There are a great many people in this country who are one missed paycheck away from financial ruin.
They may not look like what you expect. They may drive nice cars, live in nice neighborhoods and even be what some people on Instagram would hashtag as #Goals, but beyond the happy smiles on social media, they are struggling and sometimes robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is a fact of life.
Whether you are balling on a budget or figuring out how you are going to make that last $20 stretch for the next seven days until your direct deposit hits, you can relate to the struggle.
The Washington Post recently asked users on Twitter to describe what the experience is like, and they got responses from professors, real estate agents, farmers, business executives, computer programmers and store clerks alike.
A recent report from the Federal Reserve backed up those claims, noting that four out of 10 adults said they would not be able to come up with $400 if an emergency happened—at least not without creating more debt or having to sell personal items to raise the money.
We are living in a time where people have to set up GoFundMe accounts to cover basic medical necessities like insulin needles and asthma inhalers. Fundraisers go up regularly for people who even with full-time employment, are not able to cover their full living expenses or keep food in their homes the entire month.
It is at once tragic and disappointing. We live in what is supposed to be one of the most successful countries in the world—the place people flock to come to for a better life, yet the average person working 40 hours a week is—as Stevie Wonder put it—“living just enough for the city.”
It’s easy to lecture people about their financial situations when you aren’t in their position; it’s much harder to empathize or sympathize with something you can’t understand.
We don’t need to involve ourselves in an oppression Olympics to understand that there are varying degrees to this.
Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor who now studies how middle-class families spend their wages at the Economic Policy Institute, told the Post, “It’s astronomical what people need just to make it month to month. Given the high cost of transportation, housing, health care … There is often no wriggle room.”
And without “wriggle room,” people’s entire financial standing can collapse over a blown engine or a suddenly high electric bill or a death in the family.
The struggle is real.