Skip To Content

    Non-Rich Folks Are Pointing Out Things The Wealthy Don't Understand About Poverty, And It's Eye-Opening

    "People can work 40 hours/week making minimum wage and still fall below the poverty line."

    Extreme income inequality has left many rich people out of touch with the realities of poverty.

    20th Television

    So, we recently asked non-rich folks in the BuzzFeed Community what they wish the wealthy understood about being poor. Here's what they had to say:

    1. "How not everyone can put money away 'for a bad day' or to invest."

    "When you have barely enough money for rent, food, and everything else, it's not always possible to save up money. And if you do, usually something breaks, and boom, there goes your savings."

    prekeles

    "You can’t save money because if you do end up with an extra $20, that isn’t going into a savings account. You’re going to buy a pair of jeans you desperately need or a new pair of shoes, whatever you have been putting off."

    12345678a

    2. "Government assistance. In order to receive SNAP or Medicaid, you have to prove your employment history, income, assets, etc."

    "I'm sure there are dishonest ways of going about it, but for those of us who do it the honest way, it is hard on us and takes a ton of time. Being looked down on is such a tough feeling when you're really just doing your best to provide for yourself and your kids."

    happylittlebea

    "People can work 40 hours/week making minimum wage and still fall below the poverty line. When workers don’t make a living wage, they have to supplement with government assistance, which is funded by taxes. Businesses that do not pay a living wage are passing that cost directly to the tax payers."

    12345678a

    3. "The luxury of having whole, organic, healthy foods that cover all the food groups instead of eating instant noodles or mac 'n' cheese just to save money."

    saron_

    "I am overweight and poor. Most of the food that I can afford is full of unhealthy crap. It keeps you alive, but it's not healthy or always good. Buying vegetables is expensive."

    t4fcb51f94


    Cup of instant ramen
    Yarygin / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    4. "I worried about finances before any of it was actually my responsibility."

    "I'd want something for dinner and go, 'Oh no, what if Ma and Pa don't have enough money for that.' I was self-conscious of my Christmas list for years because I knew I was probably pushing it. People who are wealthy their whole lives don't have to think about that, at least not as children. I wonder what that's like."

    sonderpotato444

    5. "Traveling is a luxury. I would love to see the world, but it’s impossible with my income, and there are people out there worse off than me."

    sarcasticscorpio

    "I'm subscribed to all sorts of cheap travel deal websites, but none of them are ever cheap enough, especially considering all the other costs you incur with traveling. I thought it would motivate me, but it's only serving to frustrate me to daydream about all the places I'll never see."

    rebeccad9407

    6. "You can't afford a social life."

    "You can't eat out with friends. You can't meet anyone if you don't have a car or go to events if you can't pay. You can't afford to fly home to see anyone, even your family. You can't afford a nanny, babysitter, or maid. You work all day, so when you get home, that's where you stay, doing more work. Who has time for friends and family if you're poor? You end up alone, without a support system, stressing over bills instead of sleeping."

    0networth

    Person in bed, too stressed to sleep
    Prostock-studio / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    7. "Not everyone has the resources and opportunities to go to college and work towards a career where you make six figures."

    "I’ve met several people who blamed me taking a job that pays $10/hour on the fact that I chose not to go to college. When in reality, I had no choice right out of high school because I needed to help support my newly single mom and my sibling."

    channieb97

    8. "'Money can’t but happiness' isn’t true. It gives people security and takes away a massive amount of stress in people’s lives."

    "It leads to more opportunity in life to travel, not worry about bills, and so on. Financial security is freedom."

    mbollmeyer3

    9. "If something big breaks, there's not necessarily money available to replace it."

    "Our dishwasher, for example, doesn't work right now, so we hand-wash our dishes. We had to buy a new stove right before Thanksgiving, so replacing the dishwasher is a luxury we can't afford. We have to prioritize our purchases."

    kittitude

    Person washing dishes
    Yacobchuk / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    10. "There is no equality in the criminal justice system for poor people."

    "A rich person can easily hire an attorney to devote serious time and energy to a case. But a poor person often has to rely on a public defender, who is swamped with tons of assigned cases and can't put in that same time even if they wanted to."

    misterfrooby

    11. "It’s literally traumatic. It keeps you in a constant state of stress, yet you’re unable to do anything about it."

    "The lack of money means you’re constantly paralyzed (despite the hustling). It’s traumatic, causes PTSD-like symptoms, and can trigger a number of other mental illnesses."

    skyefaer

    12. "Just how valuable owning a vehicle is. While some cities have really great, well-funded, and efficient public transportation systems, the majority do not."

    "Many small and mid-level cities have buses, but there isn't the ridership to increase frequency. This results in bus routes that run every hour/half an hour. This time can really add up when you add in route transfers. My work is a 15-minute drive depending on traffic. By bus, it's over an hour each way. Driving gives you extra hours to do errands, spend time with your family, do housework, get a second job, not have to pay child care, etc. It's not just a lack of money poor folks have to contend with. It's the massive burden of having to compensate that lack with your time, which is far more valuable."

    m7anders

    Person standing on the bus
    Maskot / Getty Images

    13. "That so many things are set up in our neighborhoods to stifle our goal of financial literacy. For instance, where I grew up there were several pawn shops, rent-to-own set ups, and cash advance stores."

    "These places prey on the working poor. I thought it was normal to buy everything from these places because I saw my mother do it. It wasn’t until later that I realized the interest and the 'deals' are set up to get you into more debt. But the working poor focus on the day-to-day and are sometimes uninformed or misinformed on how these places work, so the cycle continues."

    mj2005

    14. "Professionally speaking, dreams coming true? Nope! You are just forever stuck with any damn job you can find to survive."

    eimaitotzo

    15. "How being poor now affects your future."

    "For example, we owe a lot on medical bills. We don’t have a lot of money at the end of the paycheck to pay them, so most of them have been turned to collections. That will follow us close to a decade on our credit score. So even if we DO find ourselves in a better situation financially, things like buying a house or car will cost us MORE because we are struggling now."

    shelby2222

    Couple looking stressed as they look at their bills
    Peopleimages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    16. "How much it costs just to be able to hold down a job."

    "There have been weeks where I’ve had to go without much food so I could put gas in my car because I can’t get to work without gas."

    nikola2393

    17. And finally, "It costs more to be poor."

    "I went five years without even a dental cleaning because I couldn’t afford the copay. I also have Sjogren's, which leads to more dental decay and teeth literally falling apart. I’m able to afford regular dentist visits now, but I’m looking at tens of thousands of dollars' worth of repair. Had I been able to afford the dentist, those repairs would less intense/costly."

    jenaer2

    "Overdraft fees and late fees pile up and put you in a perpetual cycle of trying to play catch-up. My old car isn't very reliable and costs more in maintenance/repairs than a newer, nicer one would. I can only afford low-quality shoes and clothes, so they need to be replaced more often."

    novelthehuman

    "We get penalized at every turn for being poor, which in turn, keeps many folks poor."

    sbc67

    What do you wish the wealthy understood about being poor? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.