Food for thought:
I’m helping someone understand their utility bill. This person lives in a pretty run-down neighborhood and rents a home for her and her children.
Her utility bills are upwards of $350-$400. A. MONTH. Last April, she had some unknown water leak that caused her bill to skyrocket to $686. Her landlord confirmed through a plumber that there was no leak. She still has no idea what caused her bill to be so high. She refuses to question it, though, and tries her best to pay it down. She remains in a past due status, which accrues her about $10 in past due fees each month.
I don’t know about you, but my bills typically range from $100-200 depending on the season; the highest my bill has ever been was about $180. My house is also 1,100 sqft, in the county and has natural gas so it is an unfair comparison. However, I have NEVER imagined having a bill amount that she has and would be raising hell if I did.
She is poor. Her house is poorly maintained. She cannot afford a nicer house and subsequently has to pay MUCH higher utility bills, which probably is another reason why she stays poor. She might have even considered a title or payday loan at some point, which also keep people in a cycle of poverty (another conversation for another day).
Some think people are responsible for their own path into poverty. Of course, it’s easy to judge others who are in situations we haven’t experienced ourselves.
Consider that is it expensive to be poor; it is cyclical and generational. Most of these folks are undereducated and cannot see common sense practicalities that our educated eyes are trained to see.
This isn’t a call to action, it’s simply a request to be open-minded when interacting with our neighbors. Never pretend to understand their plight; simply offer assistance or a listening ear where you can, and don’t judge.
If you read all of this and were really hoping for a call to action at the end, become a volunteer financial educator in a low-income area. Teach others that the cycle of poverty can be broken.
For more information about Financial Social Work, check out The Center for Financial Social Work