If you live in any urban city, you have experienced at some point someone begging you for money. Whether it is at a stop light, in a shopping center or at a bus stop, the person usually holds a sign that reads a phrase like ‘please help’. Sometimes even, a whole family stands together, for ‘marketing’ effect I would guess. Whether you sympathize or are totally against this practice, it is not the point of this article. In fact, I believe that there are panhandlers out there who need serious attention and help. A research done in San Francisco in October 2013 revealed that 82% are homeless, 62% are disabled, 26% served in the military and 32% are addicted to drug. However, my introduction leads to an experience which I want to recount for you.
It was a beautiful summer day, although hot, it was comfortable. The sky was blue with some white fluffy clouds and you couldn’t help but keep your windows down in your car. In the Washington D.C. area, it is very common to encounter individuals asking for help at a stop light, often for some financial help. It wasn’t the first time that I came to this busy intersection in Germantown, MD. In fact, I drove past it at the time almost daily. There were some regulars which I expected to see that day. However, this time it was different. As I slowed down coming to a stop at the red light, I noticed something out of the norm. It wasn’t just the person holding the sign, the message on the cardboard also caught my attention. I got closer to read clearly. The sign held by a young man, apparently strong and healthy, casually but cleaned dressed, in his early to mid-20’s, read ‘I am not homeless, I’ve got a job. Just trying to get on my feet’. There is a first for all things and that was a first. I had never seen that before. The people who beg at stop lights have been accused of not looking for a job by some, but this was different. Here is a guy who is healthy, obviously has an income and proudly announces it only to ask for a little bit extra because ‘he’s just trying to get back on his feet’. What would have been your reaction or your thoughts at that moment? Would you have been confused? Empathetic? Angry? Encouraging? Stupefied? You’re probably wondering what my thoughts were. Here it is: Does this young man (and I’m probably just a couple or a handful of years older than him) know that it is completely okay to get a second or a third job? How far would this society engulf itself into an entitlement mindset where it is okay to beg for money and expect sympathy instead of working hard, whatever job it may be to survive? Was I supposed to congratulate him because he already had a job? If How about picking a couple shifts at McDonald’s, Walmart, Subway, etc. even that’s all you can do to make ends meet?
See, I don’t know what job this young man held at the time and if there are other people like him, I wouldn’t know how much they manage to make as an income. Some of us earned more or less than others based on the industry we’re employed in, our experience, our education, etc. Nonetheless, when times are tough, when there is always water sinking your financial boat, when there is always a financial fire to put out, in my opinion, there is no industry and no job that is simply ‘lower than you’ regardless of your social class, your education and/or your experience. When it comes to providing for your family, staying out of debt or paying off your debt and having a financially stable life, there are sacrifices to be made. Unfortunately, what I have observed is that many people choose to ‘feed their ego rather than their family’.
I love this expression: ‘you can’t feed your family and your ego at the same time’. Think about it. If we all decided to be self-centered and only care about our ego and what other people may think of us, much of the world would not wake up every morning to answer to a boss. The very essence of working a job is accepting to subordinate yourself to someone else for a certain period. As someone who has ventured into several independent enterprises, I would be the first one to tell you that I would rather not work for anyone. But as my wife and I are building a financial asset which will eventually produce a cash flow sufficient to replace our income, we work hard at generating what we need today to live comfortably and avoid depending on other people. Several years ago, I had to get a second job delivering pizza while also tutoring kids to make ends meet and if I had to do the same today, I would not hesitate a bit. Would you?
The millennial generation gets so often bashed about being lazy or not trying hard enough. I don’t agree with that generalization, but I would admit that many millennials are extremely entitled. But truly, it is not just millennials who show these signs. It is becoming prevalent across even earlier generations. In some cases, I feel as though laziness is even promoted. As a millennial, I have seen several individuals who graduated college and would return home to live with their parents because they couldn’t get a job in their fields. How convenient! As a parent, shouldn’t you discourage that practice and encourage your child to do whatever it takes (legally!) to make it?
So, it’s January 2018. We are already a few weeks into the new year and the masses are working on their financial goals and you probably are too. Along the way, roadblocks will appear. It is unavoidable. That’s what makes visions and goals challenging. Regarding your financial goal – if you’ve set any – have you planned? Have you designed a blueprint for the accomplishment of your objective? You will be building your financial house and just like a physical house, construction without a blueprint leads to some awful catastrophes. Whatever your goal is, it will take some changes to adapt to your blueprint. Someone once said that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Be ready to change. Be ready to break barriers. Be ready to learn, unlearn, fail, adjust and succeed. Be ready to make sacrifices. You may have to do something you’re not excited about. Do it. You may have to work extra hours, get another job, launch a home business or downgrade to be more financially stable. Whatever it is, it is your life. You’re the one who pays your bills and whatever your friends, coworkers and neighbors may think only engages them. If you must get dirty while working, so be it. Who cares? Your neighbors are buying new cars with money they don’t have, they’re financing new toys, overusing their credit cards and living a fake life. You don’t have to copy them to boost your ego. In fact, a sign of a healthy ego is demonstrating your confidence in yourself over material things or other people’s opinions. Sometimes financial responsibility means setting aside your ego and feeding your family (or future family) because ‘you can’t feed your ego and your family at the same time’.