Buy the fries: Financial advice doesn’t work when you’re poor

May 7, 2019 Published by

“Savings tips are classist garbage and belong in the trash.” That’s what the subtitle of a recent article from Vice says, and it’s so true. If you are working 60 hours a week at two part-time food-service jobs like the person in this article, and you’re making $23,000 a year, you don’t have time to manage a savings plan—and you definitely don’t have any money left over after bills to put away.

People think people in poverty stay poor because they spend their money irresponsibly. But this is actually a tried and tested coping mechanism. The author of the article on Vice identifies “poor person brain.” The author elaborates:

“‘Poor person brain’ is when you’re just about out of your mind stressed about how you don’t have enough to get by. Despite the fact that I currently have $45.90 in my bank account to last through next week, it’s not uncommon to treat myself to a burger after a particularly grueling week. It’s a habit that I see both as an egregious failure to save my money and as a necessary expenditure to find the will to keep grinding away.”

The point is that if you don’t have the financial means to plan for the future, you shouldn’t feel guilty about indulging yourself if it helps you get through the day. Surviving the tyranny of the moment is so hard, and poor people shouldn’t be blamed for not saving money if their spending helps them get through the day.

“Most financial advice is for middle class people who make bad choices,” the author writes. And the numbers of those middle class people who actually exist are steadily shrinking, which means most financial advice applies to a smaller and smaller subgroup of the population as a whole. These people have the means to make bad choices about racking up credit card debt and investing in shaky futures like cryptocurrency.

So “go ahead, buy that bag of fries,” the article advises. “Maybe the best thing we poor person brainers can do is embrace it. Embrace your financial woes, regain the autonomy that the status quo thinks we don’t deserve, if only to spite those who think we are less than for having less than. I’m poor and I like doing face masks to cheer myself up. I’m poor and I like to eat a meal I didn’t have to make when I’m too tired to keep going. Bite me.

“If you’re poor, take a day off every few months and use it to heal and recharge. If a huge bag of McDonald’s fries is what’ll give you a mental tune-up to keep going, to push back, you go to McDonald’s, buy that unhealthy, greasy fast food, and you chow down on those bad boys with pride. You know how much money you have. You know how you’re spending it. Own your need to survive. Turn it into a decision to live for right now and laugh. Laugh loudly, with your mouth full of fries, at anyone who tries to criticize you for it.”

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This post was written by Ruby Payne

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