Are You Poor, or Just Broke?

This thought came to me Friday as I was driving to have lunch with my grandfather (90 and still dancing! No he’s not available ladies). The idea that people who are broke, think they’re poor. People who are poor know they’re poor, but oftentimes, they’re not as poor in spirit as people who are broke. Let’s review each category shall we?

Poor is what you see in countries with little to no running water, poor food supplies, no established markets and politics often dominated by some fool who thinks he knows it all and wears a military uniform (hint #1 that you live in a bad country: your “president” wears a military uniform). Typically, the only way for someone in their lifetime to accomplish anything in these types of countries is to LEAVE. Imagine how difficult it would be to build a large business in Myanmar, or imagine developing a “Drudge Report” or “HuffingtonPost” type of business in Venezuela – not going to happen. Bottom line: poor people often need to ESCAPE unless a massive political change happens (such as Rwanda)

Broke is what many people in the USA are – they think they’re poor but they’re just broke. What is broke? Broke is no money – such as, “I can’t go out to eat tonight because I’m broke.” You don’t say “I’m poor” unless you’re just trying to be funny. Broke people in the US have so much more than poor people in other countries. Broke people here have capabilities and opportunities, but many times refuse to use them. Here’s my simple ‘Broke v Poor’ test for people who are “financially-challenged” here in the USA:

  1. Can you speak English or another language spoken by at least 10M people in the USA?
  2. Can you read? Write?
  3. Do you have use of all of your 4 limbs?
  4. Can you see (i.e. do you have eyesight)?
  5. Can you smile? Can you ask questions and hold short conversations?
  6. Do you have little to no money?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you are BROKE  – not poor. This is the United States, where no matter who is whining on the TV or which egomaniac control freak lives in the White House (the previous one or current one for example), you can still make things happen for yourself. If you can walk, talk, see and converse with people, there are a number of different careers you could have. Or are you too proud to work? I have worked some jobs that have plain sucked – running cold water over my hands for hours outside in the winter cleaning food trucks (teen years) or shoveling ice for food vendors at 4:30AM because I was not executing my business well. I’ve done some nasty stuff – what’s your excuse?

And by the way, I am not picking on people with physical limitations – I have met some kick-a** people who are missing limbs, eyesight, and such – I just point out the above because the accomplishments of these people make having the Broke attitude in the USA all that much more PATHETIC. And we need to come to accept that it is pathetic. I had felt this way at one point – sorry for myself, but thankfully I found books, people, and experiences to help lead me out of that. Are you out reading books, finding people, and experiencing things that can help you grow? Why not – feeling too Broke to do it? Do I have to introduce you to this guy:

If you can talk and ask questions, you could learn to do sales. You could teach – a sport or be a tutor in a subject, perhaps music? You can do manual labor, perhaps shovel some ice! Bottom line, you’re going to have to WORK. As famous sales trainer Tom Hopkins used to say, you’re going to have to “be unbalanced, so you can have balance.” If you’ve been lazy and are broke, or it’s because you refuse to save money and party too much, then you’re going to have to work some 80 hour weeks (unbalance) to get a life you’d prefer (balance). There is no free lunch in the USA which is what I like about it – but there are plenty of opportunities. You just need time to see it through.

Which brings me to my next point. Broke people often can’t see beyond a very short time frame. The reason is they’re so bummed out about their current state that it blinds them to the future. If I say ‘go shovel ice” then broke person sees shoveling ice as a life-long sentence of misery. But perhaps it should be viewed as a STEP to a brighter future – i.e. shoveling ice provides cash that you can save to (insert goal here) and move on to the next step. You’re likely not going to go from Broke personality to super balanced successful guy in 1 year (though you might, I don’t want to hold you back!). So think 3-4 steps ahead like a good chess player OK? Life is a multi-step process, not a one shot deal. We’re not calling you in off the bench (or out of the stands) to hit the 3 pointer with 3 seconds left on the inbound OK? First you have to learn the basics and in life, that’s saving and building up human capital (skills, abilities, talents) and financial capital.

Lastly, commit to a life of no excuses, or moving forward despite having a good excuse. Though I must admit to making some myself from time to time – I’m still in the ‘correct the excuses’ stage where I start making an excuse and then chide myself for thinking that way. The goal would be to accept what happened and move forward (there could be a good excuse, but perhaps moving forward despite the problem is a better attitude than just saying NO EXCUSES and pretending that the problems we face aren’t real – they are real, just keep making progress). Poor people often don’t have choices, or their choices are dangerous (escaping a country is dangerous). Broke people face no such danger – no military abusing them, raping them, robbing them. Broke people have an opportunity, just by living here in the US. Don’t waste it.

If you’d like to read another article of mine on a similar topic, try Make It Happen where I try to motivate your butt to go for it!

For more posts in my “Interesting” Category (typically off financial topics but intriguing to me or my readers) click HERE – articles such as Bill Clinton on a Plant Based Diet.“ Also to keep track of all my articles, and get first notification of free public workshops on financial topics, all in ONE weekly email (not 10 or 20), consider my Insiders’ Club – what’s the downside? 🙂