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Interesting article: Is a Hard Life Inherited?
Old 08-21-2014, 07:07 AM   #1
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Interesting article: Is a Hard Life Inherited?

This nails what I see all around me. I am one of the lucky ones that made it. I came from a dysfunctional family. As a kid you do not realize that.
Good parenting is one of the most important factors of having successful kids. I have to agree. I am particularly sensitive to this issue since I had no guidance or help when young.

I also have a feeling that many of us on these forums are exceptions...for me it was sink or swim since no one was around to catch my fall. That's why I saved, learned about investing and wriggled my way into a responsible job. I am comfortably retired, now.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/op...ited.html?_r=0
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Old 08-21-2014, 07:21 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Redbugdave View Post
This nails what I see all around me. I am one of the lucky ones that made it. I came from a dysfunctional family. As a kid you do not realize that.
Good parenting is one of the most important factors of having successful kids. I have to agree.

I also have a feeling that many of us on these forums are exceptions...for me it was sink or swim since no one was around to catch my fall. That's why I saved, learned about investing and wriggled my way into a responsible job. I am comfortably retired, now.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/op...ited.html?_r=0
I spend a lot of time thinking about this. I just got back from visiting my sister. The main topics of conversation were: 1) Who is on disability now, 2) Is there any real danger of having your disability income taken away, 3) Who was arrested for selling drugs/making meth, 3) Has anyone heard anything from a brother who dropped out of sight? 4) How much the neighbor/cousin/friend is drinking, etc. There is rarely any mention of anything positive going on.

I also saw my grand nieces and nephew and, although they seem to be doing well, I did not see a lot of positive interactions between the adults and the kids. It was much more "don't, don't, don't".

It is hard to figure why my life has been so different from their lives. I can identify LOTS of things that I have done differently, but figuring out WHY I was able to make those choices and they were not is the puzzle.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:01 AM   #3
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Excellent post. I agree that it is very difficult to escape the brutal cycle of poverty unless you're willing to relocate and somehow find your own way. I came from a similar background as I grew up in a situation that many would consider to be "poor white trailer trash" in southern WV. My mother was a single parent with 4 kids on welfare/food stamps. Luckily, I was able to escape Appalachia, join the military and put myself through college. My siblings never left and are constantly struggling with living paycheck to paycheck, constant unemployment, a spouse dying of a drug overdose, etc. Even though I don't consider myself "wealthy", I do pinch myself from time to time knowing that I've been able to build a solid foundation for my family through savings/investments and hard work. Poverty can be a highly difficult situation to pull out of due to the attachments and relationships many people have and the unwillingness to accept change.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:30 AM   #4
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Excellent post. I agree that it is very difficult to escape the brutal cycle of poverty unless you're willing to relocate and somehow find your own way. I came from a similar background as I grew up in a situation that many would consider to be "poor white trailer trash" in southern WV. My mother was a single parent with 4 kids on welfare/food stamps. Luckily, I was able to escape Appalachia, join the military and put myself through college. My siblings never left and are constantly struggling with living paycheck to paycheck, constant unemployment, a spouse dying of a drug overdose, etc. Even though I don't consider myself "wealthy", I do pinch myself from time to time knowing that I've been able to build a solid foundation for my family through savings/investments and hard work. Poverty can be a highly difficult situation to pull out of due to the attachments and relationships many people have and the unwillingness to accept change.
I was in the same situation growing up; single parent, four kids, welfare/food stamps the whole works. I barely graduated, but was able to get into the USAF and everything changed. I look back and this was the turning point for me escaping the recurring trend, the rest of the family; one sister MIA, one on disability, and one living paycheck to paycheck if she has a job. I hope they make it, but I can't make decisions for them and they don't want my advise anyway, they are content with the decisions they have made.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:38 AM   #5
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:40 AM   #6
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It may be that the key is LEAVING the situation. I certainly saw things differently after I went away to college. Although my grandmother told me I would go to hell if I insisted on going to college I went anyway. After college I moved far away. Several of my relatives attended college and a couple even graduated, but they either stayed at home when they went to college or immediately moved back afterward.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:52 AM   #7
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Thank you for this article. This particular topic has been on my mind a lot lately, as I've really begun to realize how much luck has played a role in my own life: being born to a stable family, in a solid community, good mentors, and the like.

It was far easier for me in earlier years to just assume that my financial and professional successes were the result of some special skills or especially hard work on my part.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:54 AM   #8
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I might add...I also escaped by going into the Air Force and on to school. It looks like escaping a bad habitat is a key factor. And yes...mainly luck, staying away from bad vices, and not making the same mistakes twice, made me successful in my eyes.

A good family life with strong support from parents and extended family is extremely important...by looking at some of my other successful friends. Or by walking into the family business which is about the same...otherwise you have to spread your wings and fly, and that can be a hard road.

I can't help but tell my younger friends my story and why they need to be better parents. My parents short comings have haunted me my whole life...that's why this article struck a chord and I had to post it.

I look at a lot of people and know it's not all their fault they are where they are...and I pulled a lucky card.
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:21 AM   #9
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"Too often wealthy people born on third base blithely criticize the poor for failing to hit home runs. The advantaged sometimes perceive empathy as a sign of muddle-headed weakness, rather than as a marker of civilization...
But the essential starting point is empathy."

I certainly wasn't born on 3rd base, barely had knowledge that there was a ball field. The singular advantage I had was intelligence & the ability to do well in school, which motivated me to have a career. My siblings were much less fortunate & have had their struggles. We came of age in the 60's. If we were doing that in today's times, I suspect I would have had even greater opportunities, while they would have had even greater struggles. Back then you could get a decent paying job on a high school education...rarely so today.

