, basically a better paying job, or one time it was any job so my husband could get out of where he was.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I can’t imagine buying a $1200 tv. Ever. I’m still trying to decide whether to move to save 40–70 bux a week, or suck it up and stay because I love the house and the landlord ( he never comes around). I dunno.

JLeslie's avatar

@trailsillustrated If I were saving a little anyway I would probably stay where I love living. I don’t know if you are still able to put a little bit of money aside now or not.

I would never buy a $1200 TV either, but my husband would, so we do have one that cost around that. The big one I mentioned that is not a thin flat screen and is many years old. I wish we had never bought that thing it’s so bulky, a pain to move, and the houses we have had since we bought it have smaller rooms and so it is ridiculously big for the space. My mom would tell me I am going to glow if I sit in front of it too much. LOL.

ragingloli's avatar

You can pay for such items via monthly installments.
Just Saiyan.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli Usually monthly payments means added interest. I think monthly payments are part of what keep people who are tight on money in a bad financial situation. Do without, and then buy something when you can afford it. You wind up with more things and more money in the end. Some items are worth buying on time, a house, even a car, but anything that someone can wait on, better to wait. Sometimes it is unavoidable and we need to go into some debt. Sudden and high health expenses is one of the biggest and most devastating in America.

jca's avatar

When I used to work as a caseworker, I had clients who bought everything from couches to computers “on time” meaning rent to own, like Rent-a-Center. The amount they paid, after paying it off, was astronomical for what they got.

Cruiser's avatar

I am adding this here as a PSA in case someone here could benefit. I have a wonderful sounding and playing baby grand piano in my living room and a gorgeous 7’ leather couch in my office to name a few things I got for FREE from freecycle.org You have to be Johnny on the spot but I have seen all forms of TV’s, laptops, game systems, appliances, art work pretty much anything in your home. People would rather give it away than throw it away. It is also a fantastic way to get rid of stuff. Post the item and by the end or the day someone is out by the curb picking it up. My son earned enough money to buy a car by snagging all sorts of lawn mowers and snow blowers there…repaired them and cleaned them up and sold them for over a hundred bucks a piece.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser Awesome! Someone mentioned that site once before on fluther and I had forgotten about it.

ragingloli's avatar

@JLeslie
My point is, seeing people walking around with expensive stuff does not mean anything, because you do not have to pay for those all at once, and you do not have to buy them new either.

ibstubro's avatar

I’m living in the lap of luxury, with not one but two 32” tube TVs and a Motorola Razor, that will both send and receive calls (period.).

But since I don’t have a TV channel, my guilty pleasure is that both TVs have VHS and DVD players!

keobooks's avatar

@ibstubro —I have the feeling that if you were a billionaire, you’d still have a tube TV and a VHS player. That’s just your wild lifestyle.

ibstubro's avatar

Possibly, @keobooks.

We had a big flat screen that came same-as-free and it sat in the floor in the bedroom so long that it ended up sold at the auction. I like the tube TVs and that’s why I have them. I’ll embrace new, but not without skepticism.

jca's avatar

I waited till this last holiday season to finally purchase a 40” flat screen TV. For a long time, I felt like if the old one works fine, why have it end up in a landfill? However, the sides of the picture were getting cut off and I got tired of that, and so I waited till Costco had a good price and I got one. Meantime, the majority of the rest of the country has had flat screens for at least 4 years.

keobooks's avatar

I still think we’ve been duped to think welfare benefits are a big deal. IMO, so what if they are “parasites” – I think in a country as rich as the US, we should be able to guarantee a minimum standard of living. People should be able to afford to have enough to eat and a place to live. If you don’t like the adults, at least think of the kids, who had no choice of where and when to be born.

Compared to how much we spend on the military or other programs, the amount is paltry. Yet, it’s always the first thing Republicans want to cut.

Symbeline's avatar

@ragingloli Not related to anything here, but just saiyan. That was funny. Lol.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli Exactly. Pretty things does not really mean anything about the amount of money someone has. Well, it means something to some people. There are people who really don’t understand. It’s ignorance I think, not stupidity. They think in terms of month to month, there is no long term, and that’s what they know.

