Being Poor is Expensive

It’s expensive to be poor. It sounds strange but it’s true.

You see, sometimes we forget just how amazing things are. Things that we use every day, that we have as a normal part of life in Australia. One of those things is technology, and the access to facilities that save us so much time and money.

Take a trip to the bank for example. If we want to withdraw some money, we can just go the local ATM in our area, or even take it out from the supermarket when we do our next shopping run. It’s even better if we want to transfer some money to someone else, we can do that from our desktop, or mobile device, which can happen anywhere, even on the toilet.

On the odd occasion that we actually need to go into a branch, the banks have ‘reasonable’ opening hours and we can take some time during our work day to do that. Sure it may ruin our lunch break but we can do it.

In places like the Philippines, getting access to cash or to make a payment is not as simple. It actually requires a physical visit to the bank. A remote agricultural worker needs to give up a days wage to travel to the nearest financial service provider and pay for the transportation, this is a huge cost burden.  Imagine losing 20% of your weekly income, plus travel expenses, just to visit a bank. Nobody likes banks that much…

This another example of the complexity of poverty, and how those who are living in it can be trapped by the daily issues they face. But the more we understand it, the more we can do about it and create a hand up for those caught in its cycle.

You Can Never Be Too Poor…

Times are tough. This is always going to be true for someone, somewhere in the world. Even if the global markets were growing at record rates, things would be hard for some sections of the community. If my one term of Economics at University taught me anything, it’s that growth in one area usually means that other areas of the economy may be struggling. It’s a delicate balance but when things are tough we can hope that another part of the market will expand.

When times are financially tight, we adjust our budgets and often the money that we have allocated for giving is repurposed. If the Federal Government is any example, then you can hardly blame people for doing this (Australia now gives less in Foreign Aid than in any time through the 60 years that Australia has been supplying aid). Let us also not forget that, ranked according to Gross Domestic Product per capita, Australia is the 15th wealthiest nation in the world. Not bad for 24 million people floating on an isolated island in the Southern Hemisphere. Even if we weren’t in the top 20 wealthy nations, we can always find room to give.

Don’t get me wrong, there is wisdom in handling our money well but being generous is a core part of being financially wise. There is a World Giving Index which measures the generosity of each country based on an average score of the amount of people who have helped a stranger, donated money and volunteered some time in the last month. For the third year running, the most generous country in the world is Myanmar. I know, I was surprised too. Sure, the US, Australia and New Zealand make out the rest of the top 4 but Sri Lanka is number 5. Also, the most generous country when it comes to helping a stranger is Iraq. Think about that for a while. If you could nominate of a country that might possibly have an excuse for not trusting a stranger enough to help them out, surely Iraq would be at the top of that list. But no, 81% of Iraqis had helped a stranger in the last 30 days. You don’t need to have all the money in the world to be generous.

Giving is a part of life. Generosity is a life philosophy. What I have learnt from those living in some of the poorest parts of the world is that you can never be too poor to be generous. The amount of money you earn does not shape how generous you are, your mindset does.

You can start being generous now.