According to the Census Bureau, more than 37 million people in the country live below the poverty line.
1. Bank Fees
Some businesses don’t even accept paper money anymore. Renting an apartment? Don’t bring that shoebox full of dollar bills. Many places are now strictly debit or credit. And they don’t care whether it’s from a bank account that has actual funds, or one which is overdrawn and charging ridiculous fees every day that it has a negative balance. If you’re poor, you better be really good at budgeting — or begging that the bank kindly cancel your overdraft fees, which can be upwards of $35 per day. For some, that’s food for a week.
2. Credit Cards
Having no credit gets you basically the same treatment as having bad credit. If you have never had a credit card or bank account, you’re just as screwed as the guy who has creditors coming after him. If you have no credit or bad credit, the only credit card or loan option is most likely one with ridiculously high interest rates. An unusually low minimum payment may look good at first: spending the cash you need but don’t have, while only paying small fractions back at a time. Although it seems like a great tradeoff, it’s really a quite efficient trap. The interest rates increase the card holder’s debt as they pay small increments; the rest of the money owed is continually compounded. The hole only grows larger.
Many poor people live in areas where public transportation isn’t readily available, and can’t afford to own a car. It’s a huge inconvenience, and a costly one at that. The cheapest grocery store is usually not the closest one; many poor people are forced to settle for higher-priced general/corner stores rather than travel to the nearest large supermarket (i.e. Trader Joe’s, Costco), where the middle class shops a few miles away.
Besides the distance of cheaper food, the way in which we produce and price food has also become a problem. Processed food has become cheaper and quicker to pump out, and organic or fresh foods have become more expensive. Cans of terrible-for-you ravioli may be less than a buck each, while home-cooked meals consisting of vegetables, soup stock, and organic chicken can rack up a bill of over $30 to feed a family of four for just one night. Even when it comes to fruits and vegetables, the healthier organic choice is typically more expensive than non-organic. It’s no wonder that the poor opt to purchase Happy Meals for their children instead of spending close to double that on a healthier but more time-consuming, more inconvenient, and costlier meal.
From the Washington Post:
The corner store:
White bread – $2.99
Wheat bread – $3.79
Gallon milk – $4.99
White bread – $1
Wheat bread – $1.19
Gallon milk – $3.49, or 2 for $2.99 each
The poor spend more time waiting for the bus. Dealing with lenders and banks and credit collectors and banks and payday loans. Vying for government assistance. Spending time with a car that often breaks down, its owner unable to provide proper repairs because of the price. The poor travel to the laundromat in rural areas, spending hours at a time washing clothing for their families in washers and dryers which they cannot afford to own. They are taxed for money orders, given check-cashing fees at instant cashing businesses, and incur other penalties for bills paid late. Some travel out of their way to make extra cash, selling their blood or collecting cans for the meager change it will earn them. The poor pay rent that they can’t afford, but lack the credit to get a mortgage or afford down payments for a house they might someday own. Money is funneled out so they can afford shelter, crappy food, clean laundry, and the fees for every loan or money order they take out, but the money coming in never increases.
5. The Working Poor, Denied Help
Those making just enough money for the government to consider them ‘above the poverty line’ sometimes have it worse off than those with little to no income. Welfare, child care facilities, and other types of government assistance are often denied to those who are barely able to support themselves. If a person doesn’t meet the cookie-cutter standards for these types of assistance (in terms of their income), they are left to their own devices and forced to shell out cash which could be put to greater use. $300-$500 in denied money which would be better spent on credit building, car payments, toys for the kids, or even the occasional fun outing to a bowling alley for the children is sucked into expensive groceries and childcare. Additionally, welfare is often extorted by those who refuse to work, preferring to stay at home and receive their government cheese. This is an especially upsetting conundrum: work hard and be denied assistance, or laze around and receive free money and food. This is not to say that every person on welfare is abusing offered help, but this problem is no secret.
Poor neighborhoods are often the most dangerous ones. With little or no help from the government, poor transportation options, limited job opportunities which are far or low-pay, and crappier education, many people turn to crime to support themselves. Feeling abandoned by their government and community, the poorest neighborhoods are often filled with petty criminals looking to profit in whatever illegal ways they can. Stealing pipes and wires to hock for copper scrap, taking air conditioners, robbing houses, sticking people up, dealing drugs, and prostitution are common in extremely impoverished areas. Not to mention the fact that teen pregnancy rates tend to be higher and access to free contraceptives/sex education are less common. In turn, children learn to imitate what they see in a world of remarkable crime and violence.
The stress of being poor is enormous. Meeting payments, long travel times, long work hours, not enough income, denial of government assistance, and other problems common among the poor are giant stressful monsters which loom over their heads on a day-to-day basis. Medical studies have found numerous detrimental effects of constant stress, such as reduced short-term memory in children, and heart and blood pressure problems in adults.