Guest Post: 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by John Cheese via The Burning Platform blog,

Being poor is like a game of poker where if you lose, the other players get to screw you. And if you win, the dealer screws you. A bunch of you reading this are among the 45 million “working poor” in America, and if you’re not, you know somebody who is. Like me.
Or 60 percent of all retired NBA players, according to this site.

I’m not blaming anybody but myself for getting into this situation (I was drunk for two straight decades) and I’m not asking for anybody’s sympathy. What I am saying is that people are quick to tell you to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and just stop being poor. What they don’t understand is the series of intricate financial traps that makes that incredibly difficult.

If you’re not poor, that’s awesome. I’m not mad at you, or jealous. Hopefully you’ll never find out that …


#5. You Get Charged for Using Your Own Money



This is the future, where many businesses no longer accept cash as payment. That means you are required to have a checking account to function in the economy. And if you’re poor, that means at some point you’re going to get bank-fucked.

Because having a checking account while poor doesn’t just mean you have to be responsible and good at math — you have to be perfect. Meticulous, flawless record keeping is the difference between surviving and having the bank seize your next paycheck.



Let’s say you’re running late for work and hurriedly stop to get gas, paying with a bank card. In your haste you forget to write the $55 down (gas being $4 a gallon, you know). So while you spent the last week until payday thinking you had $50 in your account to absorb minor purchases, you actually were $5 in the red.

So payday comes. You go to the bank to deposit your check, at which point the bank takes it, sticks it in their pocket and says, “Thank you very much! I’m buying myself a new pair of shoes with that shit!” They then inform you that your account was at -$200 at the moment you deposited your check.
Oh, it gets a lot worse, stock photo woman.


The bank can hit you with a $35 fine for every charge that comes in while you are in minus territory. The bank will not tell you they charged you this money. You will have no idea anything is wrong.

It’s a silent chain reaction in which every charge that comes through during those few days before payday draws the $35 fee. The $8 you spent at the gas station for cigarettes, the $24.99 that automatically comes out for your Internet access … for each, the bank silently zaps out the charge and $35 on top of it, until your next paycheck is gone. Five seconds of oversight gave the bank the right to take away a week’s worth of your labor.

Some of you are saying, “Fine, just tell the bank to go fuck itself. Walk out the door and just do everything by cash or money order.” Ah, but now when you get paid, you have to go somewhere to cash your paycheck — and businesses charge up to $8 to do it. If you’re working in the service industry, congratulations — an hour of your labor just vanished … just so you could use your own money. Some describe this as a “poverty tax.” Others refer to it as a “Because fuck you, that’s why” fee.


The one piece of advice I can offer here is that you’ll be surprised how many businesses will give you some leeway if you just call them and beg. Banks are run by human beings (as of the writing of this article) and if you get a person on the phone you can get them to waive overdraft fees, particularly if it’s a first offense. Even businesses waiting on a payment will give you an extra week or two if you call and explain it. In this economy, they’re so used to people just taking the money and disappearing that they’re happy to hear you’re operating in some kind of good faith.

Otherwise, you’re going to be in a bind. And this is when you’ll find out …

#4. There is an Industry That Profits by Keeping You Poor



Think you’re too smart to ever use one of those shady “payday loan” places? Well, you should know that nobody thinks they’re a good deal. People go there because they’re choosing between which fucking provides the most lube.
Yeah, when you’re done choosing, just stay in that position, buddy.


Say the gas bill is a month past due, and they’re threatening to turn it off (if so, it’s $150 to get it reconnected). Or you’re about to be late on a credit card payment (which would be a fee and a doubling of your interest rate). Or your favorite S&M whip broke, and Whipfest is coming up (entry fee is nonrefundable). That is when you find yourself swallowing your pride and heading to the payday loan place.



A standard 14-day “payday” loan charges $15.50 per $100 borrowed. So a $500 loan ends up being $577.50 (or 1.5 tanks of gas in interest). But if you don’t have it after 14 days, that’s fine — they offer to extend your loan to 180 days. It makes the payments miniscule. Oh, and you’ll be paying back $1,275 at 403.10 percent APR.

Yes, you got fucked, in the name of your financial asshole avoiding the credit card company’s bigger, barbed dick. And it’s a hell of a lot better than going over on your checking account again and starting up their infinite circular fuckatron.


Using this.


All right, let’s say you wised up. You save and cut back. You resist an offer to, say, buy a computer on Best Buy’s finance plan, because you’re too smart to take on more debt. And no monthly cell phone payments for you, oh no. You’re not going to put yourself in a hole again!

