VIDEO [transcript below]
I put this image as part of a series online the other day and got LOTS of response to it:
Why? Why are we mad about this – why does someone who can earn less than they will spend hit a collective nerve? Whenever something hits a nerve like this, I ask: what is it about OUR lives that makes this action by someone else in their life so bothersome? Why does it bother ME?
I see a few reasons, all connected to the HIDDENNESS aspect:
- Assumption of hiddneness and hidden money feels weird – when people hide money it just feels weird! Why hide it? Usually we’re not mad when it’s transparent – this is hard to do but I have seen people do it decent, you just have to come out with it early and if you haven’t yet, just out with it. It’s time. Some people will be mad but others will respect the truthtelling.
- Disrupted solidarity – if we are all trying to struggle to live on $45k together, but actually you are not in the struggle, if I don’t know that and I relate to you within the struggle – that feels like I’ve revealed something rather than commiserate. If you can’t relate but pretend to relate…that feels awful. We seek solidarity within people who share experiences, and that’s ok. But
- False possibility – making it seem as if it’s somehow workable to live on $45k a year. Reality – It is REALLY hard to live on a salary under median [$65k], and if that is your wage you are making tough choices: heat bill or car insurance payment? Fix the brakes or pay for my kid to go to the dentist? The impact is that employers can point to the people who are successful and say “see?” and not do the hard work to change their revenue structure or get their funders to pay more, to enable wage raises.
- Personal lack – The hiddenness plays into the gnawing sense that other people have money and you don’t. And then when you find out it’s TRUE? I FCKING KNEW IT. it resigns you further to how shitty being poor is, since everyone you know is poor but you know there’s another world where this is not the case. I think THIS is the most painful and the annoyance clincher – the referral to what you do NOT have.
- Rude revelations – when people who are not limited to a lower wage take jobs that pay this, then live on a more expansive income, it rubs the brutality in the face of those living on it. “Oh, you bring your lunch? How frugal of you, I really should do that…[crunches on sweetgreen].”
- No job SHOULD pay too little though many do…this is a social, systemic frustration that this dynamic brings to light. Oh and for you enabling tech partners – it is ok to do this! It is ok to find a balance of higher earning and lower earning in a relationship, as long as it works for you… I am the tech earner in my relationship – with a public defender partner who has a LOT of coworkers who have some other income or family money enabling them – this is a healthy on-purpose balance between the two of us, but systemically unfair and makes other peoples aspirations more challenging if they do not have this kind of support.
Check out the whole series of money actions I side eye the image is from, here!