The America Few Want To Discuss: A Check Away From Homelessness
Let's face it. Many of us think we could never be homeless. In fact, many of us are only one paycheck from being out on the street.
Did you know that many Americans are likely one paycheck away from being homeless?
Recently, I interviewed a woman who was once homeless and took advantage of a program in the county to help her and her daughter get back on their feet. Her story is the kind that you think always happened to others.
In a nutshell, prior to being homeless, she thought she was doing pretty well. She had a job, was going to school, had her own apartment, and had a car. Then, one day her car broke down and she couldn’t afford the repairs. Because she was unable to get to work or school without a car (no public transportation), she lost her job.
Since she lost her job, she was unable to pay rent, and eventually, she became homeless.
It only took one event to cause a downward spiral into poverty.
When I asked her if it would have helped to learn about budgeting when things first started going downhill, she just laughed and said no. She then explained that when she had a job she kept a tight budget. But there was not enough money to save for emergencies.
A Bankrate survey found that 82 percent of Americans keep a household budget, up from 60 percent in 2012. Even in the age of the smartphone, most people keep a budget the old-fashioned way. They either do it with a pen and paper (36 percent) or in their heads (18 percent). Just 26 percent of those surveyed said they use a computer program or smartphone app.
“A solid majority of Americans say they have a household budget, which is a good thing. But too few have the ability to cover expenses outside their budget without going into debt or turning to family and friends for help,” said Claes Bell, a banking analyst at Bankrate.com.
Most Americans are budgeting to stay afloat, not to get ahead.
So how do we solve the problem of, as Dave Ramsey would say, “Too much month at the end of our money”? Dave would tell us to scale down our expenses even more, and to sell everything! But what if you are already at the very bottom of the ladder? Is this where we turn our backs and tell our neighbor that they should have made better decisions early in life?
Ideally, we want to view all situations as ones that could have or….should have, been avoided. The reality is that, for most people, these scenarios were and are unavoidable. I began to think about my own personal financial situation. I feel solidly that I will never be homeless. How can I say that? How would I even know that?
I’m sure there are numerous homeless women and men that thought the exact same thing. So maybe my saying it is a little presumptuous. I feel so strongly about it for one reason and one reason only; that reason being family. I have a lot of family, the supportive kind of family. The kind that would welcome me with open arms and the kind I would not even fix my mouth to ask.
My definition of family also includes close friends that I’ve known my entire life. The woman I interviewed did not have a support system of family or friends to turn to….wait, that’s not entirely true. She lived for a short while with her parents, but their relationship was already strained and it did not work out.
The definition of homeless is, “without a home.” So as long as I have friends and family that would be willing to put me up, I will never be homeless. This knowledge brings me peace.
The type of peace that allows me to launch a business without any reserve. The type of peace that allows me to sleep at night when it’s the 15th of the month and I still have not paid the rent for the month. If I cannot bring any more money than I have into the household, then my only other option is to choose peace.