I never thought of myself as money-privileged before.
That was until I read an article this week written by someone who was illustrating what it feels like to be poor in America. Now I have to admit, I didn’t identify with the majority of it. Firstly, it was American, so I didn’t quite appreciate some of the things being referenced to, and secondly, my parents are both working class, but they worked extremely hard to give me and my sister pretty much whatever we wanted. Neither of us wanted for anything. We had food on the table, a warm house to live in, and yearly summer holidays. We didn’t have hugely expensive tastes anyway, and it was only once I got to university to study medicine, that I was exposed to the lives of other people who came from more wealthy backgrounds than my own.
After reading this article I took some time to reflect. I realised that I felt ashamed. Here I was, a doctor, in a rich western country, blogging about how people can help turn their money around – get out of debt and earn more through investing. But what do I know of the absolute poor of society? I’m going out, having fun, enjoying nice holidays and looking forward to a fabulous Christmas with loving family. My aim is to have a life filled with amazing memories, so that when I look back on it, I can say I truly lived. But what do I know about the poor?
I work hard for the money I receive, and even though it is the NHS (and pay generically is stagnant at the moment for the majority of NHS employees), I still earn more than the average annual salary ($42,390 = £31,675). What do I know about struggle? Yes, I see it from a doctor’s perspective, and can see the suffering that being in debt brings about medically through mental health problems and physical ailments, but my debt didn’t come from necessity, it came from a feeling of lack or “fomo” – fear of missing out on life’s experiences. A feeling like I needed to have things and do things in order to “feel successful” and keep up with everyone else. I have never known what it is like to be on the street or hungry, nor do I ever want to.
Do they know its Christmas time at all?
In the UK, according to the OECD website, 20% of people earn less than 2/3rds of median earnings. 20%? No wonder people are struggling to make ends meet. Couple that with a loss of a job (without sufficient savings in place to plug the gap), illness, or a sick child you have to leave work to care for, and you have a recipe for financial disaster. The government is again meddling with the benefits system, making it harder for people from many walks of life to access money quickly, and foodbanks are struggling to keep up with growing demand.
It’s a f***ing mess, to put it mildly, and it makes me feel deeply saddened that in this day and age we still have these issues in developed countries.
My only hope is that by educating those I can reach, I can help in some small way. We NEED more financial education, so even if I reach a small number of people, they will go on to help others – like a ripple in a small pond, extending outwards. I learnt from some of the world’s most amazing money-gurus, and now I’m paying it forward by teaching others. I am one of many voices, but like an Indian restaurant serving amazing food; the world always needs more than one.
Feed the world
Despite our societal troubles, growing up in a western society still makes us automatically better off than much of the world. An average yearly salary in Madagascar is $400 (=£298) to give you an example.
That’s a huge disparity, and one that is only getting greater with time. In the UK, we are lucky to have systems in place to help the poor and a health service that’s free at the point of use. Many of the world’s countries do not. Take a look at this YouTube video from the Money Tree Man that has a similar message of how money-privileged and lucky we really are.
Now I’ve had a chance to reflect and write about how I was feeling after reading the article, I want to offer some brighter words. We all work hard, we all deserve to live a better life. By learning to make smarter choices and realign our financial priorities, I believe that we can build wealth for ourselves and for our families. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it either. Others much less fortunate than us NEED OUR HELP, but how can we do this if we struggle ourselves?
The famous phrase “if you want to help the poor, don’t be one of them” is more poignant than ever.
With Christmas fast approaching, I hope you are planning something fun (even if it isn’t on Christmas day due to work commitments etc). If you’re still shopping, there are many blogs out there to show you how to have a frugal Christmas if you don’t have a huge budget. If you are lucky enough to have money saved however, don’t be afraid to spend some of it. Yes we need to save more for the future, and yes we need to learn how to invest to make that money go much further, but YOU ARE allowed to indulge and go a little Christmas bonkers without anyone judging you for it…. Just please do me one favour and don’t get into debt doing it ok?
On that note, I have a cake to bake…