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May 29, 2009


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This can be condensed to selfish, immediate gratification, irresponsible and lacking self control. But the list is much more entertaining!

My impressions of the list:

1) Flat screen TV - I agree that a large number of people buy these who can't afford them, but small LCDs can be had for $300-$500. Also, having a flat screen TV is a pretty common feature in the houses of the wealthy.

2) Premium cable channels - I get these free from calling DirecTV to ask nicely every few months. Actually saves me money on rentals.

6) TV in every room (with cable) - I think this speaks to the laziness factor more than the financial aspect. A TV lifestyle isn't healthy socially or physically.

7) Latest cell phones - You can swap cell phones relatively cheaply by buying used, but buying new at full price (aka not the contract discount) is financial suicide.

8 ) Eat poorly - Yep. Plenty of people who are poor or on welfare are morbidly obese. This is partially poor choices, but also because they have trouble affording fancy healthy food.

9) Overweight/No Exercise - Big one. Exercise keeps you healthy, and mentally and physically engaged.

11) Tons of gifts for the holidays when you can’t afford it - This is a big trap our whole nation needs to get away from.

12) New computer every couple of years - This is true for all gadgets.

15) Doesn’t own a home - This is kind of cyclical logic - if you're poor, you can't afford a home, so that makes you poor?

16) No online high yield savings accounts - Unfortunately ING is no so high yield anymore (1.5% for Orange Savings).

17) Doesn’t budget - This should be numero uno on the list.

19) Doesn’t share finances with their spouse - This is a great way to get divorced, which is another way to become "not so well to do".

20) Hates job but won’t do anything about it - Complaining about their job becomes a social event, a conversational crutch. It's not about the job, it's about the attention.

23) Quick to pick up tab and tip - I don't really know anybody like this.

25) No personal responsibility - "Someone or something is always out to get them and causes them to be broke." - couldn't have said it better.

Trent, I can't afford fancy healthy food either. My diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, with lots of beans and rice.

A few traits of the NSWTD I've noticed (including a categorization of the previous list), and how I compare:

(A) Lots of entertainment expenses
- they own a large and ever-expanding collection of DVD's, GI Joe Action Figures, sports memorabilia, or other "toys"
- when buying a new service (cell phone, cable, etc.) they add in a bunch of options for "only" a few dollars each
- they go out to the movies on a regular basis
- numbers 1,2,6,7,10,11,14, and 23 from the original list
- my entertainment expenses: Netflix, streaming basketball games ($99/year), and I occasionally buy games or game add-ons that I play pretty frequently with friends. My phone is used for making phone calls and nothing else.

(B) "Lazy" expenses
- they don't clip coupons or compare prices of products in the store
- they don't repair damaged stuff
- they pay others to do their yard work or fix simple problems around the house while they and their teenage kids sit and watch TV
- numbers 3,8,9,13, and 20
- I don't often clip coupons, but I watch prices carefully and keep my grocery expenses down. I eat lots of pasta, rice, and veggies with appropriate amounts of meat and dessert. My apartment complex has its own maintenance staff, but I usually fix things if I have the right tools.

(C) Always need "new" stuff, like
- they buy all of their clothes, shoes, etc. new instead of at thrift stores
- they often pay full retail
- they tend to adopt first-generation technologies (when they're most expensive and least reliable)
- older items tend to fall into disuse, sometimes after only a few weeks or months
- numbers 4,5, and 12
- I do a lot of shopping at Value Village, Amazon, Costco, Tiger Direct (refurbished computers), the clearance rack, and the day-old bread rack. When I do buy something new, I read enough online reviews to be confident in what I'm buying.

(D) Expensive lifestyle choices, like
- they are quite often divorced or single parents
- ... or they're married but spent a fortune on their wedding
- they go on expensive vacations, often as an escape from their poor financial situation
- numbers 15 and 21
- I married a woman who is almost as thrifty as me. When we travel, it's usually to visit friends. Divorce is a foreign concept to us. We currently rent due to the wackiness of the housing market and the fact that we don't plan to settle in this city.

(E) Lack of financial awareness
- rarely know how much is in their account or what their interest rate is
- often make only the minimum payments, and squeeze in new purchases as long as they can fit in another minimum
- numbers 16,17,18,19,22,24, and 25
- My wife and I review the budget together twice a month. About half of our income is automatically invested, and we have no debt.

