Three salient features of Poor man’s mentality


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People are likely to associate mentality of the poor with the real poor who have no plan of getting out of government assistance. But in reality this mentality is found not just among the real poor. It exists within many who are in the range of middle class. It is the mentality that traps people where they are for decade after decade, leading them to be surrounded by a pile of poor man’s junks.

Number one salient feature of this mentality is they don’t know the value of time, in that they value money more than time. They are willing to save money at the cost of spending extra time. They let time pass without gaining any tangible and intangible value. In a way, we all trade our time for money when we go to work every day. Very often, how much value we can extract from our time at office is not entirely up to us to decide. Some people have to take a day job for basic sustainability so that they can work on their day dreams as soon as the day job is over. There are always something that we can control in regard to our time. Here are some examples.

An IT guy who works in the neighborhood of Overland Park Convention Center lives north of the Missouri River. He spends an hour and half daily on the road. He told me that he would not be able to buy a large house like his in Overland Park. Never mind about the cost of daily gas and the stress on the road. I would say he exhibits the mentality of the poor when he tries to save money by squandering extra driving time every day. The thought process must be like this– while time is free, large house costs more. He would trade his free time for the costly house.

Influenced by this mentality, he finds it hard to part with his money and would grab anything that is free. Here’s what he doesn’t realize: the free time is not unlimited. With money, he earns, spends and can earn it back; but not with time. Always keep this in mind — time is the only thing in life that we have less and less.

It is because they don’t value the free yet limited resource that they don’t invest wisely their time to generate more values or assets. People waste something that is the most valuable one in life.

There is another case where a friend of mine drove us around the town in Los Angeles to find sale beef. For a ridiculously insignificant amount of saving, we spent like an hour checking in and out grocery stores. It even seems comical.

Number two of poor man’s mentality is to trade health for money. Like when people work strenuously or sit there for so long that they won’t stop until they are struck down by illness. They don’t know how to extend their life span by investing in some fitness activity or by stopping working when they should. Whatever they earned is not enough to pay their medical bills or to bring back their health and enable them to enjoy life. What a short-sighted idiocy!

Number three is to bring home sale items or free stuffs even if he doesn’t need them. Nothing is free. Everything he brings home takes up his time and space. Once again this mentality leads people to trade their time with some cheap or free stuff that they don’t really need, and later on they will have to spend some time to decide how to dispose it, like selling them at garage sale. Gradually they end up being collectors of poor man’s junks and their lifetime will be an endless cycle of junk collection and junk disposal. How pathetic!

My 85-year-old mother knows best. She keeps telling me, “Don’t bring back anything from America. They are all made in China. If I need, I can get it cheaper here. More important, I don’t need anything.” I know what she needs most. My time. Good luck on this.

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