Congratulations. You just did. It turns out …

#3. No Credit Can be Just as Damaging as Bad Credit



On the spectrum of financial responsibility, from “that billionaire who drives an old Dodge Dakota” down to “MC Hammer,” you’d think that the next step up from being overdue on a bunch of bills would be to have no bills at all. Don’t buy it if you can’t afford it, right?

You’ll find out the problem the next time somebody does a credit check — having no credit will stop you from getting a loan or an apartment just as fast as having bad credit. And more importantly, if you have old bad credit due to a bunch of previous fuckups, simply vanishing off the credit map doesn’t do anything to fix it.
It sounds good in theory, though.


It took me six months to find a place to rent after applying for every property that appeared in the paper across five towns. I was denied each time. It was my lack of credit due to years of me and lenders deciding to just stay out of each other’s hair, like those old sitcoms where roommates would draw a line down the middle of the house. I even used a prepaid cell phone where I’d just be buying minutes off the shelf rather than get locked into a contract with all those termination fees and shit. When I needed something big, like a computer upgrade or furniture, I’d wait for a windfall, like a tax return, and pay cash. It’s called financial responsibility, motherfucker!
Now hand over the heroin, bitch!


Nope. It turns out that to a business, a customer with no credit is like a girl giving you the silent treatment — they assume something is wrong.

And everybody checks your credit — if I want to get Direct TV, I have to pay $310 worth of startup fees (the size of your up-front payments/deposits depends on your credit history). Utilities are even more — which means trying to move to a new place costs hundreds of dollars in deposits (remember the $150 to get my gas turned on). If I need a new car, well, let’s just say I need to show up at the dealership with a shoebox full of cash.
The last two kids I bought on the black market virtually wiped out my life savings.


So repairing credit means opening accounts (having a cell phone plan is a good one, having your utilities in your own name — as opposed to the landlord’s — is another) and, you know, making sure to pay your fucking bills on time. And don’t bother trying to shortcut the system by saving the shoebox full of cash, getting a loan, then paying it all off the next month. Length of credit is part of your credit score. They want to know your ability to make steady, long term payments without missing a month or being late

#2. Your Next Expensive Disaster is Always Around the Corner



Shit happens, always at the exact worst time. A tire blows on my car and, without a spare, it instantly becomes a paperweight. There’s $80 for a new tire, $50 for a tow. Now, it’s a good idea to have a separate bank account set up specifically for these situations because they are unavoidable. It’s also a good idea to have a sex slave or two just sitting around in case your balls need shaved. It’s not that fucking simple.
Just a little further, sir. We need to be able to stab your heart with our dicks.


You get the same domino effect with sudden financial disasters as you do with the bank fees. For instance, I worked a shitty service industry job, which meant I got paid by the hour, and didn’t get paid unless I showed up — no paid time off. But I couldn’t physically get to work because of the goddamned flat tire. It’s a rural area, no subway or buses. So it’s double penetration — not just lost work time, but lost time that is spent paying for a tow and a tire. And if I didn’t happen to have that money sitting around, it meant waiting until payday, and missing work until then.

Which meant my next paycheck would be short. By the time I get it fixed and add in the missed work time, that $80 tire just turned into a $250 enema. That’s life in a world with no financial margin for error. It’s like trying to climb out of a dick pit but the ladder is also made of dicks.



Years ago, we bought a house with the help of our in-laws. You know, because owning property is the responsible adult thing to do. The very first fucking night of moving in, we got a massive water leak. I couldn’t just call the landlord — I was the landlord. I couldn’t call a plumber because we didn’t have the $150 to pay the guy, not until payday. So the leak was allowed to run until we could put the money together to pay one. So two weeks later, we hand the guy $150. And then, a week later, the water bill arrives.


You find yourself thinking, “Man, we could get caught up if this bad shit wouldn’t keep happening!” Then it finally hits you that bad shit happens like clockwork. Not because God hates you, but because you’re poor and you’re using cheap shit that breaks. Maybe you don’t pay the $150 for a plumber, but have a handy friend fix it for you for $50. Awesome, you saved $100! Then six months later you have a leak again, because it turns out he fixed it with rubber bands and Fruit Roll-ups.



Everything in a poor person’s life is a cash vampire. My truck has 170,000 miles on it and the MPG is so bad that every time I start it, the ghost of an Indian appears in the passenger seat and cries. About twice a year, something under the hood grinds to a halt or melts — always another $500 on a tow and repairs. And that was the money I was saving to get a more reliable car.

Hell, even my own body does it to me. I lost my last job because of chronic back pain, losing my health insurance in the process. Which means I can’t treat my chronic back pain. Can’t afford to get dentist check-ups, so more expensive problems are allowed to grow and fester. And so on.

#1. You’re Always in Survival Mode



There’s a phrase in the working world that drives me crazy. One guy says, “The money’s not great, but I love my job.” And somebody responds, “Hey, happiness is all that really matters.”