People with more money have more things. Right? ~

A lot of people don’t understand you can’t judge wealth by it’s cover. The guy in a 20 year old t-shirt and jeans driving the 8 year old car could easily be a millionaire, and the guy in A new Versace shirt and Prada jeans might not have enough money to pay his next utility bill.

trailsillustrated's avatar

You can’t even use a tube tv here they won’t work.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Paying essential bills stresses me out. Paying NON essential bills puts me in melt down, even though we can afford it.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, I just recently read that the majority of middle aged people filing bankruptcy is due to medical bills, and this is with insurance! Pathetic it is.

jerv's avatar

@Coloma Working as intended. After all, if hospitals and insurance companies weren’t able to charge 5–100 times what they do in the rest of the world, we could never be considered a free nation.

‘Murica!

jonsblond's avatar

@JLeslie The only way I would buy a $1200 TV is if I was still going to have at least $10k in the bank after buying it.

We all like to spend our money on different things. I’d never spend money on an extravagant house in Florida even if I had the money to spend, but I will pay $1200 for a nice television tucked away in the corner of our living room in the little farmhouse we rent for almost nothing in the Midwest. :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Where is Judi and her toilet…..?

jerv's avatar

Most of my cars have been $500,and none over $1400.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I said exactly the same thing, we all spend money differently. That doesn’t change my statement about how much I would need in savings to spend $1200 on a TV. My extravagant house (which I am with you that I wish it was not quite so extravagant. I like getting the special little touches, but it will be bigger than I want and have way more garages than I want if it were not for my husband with his car obsession and racing. It has caused a lot of stress in our marriage always having to worry about garaging all his cars every time we move) could be bought outright, but we will mortgage about a quarter of it. I don’t, we don’t, go extravagant unless we can afford it and have money left in the bank.

Our first house was $125k and we wanted to be sure to have $10k in the bank after we paid all the closing fees. Our second house we wanted to have $20k, because that house was more expensive with a bigger mortgage. When I bought my expensive TV I think we had $40k in savings. Back then my $40k was earning over 4% just sitting in the bank,mso that is about $1600 a year. Free TV every year. Now interest rates are much lower, but I am just trying to make a point.

Honestly, I am fine with you splurging on a TV if that is the splurge you really wanted. I really do not look at the one expenditure and think @jonsblond is being sloppy with money. It’s impossible to make that sort of conclusion based on one piece of spending information. But, some people, I am not assuming this about you, spend all the money they get, they never save. They don’t understand saving, they don’t see the long term benefit. It is remarkable how savings can add up over time, and then money gets money. It also prevents having to put something on credit when a surprise emergency happens. Buying on credit costs money. I also am not assuming you buy anything on credit.

I was not trying to target you personally, I was just saying what I would do. I don’t feel like everyone has to do exactly as I do or they are wrong. But, I am a little critical of people who have the opportunity to save and never do. I am not assuming you don’t save, it is just a general statement. If I could barely save anything and had a “windfall” of $1200, I would probably only spend up to $200 if I spent any of it. In three years I would have over $3,000 and be able to breath a little. Once I had a kitty of money going then I feel more able to spend. Or, maybe when I need to buy a car I have some down payment money, whatever I might need or want the money for.

@Dutchess_III LOL. I don’t think I could ever spend that much on a toilet.

