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Blog Action Day: Thoughts on Poverty

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(Last year, I decided to join the crowd and post about Blog Action Day's topic, saving the environment. This year the cause for Blog Action Day is poverty. As a personal finance blogger, I felt that it would border on irresponsibility to not join the cause. One of the charities they suggest is one that I've been meaning to give back to for some time... Kiva.org. For those unfamiliar with Kiva, it's a peer-to-peer lending company. Unlike Prosper.com, with Kiva people lend money to people in third world countries so that they can literally change their lives. People do this with no expectation of interest when the loan is paid back. Unlike Prosper lending, I really don't care if my loan is ever paid back.)

Allow me to start off with a couple of confessions. I haven't had a lot of interaction with true poverty. I was born into a middle class family. Even when my father died (when I was 14), I grew up in a very comfortable household. If money ever became tight, my mom was able to hide it in a way that I didn't notice. I was so oblivious to poverty in any aspect. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I realized how clueless I was. In high school, I worked part-time job at a fast food restaurant. My co-workers never took my offer of a free ride home. I couldn't understand why then, but it occurred to me - they didn't want me to see their home.

It didn't get any better at college. I went to one of the most expensive schools in the country (I was fortunate enough to earn a free scholarship). One of the features of the university is their emphasis on a well-rounded education. As part of that initiative, I was required to take a humanities class. I choose Homeless and Poverty. At the time, I focused largely on my math and computer science skills, so this class, with so few "right" answers didn't interest me. One thing that I noted is that everyone talked about the homeless in a distant manner using terms like "them" as in, "maybe we could round 'them' and give 'them' jobs beautifying the city." It almost made the homeless out to be people from some other country. Yet for some reason it seemed natural then.

Over the last two and half years (the duration of Lazy Man and Money), I've realized that any number of circumstances can lead one to homelessness/poverty. You could be unlucky and born into it.  Some people in a third world countries simply have little opportunity. Or perhaps you lost your job through no fault of your own. (I've been there before and the way this economy is going others will know the feeling.)  Maybe you were unlucky in the gene pool and came down with a health issue that cleared out your bank accounts.  These are just a few of the possibilities.  In addition to recognizing these possibilities, I live just a few miles south of San Francisco's large homeless population.  Poverty has really started to hit home for me.

It's this very reason that I blog about money. Sure I want to help give people tips to become rich. However, I realize that as look at most of my posts, there are very few ideas to get rich.  More often it's about saving a little money here and making a little more money there.  In the fantasy world I like to live in, I hope it's enough to prevent or rescue someone from poverty someday. Together we can try to educate people to be smart with their hard-earned dollars. And to put a little of my money where my mouth is, I'll be taking Blog Action Day's challenge and opening up a Kiva.org account. I'll be lending out a day's earnings from this website. Based on last month's earnings that would be around $70-$80. It might not sound like a lot, but in a third world country it adds up. Hopefully I'll make more this month and be able to help more people.

Last updated on July 29, 2011.

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3 Responses to “Blog Action Day: Thoughts on Poverty”

  1. When I see homeless on Miami streets, I often imagine myself as one of them. I don’t know why. I just do.

    There is no reason why I should become homeless, I have a nice home and I can’t lose my job because I work for myself. But.. being homeless, or not able to pay my bills is always on the back of my mind…

  2. kosmo says:

    I grew up thinking my family was poor (which, by many standards, were were)

    I got a real wakeup call in college, though. I have the good fortune to work a crappy job (university food service) with some great people. One time I had a 6:30 – 9:30 shift with several international students. The first 90 minutes of the shift was always really dead (seriously, how many college students eat breakfast at 6:30?). We spent most of the time talking about differences in culture, religion, etc. I might have learned more from those folks than in any of my classes.

    A common story was the absolute poverty in some of these countries, and how the student’s parents had saved every possible cent to be able to send them to college in the US (it was a state school, but international tuition was still quite high). I’m not talking about throwing a few bucks into a 529 – but literally every free cent for 18 years.

    No doubt kiva will change a lot of lives,

  3. Tim says:

    the unfortunate dilemma is that we think throwing money will solve poverty. it won’t, so although commendable, blog action day is rather conflicting.

    why don’t they have a blog action day to end poverty by volunteerism? if money is tight, or you want to give more but can’t, then go volunteer at a clinic, at a food shelter, or habitat for humanity. there’s a lot you can do other than throw money around.

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