Can I Survive At the Poverty Line?

I completed my interview with 107 WINA on Sunday December 18th concerning my article on “Can you survive the poverty line”. I would like to thank Wendy Edwards for reaching out to me and giving me the opportunity to conduct the interview.


Unfortunately, WINA did not post a podcast of the interview on their website so I cannot share the interview with you. I’ve contacted multiple people at the radio station with to no avail. At least my wife and my immediate family members who got up with me at 7:30 am were able to tune in and listen.


This was my first radio appearance and for some strange reason I wasn’t nervous. Weird huh? I’m not sure why I wasn’t nervous. I had no clue on what questions they would ask me. I only knew that we were going to discuss my article. But, what does that mean?


I do not like to be unprepared for anything. So, before the interview I researched the radio program, hosts, co-hosts and anything concerning 107 WINA. I had a page full of notes on the hosts and co-hosts of the show. I felt prepared! Then, I tune into the show at 6:45am to hear that the people I had a page full of research notes on were not hosting today. Great!! All that research for nothing.


Just Be Yourself!


I figure.. well just be yourself. Heck, I know the material, I know the subject. Just answer each question truthfully and honestly and I will be OK.


One thing I must say, when you’re waiting in queue to go live on the radio you can hear everything the host and co-host say. The banter back and forth between the radio crew is hilarious. One memorable part of my waiting to go live experience was when Wendy was asked the names of her cats. Let’s just say the names of the cats were really funny.


I am really calm by the time the interview starts. Aside from my poverty article, I have no clue what direction the interview will go in. Like I said before, I’ll just be myself.


The interview starts and my “Be yourself” approach is working. We are laughing and having a good time. I felt really comfortable. We talk about the article, how one of the hosts grew up in poverty, some things that people who are not in poverty take for granted and how hard it is to actually live at the poverty level. Then I get hit with the question “Do you think you can survive at the poverty level?”


Can I Survive At The Poverty Line?


My response went something along the lines of:


If poverty was all I knew then yes. But, at this point in my life, living at the poverty line will be extremely hard to do. People are creatures of habit and once you get accustomed to certain things it’s very hard to break those habits. I’m sure I can do it, but I cannot sit here and say it would be easy.


My response was a bit longer than this but, for the sake of being concise that’s what my answer amounted too.


Shortly after that question we concluded the interview. I forgot to mention to you that I was in Philadelphia, PA at the time. The interview was held over a conference call instead of your typical in studio interview. It would have been nice drive to the station and sit with the radio crew, but the interview coincided with our annual family breakfast and there was no way I was missing that. So, the interview was conducted in the peace and quite of my mother’s bedroom on my iPhone.


I hang up the phone and go instantly into self analysis mode. I critique my performance from beginning to end. I’m very critical of myself and easily find a few faults with my radio interview. Hey what can I say, I feel self critiquing is the only way to get better. As I leave the bedroom, my mother and wife greet me with a smile and by saying “Great job”!. of course I’m happy about that.


I express some of my analysis with them. I say to my wife and mother:


I like how the interview went overall but, I disliked how I handled the intro and the fact that I didn’t know what question would be next.


My mother says:


You did fine, you can tell you know your stuff. You can also tell that you were sick.


I laugh and say:


You can tell that I’m sick, everyone else would just assume I sound like that Kermit the frog!


My wife then goes to say:


Great job babe, but I didn’t quite like how you handled the question on if you can survive at the poverty line.


I’m curious and ask what do you mean?


Her reply:


Well you kind of skated on it. Your response should have been more in relation to the host and what she went through. You should have went into your examples of actually living in poverty instead of the answer you provided.


My mother chimes in:


Yea, why didn’t you go into more detail. We were around the poverty line at one point in time. Your grandmother just hid it well.


Being Poor Does Not Mean You’re In Poverty

The government has specific guidelines which classifies you as being in poverty.  Poor can vary depending on your geographical location.  What I mean by that is that one can be too poor to live in the city but could survive quite well in a rural area.


