Personal Finance Roundup

Interesting Facts And Confusing Thoughts About The American Poor
[Money, Matter, and More Musings]
“Honestly, the data had me confused about my definition of poverty. Irrespective of how low the income is, if a person (or a family) is able to enjoy most of the things that an average family can enjoy, is able to get proper nourishment, and is able to meet all ‘essential expenses’, how can such a person be termed as ‘poor’?”

Less Than Zero: How Overdraft Fees Can Clean You Out [Yahoo Finance]
“I don’t know what loan sharks are charging these days, but these rates are probably a bit higher.”

The wrong kind of financial advice [CNN Money]
“When your planner steers you toward expensive investments, stop and ask the right questions.”

Six Keys to Investing Buffett Style [US News]
“Buying low isn’t enough. You need to see the future.”

10 Things Your Exterminator Won’t Tell You [Smart Money]
“Experts agree, it’s a great time to be in the pest-control business. Tighter restrictions on pesticides, changing weather patterns and the emergence of treatment-resistant insects and regional epidemics have converged, creating a perfect storm for exterminators in many parts of the country. And it’s spraying the business with cash.”




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  1. Lordstrom says:

    If you have cable, you aren’t poor. Period.

  2. DJShay says:

    People, read the poor report with a grain of salt. It was put out by the Heritage Foundation which is hardly an impartial study group. As soon I saw who published it, I questioned the data.

  3. Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

    Ebay, freecycle, gift, abandoned property, etc. Just because they have a TV doesn’t mean they have a nice one they spent a lot of money on it (maybe not any). Yes, there are cheap color TVs.

    Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.

    See above. The only reason I have a microwave right now is that someone who left the place I just moved into left it (on purpose with a note that says it works fine).

    I know this doesn’t account for everything and isn’t true in all cases but some of the stuff mentioned isn’t exactly jaw dropping.

  4. B says:

    @DJShay: Wait, somebody might be presenting misleading statistics to make a point? Surely we wouldn’t fall for this again, right?

  5. DJShay says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:
    “When asked, some 89 percent of poor households reported they had “enough food to eat” during the entire year, although not always the kinds of food they would prefer. Around 9 percent stated they “sometimes” did not have enough to eat because of a lack of money to buy food.”

    Guarantee you it’s not healthy which leads to obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.

  6. able to get proper nourishment…

    The data doesn’t say that! It says 89% say they don’t go hungry. A diet consisting mostly of Ramen is NOT “proper nourishment”.

  7. @DJShay: Oops, didn’t mean to repeat your point. But yes, I agree.

  8. Jiminy Christmas says:

    Ah, the Heritage Foundation. I’m surprised they didn’t remark on the fact that 98% of poor people have indoor plumbing! After all, 50 years ago the truly poor had to crap in outhouses.

    The bit about consumer goods is a red herring. Color tv, window air conditioner, desktop computer, microwave oven, DVD player, VCR…you can get any of these items used but in completely serviceable condition for under $20. Some friends had a yard sale a couple of weeks ago: a Denon CD player priced at $5 didn’t sell. Nor did a 2-year-old cordless phone priced at $3. Likewise, I could easily buy 2 cars that run for $500 apiece. Point being, just because a household has the consumer items that typify a middle class household, that doesn’t make them middle class.

    Regarding cable/satellite tv: Assume for a moment that even the poorest people are entitled to some sort of diversion in their lives. Yes, the truly frugal would satisfy themselves with library books and broadcast television. That said, what does a monthly cable tv subscription cost? $30-$40? From a cost/benefit perspective, that’s a lot of entertainment for not much money. What else can you get for $40? 10 movie rentals? Take the family to a couple of matinees? Half a dozen used paperbacks?

  9. Lordstrom says:

    Even if the Heritage Foundation did make those numbers up(which they didn’t, they came from Census), what evil agenda would they have?

    Oh noes, someone is trying to paint a less than dire situation for the United States~!!! LIBERALS UNITE! We must fight back this optimism with our sheer might of misery!!

  10. Sonnymooks says:

    Reminds me of the joke about an immigrant saying he wanted to come to America because he wanted to see if it was true that in America, poor people were fat.

