Think You’re Broke? You Probably Aren’t

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If you have $1 in your house and need to walk a mile to the bank to cash a check – while you're on an oxygen tank – then you’re really broke. Otherwise, shut up.

We have a weird definition of the word “broke” in this country. I hear it fairly often – but almost never from people who really are broke.

Let me tell you about “broke.”

My aunt is in her late 80s and very frail due to several medical issues. She and her son live on Social Security and disability, plus her small pension. Last year, I visited the East Coast and stopped in to see Aunt Dot several times a week.

One evening, I discovered that they had exactly one dollar in the house. Her check was due the next day, and she planned to walk to the bank to cash it.

The bank is at least a mile from where Dot lives. And did I mention that she’s on oxygen?

If she’d had $2 more, she could have taken a cab. But she didn’t.

This is the face of ‘broke’

Some days, it’s all Dot can do to move from the couch to the kitchen, or from the couch to the toilet chair now permanently ensconced in the living room. Yet she was going to walk a mile, with her 69-year-old son carrying the oxygen tank, to cash her check.

(I don’t know why she didn’t have direct deposit. Maybe she didn’t trust it, or maybe she was too set in her ways to change.)

Every time I get paid, I send Dot some money. In fact, she’d just gotten it the week before, but it went for doctor co-pays. When I heard about the lack of cab fare, I gently insisted on giving her some extra funds.

At first she refused. I kept insisting, gently. Finally, she took the four $1 bills I had in my wallet, still fretting that I would “run short.”

Which brings me to all the complainers out there.

Whiners: Stop whining

If I hear one more person grousing about being “broke” while drinking a latte and/or sending texts, I may pour the coffee over that person’s head.

When you’re sick as a dog and have just $1 in the house…well, go ahead and complain. Aunt Dot didn’t, by the way. She just shrugged and said, “I’m usually not that broke.”

So all you folks who are hale and hearty and careless with your funds: Please be quiet.

Please stop whining about how you couldn’t afford a “real” vacation. This presupposes that you have a job to get a vacation from – do you know how many people would kill to have a job, any job at all, let alone be paid to take a week off from it?

Please don’t email me tales of financial woe that end with the postscript, “Sent from my iPhone.”

(These are real-life examples, by the way.)

None of you people are broke. You’re simply not using your money wisely.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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