Now, I know we were not rich, but now that I think about it. I certainly didn’t think we were near the poverty line. I grew up in West Philadelphia, PA with my 2 uncles, my aunt, grandmother, and my mother. As a child, I was always active in sports, had the latest video games, had tons of friends. I was the baby and the only child. I never wanted for anything.


In my mind, we were doing quite alright. But, I was only a child and I based things off my perceptions. My perceptions was that life was great! But, in the grand scheme of things we weren’t in the best financial shape.


My mother went on to tell me that at one point in time she made just enough to know we were really poor but too much to get any useful federal assistance. So, not enough money to get help, but just enough money to always need help.


Wow, I had no clue!


But, now that I think about it. We might have been poor but I never ever lived at the poverty line. The 2012 Federal Poverty Guidelines specify the following for a family unit of 2.


100% of Poverty = $14,710 annual income
116% of Poverty = $17,064 annual income
150% of Poverty = $22,065 annual income
200% of Poverty = $29,420 annual income


I believe my mother was in between the 150% to 200% poverty levels at one point in time.  Granted these poverty guidelines were much lower 20 years ago, but you get the point. Fortunately, this situation was temporary. So, if I had to answer the question of could I survive at the poverty line again. Now that I think about it my answer would remain the same. Why?


Well, I was a child when we were poor. A child’s responsibilities are quite different from their parents. In my mind I never was in poverty. Poor maybe, but never in poverty. I was a happy, jovial child, who happened to get anything he wanted and was able to do all the things he wanted to do. Also, keep in mind all though my mother was the only parent I knew, we had tons of family help from my uncles, aunt and grandmother. So, even if my mother only made just above the poverty guidelines my other family members were there to help if needed.


Final Thoughts


As an adult, it would be as I said in the interview, extremely hard for me to live at the poverty line. Ultimately, you do what you need to do like my mother did for me. There is a 0% chance I could find myself at the income level one would have to be considered in poverty. But, if I did the reason why I believe that I can survive at the poverty line is because I would have the same budgeting and planning ability that I do now. It won’t be easy but I essential would create a spending plan, stick to it and make all the necessary moves to earn more money.


Reader Thoughts!


Do you think you can survive at the poverty line?


Were you ever in poverty?



  • I give you a lot of credit for taking on a tough interview like that, nice job! I know I definitely would not be able to survive for very long making $14k per year. I would be doing everything in my power to get myself out of that situation.

  • I was in self-imposed poverty incomes (about 105% of poverty line for one person) when I did AmeriCorps last year. I don't live that inflated of a lifestyle, and it was definitely tough. A few things I learned: you really need to be ready for a no-frills lifestyle. I'm talking no money for vacations (or at least not ones that involve planes), and very little for restaurants or bars.

    Also, you're almost always on the verge of a collapse with even a small emergency. If my car broke down, it might have cost close to one month's pay to fix it.

    It's not like I could just save up, either, since it was hard to have much of anything left after regular living expenses.

  • I definitely agree with you on being creatures of habit. I know I am very used to the things I have in my life- really the things I take forgranted and shouldn't. Being more grateful is actually something I am really working on- I don't want to take my life forgranted. There are those that aren't nearly as fortunate.

    If I was living at the poverty line, I would be working my hardest to get out of it. At least that is what I think I would do. However, lack of confidence and lack of knowledge of opportunity is often a barrier for those in poverty so maybe that wouldn't be an option for me.

  • I hosted a radio show in Detroit for a few years and was on network television for 9 years as the resident financial expert. Your homework on the hosts and rehearsal I think was a big reason why you weren't nervous. Calling in early and hearing the chatter always calmed my nerves, too.

    I remember the first time I was ever interviewed: I hung up the phone and couldn't remember a thing I said. When I exited the office I was in, my staff and coworkers said, "that was awesome!" I said, "I wish I could remember some of it…."

    Congrats on the interview. I'm sure it's just the beginning…..

  • I probably couldn't do it; ever. I have been poorer only for about four months when I was in the first year of my PhD and my scholarship was not suffcient. What did I do? I started working. Washed dishes in an Indian restaurant for an evening and then got a job as a researcher at the university.

