Poor or ”poor”?
I recently read Julia Thurén’s book ”All About Money” (Kaikki rahasta, 2018). In the book, Thurén shares her advice regarding money. In the preamble Thurén tells how it could be possible to summarise the whole book in these three words: budget, automate, enjoy.
For Thurén money has been a hobby and passion for many years. In her own words, she belongs to the upper-middle class. Because of that, the book is often written from that perspective. However, she won’t forget to remind the reader, how money can be and is a huge burden for many. Thurén gives a lot of space for persons caught in a debt spiral to get a voice to tell their story.
”All About Money” (Kaikki rahasta) and Thurén’s view was a good reminder of how a lot of our literature is written by privileged people. Or by the people who weren´t privileged, but at the time of writing, they are.
Like Thurén says, it is harmful and pointless to rich plain anyone. Richplaining means to explain something, typically from the wealthy to the poor, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. If someone is really suffering with their finances, it is degrading to tell how they can save money by just ”not buying that 4 euro latte”.
At least in Finland, when talked or mentioned about poverty, we often forget to specify what we actually mean by it. There is relative poverty, absolute poverty, low-income earners, disadvantaged, etc.
Luckily absolute poverty where the subject lacks the means to meet his or her basic needs like food, water, shelter, etc. (Springer Nature, 2011) is rarely seen in Finland. However, when talked internationally or in the bigger picture, it is very important to keep the denotation in mind.
The word poverty, in Finnish ”köyhyys”, don’t have an exact definition. To the person saying the word, it may mean something totally different than for the person listening. For example, ”köyhyys” can be seen as a self-defined feeling, something that has strict numerical limits or something philosophical.
Around 12.1% of Finns belong to low-income earners. (Statistics Finland). As I am a student, it’s not a surprise that I belong to this group. When visiting a store, I always find myself comparing the product prices to each other. Even if I’d only be getting a banana. Living with the support of grants gives me anxiety. I don’t trust that they secure me. I have many low-income earners in my vicinity.
Like many other poverty, my poverty depends on what kind of poverty are we meaning. I am very far from absolute poverty and even in Finland, I belong to the well-to-do students. I have never been in a situation where I actually wouldn’t have money for the essentials. I have an ASP account and enough money for the down payment for my own house or apartment. In case of emergency, I have people who could support me financially.
I’m a full-time student and a low-income earner. I’m getting student and housing grants. Even though I have a good amount of money on my ASP account, in daily life I would probably go from a person our society often thinks as ”poor”. Numerically many would still think that I’m rich for someone of my age.
It is possible to observe poverty from hundreds of angels. While thinking the word ”poor” I realized how twisted my own thinking around the world and poverty is.
I have a habit of reminding myself how ”I am poor” while shopping.
I mostly use the phrase to remind myself that movies and social media have changed the norms of how much or to what it is okay to spend money for. At the same time, I’m reminding myself about my future goals. My ASP accounts money and that it stays on the account plays a great role in my future goals. I don’t wanna end up in a situation where I need to ”break” the ASP rules and take money out of that account.
It is important for people to appear clever. Inspired by Thurén I encourage everyone to think: have I ever rich played? When and how am I using the word ”poor”? And: What do I actually mean when I use the word in different situations? Maybe I should change my speaking habits?
Of course, everyone can think whatever they want in their own head. No one wants to be that person who accidentally rich plains someone with that ”4 euro latte” -comment. Or makes someone feel bad after a joke about how ”my dad’s so pathetic because he drives a Fiat Punto”.
If a person isn’t filling the criterion of ”poor” in any spectrum or the spectrum that they are referring to (relative poverty, philosophical poverty, etc.), they shouldn’t be joking about how ”I’m so poor!”. Often we also forget to clarify what kind of poverty are we actually meaning when talking about it. People in the conversation will definitely appreciate the clarification and the person who makes it.
This is going to be hard for me, but I will learn how to say ”no” for restaurant evenings without using the ”I’m a poor student” -card. I am a student and a low-income earner, but my ”poverty” is really just a state of mind. I am far from a person who is actually suffering from poverty. It is unfair from me to excuse my actions because of it.
From now on, I will tell that it: ”doesn’t fit my budget”. Maybe even that ”I am saving for something else” and offer an option of cooking at my place.
I believe that this change will benefit both me and the people around me. Making ”sacrifices” for your dreams in terms of budgeting and sticking to them is a very important skill. By sharing my journey, I may help others to follow their dreams too.
Thurén, J. 2018. Kaikki rahasta. Näin säästin kymppitonnin vuodessa. Helsinki: Gummerus.
Heikkinen, S. Köyhyyden anatomia – tältä näyttää suomalainen köyhyys tilastoissa. Artikkeli. Julkaistu 02.10.2019. Päivitetty 05.08.2020. Yle. Luettu 10.10.2020. https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2019/10/02/koyhyyden-anatomia-talta-nayttaa-suomalainen-koyhyys-tilastoissa