I would add a few more from my own observations!

1) Man or woman who owes back child support and complains to anyone who'll listen that that's the reason they're poor.

2) A woman who owns one or more of those "Coach" purses.
(srsly? I've never seen a well-off woman with one of these ridiculously overpriced things, but they appear to be beloved status symbols of people who have trouble paying their rent.)

3) Guy who pays for his share of dinner with a debit card or cash, while telling me that he "doesn't use" credit cards anymore because the CC companies are "bloodsuckers" or something like that.
(I know this could have an innocent explanation, but 100 % of the time I've personally seen this it turned out to be huge red flag meaning that the guy was really, really, REALLY bad with money, had bad credit, and was in a huge amount of debt.)

4) Men who say they work only for themselves, running their own "consulting" business. This usually just means they don't have a job.
(Although I did run into one guy who actually did make a living wage with his consulting firm, it's pretty rare.)

Thanks so much for the mention!

I love the additions in the comments so far! I totally agree with the DVD and toys. The NSWTD's that I've seen also have huge collections that they most likely never use or touch.

Keep in mind that these are only traits. Having a flat screen TV or not owning a home, in of itself, will not keep you poor. It's when I see people resemble a lot of these traits that I see they are the NSWTD.

Beloml, I agree it can be done.

America must be the first country in history where our poor are fatter than our rich.

Great article!

One thing that I have noticed is that the poor tend not to read as much non-fiction. Things like: how to books or books about how to create wealth. This has always amazed me as most of these types of books are available at the local library for free.

Most of the list makes sense.

But some of those items are not unique to the poor in any way. Rich people do some of that stuff too. Most Americans eat poorly, are overweight, upgrade cell phones frequently and watch a lot of TV. These aren't really "traits of the poor" but traits of most of us. So I don't really see this as cause-and-effect any more than you can say watching TV makes you middle class.

I would argue that most of those expenses take the place of savings and are sometimes financed for the "not so well to do"

... if you can meet your savings and investment goals and then pay all those expenses in cash then why not...

MC - liked your observation about the coach purse. too funny.

great list and all to true!

Well, MC, I know plenty of well-off (would be considered rich by national standards, just not local) women who own Coach bags. Coach is obviously far from the highest of the high end--we're not talking Bottega Veneta here--but it's a perfectly respectable mid-range bag, especially if you avoid the seasonal bags and look for the classics.

I would imagine that most of the women you're sneering at are actually carrying knock-offs, which are thrifty!

And, Trent, buying a phone for full price isn't "financial suicide" if you're buying it for use with a prepaid phone plan. You're paying for that "discount" on the phone with a jacked-up monthly plan and, of course, lock-in.

I love this blog. The commenters do not appear to fall into any of these categories. I wonder if postings like this make the blogger feel good about himself?

Americans have been brainwashed into thinking that it is necessary for them to be entertained, thus forking over many of their hard-earned $$$$ to those, who are already very rich.

Hmmm, I disagree.

No cable television in my house (and no TV in my room).
Last time I gave holiday gifts (deeply discounted nice books total under $100) was four years ago.
Very few gadgets.

But yes I hate my job but don't do anything about it.

What can you do when you have a dead-end job and no money to go to school?

Re: poor ppl not reading much non-fiction

That's all I read these days! A few weeks ago I got 18 great to prepare for a major renovation) PF/money books for $10. (The library has a store selling 'retired' books and the store had shelf-clearing sale.

Most of the books are fairly current or classics...Zig Ziglar, Donald Trump & Robert Kiyosaki, T Harv Eker.

But financial literacy isn't worth much without income above subsistence.

MC - I have to agree with Sarah (ha - I swear I'm not posting twice - that is a different Sarah) - on the Coach Purses. Since most of their purses are plain leather chances are many people have them and you don't realize it. They have a reputation for being high-quality, and durable.

I do think your observation can be changed to "a preference for flashy consumerism" - as in a tendency to buy stuff with the logo prominently displayed so people can know how expensive it is.

But I think that can be an overall trend that covers a lot of the items on this list. The idea that you want people to know you spent a lot of money on something.

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