To be clear, that’s probably true for people at a certain level of income. If you aren’t struggling to pay the bills, then happiness is indeed a pretty damn awesome extra. But you know those movies like American Beauty, about the guy with the unfulfilling career who abandons it to live life to its fullest? Yeah, don’t forget that after quitting their jobs they still come home to houses that look like this:



But down here, at this level, you take what you can fucking get. Fantasies about holding out for that dream job will ruin you.

For instance, long before reading to this part, some helpful commenter has surely skipped down and chimed in with, “Why don’t you just get a job, you lazy fuck!” Wait, did you think I was unemployed? Hell no, it’s been years since I was out of work for any long period of time. I’ve always had jobs. Shitty, shitty jobs.

A huge chunk of this economy runs on shitty jobs now. Recently, McDonald’s held a job fair with 50,000 openings. They got more than 1,000,000 applications. Tens of millions of you will wind up in one of these jobs, it’s sheer math.



These service jobs pay hourly, they give you little or nothing in terms of benefits and there is nothing in the way of security even from week to week — your hours could get cut at any time, for any reason. Sure, you can take a second part-time job. Though, that’s assuming you can find one that works around your primary job’s schedule — just mentioning that you have another job in an interview is often enough to stop that interview mid-sentence. Why hire you when there are 30 guys in line behind you with completely free schedules?

So in answer to the inevitable, “You need to dream bigger, and strive forth to get a new career for yourself!” Hey, I totally agree. But now we’re back in the Catch-22 poverty fuck gauntlet. Once you’re in this tier of jobs, getting out isn’t just hard, it’s expensive.

Sure, you can take classes at night at a community college or something. Maybe you’ll even get financial aid or loans to pay for your books or tuition. What they will not pay for is the time you missed at work while you were in classes or for a babysitter or for transportation. And you sure as fuck better be certain that you have some kind of aptitude for whatever you’re studying (which, by the way, you won’t know until you’ve spent a year or two studying it) because that’s the only chance you’re going to get.



You can do it the old-fashioned way, by working your way up the corporate ladder from within whatever shitty job you have. But that is also expensive because promotions often require you to move. I got offered a promotion at my shitty service job (washing semi trucks with high-pressure hoses, the job that eventually destroyed my back) that would have required me to move several hours away. And moving costs money — remember what I said about the cost of getting utilities turned on? And how landlords check your credit?

And then there are the intangible costs. I would be abandoning my children, for instance — I share custody with my ex-wife, who obviously was not going to be moving with me. How many visits would I get in before my car broke down? And moving away from friends and family also comes with a cost — think of the favors you do for each other (i.e. the friend/brother/uncle willing to fix the truck for free, because you helped paint his porch, etc).
Rounding each other’s fros.


It’s not impossible, but it’s taking a huge risk. And if the new job doesn’t work out after you bet all of your chips, you’re triple fucked. And at that point the world will wag its finger at you and tell you how irresponsible it was to move when you were so poor. “Ha, you poor people are always doing stupid shit like that!”

And on and on. People do get out of this situation — I got paid to write this, for instance. All I’m saying is that the journey is something like trying to go from the Earth to the Moon. By letting them launch a Saturn V rocket directly into your butthole.

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h0oS's picture

I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting there should be no recourse to breaking an agreed credit limit, however there is no reason now for the creditor not to inform the debtor you as soon as this event has occurred. Instead we witness these disproportionate and predatory fining policies executed against the debtor. Is it reasonable or just to pay many multiples in fines against the original sum of the transgression? Obviously not. Such policies are predatory and are designed to keep the poor, poor.

When I was a student I routinely broke my overdraft limit and built several hundred pounds worth of fines. Five years after leaving university I learned of a consumer protection act in the UK that was being used by people like myself to challenge the Bank's fines. I and many thousands like me settled out of court having received the full sum of fines I had paid with interest.

This is not a question of maths, it is a question of ethics, if you don't understand this, you will remain a loyal slave to the machine.

Balanced Integer's picture

It is as you say: There should be some consequence for overdrafting, but the severity of the consequence should be carefully balanced.

If the bank manager was required to give you a blowjob every time you overdrafted, the bank would bust out and the manager would have a right sore jaw.

If you were required to blow the bank manager every time you overdraw, your math skillz would become sharper than than a Hatori Hanzo katana. You know, unless one is into that kind of thing.

Monetarily speaking, justice is probably somewhere in the middle.

h0oS's picture

Faced with having to blow the bank manager I would certainly consider blowing the dust off the cover of my bostock and chandler first.

Imminent Crucible's picture

+1 for making me look it up to find out it was a college text. At first I thought a Bostock and Chandler was something like a Hechler & Koch.