@jerv I can’t imagine spending that little on a car. I would have to cut back somewhere else.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie The $1400 one was a Subaru wagon with leather seats, power moonroof, and every other option they had. The longest-lasting one was my $300 Corolla. Cars are for driving, not for living in, so unless you’re into racing, there’s no need to spend much on a car.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I want a newer car that won’t need as much work or be likely to break down. Corolla would be fine. I had a Civic I loved.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie The newer cars I’ve had all needed more work than the older ones, and most died in interesting ways. The older ones just ran until they rusted too much to pass NH state inspection. I’d rather have a car rust out than blow two transmissions in 2 years and suffer electrical gremlins. Better to replace a blown alternator than 4 blown air shocks. Half the stuff that broke on the newer cars and made them run poorly (or not at all) until repaired at great expense don’t exist on the ‘84–87 Corolla.

jerv's avatar

Thing is people vastly overspend on some things, often under the delusion that spending more makes things last longer or cost less in the long run. There’s a small grain of truth to that as certain things that cost a little more last a lot longer, which is why I’ll spend $90 on a name-brand computer power supply that lasts for years rather than $60 on one that dies in 8 months and fries my motherboard on it’s way out.

But my first car, a $500 Corolla, required fewer repairs in 3 years (at a total combined cost of $300) than my wife’s $12,000 ‘98 Saturn. That car was less than 2 years old, and had two $200 problems, a $100, a $2800 problem, and we let the bank take it rather than fix a $4000 problem. Another ‘98 we had, we let go rather than fix a $3000 problem. Last I checked, Apple computers were 4th in reliability despite their price, and Alieware was just overpriced Dells. You don’t always pay for reliability, and shopping wisely can save you thousands. Convenient for the well-off, and life-saving for the struggling. Brains beats bucks!

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv My whole point is not what you spend the money on, but that people should save something. Savings is how you become financially more free. I guess if someone has government help they can only save so much or they might lose their benefit, but I would assume someone on public assistance isn’t able to save very much anyway. Everything counts though. Again, it seems to me some people just don’t believe there is any point in saving. I see people at every income level who function this way. Living check to check is difficult, and it risks being out on the street with one missed week of earnings. I am not talking necessarily about people already on assistance, I am also talking about people who risk needing assistance, because they never saved.

It’s not fair. When we were making $50k, once we bought our house, we saved about $2k a year. We had been saving more prior to that and had the $10k stash. If I had lost my job I would have used some of my savings before even thinking of going to the government for help. In fact, as I think about it, at one point before I was married, I was only making $8.50 an hour and then I was making nothing for a short time. I ran out of money and my dad gave me $1,000. I guess I could have applied for public assistance. It didn’t even occur to me.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie You are correct that there are plenty of people that could save but don’t, but it sounds almost like you’re saying anybody can save; a statement that is blatantly false. Maybe you didn’t mean to sound that way, but that’s how I read it. I have heard from so many people that think everything in life is a choice and that every person who doesn’t lead a charmed life of wealth did it to themselves that I’m a little touchy.

When your net income is close enough to your mandatory recurring expenses (rent, utilities, gas) and you have to use the remaining $200–300/month for food, medical/dental expenses, clothes, car maintenance, student loans, etcetera, saving isn’t really an option though, and therefore isn’t considered. Hell, I tried. Managed to save up a few times, only to get laid off, rack up medical bills, blow up a car, or otherwise get wiped out by massive unplanned expenses.

Granted, those meager savings turned a cataclysm into a mere catastrophe, but I am also luckier than many millions of Americans in that I was even able to cushion the blow; plenty of people are utterly incapable of even that, and no amount of financial responsibility will help when you have no money to be responsible for. Think about how many millions of people are not as well-off as I am. Those that are like I was, or worse. Those that haven’t had the lucky breaks I have had.

There are also many millions of other people who cannot even fathom that sort of life, most often because they’ve never been there. Those that consider themselves the baseline and all those who are less fortunate to be failures.

And I think that is the reason many on welfare are considered parasites. Those that hold that opinion think they had such a tough life but managed to become rich and successful without welfare, so anybody who isn’t rich and successful is lazy. They think there is no luck; hard work always leads to prosperity. There is no such thing as misfortune, only stupid decisions. In short, it’s because some people are sociopathic, elitist assholes with no understanding of life other than their own personal history.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv No, I have said over and over I want people to have higher wages, because at the lower income levels it is impossible. I gave numerous examples of not trying to peg only the poor, but that even high income people can be irresponsible. Most people work hard at every income level. Physical labor is some of the toughest. I worked a physical job and the exhaustian and beating the body takes is not understood by those who have never done it.