  11. Dr_awesome says:

    This statement stuck out to me:

    “While work and marriage are steady ladders out of poverty, the welfare system perversely remains hostile to both. Major programs such as food stamps, public housing, and Medicaid continue to reward idleness and penalize marriage.”

    How can the Heritage Foundation imply that the poor “have it pretty good” in this country, but still claim that the welfare system is somehow perversely hostile to them?

  12. mac-phisto says:

    census data isn’t the best place to go for data about the poor. i worked as an enumerator in the 2000 census & the hardest part was tracking down transient people. i would say that in my district at the time, a sliver of those people were counted.

    in addition to the “traditional homeless”, i found it incredible that “american gypsies” exist. they move from campsite to campsite in tents, campers, cars, whatever. we spent 2 nites/week (more towards the end) trying to get as many of these people counted as we could.

    so, just keep that in mind too.

  13. Sonnymooks says:


    Not to be a bigot, but the “American Gypsies”, I met, were mostly Irish Clans, that voluntarily chose that way as a life style, and seemed to prefer that way of life over traditional settling. I wouldn’t knock that as if its something folks choose, then its a choice, and I am not going to knock them based on my own beliefs.

    However, I understand that trying to count them on a census is next to impossible, they do not want to be counted, and are hostile to intrusion. That also said, getting accurate data on the poor is always going to be difficult, simply because it all depends on who you consider poor, and that can be a relative term based on where they live (i.e. someone who is poor in Salt Lake City might be considered middle class and have a middle class life style in Detroit).

    The whole debate about the poor is to subjective by necessity, since being objective involves to many factors.

  14. Raanne says:

    how can you compare how many people have ACs when most of the government subsudised housing has AC? And what about food? so they had enough food to eat? well, if they hadn’t have had food stamps, would they? The whole article falls apart as soon as you look at what they are saying. so what that 97% have color television sets. you can get those for FREE!

  15. acambras says:


    Good point. I’ve seen some subsidized housing that not only has A/C, but washers & dryers as well. A lot of us apartment dwellers have to schlep our laundry elsewhere, even if we’re gainfully employed.

    And color television sets? Color vs. B/W might have been some barometer of wealth 20-30 years ago, but I don’t think it is now. I’m sure there are lots of kids out there who’ve never seen a black and white tv set.

  16. Consumer-X says:

    “”American Gypsies”, I met, were mostly Irish Clans”
    You should see the garish Mcmansions these “gypsies” live in in Florida and in a few other states down south. Their whole economy is built upon scams and cons. That is not being bigoted that is a fact. They roam around the country doing mainly construction. The work is often very poor quality and they often prey on the elderly charging 10x what they originally estimated the job would cost. They view conning people outside of their clan as a badge of honor and accomplishment. As for “camping out” these American Gypsies do so to save money and to aid in being untraceable by law enforcement. These people are by no means poor.

  17. night_sky says:

    Wow, that “poor” report is way outta wack. I’ve DONE the census before for my town and atleast 1/3 of the population in my town refused to talk to us because they thought we were immigration (I live in CA). I know without a doubt in my mind that a giant majority of people living in this town are living 4 to a ROOM (not a house). I’ve lived in places where ROOM’s were for rent in a house. I lived there with my family before and we had about 5 people living there with one income. This is the absolute NORM for this town. So that “census” is a load of bull! This town isn’t as poor as it sounds (I now live well beyond those means with my g/f in a nice apartment), so I can guarantee you that this isn’t the extremest of extreme poor in this country (excluding homelessness which as far as I know, there is no census for).

    SO believe me when I say do not believe a word of that census because it is BEYOND inaccurate and almost goes to the extent of lying.

  18. mac-phisto says:

    @Consumer-X: that accounts for some of them – hell, half the ppl living in greenwich, ct (home of the mcmansion) pay their mortgage by driving down to florida for hurricane season. i guess they’re the modern day equivalent of carpet-baggers.

    that doesn’t account for all of them, though. i met more people living out of their cars than i care to recall. granted, i wasn’t in a big money area – centre county, pa circa 2000 certainly wasn’t part of the mcmansion boom – it was mostly mennonites & students. i doubt even a handful of the people you refer to existed in that area at that time.