    I am not sure whether I have been lucky or I have always tried to creat and expand opportunities.

    The question whether I sould live on little money is different – this I could do; but I still will earn.

  • Jackie /

    Congrats on the interview 🙂

    And yes, I know that I can survive at the poverty line. I lived way, WAY below it for several years.

  • Thanks for the interview recap – sounds exciting!

    I grew up as you did – feeling that things were fine and that we were doing better than those around us. I don't know if my folks were at a 'poverty' line (did they even have that in the fifties?) or not. I do know that we lived in a house without running water or indoor plumbing or central heat. That coal stove felt so warm in the morning after it got going!

    I frequently express my gratitude to anyone who will listen on the easy life I have now – with all the creature comforts and little or no violence around me. I am lucky and blessed to have hot showers, a warm place to sleep, all the food I could possibly want and most especially indoor porceline!

  • I think you are right about the whole "being at a point in your life where its hard to live at the poverty line) thing. When my wife and I were first married, we lived very close to the poverty line and honestly, it didn't seem so bad. In fact, if I picked up a part time job, we'd have been living the high life. Now, with two children and tons of obligations? I don't know how it would be possible.

  • If I really had to I would find a way, but I have put in a lot of work over the years to create a situation where I don't have to. Well done on the radio interview, hope you plugged the hell out of your site!

  • I think I agree with your mom. I have been in the entertainment field for 15 years and you never know what they want. However, the one thing that happened a lot was that whenever I had a bad audition I booked.


  • YFS /

    Who are you telling man! With my current habits now and seeing the other side of the fence I would be doing everything to get out of poverty. Now, this is me speaking as a person who has never been in poverty. What I realized is poverty is more than income. Most people who are in poverty do not have the same qualifications or opportunities as someone who isn't in poverty. It's very similar to a wealthy person vs a middle class person.

  • YFS /

    I can only imagine! I tried to create a budget based on a 14k income. Let's just say you can't do much with that amount of income and 2 people.

  • YFS /

    Great point Miss T.

    "Lack of confidence and lack of knowledge of opportunity is often a barrier for those in poverty"

    That's the biggest thing with being in poverty it's more than just income. It's a mindset, way of life and general way of thinking that comes with it.

  • Yes. You live in the victim loop and often don't know any other way to live. Thinking outside the box doesn't even occur to you.

  • Andrea /

    My bare bones budget is below the poverty line so I know I could survive if I had to, and up to early last year I was within the poverty lines. I am young though and I was just starting out, I make more money now but I make sure that no matter what happens I always have a plan if I lose my job (my company) and would be able to cut expenses drastically. It wouldn't be easy, like you say… we are creatures of habit and I've definitely become accustomed to having money to just blow through every month.

  • YFS /

    I agree. I have family members who are not in poverty but poor who have this way of thinking. Poverty/poor mindset is often worst than being actually in poverty.

  • YFS /

    we are creatures of habit and I’ve definitely become accustomed to having money to just blow through every month.

    I think this is will be the hardest thing for my family. Currently, my wife and I enjoy a very very comfortable life. There were time were we put our selves on a serious no frills spending plan to achieve a short term goal. But, we would not like each other if we had to sustain that way of life for much longer. Making 14k a year is very similar to a person drowning in debt. Both situations would make me feel very uncomfortable.

  • YFS /

    What do you mean when you say:

    whenever I had a bad audition I booked.

  • YFS /

    I plugged my site and my RIA :-). I'm with you Shaun, you do what you have to do and hope that the situation is only temporary.

  • YFS /

    It would be possible but the fall from grace would definitely hurt. It's hard to go back to struggling after working your way out. I think this is 10x harder for people with children when all the children know is the good life. You'll do what you have to do but the stress would be out of this world.

  • It means when I used to audition I would think I blew the opportunity and didn't get the job. Later on that evening I would get a call saying that I booked the job.


  • YFS /

    Gotcha. Yea, I guess I always feel like crap after interviews since i focus on things to fix rather than the positives.

