The benefits of growing up poor? That’s right, there’s no typo there.
We are all well aware of the benefits of growing up in a wealthy family, but today I want to talk about some of the benefits of growing up poor.
First off, I want to be transparent and tell you that I didn’t grow up completely poor. I’m not looking for sympathy here, because I know there are plenty of people who grew up in a situation that was much worse.
I didn’t grow up in the projects. I grew up in the neighborhood across the street from the projects. So there was always that constant reminder that things could have been a little worse.
Also, we weren’t living on food stamps. My mom worked two jobs to keep food on the table, even if it was only ramen noodles and bologna sandwiches for weeks at a time.
In reality, we were poor because my parents both made poor financial decisions. Personal finance is one of the most important skills a person can learn.
However, I have no hard feelings about my mom not managing her money well or my dad not helping out – because I wouldn’t be the man I am today without growing up poor.
If you’re in a similar situation right now, just know you aren’t alone and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Focus on the positive side of your situation and remember that the best path is NOT the path of least resistance.
You’re Forced to Become Self-Reliant
When you don’t have any extra money you have to learn to do more things for yourself.
That means when things break around the house, you have to learn how to fix them yourself. One thing I admired about my mom growing up was that she was never afraid of taking on a home improvement project.
Being the man of the house, I was inclined to learn how to be a handyman at a young age. At the time I just assumed it was normal to learn how to fix things around the house.
It wasn’t until I got to college and even after college that I realized just how helpless most people are in this regard.
Being self-reliant is more than learning how to do things that you would prefer to pay someone else to do.
It’s an acceptance that you are responsible for your life’s outcome. If you want something, you have to go get it yourself. You don’t get to rely on someone else to hand it to you.
By the time I was in high school I was buying my own groceries, cooking all of my own meals and paying for all of my school expenses like field trips, school dances and ACT tests. I remember having a college roommate who didn’t know how to do his own laundry and thinking “how could someone be so helpless at this age?”
I didn’t own very many nice things until after college, but all of the nice things I owned I had to work hard for.
When you have had to rely on yourself from such a young age, it gives you confidence. Not that I was extremely confident, in fact I was actually very insecure because the majority of my peers were very well-off and looked down on those with less.
However, I have always had confidence in myself to figure things out and make things work. When it comes to the outcome of my life, I trust myself more than anyone else to make important decisions. I don’t think I would feel that way if I had grown up with wealth.
Now I’m not trying to pretend I’m someone special or that I’ve accomplished some miraculous feat or anything. That’s actually the point. If I can make it out, so can you.
In the neighborhood I grew up in, I was the only kid who ended up going to college. I didn’t do it by having exceptional athletic ability and getting a scholarship.
Although I was smart enough to have gotten an academic scholarship, I didn’t strive for it. Unfortunately, I bought into the idea that because I was poor that I should start out going to community college.
So I worked and paid my way through school. I transferred from community college to the University of Oklahoma and got student loans and continued to work through school.
There’s no special formula there. There’s nothing from stopping you from repeating that. Looking back, I would’ve done things completely different. However, being the first person in my family to graduate college I was figuring everything out as I went.
You can do much better!
Comfortable With Less
Another benefit from growing up poor is being comfortable with less.
Although I prefer to have money, I don’t NEED money. The ability to be happy, despite having less than others, is a rare quality I’ve found.
Happiness is a choice. I don’t care what anyone tells you, that is the truth.
If you can find a way to be happy when you are poor, you are so much better off than most of the wealthiest people. It may be hard to believe, but you’ll eventually see it for yourself.
In fact, there was a study done recently that found that above the $75,000 salary range (on average, relative to cost of living) that happiness doesn’t increase much. That’s because once all of our basic needs are met financially, it truly is up to us to make ourselves happy.
A couple of years ago I was applying for an apartment lease in a nice area that was well below what I could afford, but it was more expensive than anywhere I had ever lived. When I listed my income they didn’t believe me and wouldn’t accept any proof I provided until I had my business banker write them a letter with financial statements endorsed by the bank. I was offended that they thought I was lying.
Then they told me they just couldn’t believe that someone who made that much would be living there. Ironically, most of the people living in that complex either couldn’t or could barely afford to live there.
When you are used to having less, you don’t rely on your material possessions to provide happiness or fulfillment in your life.
I may have been financially poor growing up, but I had already trained my mind to think like a rich person. Now I will forever live a rich life, despite the amount of money in my bank account.
If there’s one piece of advice I could give to people who are struggling financially it would be to upgrade your lifestyle at a much slower rate than you upgrade your income.
Being comfortable with less is a luxury that money can’t buy. Make the most of it.
There are more benefits to growing up poor, but this is a subject that I’ll be talking about a lot more. (I’m experimenting with shorter article lengths right now. I’d love to hear if you prefer the shorter or longer articles.)
If you’re going through a tough time right now, I feel for you. You’re not alone.
You don’t have to have any exceptional abilities to make it out of poverty. You just need to be self-reliant, be comfortable with less and keep making progress.
I wouldn’t have made it this far if I wasn’t dedicated to improving myself and my life. If I can make it out, you can make it out.
Until Next Time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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