Phil Free's picture

Hehehe. Another +1 for making me look up Hechler & Koch. And yeah. That was my first thought on the Bostock & Chandler. I had to look that one up, too. 

draug's picture

Actually it's neither math nor ethics. It's customer service. Or sucky customer service - which they get away with because there is no real competition to the big banking cartels.

Renfield's picture

<<I don't get why all the down votes on this comment.>>

Because it smacks of "You have nothing to fear if you aren't doing anything wrong".

The point of the article was the unreasonable consequences of bouncing a cheque, not that it's OK for poor people to bounce cheques.

It's the penalty that makes it near-impossible for a poor person to catch back up, IF THEY DO bounce a cheque. Which most of us from time to time, will.

bonin006's picture

Maybe all the down comments have something to do with sticking up for a corrupt banking system that uses software to arrange the order of clearing checks or debits to maximize the overdraft fees. If you make 9 purchases for $5 each and one for $500 and the total puts you $46 in the hole, the bank could clear the 9 $5 charges and give you one overdraft for the $500 charge, but even if you made the $500 charge last in the day, they will clear that first to wipe out your balance so they can charge you $35 x 9 other overdraft fees.

So, you assholes think that is the way business should be run, and anyone who doesn't like it is an incompetent whiner?


Dave Thomas's picture

Thats why it's just best to opt out of "Civil society", since none of these institutions conduct business in a civil manner.

taketheredpill's picture

Basically he's describing it as a MINE-FIELD.  Sure, you can make it across and lots of poor people do.  But hit one and you can be seriously fucked.


I've been nailed on Bank and CC fees.  Normally we're considered "Deadbeats" because we rack up big CC biils but always pay it off before month end.  But every couple of years we screw up.  No worries though, because if you're not poor the mines aren't big enough to destroy you.



taketheredpill's picture

Never having needed to look for it, there should be a How-To Manual called "HOW TO SURVIVE BEING POOR".  Like this writer and others here have said it does sound like a Survival Test, or a War Game.  A manual explaining all the ways you can potentially get screwed and ways to avoid them make sense.

Or how about a Game (already done?) called POVERTY SUCKS, similar to Monopoly, except instead of Park Place you get realistic Bank Fees, Auto Repairs, Wages, Taxes, etc.


Renfield's picture

I think the point of the article is you only have to screw this up ONCE, and you're fucked for a long time after that.

Sure, it's easy enough to keep track of all your cheques if you're a poor person with a nice ordered way of life and regular habits. Throw in two jobs, and/or a kid or two, and/or a slightly less-than-ordered personality, or maybe you've been perfect for six months then had a stressful day and went on a bender. Or you ARE perfect but something unexpected happened, and dealing with it you forgot to write it down in your little account book. All it takes is ONCE, and then the horrifically unreasonable penalty fees kick in and if you are poor, you are majorly screwed.

I'm happy for you that when you were in college, you never bounced a cheque. However, among 20-year-olds, this perfect record is not common. One thing poor people aren't known for, is having ordered, exemplary habits. Does this mean it's OK to charge a $50 overdraft payment? It's not the forgetting, it's the exorbitant penalty that screws you up. I don't bounce cheques, and I have no problem with calling 'victim' on this one. Especially since the bank gives these gouging victims exactly NO service in return. It is not a fee, but rather is nothing but a penalty, like some kind of indulgence paid to your bankster-confessor to absolve a sin.

This is the very same reason debtors' prisons are not OK. Because if a person is not ordered in their habits, or makes a mistake, it is NOT OK to hit them with a huge unreasonable penalty that sets them back so far and which they can't afford; AND which benefits no-one but the banksters who in no way earned it. You're poor, you have to deal with the consequences of a bounced cheque, and on top of that, now you have to find a $50 gift to the bank as well?

I might also add, that among the virtuous rich, there is also a large number of day-to-day stupid, undisciplined, wild-spending morons who also can't keep track of their cheques. But they can afford to pay unreasonable, outrageous penalties, or have secretarial slaves to do it for them and pick up after them, and that is the only difference. Unfortunately, it seems that only the rich can now afford to make this kind of gift to the bank. (I call it a 'gift' because, as I said, the bank has done NOTHING to earn it.)

Prometheus418's picture

Sometimes it's not small.  Life has a way of throwing fastballs at you one after another.

I was born and raised dirt-farmer poor.  To quanitfy that, I've eaten a bag of microwave popcorn as a meal more than 100 times in my life, mostly before I was a legal adult.

So, when I had the opportunity to move out and step up, I did so.  I had a large savings account, a horde of semi-precious metals (gaylord boxes full of copper) and a home that I was regularly making extra payments on.

