Have you ever come to the end of the month and have run out of income but still have expenses to cover? It's a far too common issue that plagues much of America. For some people, it's a rare occasion that is derived from feasting too much in the beginning of the month leaving them in famine until the next pay day but for others, it's a constant, demoralizing struggle. This is the face of poverty, when the ends just don't seem to meet....ever.
Poverty is a tricky beast. There are so many underlying causes that could really pull you down into a deep state of sadness trying to figure of how to get out. By no means are we going to attempt to solve or respond to every facet of the cyclical monster. In this post we are going to address the misconception that all people in poverty are there because they have poor money management. There is a striking difference between poor money management and not having enough income to support your expenses. The latter is where a vast majority of the impoverished population falls.
12.5% of the population is underemployed, meaning they are either in part time positions or in jobs that don't fully utilize their skill set. Guess what this leads to? More often than not, a shortage of income. The poverty line for a family of 4 is just above $25,000 according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Let's say in this family, dad has only been able to find part time work (25 hours per week) making $8.50 an hour. Mom is in the same situation making just above minimum wage ($7.50 per hour) but with more hours (30 per week). Assuming both mom and dad worked their minimum hours every week and never had to take off work to respond to any emergencies with their two children, their combined annual pay is $22,750 -- just below the poverty line. It's a two income household and still probably doesn't bring in enough income to cover their living expenses. The scenario can get even more drastic when the household only has one income and the provider is only able to secure part time work. Obviously, underemployment isn't the only culprit in creating poverty but its a major contributor.
So what happens? How do families like this close the gap, make the ends meet and find ways to cover expenses?
Some turn to government assistance -- which has such a negative stigma associated with it, who wants to do that? The way we judge and sneer at individuals and families who receive Food Assistance, Housing Assistance or any other type of aid is enough to make the proud person think twice about reaching out for help.
Some try to find additional work. 7.6 million Americans work two or more jobs according to the US Labor Department. The stress of juggling more than one job and still making time to see and interact with your family can be overwhelming.
Some turn to payday loan and title loan companies. Which creates additional financial trauma often pushing families further into financial trouble.
Seldom do they disclose their financial duress to family and friends but a watchful eye can see when people around them might need some financial guidance. There are a variety of ways not listed above that families use to try to make the ends meet and some are more effective than others. The most effective thing we can do is come together as a community and work to help our neighbors, family and friends versus judging them for what they don't know. We are only as strong as our weakest link. How will you help someone you know make the ends meet?
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It always seems impossible until it's done. - Nelson Mandela