The assholes you are talking about are assholes. All jobs need to get done. We should value all work. If everyone had a college degree and wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, who is going to do all the other jobs that need to get done? If we want all the neighborhoods around us to be safe and nice and healthy environments for the people who live there then we need to pay a salary that lets people afford it. The assholes live in some sort of lala land where they don’t really think about the consequences. The countries with the worst poverty have the very rich and the very poor and very small middle classes and don’t care about paying decent wages. America seems to be working it’s way towards that.

If I had had a baby when I first started as an adult, the savings I mentioned would not have been there. I would have been spending it on my baby. That’s another reason people are critical of that. Getting some savings in the kitty first means not always being behind the 8 ball.

My criticism is people not understanding saving is worth doing. When my husband and I go through our expenses we also consider how much we can save. I hear a lot of people when they get an increase in money talk about the next thing they will buy. The people at the lowest income levels are not who I am criticising, unless they tell me if they made double they would be spending all of it still. It’s about how people think.

The Q I referred to way up in my answers was a jelly asking what people think is a good amount of savings. I think she was thinking $3k, I might remember incorrectly. After that she feels she should be putting the money to good use. My advice is have a minimum of 6 months expenses in savings. She is not making minimum wage, but she does have a modest income from what I can tell. My guess is $3k does not cover 6 months of her expenses. She wasn’t given those sorts of rules obviously growing up.

JLeslie's avatar

I will add though that decisions do matter, because misfortune will happen. It happens to everyone. Planning and expecting misfortune is part of what I am talking about. If @jonsblond spent the $1200 on a TV leaving no savings for a rainy day, that is a bad decision in my opinion. I assume that was not the case, and that they do have some savings, I am just using it as an example. Let’s say it was the case, there was no savings and they spent all the IRS gave them that year. When the car breaks down and he can’t get to work they might regret the big TV in their living room. They can put fixing the car on a credit card, and then the $500 repair will probably wind up costing $550 by the time they pay it off. Then something else happens and that $400 costs $440 by the time it is paid off. So, the person spends an extra $90 because they didn’t save. People who live check to check no matter how much money they make, wind up spending more money usually in the end. $90 is a lot of money to throw on the street.

jonsblond's avatar

@JLeslie I know you are only using my quote as an example, but the point I was trying to make was someone who doesn’t have a lot of money might spend that much on a television because it’s one of their main sources of entertainment, but they save money elsewhere by not spending large amounts of money on everything else. Some people like to say low-income people are parasites because they have the nicest television or newest phone, they shouldn’t have these things because they get $200 a month in food stamps and free medical, but they don’t know how these low-income people are saving elsewhere. And it’s not like they are spending $1200 a year on a nice television. It’s a one time purchase. We shouldn’t judge a person based on the fancy gadgets they own.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They could be gifts, too. A low income person doesn’t necessarily have low income family members.
For me, though it was frustrating. My Dad and Mom had quite a bit of money, and they’d buy all this really extravagant stuff for the kids for Christmas. Things they did NOT need, and I’m wondering how I’m going to afford a new pair of shoes for them.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I understand your point better now, and I agree you cannot judge based on one gadget or one piece of financial information. Although, you said gadgets, I think it depends on how many gadgets and how new the gadgets are whether I am going to start to judge or not if I am honest. Remember, I am judging my BIL and his spending and he made a lot if money. I think most people look through their own lense of what they think is important to spend money on and it can be unfair. However, if someone is on public assistance they are living partly on tax payer money, and so then tax payers start to feel they can question the financial decisions being made by those receiving the money. That’s how it works.

When I lent money to my BIL I was frustrated he always spent so much money and when he took a vacation before he had paid me back in full I find that annoying. We didn’t charge him any interest, it never crossed my mind to ask for any, and I still would not today. So, basically I am losing money while he is out partying in a different country.