Then I got divorced.  I did ok, in that, actually.  My ex cleaned out a big chunk of the savings account, but left a little, and I got to keep my home, car, and most of the stuff in it.  And I had no alimony or child support, so that was huge.

So, life was ok-ish, as far as it goes- and it pushed me into a more stressful, but somewhat higher-paying job.

After the divorce, I really buckled down, and had a couple hundred oz of silver hidden here and there, and was several months ahead on all my bills.  All in all, life was okay.  Then the side business I was running making Classically styled Prairie and Craftsman-sytle furniture took a huge hit when I had orders on trucks to Florida and California and the bottom fell out of the real estate market.  The checks for some large orders never came, and without them, I didn't even have enough for a lawyer to pursue payment.

I tried to cash in the copper to get a lawyer, and it was about a week too late- the bottom had fell out of that market as well, and the local guys were offering an extraordinarily offensive $15 a ton.

So, I tried to be "smart money."  I knew it was worth far more than that, and that's why I had been buying it and keeping scraps in my garage.  I kept it, and sold out when it got back to about $3/lb.  Then I bought more silver, and hid that too.

Along the way, I met my second wife, and after about four years, we got married, and I adopted three kids.  Their biological dad is a schitzophrenic, and doesn't work, so I asked my wife to let him out of paying child support so that the kids didn't have to remember visting their "real dad" in jail for the rest of their lives.

I still had a low five-figure bank balance, a pile of hidden pirate treasure, and two fairly new vehicles- what could go wrong, right?

Well, you all know the big picture- the shrinking containers of food, the ever-thinner clothing, and the ever-rising price of electricty and gasoline.  Hooray for central planning.  Even then, I had that shit covered.  Savings and food stocks were my hedge, and they used to be healthy enough.

Then one year, about two years ago, we had not one, but two 24"+ snowstorms in the span of a week.  My main commuting vehicle died at 85,800 miles, 800 miles out of warranty, when the crankshaft broke.  I was still making payments on it, and Ford told me to stick it where the sun doesn't shine because the odometer said I was a stupid fuck for trusting them to make a reasonable vehicle.  I called the bank and cut a deal to have them voluntarily repo it in exchange for closing the loan.  (I was only six payments from paying it off) 

So, I fell back on the family car, a minivan with about 80k miles on it.  After the second major snowstorm, I tired to get it out of the backyard, where it was parked, and even with several hours of shoveling a path to try to get to work, it got stuck in the mud under the snow.  I did the moderate thing first, and tried to rock it back and forth.  It killed the transmission after 5 minutes of reasonable trying- no extra revving or hammering the gears home.  Turns out that Dodge manufactured that model with a transmission that included a faulty shear pin.  When it failed, it ripped a gash that could not be repaired in the transmission housing.

That sucks, but I was willing to see that transmission replaced.  I paid to have it towed to a mechanic, and he went to work finding one.  After six weeks of hearing that there were none to be had (and yes, I looked myself,) I finally wrote the thing off and scrapped it.

To get back and forth, I had to hire rides- there are no taxis where I live, and work is 30 miles away.  That doesn't help when fixing a car, and it cost more than $400 a paycheck.  When the reasonable people decided that they didn't want to do it anymore, I had to try to get my dad to do it, and he's a hillbilly-heroin addict extraordinaire.  In the three weeks he was "helping" me, I spent $4000 to get back and forth to work because he couldn't remember me paying him, and fixed his jalopy- twice.

After all that, he went on the nod after I had worked a fourteen-hour shift and never came to pick me to go home.  I walked 30 miles through the snow that night, and still went to work the next day.  Let's be clear here- I'm not an idiot, and I usually walked on the road- but for three or four miles, I walked through the shit that was knee deep because that's what there was, and it was a few miles shorter to cut through fields.

That was right before I had a week off for Christmas vacation- I had time coming, and it was a week I really needed.  Luckily, my kids got strep throat, and quickly gave it to my wife and I.  So, I carried two small kids a mile to the local hospital (the oldest walked, thankfully) and we all got antibiotics for Christmas that year.

So I did what a sane guy might do- I cleared out the remainder of my savings.  I bought a low-milage car on a loan, and a low-milage minivan with the rest of my cash.  Fixed, right?

Not hardly.  It never is, is it?

To be fair, the car thing was sorted, and remained so.  Cost me $15k plus a few pieces of silver, but shit happens, right?

But here's the rub- I proposed a few months before the car catastrofuck, and we had already reserved and scheduled a lot of things in anticipation.  I paid for my wedding in cash- but when the fiat is gone, what I'm really saying is that I paid for the wedding with hundreds of oz of silver.

