The Cycle

We’ve all heard some sort of statement along the lines of “rich get richer, poor get poorer.” But today I was thinking about this concept a little more, and it’s a lot more real and meaningful than a passing saying.

I live close enough to my job that I can get there in less than a half hour on a bike, and this is a huge luxury. But if I made less money, I’d have to live farther out. If my commute was an hour either direction, that slices at very least a precious hour off my day, and means that I’d have to be on a train rather than biking. This means less time when not at work to be getting my life together, less fitness, and more expensive transit. With an hour less every night, I would probably be less likely to be able to spend time cooking, which means I’d spend more money on food and be less healthy. And worse health over time means less time and money as well, as health problems are time-consuming and expensive.

I could keep going but you get the point. Having less money forces people into situations where they need to make decisions that make them spend more money, and which means that they have less money, which means spending more money… ad infinitum. It cycles on itself, and keeps getting worse. On the flip side, living close to where you work, being able to afford fresh natural food, having time to carefully consider decisions and treat your body and mind well, being able to afford paying for people/services to take responsibilities off your plate, etc are all things that come with having more money. And they all lead to more savings, more time, better health… and therefore, more money.

This isn’t just my personal speculation either. Studies have shown that poverty actually causes worse cognitive performance. That means that literally being poor makes you more stupid, not necessarily the other way around. Think about how crazy this is — most people think that poor people are poor because they are not smart, but what if life situations forcing people into poverty brings them into an expensive cycle that’s hard to break out of, sucks up all their time, stresses them out, and the situations lead to them making worse decisions? What if people don’t “get what they deserve”, but instead get a random roll of the dice, and some people just get bad luck?

A lot of people look down on those less wealthy than themselves and say that they should have just worked harder and not been lazy, and if they did they wouldn’t be poor. But I bet those same people haven’t considered the real life dilemmas that those less well-off people face as a result of starting out behind, and take their own luxuries for granted. My parents took care of me and I was educated free for like 20 years before I started needing to be entirely self-sufficient. Not everyone has that luxury. And for anyone who has had it, looking down on someone else who hasn’t is so twisted it makes it hard for me to understand.

Photo is of a little boy who lived in a tiny rural village in Uganda I visited. The set of opportunities he had in life is very different than yours or mine.