Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Financial adviser for the poor

Where are the financial advisers for the poor or low incomed or those living on social security?  I don’t mean someone who is salesman slick, works on commission, and is always ready to sell you something.  I don’t mean a person who charges $250 an hour to tell you to put at least five dollars into a savings account every payday or to invest something every month. Its hard to put five dollars away when that five dollars might keep the lights on or food on the table.  I don’t mean a credit counselor who actually creates a bankruptcy in disguise.  They claim to be able to stop creditors from calling you by working out a budget with your creditors which is really a bankruptcy.  And I really don’t mean someone who would look at you and say “Have you tried making more money?”

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What I’m talking about is an in person human who would, for a very small fee, take a look at your situation and tell you your best options.   So where are the financial advisers for the poor who are willing to give practical advice that goes beyond what can be found in books or on the internet?  Are there no retired financial advisers willing to volunteer at senior nutrition centers or food banks? What about the so called “elder” attorneys.  Are there none willing to volunteer either?

Sometimes I feel I need the advice of a professional adviser.  I compare it to the way people look up medical information in books or ask questions of web MD before seeking an in person physician. When I’ve gotten as much financial information as I can from books and the internet I feel its time for me to see a professional in person.  But where are they?

There should be someone, somewhere who works closely with low incomed people who have done all they know but are still struggling.  Where are the charitable organizations that do more than hand out checks to pay immediate bills while doing nothing about curing the underlying problems?   Doesn’t the working poor deserve money management seminars the same as wealthy people?  Don’t the low incomed deserve answers to our money questions?

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In my entire life I’ve never ever seen a social service agency hold a seminar, or money fair, or whatever it could be called, to teach about budgeting or living frugally or anything like that.  Ok, I admit that probably 98 percent of the low incomed have become dependent on social services.

But, I believe the remaining 2 percent, if successful, could influence other low incomed to follow the example.  The poor are always looking for the way out of poverty.  If one poor person finds that magic door out then everyone else wants to find it too.

I used to ask every time I had to apply for help paying a bill “When will you have a class about handling money or budgeting?” but not once did anyone take my question seriously.  I used to ask “Why not have a class to teach basic sewing skills, like sewing on a button or fixing a rip?” each time I visited a clothes closet, but no one took me seriously.  I still ask “When are you going to have a class to teach sensible shopping or menu planning or food preserving?” every time I visit the food bank, but no one takes me seriously.

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So is it any wonder why low incomed people become dependent on social services?  If no one is willing to have classes to teach a better way then how is anyone supposed to learn?  Wouldn’t it be better if a social service agency held classes pertaining to their type of service?  If a poor person is seeking help paying a utility bill, for example, then why not have classes about conserving energy or budgeting?  If poor people are there week after week picking up a food box why not offer free classes about food preserving and menu planning ?

I shouldn’t have to pay someone a couple hundred dollars an hour for them to tell me to spend less, save more, make more, pay down debt, be properly insured, and take advantage of senior discounts. What I really need is a good financial adviser who can actually take a look at my circumstances, ask the questions that I hadn’t thought about, and give me factual up to date advice that fits my situation.

So, where are the financial advisers for the poor?  Does anybody know?


19 comments on “Financial adviser for the poor

  1. vellissima
    December 19, 2015

    Yes, the rich learn to handle money from the time they are born, and the poor have no money to manage. It should be the opposite, in a fair universe. My opinion is that poor people need to learn that the other poor are their friends and fellow helpers. Cooperation and anti-consumerism would go a long way. When we are poor, we learn not only bad ways with money, but bad ways with each other- especially other ethnic groups. Solidarity, cooperation, help with children and housing, and so on. This the a way to deal with poverty. It takes wealth to become rich, but we poor can have rich lives if we can only learn to cooperate with each other.

    • Na Na
      December 21, 2015

      That’s so true but I find in my area its every man (woman and child) for themselves. You make some valid points. I might add that I truly believe education is the key too. Learning to handle a budget or learning to avoid predatory lenders and credit card traps could go a long way to help the struggling young. Kids leave high school without even the basics of living on their own. One of my neighbor’s son (30 years old) didn’t know how to address an envelop and that’s sad. How can we expect them to be responsible members of society if we don’t teach them more than how to read or do math?

      • vellissima
        December 21, 2015

        I agree, and we don’t do such a good job of teaching the basics, even.

    December 19, 2015

    Do you mean something like the classes that the old settlement houses started by Jane Addams about the 1880s to teach the newly urbanized & immigrant poor people how to function? They had mother & child health classes, literacy classes, vocational training of many sorts, citizenship classes, suffragette voting & legal rights agitation, labor union organizing for the many factory workers, self-help & mutual aid for the sick, widows & orphans, etc…
    Many of the newly emancipated women who were pioneers in seeking higher education helped out as teachers & researchers for new urban economic studies…
    Otherwise, here in Oregon, the Food banks organize 6 week seed to supper classes on how to use fresh veggies & become smarter food & other shoppers. I took that class & learned a lot from my fellow students. The teachers were a mixed group — middle class young Americorps volunteers meeting life on the poverty levels for the first time…& experienced older women, all excellent cooks who remembered canning, drying & preserving done by themselves or their mothers.
    However, I have been looking for free community canning kitchens on bus lines for several years now & gotten nowhere. I am thinking of starting to check out the Mormon women’s auxiliaries to see if they would share their facilities with non-Mormons.