Here's the thing about life, though- it just doesn't stop for special events.  We got robbed by my new brother-in-law on our wedding night, when he stole the card box and took the cash and burned the cards and checks so that he could be a big man and buy everyone at the country fair rounds of drinks.  He's been sorted out since, but the gifts, mainly cash, were still gone.  His reasoning, when I made him beg for mercy?  We didn't have enough of his favorite beer (Busch Lite,) and he didn't like that fancy shit that was left.

That meant a great portion of the remaining silver went to pay for a honeymoon.  After the honeymoon, the dryer broke, and the last little bit went into hiring a repairman.

That was a year ago.  In the past year, I've had to take out payday loans to buy the children Christmas and Birthday presents, at the interest levels described (turns out the voluntary repo I thought was a legit deal counts as a default even though the bank made more than the remaining balance on the loan at auction and pocketed the difference.)  That fucked us enough that paying the utilities that literally doubled this year was a pipe dream at best, and even paying 60% all winter in a uniquely cold year left us with a $500+/mo utility bill on a payment plan until at least September of this year.

So I am forced to overdraft once a month, and that costs $30, while also short-sheeting my odd payday.  This past year, I used the newly inflated tax return to pay off the payday loan and the remaining balance on my financed car.  I also purchased two pairs of jeans, three new shirts, and an $80 acoustic gituar that I hope to be allowed to keep in the FEMA camp/and or debtor prision, as it is the only purchase I've made for my own enjoyment and sanity in almost five years.

I now have three recurring bills- a mortgage, which is 33% of my income per the recommendations, an internet account that costs $100 a month and is our entire news, tv, entertainment and telephone budget, $200/mo for gasoline and a usurous utility bill that is almost as high as my mortgage.  What is left isn't enough for food, much less clothing or any form of recreation.

Why did I let all that loose, you may ask?  Truth be told, it's as embarrassing as hell. A futher truth is that I know that the rest of you will likely be along for the ride shortly.  We talk a lot about hedging and prepping here, and that's great- I wouldn't have made it as far as I did without it- but what is often missing is how the ruin comes.  Don't expect a big event, just a slow and meticulous grinding and stripping process that takes everything from you in the end.

If you don't like that option, fight however you can.  I'm just one guy, but I've got your back if you do, and I like to think I'm not the only one.  


Glasnost's picture

Fight?  How can you fight decline?  Besides buying up a farm and otherwise 'living off the land' (where is that money going to come from to purchase the land again?) you cannot fight decline.


What is adrenaline for?


Fight OR Flight.  I realize that for many who post here, they tend to have reached the point in their lives where they have attachments (such as children) that make the following not so easy.  However, for those that have relatively few things attaching them in the United States, and have the means to do so, leave goddamnit.  And even if you don't have the means to do so at least try to gain the means to do so.


Money is flowing out of the core economy in the U.S.  More and more the money that is in the U.S. comes from highly liquid foreign investments in U.S. equities.  Highly liquid is the catch as whenever the market turns, lots of foreign money will flee as well.  Investors look less and less to the U.S. as a place to put cash for a longer term in such things as investing in a start-up company.

Top ten economies in the world.  Who are they??  Not the U.S.A. 

Make a plan, and try to get the hell out while there's still some chance for you to do so.  Do you really want to deal with a secular economic downturn (and/or [COMMENT MONITORED])?  Doesn't matter how much fucking 'prepping' or planning for the future you do if the downturn lasts longer than you expect.  Depressions can last for 20+ years.

Nostradalus's picture

jeezus f'ing cripes! what a story. i feel for you brother. i really do. i see from that story you have made correct and incorrect decisions. the incorrect ones were mostly emotionally driven, while the correct expenditures were just from a series of "bad luck" (i hate that term). i haven't had that much shit-storm happen to me thankfully. first of all, i would cut oxy-man, and the thief out of my life for good. anyone or anything that detracts from the quality of your family's well-being must be excised like an ugly wart. very first thing to do is GET OUT OF DEBT. pay no interest, as it is sucking your time and talent (otherwise known as income) like a vampire sucks blood. i'm guessing you are in your late 30s or early 40s, and if true, you have time to rectify the situation eventually (assuming no more disasters, and you keep your income flow).

this reply is only my opinion, unlike the facts i have laid out in my earlier reply to your "how do you live on under $18k question". priorities, budget, critical thinking, and extrapolation will help (not innoculate/prevent) you from  keeping this catastrofuck from recurring. i wish you the best of luck brother.

BellyBrain's picture

You made it on $150 a week in...1988?  When gas was $1 per gallon and debit cards didn't exist?  When you could write a check for $20 to get groceries for a week, and you wrote a total of 10 checks a month?  Remember that economic boom in the 90s?  Think you might have benefited from it? 

