Why being broke isn’t the same as being poor

I recently had a conversation with a friend that not only upset me, but really got me thinking about the general attitude surrounding money today. A close friend of mine, who is a physical therapist, told me about a conversation he’d overheard at work.   He overheard a co-worker telling her story of going to see her tax preparer. She was talking about how her tax preparer (who by the way is incredibly unprofessional) was telling her about the huge tax refund that a single mother to 4 boys was getting. The woman has 4 children, is single, lives on $14,000 a year, and had received a large refund. The co-worker was actually Complaining saying “I’m clearly in the wrong profession” because she wasn’t getting a large refund. Not only is this person a physical therapist, her husband is too.

This Doctor of physical therapy, married to a Doctor, has become so focused on all of the negatives in her own life, and all of the things that she Doesn’t have… that she is literally jealous of a single mother with 4 children receiving a tax credit. I’d encourage you to take a moment right now and truly reflect on that thought.  I assure you, She hasn’t.

It might seem like poor and broke are synonyms, and they’re often used interchangeably, but in my view they couldn’t be more different.

I’ve actually grown a little fond of the term “broke”. I find it motivating. It’s all in the word. “Broke”… it implies broken. Broken things can be fixed. So fix it. “Poor” doesn’t have the same implications. It has no cure, no fix.

I’ve been broke. Most of us have been broke at some point in our lives. I make a lot of effort to avoid it, but I can’t even guarantee that emergencies, tragedy, and stupidity (aka ignoring my wife) won’t combine to lead to me being broke again. I have never been poor. Broke is a zero balance for the day. Broke can even just be a passing feeling when you want something but you make a conscious effort to say… “It’s just not in the budget”. Poor is a state of mind. Poor is a feeling. A feeling of being trapped. Poor is a whole different beast. Poor is often the result of considering your circumstances, your finances, your future prospects, and determining that not only are you “broke” right now… but you don’t think it’ll ever change. You don’t see any way out of the situation you’re currently in and you’ve resigned to this being your “normal”. You’ve become a poor person.

It’s not impossible to come back from that. Lots of people have. It’s easier to stay where you are than to change that mentality.

Why being poor has nothing to do with how much money you have

We all know people who are just “poor” people. It doesn’t have anything to do with their bank account. It is these kinds of people who can come into huge sums of money and it’ll be gone as quickly as it came. Look back at all of the ballplayers, entertainers, artists, and lottery winners you’ve heard of who came from nothing, came into enormous sums of money, only to blow through it in a few years with nothing to show for it. In my opinion, this is a result of a scarcity, “poor” mentality, and quite frankly jealousy. They feel like money is something that comes in and goes out in equal parts, and that’s about the end of the equation. They feel like no matter how much they have, or how much they earn, they deserve more. And everyone has more than they do. They will live beyond their means regardless of how astronomical their “means” become because of their mentality.

People who I’d call “broke” are just the opposite. Sure, they’ve got no money now, they’re broke. They don’t want to be broke, and they don’t think it’s their destiny, or some pre-determined thing they have no control over. They know that if they work hard and take control of their lives, they one day will not be broke, and for those of us who have been broke you only know one thing for sure. Once you’re no longer broke, you’ll do everything you can to avoid ever being broke again.

Share your stories and feedback! comment below!

3 thoughts on “Why being broke isn’t the same as being poor

  1. Hello John, thank you for visiting my blog. I really enjoyed this post of yours as well. It reminds me of some of the stuff Dave Ramsey talks about. Have you ever read the book “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley? You would probably really like it.

    It talks about the money habits of the typical millionaire, and interestingly enough, although doctors earn very high salaries they are often under-accumulators of wealth because they have a lifestyle that is truly excessive despite that high salary. It’s as if they are trying to “play the part” and appear glamorous. We have ideas of what the doctor persona looks like here in America that only fuels this kind of excessive spending. Of course not all doctors are like this, but it was just an interesting read.

    Like

    1. I have read it! And you won’t be shocked to hear I loved it. I enjoy listening to Dave Ramsey, and being a money nerd, I love reading about personal finance as well. There’s just something different and special when you see it in real life and get all of those things you know on an intellectual level confirmed in the real world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, you are so right about that! My family has been working the baby steps for over 2 years and I cannot believe the success we’ve had. Just goes to show how much simpler it can be than we imagine. As humans we really want to over complicate things – tax time is a perfect example of that as you saw with your friend. The name of your blog says it all – slow and steady!

        Liked by 1 person

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