In Money

Who’s really poor?

Poor generally refers to a class of people who make $10,000 a year or less to cover their living situation, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

By that rather rigid definition, I could say I’m poor when I don’t make an income (even if it’s by choice).

Or children/teenagers/students who don’t work are poor.

Therefore, for me, a poor person is someone who makes $10,000 a year or less, and who has no outside or other help other than from charities to cover their living situation.

That means if you don’t work, you live at home, and someone else covers your bills for food, shelter and other things, you aren’t poor.

What do you think? Poor? Not poor? How would you define it?

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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  1. Jessie's Money

    I’m curious where you got the $10,000 threshold from? That’s absolutely poor I think, assuming no other assets, support or savings – but I think some of the other posters suggesting an income closer to $20K is well within the ‘poor’ classification.


      I made it up. $25,000 is the average household income here. I figured $10,000 is dirt poor.

  2. Irene

    This is a really interesting question – and an important one in terms of taxation. Being poor is sometimes a choice too. I would define it as the arbirtrary poverty line of $22,000 for a single or $41,000 for a couple. I don’t believe that people should be taxed below this line. If you make that little, you will likely spend all of your income.

    Having said that, if someone else is taking care of you, or you have a large net worth, you’re not really considered “poor”. The tax man doesn’t see it any differently though. And I believe it should stay that way, otherwise the system would be too complex.


      Our tax system I think takes into account our registered retirement accounts….

  3. ArianaAuburn

    Poor: earning below federal poverty level per member of household. Then factor in cost of living in current living area. If you want to be abstract, being poor is trying to swim on low stamina, hoping for a someone to toss you a lifesaver so that you can take a break. All of this mixed in with high anxiety.

    1. Jess

      I like both thoughts!


      Very poignantly put.

  4. Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial

    IMO, “poor” describes someone with low income and not much accumulated wealth. The line for that is as fuzzy as it is for someone who is “rich”, and is mostly a relative term, contextual to the speaker and situation being described.

    1. Caitlyn

      I would agree with this. You can be earning upwards of $100k/year, but if you’ve inflated your lifestyle along with your income, to me, that’s a poor lifestyle. If you’re constantly spending as much or more than you earn, and not prioritizing savings/investments, then if you become ill or lose your job unexpectedly you would be in a seriously bad situation. However I would differentiate poor from impoverished. I think that people who earn really low incomes and can’t afford the luxuries (and sometimes the necessities) that most of us take for granted would fall into the category of impoverished. Likewise, someone who doesn’t have a job, but earns income from investment returns and lives a more moderate or frugal lifestyle with lower expenses wouldn’t be more towards the rich/wealthy end of the spectrum in my book even if they aren’t working at the time. I used to have two roommates who both worked in high paying tech jobs. One of them was always spending more than he made, running from his debts, sometimes forcing the rest of us to cover mutual bill payments (utilities and such) until he could pay us back. The other would always pay his bills early, would sometimes choose to abstain from expensive activities (like buying concert tickets), and (although he could easily afford his own place) chose to live with roommates to keep his living costs lower while he was saving for a down payment on a house. Even though they were earning nearly the same, one (in my eyes) was wealthy and one was poor (or cash poor at least). While their personality differences obviously come into play here to some extent, the poor one could become rich relatively quickly if he changed his behaviors. Impoverished people, on the other hand, usually have to be super badass at being financially disciplined and making the most of what they have because they have so little to begin with. Regardless, you’re right, it’s all relative and each person’s situation is unique.


        Excellent point about looking at income versus outgoings.


      There are no rules of course.


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