Congratulations, you achieved exactly the same as 90% of americans from that time period. 

taketheredpill's picture

This short article rally made me think, especially the idea of a board game.  I spent a few minutes and one thing that came up under Poverty Survival was ditching the TV and buying Board Games.  If there ever was a POVERTY SURVIVAL MANUAL getting rid of the TV would have to be at the top of the list of cutting expenses.


Forming small local groups to discuss local Survival Strategies would also be key.


Easy for me to throw things out there.  Never been really poor and the only large student loan I ever had was borrowed from and paid back to my parents.


Keep wondering how long and/or hard poor people have to get screwed before they organize.

underman's picture

Paid for college by working 28 hrs/wk?  When did you go to college, 1980?

I can run 30 miles without stopping.  I never learned a thing about it.  I just run.  That doesn't make everyone else capable of it math genius!  Math or no math, things do happen with checking accounts that cause overdraft fees to be absurdly piled into an account.  Take this example:

There's $200 in your checking account.  Your car breaks down on the way to the bank, and you can't make a $200 deposit that would amply cover automated monthly payments of $300 hitting your account that night.   On the way to the bank, before the car breaks down, you make a $10 gas purchase, a $2 coffee purchase and $16 diapers purchase.  That night, all 4 of your purchases hit your account, consolidating your balance at -$128.  Naturally, the $300 payment hits first and brings you to -$100.  Followed by the 3 purchases, resulting in 4 overdraft fees of $35 each, including the really absurd charge on the $2 coffee, pulling down the account balance to -$268.  When you finally make it to the bank the next day, by bus or walking, the $200 deposit no longer is enough to bring your account to even.  Your still -$68!  Whereas had your car not broke down and led to this madness, you'd still have $72!  So still -$68, for another few more days until you get your hands on more money - and in the meantime another automated charge or two goes through, $12 here, $24 there, like clockwork.  Boom!  2 more $35 overdraft fees!  And there goes the next paycheck!  $210 in overdraft fees in a week.  

In recent years, overdraft fees are worth $30B+/yr to banks.  $30B at 70-1 leverage is worth $2.1 Trillion on their derivatives trading desks.  And when bank trading desks simply don't have losing days, this overdraft scheme is a very, very big deal.


PKF's picture

When those cute little 'Debit Cards' were introduced to the public, I knew what the Banksters were up to.  Without that little checkbook with its REGISTER to write down one's purchases, customers/consumers would certainly forget to do their SUBTRACTIONS ON PAPER.  

The banksters were seeing Overcharge Fees dancing in their dreams!  And now 60% of their income is from Fees.   

The banksters know that Checking Accounts 101 is not taught in schools...I think it was Rockefeller or one of those rich dudes who demanded that a public education NOT teach a pupil how to balance his/her checking account.

Go 'OLD SCHOOL' and write a f*cking check.  Write the amount down in your register and then subtract it from the balance. 

I always hide $50 in my checking account so I have a 'cushion.' 

What's nice about checks....they take a few days to get to the bank.  And for those purchases that don't take checks...carry some cash.  I even hide some cash in my vehicle...just in case.  Of course, I always lock the vehicle.  And it's usually under $10. 

And never let any corporation have access to your checking account!   I once had my electric meter read incorrectly and my bill was over $700!  What if that had been taken out of my account????

Dude, I feel for you.  I hope someday the Banksters have to eat their bonds and cash....and when leaving their collective assholes, the paper cuts will be massive!!!!

I hope you got a lot of money for writing the article....I really enjoyed your humor.  I wish you the best.

F*cking same what the banksters have done to what was once a fairly decent nation.

NumberNone's picture

The bankers real motive with debit cards was to stop all those ridiculous cash transactions that didn't put any funds into their coffers.  Much better we do away with cash and give the bankers their juice of 3% on every debit card transaction.

idea_hamster's picture

"infinite circular fuckatron"

A ZH-worthy coining of phrase, right up there with "Lemmingoratti."

SoberOne's picture

Im going to create 18k gold nameplates that say "FuckYouBrenanke" and GoldBitchez. I can think of a few hundred people who might buy them. Ill make a zinc versiomln for "the poor."


Zinc, Bitchez!

Midasking's picture

The low rates are transitory.... plus poor old folks means less of them on the roads due to rising gas prices keeping us all safer. That is the job of the gov and if you don't agree you aren't patriotic.  

freewolf7's picture

A (poor) man with nothing to lose is a dangerous man. Thank God he doesn't have any guns.

RafterManFMJ's picture

Hey John, your biggest problem is you try to work!! Straighten up, walk with pride, and join the FSA!

You're not only poor, you're stupid; only a moron tries to fight the fucking. Get the EBT, and become the fuck-er!

DCFusor's picture

He's right about no credit being even worse than bad credit.  I had to stiff someone to get any rating at all, and suddenly I could get loans etc - which I don't need, never have, which is why I had no credit.

