What if I am poor – Why not to worry about poverty

What if you are poor? The purpose of this post is to put things in perspective and ideas. I am all for making money. I often say I am an unrepentant capitalist. However, that is not what life is about. If you ever worry about money and poverty, remember, money comes and goes, but time only goes.

(to God) – It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not… Oh, dear Lord. You made many many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor… but it’s no great honor either. So what would be so terrible… if I had a small fortune?

One of my favorite musicals is Fiddler on the Roof. The above quote summarizes how a lot of people feel. Especially in the USA where a lot of people have expectations about wealth and lifestyle.

Poor market
When I have less money I buy things at local markets or make it myself. Here is a farmer's market for cheese where I live in Kraków..

Where are some reasons why it is not bad to be poor

  • There is a power in being powerless. Think about it. A Jesuit Priest in College who lived and worked in Latin America, told me this and I have thought about it. I think he was into Liberation theology such as Gustavo Gutierrez. It is a little radical but here is an interview about remembering the poor.
  • Being poor is relative – Me, living in both Eastern Europe and the US for a large part of my life can honestly say, the poor in the USA are like the super rich in other countries. For example, when I was at the US Embassy in Warsaw going an immigrant visa for my wife, I saw these Ukrainian farmers there who just won the green card lottery for the USA. They looked like Ma and Pa Kettle, with very basic farmers clothes, they were in their 50s at least. Lady at the embassy (via a translator) asked them in Ukrainian if they spoke English.  They said no. She asked them is they had an education. They said no. She asked if they had any job or assets. They said no. Even with the crisis in the USA, in my mind there is a 0.00% chance they will have any economic troubles in the USA. I know it for a fact. I live in Eastern Europe and I know how people are and how rich and easy the USA is even in the poorest areas compared to Ukraine for example. The USA still is the land of dreams, if you are humble and not greedy.
  • Being poor just means you do different things, like focus on your family and read books, learn languages, learn to play musical instruments, study art and drawing or take walks, bike instead of joining the gym or having a car. People really do spend the day in a cafe reading a book.  This is what people in Eastern Europe do, there is no flood of iPods here but also very few people go to psychologists or take antidepressants, in fact almost no-one. Life is like it was 100 years ago, but no one is starving.  In my observation life has a sweeter quality than when I live in the USA among cars and gadgets and other distractions. I am not saying the USA is bad at all, I am moving there as I want to buy a house, I just observing that being poor is no shame and certainly less boring than being rich.
  • Being poor is cool. Movies to music videos portray the poor or at least the common man as nobel and the rich guy as fat and greedy.  Now in reality this is not always the case at all. However, I know many rich people who have lost touch. I know many poor people who have no pretenses and you just feel comfortable abound. They accept you. ‘God loves the common man, than is why he made so many of them’- Abe Lincoln.
  • Small homes and apartments promote family closeness, literally and figuratively. People here in general live in 500 sq/ft living quarters for a whole family. Families are closer here, large spaces and homes are fun but are not always optimal for family relationships, especially teenagers.
  • Contrary to popular belief, rich guys do not get girls. The guys that I know with high-powered careers and jobs never got a fraction of the girls my friends did that had whatever jobs or no jobs. And when a rich guy gets married he often has a high maintenance wife. I can not tell you how many bullets I dodged when I live in Beacon Hill Boston, girls who judged guys by their title or position in society, even subconsciously, please.  I am so happy I am married to a simple farm girl with no expectations about money or wealth and loves me for richer or poorer. ‘I have wealth in my friends ‘ – Shakespeare.
  • Jesus said ‘blessed are the poor’. How can you argue with this?

Let me know what your thoughts are about money? I have a similar post here which is a little more detailed on being poor.  What is your relationship with money?  I like making money, I have a blog about money, but it is a tool not an end. When we stand before our Divine master we will be asked ‘what you do with the money he lent you’?

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7 responses to “What if I am poor – Why not to worry about poverty”

  1. David

    Its easier to be “poor” in some countries. Here in spain with a high public coverage (free education including university, health, unemployment), good weather conditions and a lot of service jobs ( low paid but flexible) is easy to be poor. Some friends spend the morning on the beach or in a public library and at night work in a restaurant. Of course they are not plenty of money but they have time.

