Do These 3 Things to Avoid Poverty

As many of you can probably guess from reading some of my posts, I am a pretty big fan of others taking personal responsibility for their actions.  I know that it is hard to make a blanket statement in tough times because some people are struggling due to circumstances they have no control over.  However, I do feel that many rich people continue to make money because they continue to do those things that made them rich.  This holds the same for poor people – many continue to do the same things that made them poor in the first place.  As I mentioned, some have been put into bad circumstances because of events out of their control but, barring some sort of catastrophic event, many of us are where we are in life due to the results of the decisions we have made in our lives up to this point.  I know this may upset a lot of people because personal responsibility is a tough pill to swallow for many.  It is much easier to complain and say you are in a certain situation because of others rather than to change your actions to better yourself.

I have seen this first-hand.  I am not saying I know everything about personal finance but I have had some positive media exposure and have helped others get a better handle on their money.  I have been a part of numerous financial presentations that were FREE to attend.  I would have thought given the state of our country’s economic situation, many would jump at the chance to learn how to manage their money better but, unfortunately, the attendance for these events has remained pretty low.

Causes of Poverty

Photo © by jessiejacobson

In the recent GOP debates, Rick Santorum has cited a study by the Brookings Institute on the causes of poverty.  He cited three things that a person needed to do in order to avoid living in poverty.  These three things are not that difficult for the average person to do.  To avoid poverty, one simply must:

  • Stay in school and earn a high school diploma
  • Don’t get pregnant until you are married
  • When you get out of school, get a job

This Brookings Study cited by Mr. Santorum was actually in a book by Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill titled “Creating an Opportunity Society.” To avoid poverty, this book states:

Our research shows that if you want to avoid poverty and join the middle class in the United States, you need to complete high school (at a minimum), work full time and marry before you have children. If you do all three, your chances of being poor fall from 12 percent to 2 percent, and your chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56 to 74 percent. (We define middle class as having an income of at least $50,000 a year for a family of three.)

In addition, Mr. Haskins goes on and states:

Higher marriage rates among the poor would benefit poor adults themselves, their children, and the nation.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, children living in single-parent families are about five times as likely to live in poverty. There’s also a high probability they’ll drop out of school, get arrested, be involved in teen pregnancy themselves, have more mental health problems, and be less likely to be employed or in school as young adults. Indeed, parents themselves are physically and psychologically better off when married than single.

I know things are usually easier said than done but I found this to be very interesting.  As a teacher, I know many say that we should throw more money into the educational system to help those students that have been born to single parents and may live in poverty.  I do feel that education is very important (that is why I became a teacher) but there is only so much a teacher can do.  As a country, we can continue to throw money into our schools in hopes of improving the lives of our youth.  We already spend a huge amount on educating our youth yet, the economic situation for those that drop out of school, have children before getting married and don’t work remains bleak.

If you choose to do those 3 actions alone, you only have a 2% chance of being poor.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

About Danny Kofke

Danny Kofke is currently a special education teacher and author of “How To Survive (and perhaps thrive) On A Teacher’s Salary.” His frugality has enabled him to pursue a job he is passionate about and, at the same time, support a family of four on his salary alone.

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  • Cynthia

    I would like to add another of the best ways to stay out of poverty: deal with health problems or accidents immediately after they affect you. I had an automobile accident 14 years ago.  If I’d dealt with it right away and been open to new forms of medicine, like chiropractic, I would not be where I am today. Not dealing with my back problems until I was completely incapacitated cost me our house and our retirement. If I’d dealt with it when it occurred, I would have saved me maybe over 100,000, counting lost productivity. The value of good health cannot be under estimated. Health is wealth.

  • S Mark404

    It is difficult to emphasize education and responsible values when faced with  bankrupt cultural  favorites that glorify the gangster culture, RAP and the like.  Too many expect teachers to inspire children to learn.  From my experiences, the welfare mentality has contributed to the poverty and dependence problem.  A young teenage girl can  have a child out of wedlock , and if she works the system well, get a check, food stamps, and a section 8 place to live and bingo, she has instant adult status, with little effort on her own.  She can then have her boyfriend on the side to give her money and she is living better than many of the working poor whose taxes go to support her.  This was my experience in may years in working with the poor.  They were more interested in getting someone to help them work the system than in lifting themselves up. Out of the HUNDREDS that I tried to get to go to school to either finish or further their education, I could count no more than a handful who ever did so.