FWIW, you can have good credit, and simply by taking no loans for 7 years - it all falls off your record and it becomes blank, which makes a lot of people suspicious.  In my case, it was simply being responsible with money so I never needed a loan...and didn't want to pay interest for a loan I didn't need.

rbg81's picture

Well, if you can't eat bread, there's always cake.  Right??

samsara's picture

Great Article Tyler.  It's a one way valve.   And this paragraph is where they want it to go.


This is the future, where many businesses no longer accept cash as payment. That means you are required to have a checking account to function in the economy. And if you’re poor, that means at some point you’re going to get bank-fucked.


As fast as they can get us there.


ghandi's picture

Time for some "I'm so poor..." jokes.


I'm so poor I put a McDs .99 burger on layaway.

NotApplicable's picture

I'm so poor I can't pay attention.

Barnaby's picture

I'm so poor I get bounced at Rent-A-Center.

GubbermintWorker's picture

I'm so poor I'd fuck Diane Fienstein for a dollar.

Dixie Rect's picture

Vomit up the back of my throat and through my nostrils

Balanced Integer's picture

edit: I'm so poor, I go to KFC to lick other people's fingers.

Barnaby's picture

I'm so poor I had to take out a second on my pit bull.

THX 1178's picture

I'm so poor that I have a quality of life several standard deviations to the left of average.

underman's picture

I'm so poor I live in a broke down RV and eat Ramens morning, noon and night.  Ok, not a joke.

rbg81's picture

Holy shit--that is funny.  Laughed so hard that I lost a few teeth.

Taint Boil's picture



I’m so poor I can’t pay attention!

Taint Boil's picture



We were so poor, we ate our cereal with a fork, and handed down the milk to the next kid.

ChanceIs's picture

Businesses have to accept cash as payment.  You tender...good for all debts public and private.

I suppose that they could charge a handling fee.  That could be justified.

Do businesses have to take checks?  I don't think so.  They don't have to accept credit cards.

I suppose that they could argue that if there were no debt - to be extinguished by the cash - then they wouldn't have to take the cash.  IOW - there would be no debt until they handed you an item.  So if they didn't hand over an item, there would be no requirement to accept cash.

I am sure that the lawyers have this figured out.

By extension, if I haven't accepted the government's services - then I wouldn't have top pay income tax correct.  You know - the service where they read my emails - I don't want that one.  I don't accept it ergo I owe you nothing.

Only in America - being forced to pay to be spied upon.

samsara's picture

Ya, and Banks Legally Have to give you your money all of it anytime you want it too right?

Imminent Crucible's picture

ChanceIs is wrong. At Sam's Club gas the sign says; Sorry, we do not accept cash.   If you don't have a credit card, you can't buy gas at Sam's. The crap money may say "legal tender for all debts public and private" but no laws or rules matter anymore if you're in a position of leverage or power.

Just ask the people whose money was in sacrosanct "segregated client accounts" at MF Global.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

Ditto for Costco. You need a membership card and a credit/debit card.

Diogenes's picture

Bullshit. They don't have to do anything if you are poor. I have had banks refuse to cash government checks (even though printed on the back it said "This check may be cashed at any financial institution in Canada". Government checks! They will not cash a check, they will allow you to deposit it, if you have an account. Fees, fees, fees. $10 a month minimum. More if you use the account. If you think that is a laugh you have never worked for $10 an hour and tried to keep your bills paid.

ChanceIs's picture

I have no love for the banks - quite the opposite.

I have called my CongressPuke and asked (demanded) that the TBTFs be broken up.  He asks - what size should we allow?  Should we determine that by the Asset size on the balance sheet?  Good questions.

We all know that they are too big.  That is a vague concept.

The other reason to break them up is constraint of trade.  How is that determined?  Maybe by showing that there is not a free market for bankng services - e.g. why won't banks cash government checks.  Is it because they have all colluded to refuse so that accounts must be opened upon which to collect fees?


What does it take to open a bank?  Seriously.  I am sure that there have been in excess of 300K banking employees given pink slips since '08.  They know what to do and there is a free marlet for their labor.

Diogenes's picture

I should have said, "this check may be cashed WITHOUT CHARGE at any financial institution in Canada". I think it was the without charge part they objected to.

Cheeseus Sonofdog's picture

The state of Florida is making all of our toll roads cashless. You will have to buy their rfid chip for your cars windshield. 

underman's picture

Someone didn't think too far ahead on this one.  When the poor start resorting to crime, because they're essentially bank-fucked, on the outside looking in and starving, their favorite target is nannies pushing baby strollers.  Google "Oakland robberies."  Wicked payback.  And not a reach to think so.