Not to mention I was buying a Civic rather than a Mercedes and that is why I had the money to give him. I at the time had a regular cell phone and he had a smartphone. I chose not to buy the most expensive house I could afford and he was living in an extremely fancy building and had to have the penthouse floor with very high rent. Basically his choices are like multiple gadgets. When it looks like a trend I think we can question it. When some is buying lots of extravagant stuff and having to ask for financial help, we start to question their choices before we shell out the money. He had to give up his Mercedes and move. Both cost way more money than if he had bought a Honda and rented a less expensive place in the first place. It is like the $90 interest in the example I gave above. He just threw out money on the street. I’m not talking about the actual rent I am talking about the securty deposit and last months rent he lost, and the extra money it took for the new downpayment on the new car. Those two things probably are close to equal the money I wound up lending him.

@Dutchess_III That goes with what I am saying. If they were buying the shoes amd some sort of extra treat also, then that would be different. Or, giving you money to help ends meet rather than just giving big gifts you can do without.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right. But I couldn’t say anything to them @JLeslie. They had no idea how badly off I was, and it was best if I just left it that way.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I get it. :). Christmas can be very tricky to begin with.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But I thank goodness for them. They’re the reason the kids even HAD any kind of Christmas. I’d look at this $50 shirt they had bought, or whatever, and just die a little inside!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yeah, best to focus on that. Their intentions were only good, the kids loved it I’m sure, and they didn’t know how badly you were struggling. Ideally they could have asked you what to get them, and you would not have had to reveal your financial situation in total.

Christmas is tricky like I said. A friend of mine who has plenty of money to buy their children anything gets upset with her MIL, because her MIL is so over the top with gifts for the grandchildren. She feels like it spoils the children too much it is so extreme, and creates unrealistic expectations. The MIL also buys big gifts for my friend and her husband on Christmas. They don’t want to spoil her grandma fun, and they are not competitive with her. It isn’t like they want the gifts to come from them so the happiness comes from them.

They talked to her a couple times and no real change. So last year they thought they would request a specific gift and that way it would direct the money where they want it to go. They asked for year passes for Disney for the four of them. Those are minimum $300 each, can be more with no blackout dates, but most Floridians are fine with the blackout dates so I assume that is the pass they requested. So, she bought them the annual passes and then still bought a bunch of other stuff. It’s out of control. She is a compulsive shopper, so my girlfriend also doesn’t like her kids being observant to the chronic compulsive behavior. I told her to just let her do the Christmas gifts. How can you fight it?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I am so opposite of that! For the twin’s birthday I got them….a box. Spent all day decorating it, but couldn’t hide the fact that it was…a box. LOL! I buy them little things through the year as I come upon them. Just picked up a Japanese looking, black lacquered jewelry box with Mother of Pearl inlay, at an estate sale. Couple of bucks. Gave it to my ten year old grand daughter who was speechless with how beautiful it was. :D
About a year ago she and her little brother walked in and Boo said, “Well, let’s go see what’s new in Gramma’s magic toy box!”

Gramma hates spending money!

JLeslie's avatar

Favorite times with grandmas have nothing to do with money. The woman has a problem. She isn’t super wealthy, she could feasibly get into financial trouble eventually. Then what? Her son has to pay some of her expenses?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I just thought of a question….

JLeslie's avatar

Send it to me once you write it up.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie If your advice is to have 6 months expenses in savings, then that’s over a year’s net income for many people; not everyone earns >$15/hr. The only reason I even survive despite my now-decent wage is being in a dual-income household.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv It’s just a goal to shoot for. My point regarding the other jelly was she starts to feel really good when her savings are still very low in my opinion. I don’t want people to feel too comfortable before they should. I say should realizing this is just an opinion and no one has to heed that advice if they don’t want to.

My assumption is, and you can correct me if you disagree, is if your (not you personally) parents also were low income and let’s say maybe also high school or less education, they don’t know these rules or have the habits that people with more money have. They aren’t stupid, they just haven’t had a lot of guidance. There are certain habits and ideas people with money have, and people can decide to be open to hearing them or not. Some of them may not work at certain incomes, but a lot of them do.

