Can I Survive At the Poverty Line?


I completed my interview with 107 WINA on Sunday December 18th concerning my article on “Can you survive the poverty line”. I would like to thank Wendy Edwards for reaching out to me and giving me the opportunity to conduct the interview.


Unfortunately, WINA did not post a podcast of the interview on their website so I cannot share the interview with you. I’ve contacted multiple people at the radio station with to no avail. At least my wife and my immediate family members who got up with me at 7:30 am were able to tune in and listen.


This was my first radio appearance and for some strange reason I wasn’t nervous. Weird huh? I’m not sure why I wasn’t nervous. I had no clue on what questions they would ask me. I only knew that we were going to discuss my article. But, what does that mean?


I do not like to be unprepared for anything. So, before the interview I researched the radio program, hosts, co-hosts and anything concerning 107 WINA. I had a page full of notes on the hosts and co-hosts of the show. I felt prepared! Then, I tune into the show at 6:45am to hear that the people I had a page full of research notes on were not hosting today. Great!! All that research for nothing.


Just Be Yourself!


I figure.. well just be yourself. Heck, I know the material, I know the subject. Just answer each question truthfully and honestly and I will be OK.


One thing I must say, when you’re waiting in queue to go live on the radio you can hear everything the host and co-host say. The banter back and forth between the radio crew is hilarious. One memorable part of my waiting to go live experience was when Wendy was asked the names of her cats. Let’s just say the names of the cats were really funny.


I am really calm by the time the interview starts. Aside from my poverty article, I have no clue what direction the interview will go in. Like I said before, I’ll just be myself.


The interview starts and my “Be yourself” approach is working. We are laughing and having a good time. I felt really comfortable. We talk about the article, how one of the hosts grew up in poverty, some things that people who are not in poverty take for granted and how hard it is to actually live at the poverty level. Then I get hit with the question “Do you think you can survive at the poverty level?”


Can I Survive At The Poverty Line?


My response went something along the lines of:


If poverty was all I knew then yes. But, at this point in my life, living at the poverty line will be extremely hard to do. People are creatures of habit and once you get accustomed to certain things it’s very hard to break those habits. I’m sure I can do it, but I cannot sit here and say it would be easy.


My response was a bit longer than this but, for the sake of being concise that’s what my answer amounted too.


Shortly after that question we concluded the interview. I forgot to mention to you that I was in Philadelphia, PA at the time. The interview was held over a conference call instead of your typical in studio interview. It would have been nice drive to the station and sit with the radio crew, but the interview coincided with our annual family breakfast and there was no way I was missing that. So, the interview was conducted in the peace and quite of my mother’s bedroom on my iPhone.


I hang up the phone and go instantly into self analysis mode. I critique my performance from beginning to end. I’m very critical of myself and easily find a few faults with my radio interview. Hey what can I say, I feel self critiquing is the only way to get better. As I leave the bedroom, my mother and wife greet me with a smile and by saying “Great job”!. of course I’m happy about that.


I express some of my analysis with them. I say to my wife and mother:


I like how the interview went overall but, I disliked how I handled the intro and the fact that I didn’t know what question would be next.


My mother says:


You did fine, you can tell you know your stuff. You can also tell that you were sick.


I laugh and say:


You can tell that I’m sick, everyone else would just assume I sound like that Kermit the frog!


My wife then goes to say:


Great job babe, but I didn’t quite like how you handled the question on if you can survive at the poverty line.


I’m curious and ask what do you mean?


Her reply:


Well you kind of skated on it. Your response should have been more in relation to the host and what she went through. You should have went into your examples of actually living in poverty instead of the answer you provided.


My mother chimes in:


Yea, why didn’t you go into more detail. We were around the poverty line at one point in time. Your grandmother just hid it well.


Being Poor Does Not Mean You’re In Poverty

The government has specific guidelines which classifies you as being in poverty.  Poor can vary depending on your geographical location.  What I mean by that is that one can be too poor to live in the city but could survive quite well in a rural area.


Now, I know we were not rich, but now that I think about it. I certainly didn’t think we were near the poverty line. I grew up in West Philadelphia, PA with my 2 uncles, my aunt, grandmother, and my mother. As a child, I was always active in sports, had the latest video games, had tons of friends. I was the baby and the only child. I never wanted for anything.


In my mind, we were doing quite alright. But, I was only a child and I based things off my perceptions. My perceptions was that life was great! But, in the grand scheme of things we weren’t in the best financial shape.


My mother went on to tell me that at one point in time she made just enough to know we were really poor but too much to get any useful federal assistance. So, not enough money to get help, but just enough money to always need help.


Wow, I had no clue!


But, now that I think about it. We might have been poor but I never ever lived at the poverty line. The 2012 Federal Poverty Guidelines specify the following for a family unit of 2.


100% of Poverty = $14,710 annual income
116% of Poverty = $17,064 annual income
150% of Poverty = $22,065 annual income
200% of Poverty = $29,420 annual income


I believe my mother was in between the 150% to 200% poverty levels at one point in time.  Granted these poverty guidelines were much lower 20 years ago, but you get the point. Fortunately, this situation was temporary. So, if I had to answer the question of could I survive at the poverty line again. Now that I think about it my answer would remain the same. Why?


Well, I was a child when we were poor. A child’s responsibilities are quite different from their parents. In my mind I never was in poverty. Poor maybe, but never in poverty. I was a happy, jovial child, who happened to get anything he wanted and was able to do all the things he wanted to do. Also, keep in mind all though my mother was the only parent I knew, we had tons of family help from my uncles, aunt and grandmother. So, even if my mother only made just above the poverty guidelines my other family members were there to help if needed.


Final Thoughts


As an adult, it would be as I said in the interview, extremely hard for me to live at the poverty line. Ultimately, you do what you need to do like my mother did for me. There is a 0% chance I could find myself at the income level one would have to be considered in poverty. But, if I did the reason why I believe that I can survive at the poverty line is because I would have the same budgeting and planning ability that I do now. It won’t be easy but I essential would create a spending plan, stick to it and make all the necessary moves to earn more money.


Reader Thoughts!


Do you think you can survive at the poverty line?


Were you ever in poverty?