Financial struggle can become desperation and did with a friend of mine. About a month ago, on a Tuesday morning I got the kind of call you never want to get. A woman friend had ended her life over the weekend. I was shocked and the news hit me hard. While Deb and I hadn’t been living in the same area for years she always lived in my heart. Because of the economy the last few years, we knew Deb had, like so many others been struggling financially.
Laid off from one job she had a great deal of trouble finding another. She was skilled, but over 50 and if you think ageism isn't happening, you're wrong. Rumor was she may not have always had enough to eat or been able to pay her bills. Then she found another job and things seemed better – until she was fired the Friday before taking her life. I can only imagine the fear, perhaps embarrassment, and hopelessness Deb was feeling at that moment. And, then she made a decision many make in the moment of desperation.
But, Deb is not the only woman (or man – perhaps even harder for men to reach out to get help) suffering financially and suffering with the guilt, shame or blame of believing it’s their fault.
Over 24 million women were living below the poverty line in 2009
27.5 % of black women live under poverty line
13.5% of white women in 2009
In Nov 2013 in the State of California food stamp and welfare money was cut. One of my clients lost $100.00 a month from her disability and about $30 a month from food stamps. That's a BIG net loss for someone barely scraping by.
35% of households headed by single moms were “food insecure”
13% of women over 75 were poor compared to 5% of men over 75
Only 40% of women retire with enough money to live on. More women by far retire in poverty than men.
A working wage based on the minimum wage of 8.50 an hour = 17,000 a year – that’s considered below the poverty line.
2010 31.6 % of single women households were poor compared to 15.8 of households headed by single men
How we do help someone who may be in Deb's position? We reach out and past their embarassment or shame with kindness and gentleness by not asking, but just bringing food over for a get together, leaving an envelope with cash for bills, and letting them know we're there for them until they get on their feet again. One person can't solve every problem but a group of friends can make a big difference. I don't think many knew Deb's suffering - she was very private. We ask our connections and friends about job possibilities and try to support the person through the aloneness of struggle.
The larger question is how do we change financial struggle and poverty? Think about it and come up with your answers, but here are a few of mine:
1) We must educate ourselves about money, (there are TONS of resources FREE on the web)
2) Vote our conscience with compassion for those less fortunate
3) Reach out to friends and family if we get the sense they’re struggling more than they are able to say.
4) Collectively: A simple thing we can do is vote for a higher minimum wage to help more people out of poverty. When people are living in poverty they can't spend money on consumer goods as they're able to when more secure.