    Hope your readers have some other ideas as well. KMC

    PS– If I could find someone offering me a 30+ hours/week job sharing financial education for adults, at $15/hr, I would jump at the chance to do these things & save my back & feet…
    Too many charitable social service agencies seem to think that senior citizens should NOT be working at all. When you’r poor, you only stop working if your health prevents you. Otherwise, the money is NEEDED TO LIVE ON!!

    • Na Na
      December 21, 2015

      I sure wish the food banks here had seed to supper classes! I’d volunteer right away.

      We don’t have community canning centers in Louisville and the nearest LDS cannery is in another state. I called the church here to see if I could order powdered eggs when they placed another order. I was told I must be a church member to order. I used to get powdered eggs in the senior commodity box but that stopped several years ago. I miss having them.

      I agree, the poor can’t afford retirement.

  3. captnmike
    December 18, 2015

    Good question – many companies are set up to pray on the poor – payday lenders etc. as well as the large banks. Some banks and brokerage houses will do some advising, but you need an account there for the advice. Also many “advisers” have things they want to sell so extreme caution is advised.

    I have seen some classes in Community Colleges, but I would be cautious that the instructors come with their own agenda.

    Having seen news stories on the fleecing of the poor by many companies (including the U.S. congress with the laws they pass to pay off the tax preparation folks by making the forms so hard to fill out you need to pay someone to help you get some low income credits)

    Good luck in your search

    Me? I just never trusted the advisers and did my own double checking after listening to what they had to say and threw much of their “advice” in the trash

    • Na Na
      December 21, 2015

      True. I do double check just about everything these days. Can’t trust corporate America.

  4. Amy
    December 18, 2015

    All valid points! Every year around this time my MIL gets so depressed because she can’t do “Christmas”. We help all we can, give her a rent free small house, while not the best, is still rent free. She struggles every month to keep her head above water, but even if there were classes, she wouldn’t go.

    • Na Na
      December 21, 2015

      Many older folks have taken up making crafts as gifts.

  5. Linda Smith
    December 18, 2015

    Better be careful, Anita; someone will be offering you the job! Truth is, I think you have to have been poor to understand poor. A retired attorney probably wouldn’t know how to advise you. Besides, poor people are expendable; we’re an embarrassment, and most people just wish we would go away.

    • Na Na
      December 21, 2015

      My work (quilting) schedule is pretty full but if the opportunity came up to volunteer to teach a canning class at one of the food banks I would do that. Not every week but at least twice a month.

      Fat chance of us (the poor) going away. Every day there are more joining our ranks. The lower middle class are now the upper class poor.

  6. pattinround
    December 18, 2015

    Excellent points, Nana. What you do on your blog is about is the only positive initiative I’ve seen anywhere. It seems as though all the agencies and bureaucrats are locked into a mindset of dealing with the flood of poverty by sticking their finger in the dam to stop the leak. The majority of people put on blinders and think that if they don’t acknowledge poverty then it dosen’t exist.
    I frequent thrift stores and have been looking for books to improve my financial literacy and to get more moneysaving ideas. Iv’e been to half a dozen shops and couldn’t find one book on frugality or making do with less let alone a financial section.
    It appears “They” think that poor people don’t care about money. Nothing could be further from the truth. There has to be a better way and that way is what you are doing by educating people.

    • Na Na
      December 21, 2015

      Thank you. I appreciate the confidence.

      The trouble with finding frugal living books at a thrift store is that people tend to keep them forever instead of donating. Try looking for books in the self help, cooking, or decorating categories at the library. You would think frugal books would be in the financial section but they are more often found in those categories. Books like design on a dime or too broke to shop are good examples. I’m not sure that is the correct names though its close.

      • Amy
        December 22, 2015

        I belong to OverDrive. It is a lending EBook library that links with local libraries. Just now I typed in “finance” and it pulled up about 4 pages of different books, all free to read. Yes, you need a source, like a laptop, or Kindle, but the people on this page have to have a source of that kind of media. Anyway, just a suggestion. I love this free service, as I am up all hours of the night in pain, and hey!!, I can check out a book at 3:42 am and read.

        • Na Na
          December 22, 2015

          I don’t have either of those. I have a very old Dell tower computer. I’m hoping Santa will bring me something new to play with. Like a new lap top or Ipad or something similar.

          • Kathleen
            December 24, 2015

            You can download ekindle off the internet for free…and I get e-mails all the time of the free books you can read….and I also use that same ekindle to read other books that I have downloaded off of it is a free book site..some great old books on there.
            In twenty some years I have downloaded over 200 cookbooks,homemaking,a lot of old books off the internet.

            • Na Na
              December 24, 2015

              That sounds like something I’d like to do. Thanks, I’ll look into it. I still like the feel of books in my hands though.

          • Kathleen
            December 24, 2015

            I am the same way about having a real book in hand,but….some of these books are over a hundred years old….couldn’t find a real book to have in hand….or way too expensive to own.
            MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!Anita
            Kathleen (((hugs)))

  7. sarasinart
    December 18, 2015

    Good ideas, and questions.

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