    1. Mark Biernat

      You are right, being poor is easier in some countries than others. However, a lot of this is how people percieve poor in the country. For example, in Spain or Poland being poor is not a stigma like being poor is in the USA.
      However, in the USA being poor is more a psychological state than a economic state. I know this sounds like a bold statement, but people over estimate their economics needs and can not seperate real from unreal needs.
      For example, I know a girl who said I want to marry a rich man so I can send my children to the best schools. I believe some of the greatest minds from chess players to writers come from humble backgrounds but their parents took a real interest in their kids rather than shipping them off to an exclusive school.
      Gary Kasparov or Alexandra Kosteniuk or Isaac Bashevis Singer – read his book a ‘A day of pleasure’ – and how poor he grew up.
      Parents not money are more important for a child’s education. Further, of the riches people in the world few finished school.
      In the USA there are many opportunities for the poor, the big problem is the stigma of being poor, rather than poverty itself.
      Look at the Amish, they live very nice lives and their needs are not great.

  2. Kinga

    There are a lot of good aspects about being poor and unemployed. I’m not talking about being homeless or starving, that can never be a good thing. But if you have a roof over your head and some food on your table you’re ok. By the way, you might not know that if you have a few cents in your pocket you are richer than 60% percent of the world.

    I live in Poland and couldn’t find a job for the longest time, even though I’m young, fairly healthy and a high school graduate. I applied everywhere, including McDonald’s and KFC, but it seemed like they only hired students or disabled to save on tax.

    I lived with my parents who fed me so I didn’t starve- I wouldn’t call it a real poverty, but I had either no money, or close to none.

    I did not like my situation to say the least, but thanks to it I learned to enjoy little things that do not cost anything, and this is the first step to enjoying life.

    Big money makes you not see or appreciate what you have, because you’re too busy thinking about what more you could have or how much more you could make.

    I used to be a shopaholic and being poor was the best therapy I could ask for. It had a long term effect, too, maybe even permanent. Instead of buying things I sat at home, planted flowers, trimmed pine trees or watched my cat lay in the sun, and I felt happy.

    Having no job or money made me more creative than ever- during that time I probably produced a big truck full of scrapbooks, Christmas decorations and home sewn things. I also had time to read every book that I wanted, see every movie on my to-see list and try every recipe that sounded good. All those things are fun and cost a half of nothing.

    Another good thing was quitting smoking- being poor works better than any nicorette product or acupuncture. Your lungs love it when you’re poor. I’m now a queen of saving money, too. I recycle things and don’t buy unnecessary items, even yell at my shopaholic dad when he wants to buy something unneeded.

    Poverty can really be a blessing . If your life or attitude is going into the wrong direction it will open your eyes, make you realize that fact and keep you from wasting your life on things that you think will make you happy.

  3. Adam

    I worked hard and long hours to make money so I could be free in Paradise. To day I am siting on a beach half and I see local people that have no money siting next to me enjoying the same beach and having a nice coconuts juice. Most live for to day, never worked or stressed seriously one day in there life.

    Who is was the idiot? Ha Ha Ha …………

    1. Mark Biernat

      I 100% approve of your lifestyle. Life is too short to live in a cube. Cube life is fine if you are 23 and just out of school so you can understand what business is about, but after a while, you have to think of a better solution or work can get stale.
      I worked hard so I could live and an expat in the EU, and now looking at a beach location in Florida, St. Augustine. But I am not totally rich, yet, but investing, trading stock and have streams of income. I believe you can do anything you set your mind too. That is the beauty of capitalism it allow each person not be restrained by their lot in life, but to reinvent it

      There is a joke about a businessman who meets a humble fisherman sitting on the beach. The capitalist says to the fisherman, why don’t you take your pole and with some money trade it in for a net. With time if you work real hard you can buy a boat and make more money. With time you can make more money and get a fleet of boats and with the income you make from fishing you can eventually retire and sit on the beach. The poor fisherman replied, I already do that.

  4. Adam

    “looking at a beach location in Florida”

    At this time every thing is for sale in Florida if you are careful you can make an exceptional purchase.

    Careful meaning if its a condo or gated community you do not want to be the only tenant paying the maintenance fees. South West coast prices are still very depress. South East is cheap but simply to much tragic for my taste. Good luck .

    1. Mark Biernat

      We will rent the first year rather than buying directly on the Internet. The whole state is up for sale almost. You are right about gated communities, I was warned about this, many are ghost towns.
      I am a little surprised rents can still be high even though many homes are on the market. However, maybe I am looking in nice areas.
      We are looking at St. Augustine.
      However, we would even consider some non resort location in Darmaville or anytown, USA Florida to rent while we are looking for a place to buy on or near the beach.
      Thank you and any other advice is welcome.
      I think this is a great opportunity to pick up an undervalued asset, homes in Europe are relatively more expensive as prices are not as flexible because markets are not a competitive or free of course.

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