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Why are some people poor?

When it comes to money, I have talked a lot about how many people misjudge those who have big houses, nice cars and clothes. Many of these people are not as they first appear. There are plenty of examples of people who have lots of expensive things but don't have any savings or, have a huge amount of debt.

Often people don’t just misjudge those that appear to have more than us. They can also have a tendency to judge those that appear to have less than us.

We need to teach kids not to look down on others who may appear to not have much money. There are two reasons for this:

  1. There is likely to be a lot of misfortune leading them to be poor

  2. They might in fact not be poor at all

To help teach my daughters these two lessons, I told them two short stories. The first is one I made up and the second is an amazing true story.

The Boy Who Judged Too Quickly Story (Misfortune)

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Max who lived in a big, beautiful house with his family. Max was very lucky because he had everything he could ever want - toys, gadgets, and fancy clothes.

One day, Max was walking to the park when he saw a man sitting on the sidewalk, asking for money. Max felt sorry for him, but he also felt a little bit annoyed. "Why doesn't he just get a job like my parents?" Max thought to himself. "He must be so lazy!"

Max didn't say anything, but his thoughts made him feel superior to the homeless man. Max continued to walk to the park, and there he met his Grandma who was feeding the birds.

They started to walk around the park together and as they came up to the homeless man, his grandma stopped. She took out some money from her purse and gave it to the man.

“Why did you give your money to that man? Shouldn’t he get a job rather than beg people for money? I’d never beg for money!” Said Max.

“I hope you never have to beg for money” replied Grandma “Did you know that I was once homeless?”

“What? No way! You were homeless?!” said a shocked Max

“Yes. My parents both had jobs working in a factory but they didn’t earn very much. Then my mother got really sick and had to stop work. As a result, I had to leave school when I was only 14 years old and start working. I then had an accident which meant I couldn’t work in a factory any more. I had no education and couldn’t find anyone who would give me a job. As my parents didn’t have any money themselves, I didn’t want to put pressure on them, so I left home and ended up homeless.” continued Grandma

“What happened after that?” asked Max

“I was lucky. A kind couple saw me. The first day they gave me a bit of money, some food but they also gave me a chalkboard, some chalk and a joke book. Each day I would copy a joke from the book on the board and position it near the busy business area. The jokes made people smile on their way to work and they gave me a few coins. This allowed me to save up some money to have a shower and get some clean clothes from a charity shop. I then asked for any work from those that saw me every day and luckily they got me a job sorting mail. I worked hard and got promotions in the company and the rest is history.”

Sign with a joke about tacos

“That’s incredible. I never knew. You were so unlucky to have been homeless but then lucky to have met those people!” Replied Max.

“Exactly. No one wants to be homeless. There are many unfortunate reasons why people are. Once they are homeless, it takes a lot of luck to get out of it. That’s why I never judge them as I don’t know their full story. I always then consider what I can do to help change their luck. Even if this is giving them a little bit of money.”

Then Max asked “Please can we come back to the park tomorrow? I have a bit of pocket money and a joke book I would like to give that man. It might be what he needs to change his luck!”

“Of course, that’s very kind of you Max and I’m sure he will be forever grateful” said Grandma with a big smile across her face.

The end!

I hope you share this story with your kids. It’s easy to judge people less fortunate than ourselves but there are many reasons (misfortunes) that have led them to that position. We should all be grateful that we have our education, family, friends, health and luck meaning that we aren’t in that position.

Now for the other story to help kids learn that sometimes people might not be as poor as you think!

The Indian King and the Rolls Royce Story (a reportedly true story)

In the 1920s, an Indian King was visiting the UK. As he walked around the streets of London in casual clothes, he saw the Rolls Royce showroom. He walked in to look at the cars and asked about prices. The salesman looked at the man and thought that this Indian man in casual clothes could never afford the cars so ignored him and showed him the exit (noting there was a lot more racism back in those days).

The king was annoyed. He went back to the hotel and arranged for an official royal visit to the Rolls Royce showroom. He turned up in his full royal outfit, with red carpet and his entourage. He then purchased all the 6 cars in the showroom in cash. He then shipped the cars back to India.

Once the cars were back in India, he ordered that the cars be used for cleaning the streets and garbage collection.

Indian king using rolls royce to clean the streets

After photos emerged of their cars with brushes attached to them, the Rolls Royce company sent a telegram to the King to sincerely apologise for their employee's actions. They also sent 6 new cars to the King. The King felt that the Company had learned its lesson and stopped using the cars for cleaning the streets and garbage collection.

The end!

I love this story. Whilst I’m not a king, I have had that experience of salespeople in certain shops judging me (especially when I’m on holiday, wearing my flip-flops) and never wanted to buy anything from them as a result. Although, interestingly, I have also heard that this tactic of not paying attention to some customers can be done intentionally, as a way of getting customers to spend their money as they aim to prove to the salespeople that they do in fact have the money and are deserving of buying from the 'exclusive' shop.

Summary: Why some people are poor

It is so easy to make sweeping judgements when we see people who don’t seem to have as much as us. We need to find ways to help our kids learn that there could be an unfortunate reason that they are in that position. These reasons could be linked to lack of access to education, inequality, health, loss of family or economic downturn.

I hope that rather than looking down on others, the first story, in particular, helps kids consider how fortunate they are to have a family, education and health. Luck plays a huge part when it comes to money, therefore we should always be grateful.

The second story highlights that some people who do have money might not like dressing how everyone expects people with money to dress.

Please share this story with other families so they can start talking about money.

Thanks for reading!


p.s. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of my book, Grandpa’s Fortune Fables, over 10,000 copies are now sold!

children's money book cover


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