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My Experience Living Between Socio-Economic Classes

February 9th, 2019 at 10:34 am

Reading the posts and comments on poverty levels has me thinking a lot, and not about my grand-parents or great-grandparents. But my own experience. I am now a middle-aged person, married almost 30 years, with a family of my own that is growing. And I am who I am today fiscally because of how I was raised and the money management that I saw.

I was born to teen-agers six months after their high school graduation. At the time, marriage was the only option. My biological father had also father another child born six weeks after me who was placed for adoption. Three of my four grandparents were born in Europe, with the one born here raised on a farm. None of my grandparents graduated high school, yet made money and prospered in real-estate and also owning a gas station and a fleet of taxis.

My parents lived in an apartment in a building owned by my grandparents. My father went to college and then law school. (Paid for by his parents) But he was a bully along the way and my mom left him at the age of 21 with two kids and no means of real support. Her parents were pretty clear it was up to her ex-husband to support her. After the divorce she ended up staying an additional 3 years because of no education and no way to support the kids. [The only benefit to this decision was when she left again there was no legal battle, that was already done.] So she stayed again until the bullying got really bad. So she left. And worked part-time. menial jobs to pay the rent and keep food on the table. See, the ex-husband didn't pay child support like he should have. She didn't have money to get an attorney. Her parents didn't know bad it really was money-wise because she was told it was her problem and her ex-husband should be paying support.

It meant living in a one bedroom aparetment. It meant having little to no furniture. It meant mac and cheese and hot dogs and bologna. It meant new clothes only received as gifts. It meant shoes falling apart. It meant washing clothes in the sink because there wasn't money for the laundromat.

Biological father at this point has had a string of live-in girlfriends (with kids) who he lavishes money and attention on. It means he drives a Corvette while his ex-wife drives an unsafe car because she's saving money for brakes. It means a whole lot of confusion to the kids.

It improves a bit when grandparents on both sides realize how bad it is. There are some after-school activities now, visitation with bioloigcal father transfers to his parents who are good about giving "allowances" to my brother and I, my mother remarries and they buy a modest but very nice house in the suburb we were renting in. I then attend a private Catholic school, etc.

I am the victim of financial abuse. I was hungry and thin and didn't have insurance as a child and also almost died from an anaphylactic reaction. I decided to make my kids' well-being a priority. I also became educated on the outside chance that I would end up a single parent with no support from an ex. I learned to worry needlessly. I also learned that my father uses money as a manipulative tool to get people to do what he wants. I didn't have my emotional divorce from him until the age of 21 and it resulted from a money tactic he tried to pull. I still wonder if I have enough money despite a net worth of close to $1,000,000 (disclosure 75% of that is real estate). I live a middle class existence and pay cash as I go. I don't use credit. I have a budget and a cancer diagnosis derailed our finances a few years ago (still paying on $17K debt and add $3K to that annually with follow-up scans and Rxs).

So poverty can be istitutional. It can be because of circumstances beyond someone's control. I can also say that I have several first-cousins who are previously homeless and now reside in public housing (a result of drug use and poor choices - on both sides of the family). I can say that education is a key but not always, since my biological father is still living off of his parents' estate. I can say that despite my education, I had four surviving children in six years and I stayed home with them. I also had my nephew who was orphaned part of that time. I pay on a student loan still. My husband has nothing more than a bachelor's degree and we've managed to send our kids to from K-12 at Catholic schools. We have paid for the first two years of college for the oldest two so far.

Am I resentful for being hungry at times and having to walk to school in clean, but damp clothes on some cold fall mornings? Sometimes. But it is always worse for other peope. And if being poor freed us from having to live with a bad bully, it was worth it.

Point, everyone has a story. Everyone makes choices. Sometimes you are a victim of circumstances, sometimes you are a victim of your own stupidity. All I can do is try to be a good example to my own kids who are learning to make their way in the world.

6 Responses to “My Experience Living Between Socio-Economic Classes”

  1. Dido Says:

    Powerful story, Laura. Thank you for sharing.

    I love your conclusions in your last paragraph.

  2. Smallsteps Says:

    I agree everyone has a story some have had it worse and some better.
    It is easy to have 20/20 hindsight but in reality each item we face shapes us.

    Example is your caution just in case, to not be a single parent struggling, learned from observation and experience as a child.
    I have seen some recreate the same situation again and again, then say see it is impossible to break this pattern.
    I feel this is the difference, I avoided situations after seeing things and my siblings all fell into the same poverty traps and seemed surprised by the (often predictable) outcomes.

  3. Buendia Says:

    Everyone has a story - absolutely! Yours is heartbreaking (I can just imagine you as a child) but you are so STRONG!!

  4. MonkeyMama Says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  5. rob62521 Says:

    What a strong, smart person you have become! Thanks for sharing your story!

  6. livingalmostlarge Says:

    I am so glad your mom got away. Sounds like things turned around greatly for you. I am impressed. I am saddened by the fact that yes education isn't always the key. Things happen and go off the rails.

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