Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Low Income Misconceptions?

I just got my power bill today and was shocked. $150 in the middle of the winter? And we were gone for 2 1/2 weeks of that time. Yikes! They are also planning another rate hike in the middle of the summer... just when everybody in Arizona is at their peak power consumption. Ouch.

Everything is so expensive. We're current on all our bills right now, but with the horrible economic luck that we've been having in the past year, I'm starting to hope that we don't end up losing our house. That's probably not something that will happen, but it's not like the overall picture for America is doing so well either. Dh has a current temp assignment for the next 2 weeks, but it doesn't pay well, and after that, who knows?

So I saw that the power company has a program to help people pay for their electricity. We fit the income guidelines... for the past 2 months we're under the income cutoff by $1000 a month. Yikes! The cutoff is at 150% of the poverty level.

We should be over the cutoff if/when dh gets a permanent job. If you're the praying type, he really is hoping to get a job as a 911 operator. He'd be great at the job... he doesn't have much compassion so he could remain fairly calm when taking just about any sort of phone call. I don't mean the compassion thing to sound negative, he'll admit it to your face.

So I guess that in our current life circumstances, we'd be considered to be low-income. But that's all just a number. I don't feel like I'm low income. And perhaps that's because there's a lot of stereotypes that come with the label. So I guess that this post is to perhaps dispel some misconceptions...

- You don't have to be uneducated to have a low income. I have a college degree and dh is working on one.

- Your income doesn't necessarily determine what you have. My mom used to work at the food bank where I grew up... she worked there for years. She would complain when people would come down to the food bank, yet still buy lottery tickets or play Bingo. While both are probably stupid ways of spending your money and are definitely not the best thing to do with your money if you have to go to the food bank, would doing either once a year be such a bad thing? I guess that depends on your view of gambling.

But we have lots of clothes and both of my kids have tons of toys. My parents are generous at Christmas. I have a whole closet full of clothes. Some I've had since high school, some I bought when I was in the military or in college, I won some, and I've bought a few things in the past few years.

- Income doesn't necessarily go up. In our case it's gone down. In 2003 it was a choice because we believe that homeschooling is important and being there for your kids is more important than money. Which is why I chose to leave a job that paid me more than $6000 a month (plus all the other military benefits) to go work at Kindercare for $7 an hour.

- Your income doesn't mean that you're lazy (or conversely, hard working). Ever work at McDonald's? That can be a tough job, but it doesn't exactly pay a whole lot. I'm sure that picking lettuce is not a walk in the park either. My husband goes to school full time, and usually works full time. Sometimes people just get unlucky. I read the book Nickel and Dimed last year... most of the people that the author worked with worked very hard.

I suppose we may end up with $14 knocked off our power bill in a couple of months if we continue to hit rotten financial luck. Woo. And I get a little help paying for my kids to go to the doctor. But this should all be temporary... even if our country does go into a recession/depression, countries always come out eventually. But the way that some people would have you thinking, anybody who falls into some rotten luck should be sterilized to prevent them from having any more kids, they should never buy fancy name brand food (although often this is the food you can get for free or dirt cheap if you buy it on sale with a coupon), and you should always drive an old beater, even if you know nothing about cars and having a reliable car to get to work is important to keeping a job.

I once knew a guy that was a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves who lived in a car. That was his choice. Income is just a number... and that's about all it necessarily says.

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