  • YFS /

    Several years as an adult? Wow, what did you do to get out? Why were you in poverty in the first place?

  • YFS /

    I hope it's just the beginning! I can talk about day about personal finance. This is partially the reason why I volunteer to and teach a 5 week class. I found the preparation solves 95% of my nervous issues with any speaking engagement. The rest is just showing up.

  • YFS /

    I'm with you Maria. I think I could live at the poverty level temporarily but not for a long period of time. 4 months that isn't bad. 4 years that's a different story.

  • YFS /

    See we both have great parents. I like you also am very grateful for my current situation. It wasn't easy to get here and I will do what it takes to stay at my current standard of livingl or increase my standard of living.

  • Blog Post of the Week! …on Courage from Watson Inc. - The Free Financial Advisor | The Free Financial Advisor /

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  • LT /

    ^ very true! "Poverty/poor mindset is often worst than being actually in poverty."

  • LT /

    I agree with a lot of what's been said. Growing up I knew my mom struggled to 'make it do what it do' but we always had what we needed in addition to a lot of what we wanted. No dad, 3 kids and it worked. Now with my own family I will say that my husband and I had to make it do what it do for about 1yr. There was little wiggle room, but we remained out of debt and handled all obligations with grace on about 27k. We even made a few stupid decisions like buying a new car because we were waiting for our car to be shipping from overseas and got tired of paying for a rental. But we knew how to buckle down and make it work. I always say, I CAN MAKE A DOLLA HOLLA!

    Now, I pray we never have to go back to those days, especially with a 3 yr old, but if things went wrong I know we can make it work and downsize. Another thing is that ppl get comfortable where they are. Sometimes you have to move in order to receive better opportunities. In the past 4.5 yrs, I have moved to 3 different states b/c of better opportunities.

  • If I had to I would, no doubt about it *shrug* I'd just have to work hard to get back to where i am today or better. It would also be important to look at why I am there in order to learn and never get back there again.

  • YFS /

    I tend to agree with you. You have to do what you need to do when you're in that situation. To me there are two sides to poverty. The lack of income which puts you into poverty financially and the mindset which keeps you in poverty. We all can think of ways to prevent or get out of financial poverty. I can't even imagining handling the mental aspects of poverty.

  • I think that's where it all begins with poverty-more than anything else-the mindset that keeps you there.

  • […] album. Kickstarter is a great way to invest in a rock band and other awesome projects.YFS presents Can I Survive At the Poverty Line? posted at Your Finances Simplified, I completed my interview with 107 WINA on Sunday December 18th […]

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  • The toughest thing when I was poor was learning that it didn't have to be that way. When you have poor role models around you, it can be difficult to see the way out. That's why I believe that good role models and mentors are very important.

  • YFS /

    I love this statement from your comment

    "The toughest thing when I was poor was learning that it didn't have to be that way"

    This is what plagues people at all economic levels. Most don't know that there is another way. I also agree with you on the poor role models. Thank goodness my mother and family keep me busy and around positive people instead of the streets of Philadelphia. I know a lot of people who became products of their environments.

  • Congrats on the Radio show! We are currently a family of 5 at the $14,000 and we do okay, I am working on changing that of course but we can and do survive with some "frills" of modern poverty in America..we do not have air conditioning, nor do we have 700 sq feet of space per person. We are on no assistance though and still manage to spend below what we earn by living cheaply including cheap rural area rent. Out of our $1400 a month, we are currently saving a $100 a month and investing another $200 and we live without credit cards. We do have computer, extremly close loving relationships, lots of fun and laughter, video games, online, free public tv and from honing my cooking skills, and even eat out sometimes or go on a trip so we do not feel poor at all!

    It can be done but I do agree some in certain areas or with poor role models have a harder time seeing a way out and don't see it does not have to be that way…..for some this is the hardest realization they will ever have to face.