The person with $1,500 a month in expenses needs to save $9k with the 6 month rule, and the person spending $3k a month has to save $18k. The $18k looks huge to that person even though they have a higher salary. It’s all relative. The 6 month rule is a goal. People don’t reach it the first year they start working. It takes time. A 22 year old won’t have that money in the bank, but hopefully by 30 they are getting really close and hopefully surpassed it.

Absolutely, the less you make the more impossible it is to save. There is a point where people live on every penny they make and need additional help. I understand that.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie One of my rules is the 10% rule of “extra” money. Basically, if I have money left over after the bills or get a sudden windfall (like a tax return), never use more than 10% of that for splurges. The other 90% is what’s kept me from destitution when the shit hit the fan in the past, so it seems to work for me.

And no; single mother who worked towards a degree, finally getting it in her late-40s.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie I do agree it is easy almost predestined that you can follow in the footprints of your parents. I was born and raised low class in the city of Chicago….opportunity knocked and my dad seized an opportunity to move us to the suburbs where my mom was able to start a prosperous career in real estate. When I graduated college opportunity did not knock for me and I was forced to live with a friend/roommate while I struggled to find traction in the real world. This roommate had to sell the house he could not afford to fix and do the needed repairs and I was able to buy it with cash support from my sister. I spent the next ten years spending every dollar I could earn on drywall, paint. carpeting, electric, cabinets etc. I sold that house for a nice profit that enabled my new wife and family to move closer to a new job that offered hope and opportunity. 14 years later after hard dedicated work, I offered the opportunity to sign away everything I owned and had in savings to buy this company I worked for.

The moral to my story is this all took me over 30 years of blood sweat and tears to achieve what is did but I was able to persevere and make it happen. I went for over 30 year without vacations, big screens and fancy anything other than garage sale items to make my dream happen. Investing 100% of what I had into my hopes and dreams demanded a tremendous sacrifice and discipline and it was a hell of a price to pay but in the end it was worth it.

I realize we are not equal and people do not have access to the opportunities other have….I also recognize the need to create more opportunity and incentive for “everyman” to seize opportunity and take the same risks people like me and other take to realize their dreams.

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser 30 years of blood, sweat, and tears… I have at least another decade to go! BTW, what’s this “vacation” thing? I keep hearing about them, but never had one myself.

Cruiser's avatar

@jerv Get a job and join a union like the US post office and you will have over 53 days of vacation, sick days and personal days to use and abuse at your very whim.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser 30 years. That’s the thing, for most people it takes a lot of time. That’s realistic. Slow and steady wins the race said the tortoise to the hare. Most people sacrifice a long time finally having a reasonable amount of financial freedom. People here on Fluther know me to have fancy cars and a nice size house. Our first Porsche 911 was purchased for my husband’s 40th birthday after years of not spending anywhere close to what we earned. We really were very frugile for many years. Then eventually things get much easier financially as long as there is no major crisis. I feel so much less stress about spending, because now I am not obsessed with saving. I have savings.

I admire the risks you took. I don’t think I have it in me.

My father was raised extremely poor. I think the good thing his parents modelled regarding money was they lived on what they earned. No debt. I think a lot of poor people live that way. My dad wound up making a decent salary, but he was extremely conservative with money. Sometimes annoyingly so. As kids we didn’t have any extravagances. We were the last people I knew to finally get a color TV. I never had a walkman like all of my friends. I think I owned 5 record albums, while friends had many more. My mom used to tape songs off the radio. We took candy into the cinema, never bought it there. I could go on and on. I still do almost all those things I grew up with.

talljasperman's avatar

@talljasperman @all I admire the skills needed to write long essay/paragraph answers. Congratulations.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I forgot to say something about your 10% rule. That sounds like a good one to me. My husband kind of behaves the opposite at this point. “Extra” money he feels free to spend. But, our first 10 years of marriage we were more like your 10% rule, maybe even less. We usually just took all extra money and put it in the bank period. That included birthday money from my parents, bonus checks from work, everything.

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