By: Revanche

Revelations: difference between rich and poor

January 12, 2009

LAL at Living Almost Large and Grace’s comment at Meg’s World of Wealth articulated something I’d been feeling rather strongly this weekend about financial security. Meg’s original article, My 2009 Gift Tax Exclusion, discussed the money gifts she’s received over the years from her family, and Grace’s comment resonated with both LAL and me:

That’s one of the big differences between the truly poor and the middle/upper classes–no one to turn to in a financial emergency.

It’s so very true. This weekend was rough because I realized that I’m running out of time to secure a job before losing this one, and I got scared. And I mean s-c-a-r-e-d.

Frankly, the tizzy was my fault because I read the New York Times knowing that there’s no good news to be had. I should know better. Several articles about layoffs upon layoffs upon terrible economy upon too many overqualified applicants for too few jobs sent me into a Spaz Out.

Yes, I’ve been proactive about formulating an exit strategy, getting my resume out and searching consistently for a good position. And kept busy by cleaning and purging stuff, and dealing with family troubles. It’s more than enough to keep me emotionally even-keeled. But ….

1. I have 8-10 months of emergency money, but it doesn’t take into account the cost of COBRA. (So yeah, the next budget I draw up is for a jobless existence.)

2. An arthritis flare-up this weekend reminded me that I really can’t go without meds or health insurance.

3. Most fundamental: Once I go through that money, and call in one of the loans for extra cash, that’s it. That’s all the money and support I have. That’s the point at which I’d be broke and start going into debt to get by. [Horror]

I had a heck of a time working through it. My bag lady fears were out in full force because as Grace pointed out: I have no one to turn to. Certainly not my parents, and my extended family doesn’t have money to spare. As my friend put it, “You have you.”

I couldn’t understand why my friends pooh-poohed the gravity of the situation. This is the worst economy we’ve seen in how many years? I’ve been searching for months now, and have one paltry lead. [Today, a lead is a lead. I only need one full time job for now. Side income is always welcome.] Lengthy unemployment is a reality for so many people, what makes me special enough to be spared? I’ve always been a go-getter but there is so much that’s out of my hands in this situation.

Anyway, not only was I panicking, I was frustrated, until this morning, that everyone dismissed it as no big deal. It’s because they all have safety nets: they could move home. They could borrow money. They could be given money. They have family members who are an implicitly accepted resource.

In Meg’s second installment, The Effects of Not Having to Struggle Financially, she lists all the things she’s never had to do:

I’ve never had to save for long periods of time before getting something I really wanted. I’ve never had to wonder how to make ends meet that month. I’ve never had to work a job I didn’t like. I’ve never had to say “no” to a trip or dinner or experience because I couldn’t afford it. I don’t have to worry about having health care coverage or getting laid off or not being able to make my mortgage payment.

I’ve lived all of the above for years, but my friends haven’t had to do a single one of those things. She’s got a good point about the probable “deep level of peace and satisfaction that they now have by having gone through all that to get where they are.”

There’s still a long way to go before I reach peace, clearly, but at least I’m more Zen even if my friends can’t understand the mindset that sends me into flurry of worry. They’re just not poor; I’m looking forward to a time when I don’t have to think that way either.

7 Responses to “Revelations: difference between rich and poor”

  1. Miss M says:

    I saw some of those discussions as well and am working through my own thoughts on family wealth versus financial outlook. My family is all middle class, so while they could help me out in minor emergencies their resources are limited. Mr M is the black sheep of a wealthy family and I see the influence of a wealthy childhood in his decisions. I grew up knowing that once I was out on my own, I needed to take care of myself. No one would rush in to save me if I got in too much debt or wanted new stuff. While the lack of a safety net is kinda scary, I’ve learned to trust my own abilities more. There’s a certain pride in self reliance.

    Your job fears are perfectly rational but try not to dwell on them too much. Use what you know about the poor market to make you work harder, don’t allow it to discourage you. I’m pulling for you.

  2. Trevor says:

    Well- looking at the bright side… at least you have that emergency fund in place. Think of the absolute emotional mess you’d be in if you knew that you couldn’t afford not to have a job NEXT WEEK!

    I went through the same thing and it’s tough!

    You’ll be fine! Good luck.

  3. Guess which blogger I adore is now freaking ME out?

    (Yea,.. you, Revanche!)

    Arg.. good thing I can turn to BF for help or my siblings, but definitely not my parents.

    *bites nails* At least I have 2 years of expenses saved if I live on a tight budget.

    Now I feel guilty for buying that Shuffle.. I could’ve saved that $80. And I should ask BF to cut back on our groceries..

    This is not a good side of me! LOL

    Fabulously Broke in the City
    Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver…

  4. J. Money says:

    man, i’d seriously freak out! (sorry, that doesn’t help does it?) our emergency fund would def. last a few months too, but not nearly long as yours…and i don’t have much patience which could be either a good thing or a bad thing 🙂

    but yeah, just know that we’re all hear for you and we’ve got your back! that doesn’t help you find a job, i know, but at least you know you’ve got a lotta ears listening up!

    just remember, you = awesome.

  5. mOOm says:

    You should be able to get some unemployment pay from the government for a few months and temp agencies are good too if you are stuck for money and have skills. I don’t think you’ll be destitute whatever happens. But you might not have enough to give your family the support they need if you don’t get a good job for a while and that would be a worry.

  6. Single Ma says:

    You won’t need your 8 month emergency fund because when this mess is over, you will land flat on your feet. That job is YOURS – claim it and let it be.

  7. Revanche says:

    Miss M: That’s where my best friend came from: middle class, but expected to take care of herself. Meanwhile, my parents were struggling (but I didn’t know it) to make the bills and kept telling me they’d take care of college and everything. Thank goodness I decided that the least I could do was to take care of myself for college!

    I’m pretty good about not dwelling now, except for the occasional spaz.

    Trevor: Hah, good point. I don’t even want to know how freaked out I would be without the e-fund.

    FB: Er, heh … sorry!! If it makes you feel any better, J. Money isn’t helping any (down below) either. 😉 J/k. I’m just going to focus on the positive here, which is that someone adores me. 😀

    You will be FINE. That shuffle is not going to break you. And you can go for two years, which is awesome. Besides, you know you would never wait that long before finding something.

    J. Money: Dude! Not helping! 🙂 Only kidding, I pretty much only tell y’all when I’m freaking out – family and friends don’t really know – so the support is welcome.

    mOOm: I am mostly worried about the family. I can go find shelter at a friend’s for a while, and babysit for my keep if need be. California’s pretty broke, though, so they may be borrowing MY money (if I’m owed a refund) this year.

    SM: You’re absolutely right. One way or another, things will work out as intended.

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