  • YFS /

    Wow a family of 5 on 14k a year! Why aren't you on any form of assistance? Wouldn't this make your life considerably easier? It's amazing that you still save 7% of your income and invest 14% of your annual income. Saving/investing 21% of your income will have you way ahead of the game. But, what if someone gets sick, hurt or injured? With 3 or 4 kids that's bound to happen!

  • YFS /

    I noticed something. You said you make 14k but you specified you bring in $1400 a month. If you make 14k that means you only bring in $1,166 per month before taxes. Where did the other money come from?

  • I am sorry I should of clarified that better, we did only have around 1160 a month for 2011 as many months hubby was only being able to put in 20 hours a week and could not find any other work. so for 2011 we got by on the $14,000, the year before that? way way less as we tried living in north carolina and for a whole year could not find work and lived off of scrap metal money and growing our own food now that was a bit rough! LOL

    This year it is starting to look like we should make close to 17,000 more if I have a say as I am really working the extra income streams part.

    I won't get on assistance because it is a system designed to keep you poor and you are only allowed $2000 in assets which I would reach that by the end of this year. Also I really don't like the government knowing how many times I pee a day or tell me to give up homeschooling to work all day. I also believe our government would be much better off screening welfare recipients far more better than they do so that the people that truly need it get it.

    I am a little stubborn in that department as I think way too many are on it that do not really need to be like win a million and use bridge cards still? come on! ( they give way too much a month for bridge cards too they need to educate more on how to use bridge cards on frugal healthier choices)

    getting sick can be an issue yes if you sadly look at the death rates due to cancer and such of the uninsured american it is staggering……….best to lead as healthy a life as you can 🙂

  • I should also point out a huge reason I don't take assistance is because I am fully aware we are where we are now because of the choices we have made. Hubby stepped down (by me packing up everything and making a drastic life change to force a change to north carolina) because his well paying job cost him 2 heart attacks by age of 38 ( leaving a nice little debt for us)

    I am also capable of working but choose family value and homeschooling over working where being frugal pays off better for us financially as i have time to cook from scratch and do frugal activities….when I work this just is not so and we spend more money for convienience and my family falls apart every time I have tried.

    I also don't take working for others very well and want to provide passive income and ongoing cash flows from the home front with a plan to retire hubby in 4 years 🙂 aggressive perhaps but well worth working for….

  • I would beg to differ with you here, our universe is an abundant one and especially here in America it is overflowing with opportunities. Everyone has the same of abundance in opportunities around them… I just think not everyone is as good as recognising them for what they are, or are too quick to dismiss them. Qualifications can always be learned and in the worst storms, there is a light of opportunity. Also not everyone is willing to change in order to grow to seize those opportunities when they arise……

  • YFS /

    "Everyone has the same of abundance in opportunities around them…"

    I don't agree with that statement. Everyone isn't on the same playing field. Money definitely buys opportunity or access to certain things that being in poverty/poor doesn't provide. For example, growing up in Philadelphia largely because of income I was exposed to a bad school system, horrible teachers, crime ridden streets, obesity, drugs. Now, throw an impressionable child into the mix and you get higher risk/chance of failure, like so many of my friends have done. If I grew up where I reside now as a child I would have exposure to the best schools in the nation, friends/parents who care about education, relatively no crime etc etc etc…

    To say the poor have the same opportunities as the rich is ridiculous

  • YFS /

    So in 2012 your household income will be 17k or 31k? Hmm, I'm not sure I would let my pride get in the way of helping my family when it comes to government assistance. I definitely understand the pick yourself up by the bootstraps mentality but, with a family of 5 and only 14k or less in income the last few years I would keep working hard and accept assistance. But, that's just what I would do if I was ever in that situation.

    Also, in the last 2 years none of your kids so much as got a cold or ill? If so, how did you remedy the situation on your salary?

  • YFS /

    2 heart attacks by 38?!? This was all caused by stress of the job or other heath related factors? 2ndly, how did you pay for the medical bills? Retire in 4 years from passive income streams, great goal? So, in 4 years how much revenue do you need to come in so your husband can retire?