I think there is a great lack of empathy for those who don't have the boots, let alone the bootstraps or wherewithal to pull themselves up by.
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:34 AM   #10
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I think the key factor in breaking the cycle of poverty is for people who can't afford kids to stop having them.

Of course, no politician with aspirations of being reelected will ever have the guts to acknowledge this out loud, as they would immediately be labeled a racist and "anti-family." So the cycle continues.
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:26 AM   #11
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I think the key factor in breaking the cycle of poverty is for people who can't afford kids to stop having them.
Totally agreed. When I read the sob stories about single mothers (or, less often, struggling families) with a large number of kids, including babies, I want to scream, "Why are you still having babies you can't afford to feed?" That also means employment is more complicated and less lucrative because you need child care.

Still, I can't discount how blessed I was being born into the family I was. My Dad put himself through college, and my parents valued education enough that they made saving to put their 5 kids through college a financial priority (and succeeded, while also providing for a decent retirement). Dad started investing in stocks when I was a teenager. It was the beginning of my fascination with investing. It was definitely a "third-base" start.
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:36 AM   #12
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My family was money poor, but values rich. My mother, though severely ADD, was college educated and I, and my siblings were all expected to graduate from college. Expectations and an example to follow made all the difference in how I have lived my life.
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:56 AM   #13
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Interesting article.

I think that this sort of thing impacts more than one generation. My parents both climbed out of poverty through getting out and working hard (combined with some luck, of course). I don't remember growing up lacking for anything, but to this day there are certain attitudes, expectations and lifestyle tendencies that are engrained in my siblings and I that are no doubt the result of our parents' experience in poverty. Now we have to work hard to keep our kids from losing the positive aspects of all of that, which becomes a challenge as the memory of crushing poverty slides further and further out of view. I think that by living relatively small and encouraging hard work, thrift, and sensible behavior about money we may avoid the worst of growing up in a life of abundance.
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:58 AM   #14
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I (and siblings) also came from a broken low income home. Raised by a single-mom in our teen years with her parents helping out financially quite a bit. All of us siblings seemed to have landed okay with no major issues.

I think this is the key paragraph regarding escaping the poverty...

Quote:
Obviously, some people born into poverty manage to escape, and bravo to them. That tends to be easier when the constraint is just a low income, as opposed to other pathologies such as alcoholic, drug-addicted or indifferent parents or a neighborhood dominated by gangs (I would argue that the better index of disadvantage for a child is not family income, but how often the child is read to).
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:04 AM   #15
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I also escaped by going into the Air Force
Another one here.

It struck me while reading this thread that I don't think I've ever had a friend who didn't claim to be from a "dysfunctional family." Is that unusual?
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:09 AM   #16
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The nature vs nurture question I suppose.

IMO, some are born into rough circumstances and no matter what it's impossible to dig out.

But for others, so much has to do with how one applies him or herself. So many times, in families, brought up in similar backgrounds, there's one sibling who made it by hard work and another that barely gets by. This isn't all luck or bad luck but the choices in life.
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:14 AM   #17
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Good article, but nothing new to those of us working in social services. The cycle of poverty is tough to break-it consists of a mélange of attitudes, poor choices, misperceptions and poor social connections. And, seemingly to me, lack of belief one can change. I volunteer at a homeless shelter. I can look at any resident there and in a very short period make accurate guesses what has caused them to be there. We are highly thought of, and considered a successful program. Less than 1/3 of our residents successfully transition out of homelessness.

Circles Out of Poverty is one program attempting to address this:
Circles USA - How It Works

"Circle Leaders, are paired with trained middle-to-high-income community volunteers, called Allies, who support their efforts to achieve economic stability.
Each week, Circles groups meet to discuss strategies for attaining prosperity and to provide support to one another. Monthly Big View meetings feature community discussions around systemic barriers to prosperity and strategies to remove them."
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:15 AM   #18
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Another one here.

It struck me while reading this thread that I don't think I've ever had a friend who didn't claim to be from a "dysfunctional family." Is that unusual?
Exactly. Lots of people love to use the fact that they didn't grow up in an "Ozzie and Harriet" or "Father Knows Best" type of middle class, happy, encouraging family, as an excuse for their lack of initiative and accomplishment in life.

But who did? Nobody that I know of.
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:24 AM   #19
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My mother was divorced in 1966, when women were not even supposed to be divorced. They barely worked outside the home. Our ‘refrigerator’ was a Coleman cooler, our dining room table was a picnic table with a sheet. The mattresses were on the floor, and after a few years she bought bed frames. It made me mad as a kid because now there were ‘monsters’ under the bed.

I started out as a sort of hoodlum, and always figured I would wind up in jail. I joined the service (USAF) at 18 and went from there. Here in America, anyone can be a millionaire or more.

It takes drive, determination, ambition and a proper environment to do it. Unfortunately, our social welfare system does not encourage anything but dependency.
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Old 08-21-2014, 12:00 PM   #20
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One contributor I've read about in my studies on poverty is that bad choices often come from simply not having enough bandwidth to process the complicated information that comes with bigger decisions.

Often a poor person is overwhelmed just by the act of covering the basics of food and shelter, leaving little mental room for planning and execution of the kind necessary to lift themselves out of their situation.

Meanwhile, folks like me have the luxury of time, energy, and research that comes from already having those basics under control.

Drugs and alcohol, having children you cannot afford, and falling into relationships that are abusive are all indicative of the sheer exhaustion some of these folks face when they are struggling in the most basic of ways. It is hard to imagine wanting to read to a child after many hours at a dead-end, low pay job.

An embarrassingly few years ago, I would not have had this perspective.
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