Try not to slip from that bottom rung — it’s a long way down.
There are many Gen X’ers and Millenials right now hoping like hell what they’re going through won’t last.
They are the individuals who grew up in American towns which were in the shadow of factories, nuclear power plants, or both. They grew up in poverty, but made their parents proud by finally getting out of it. They’ve crossed an important socioeconomic barrier — and really don’t want to go back. I am among them.
We didn’t receive money when our grandparents passed away. We don’t particularly expect anything when our parents shuffle off this mortal coil, either.
It is an unfortunate truth that is just accepted among us.
We are the ones who thought it was normal to eat the same meals regularly, and thought it was normal to only go out to eat once a month or so — for McDonald’s.
And when we stop and think about it, we wonder how the hell our parents were able to buy us that really cool bike; that game system that we now know cost several hundred dollars — probably a full paycheck or more for our struggling parents. Or, parent.
I guess they really loved us.
We may remember getting carted around with our parents in the evenings or on weekends, wherever they were heading to do an odd job or to sell some things at flea markets, to try to earn a little more income.
At a certain age we began noticing how our friends had more than us — a bigger house, a bigger yard, all the really cool toys. A pool.
Our friend’s homes had snacks.
By the time we could drive, we understood why our friends were getting a decent car, while we were figuring out how to save a thousand bucks for anything with wheels that moved and hopefully, had a stereo. At least by then, the pain and the cliques from high school were almost over.
Of course, we wouldn’t likely be going to the same college as some of our friends, moving to a cool city hours away. Community college for us — something a little higher up, if we were lucky. As long as it was cheap.
The geographic distance of our friends away at college kind of started to feel like the income disparity of our parents.
But we went to school, we got a degree. And thankfully we got some kind of job that pays quite a bit beyond minimum-wage. After several years and job promotions, we realized we were making far more than our parents did, combined. We didn’t initially know how to be careful with money, because our family never had any growing up. But eventually we figured it out, and the foundations of what we would like to think of as an American life came into place.
For many who have recently lost their jobs, that’s threatening to be ripped away.
We had the luck we needed. We fought for it, we did everything we could to get that job, that promotion, making all of our bill and credit card payments on time, getting to a solid credit score, and mostly — room to breathe.
Less than three out of ten of us who grew up in poverty ever make it out.
We are used to a level of unfairness — it is the torch we carry; it seems to be our lot in life. We only hope that we can reach a higher plateau before we pass away and have nothing to leave our own children. We’re not even sure how to possibly afford to send them to college without a scholarship. And we should really get some decent life insurance. Soon.
It can all go away if something doesn’t work out soon.
That’s what keeps bouncing around in our heads.
Unlike many of our friends — who, at a moments notice can tap in to the $50,000 their grandparents left them when they’re in trouble, or can ask their dad for a ‘quick thousand bucks’ to help out this month — we just don’t have that option.
Our friends, when in difficulty, have been able to move back in with their parents, continue working, and save a bunch of money — an amount that would take us years to save.
We are more concerned about our ability to help our own parents, if and when they need to move in with us.
We don’t have an uncle who owns a family business and who can pay us to work for a couple weeks to get by.
We don’t have parents with friends that own businesses that can “put in a good word for us” and “see what they can do”.
No — we face a very precarious and very real situation, with little to no help. Either we figure it out, or the life that we’ve built over the last 10–15 years could quickly revert to how things were when we were a child: broke.
Because we know how hard it is to get out of that situation on our own once we’re in it. Exponentially more difficult.
We are hoping to God that someone starts hiring soon; that the economy really does bounce back quickly and we can find another job for comparable pay. Since we have a life that costs money now. Quite frankly, there’s no other way it can work out short of a miracle once you slide too far down the ladder.
There is no one to save you. You have your skill, your luck, and a credit card, until something good happens. Something really good. Unless and until a kind soul gives you a hand and you can finish climbing out the rest of the way through your own strength.
This is the struggle of people who are the first generation out of poverty in America; their families can’t really help, and there is no fallback system in place that so many take for granted. Once they hit a certain income threshold, they’re generally not eligible for many of the benefits that those who are currently poor might qualify for, even when unemployed.
No matter. I still have fond memories of being happy at the ages that I didn’t know what being poor was. I still have fond memories of eating white bread with frozen roast beef heated up over it, and the large block of cheese people joke about now.
This generation will not quietly fall back into the poverty of their parents, no, they will not. But it’s likely a difficult climb ahead.
Stay tuned, and stay safe.
Thank you for reading, feel free to clap and follow me as I write about Socioeconomic issues that affect us all. Below are some of my recent related articles you may also want to read: (Leave me a note if you need a bypass link — we’re all struggling together)
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The Discontent of the Poor is Spreading
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