  • In 2012 our income as it stands will be 17k however since I am busting butt to get multi-streams going in other ways of course it could be more than that. I have never felt like I am "entitled" to handouts, it is not the governments job to hand us free money of other tax payers dollars.

    A cold? You do not take a child to the doctors everytime they get a runny nose, cough drops, vicks vapor rub and tylenol work, IF it is a serious situation then they do go to the doctors, the last serious situation being 3 years ago. We deal with the bills as a result or get temporary help from Medicaid as these situations arise.

    If I ever did get any assistance at all, If with all the butbacks it is still even possible, it would be Medicaid. I have no reason for food stamps or other programs though.

    I have looked into other health insurance and so far have not found one that will cover hubby with a previous heart attack record.

  • YFS /

    Gotcha! Ok, I thought you meant 0 government assistance at all. Medicaid is definitely a social program aimed to helping low income families.

    " People served by Medicaid are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, including low-income adults, their children, and people with certain disabilities. Poverty alone does not necessarily qualify someone for Medicaid. Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with limited income in the United States."

    Why do you differentiate between the use of medicaid and welfare when you speak of government assistance? Is one worse than the other in your eyes?

  • Everyone has thier own view that is what makes bloggins so interesting is that it is a sharing of so many different view points 🙂

    Everyone has choices though, to get worse, to stay the same or to improve. Our pasts do not have to define our future, they are meant to be a tool for us to learn from so we can make choices to improve upon. Not everyone knows how to make changes and for most change is uncomfortable, it is easier to stay with what you know than to deal with the unknown.

    While coming from money may provide one with opportunities the poor do not have, it does not garantee ones success in life and what one chooses to make of it, even if it is taking a optimistic positive attitude in how one views the world. There are opportunities for everyone if learning never stops, some of the best success stories are from immigrants coming over here with nothing but a dollar in their pocket and making a success because for them, failure is not an option. It is all in choices and we are all free to make choices in how we live our life.

    Does not mean it is easy.

  • […] album. Kickstarter is a great way to invest in a rock band and other awesome projects.YFS presents Can I Survive At the Poverty Line? posted at Your Finances Simplified, I completed my interview with 107 WINA on Sunday December 18th […]

  • I'm Wendy Edwards. YFS, I have only just come upon your post and must apologize for any lack in communication between me (or News Radio 1070 WINA) and you. I am going to check our audio archives tomorrow morning to see whether your interview was taped – it should have been – and if it was not, I will find out what happened that it wasn't. I will respond to you either way this week.

    Our weekend news team is somewhat hidden on the website; however, your post can provide good reason for a clear presence so that our guests can know who they will be speaking with. Like you, I do quite a bit of research on whoever I will be listening to and I know how confusing it can be to think you have it down then suddenly realize, live on-air, that you do NOT. Hah!

    I believe you were an excellent guest and your feedback was valuable. Your SITE is valuable and encouraging and offers rational, realistic perspective which is why I like it so much.

    YFS, I appreciate your follow up with this post and your kind words. I am sorry it took me til now to see it. As for my cat's names…if anyone's interested, give me a shout. Sadly, we lost our two oldest cats at the beginning of this year – one was 21, the other 18 – which hurt quite a bit and we remember them with fondness.

  • URFinanceSimple /

    Wendy, it's good to hear from you. I really wanted to share the interview with my readers and family. I hope you can find it, I thought the interview went extremely well, especially for my first time on the radio.

    Also, thank you for the compliment about the website! I really appreciate it.

    Sorry about the cats 🙁

  • […] I talked about the radio interview in a follow up post titled: Can I Survive At the Poverty Line? […]

  • […] from Your Finances Simplified published Can I Survive At the Poverty Line?, saying, ‘I completed my interview with 107 WINA on Sunday December 18th concerning my […]

  • […] damn he is fucked up! Then I thought of my mom, and I got angry. I remember writing my article, “Can I survive at the Poverty Line?” As a child I remember all the fun, the traveling and just the good ol’ times. She told […]

  • […] per year, and 75% of my tenants will probably make under $15,000 per year. Remember my article Can you survive at the poverty line? Well…. can […]

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