23 Reasons Why You Will Remain Poor for the Rest of Your Life

Financial literacy rate in the Philippines is dismal. It is close to zero. This means that most Filipinos know nothing about effectively managing their hard-earned money.

Unfortunately, a number of Filipino traditions and cultural norms do not match well with the basic principles of financial management. To name a few, Filipinos’ culture of “pakikisama”, “pasalubong”, and “blow out” are top sources of financial pressure. Filipinos go overboard just to save face and end up spending more than they actually can dispose.

Let us look into these more. What are the reasons why people in up in financial hardships.

GoBankingRates talked to 23 personal finance experts, asking them all the same question: What is the No. 1 reason people end up poor or in financial hardship?

Don’t worry, we will not discuss all 23 of them in details, but we will flesh out the most important points everyone must be aware of.

Without further ado, here are the 23 top reasons why you may probably remain poor for the rest of your life (unless you avoid all these):

1. Getting stuck in a vicious cycle of debt (also known as a debt trap).

“When you’re poor, it’s easy to get stuck in a debt trap because you’re desperate,” said Kristin Wong of Brokepedia. “Whether it’s a payday loan, debt settlement scam, or even just using a credit card for an emergency, it’s easy to make rash decisions when you’re stressed, and these decisions usually keep people broke.”

This is common among Filipinos. Some resort to getting loans just to pay off an existing debt from another person or firm. This is not a good idea. If you are incurring debt just to pay off another debt, you are not actually paying off any debt. You are just transferring the burden from one person to another.

Instead of looking for another loan, look for investments you can make in order to increase your disposable income.

2. Ignoring bigger debts pretending they would eventually go away.

Debt is a source of anxiety. It really is. And it is a pain in the ass. Of course, when you are broke and the bills and overdue notices stack, it become a real source of stress, anxiety, and dread… or worse, depression.

Some people choose to ignore these problems. Thinking that by ignoring them, they would eventually go away. Wrong. Failing to manage your debts only make them worse. Of course.

“A lot of young adults are burdened by student loans and other debt, yet they don’t realize there are a lot of options out there for them,” Robert Farrington of The College Investor said. “For example, for student loans, there are tons of programs that can help with lower payments and even forgiveness. But you have to take positive action and seek out these programs.”

Also, you can try to talk to the the person who you have debts from and negotiate a more amicable payment option and work hard to stick to it and eventually get yourself out of debt. Yes, easier said than done but hey, you gotta do something about your debt!

3. You feel powerless, hence you do nothing.

Yes, if you are broke and in the middle of a financial hardship and you are feeling all anxious, stressed out, and depressed, it is easy to feel powerless or helpless.

But you are not. You are not powerless. You are not helpless. Giving in to those feelings of helplessness will only hurt you, said AJ Smith, vice president of content strategy and managing editor of SmartAsset.

“By getting accurate, unbiased knowledge and advice, people can feel empowered and confident in their personal finance decisions,” Smith said. “They can then takes steps to make a better financial future.”

4. You do not know anything about personal finance.

“Most people are broke because they don’t learn about personal finance,” said the founder of Lazy Man and Money. He added that one example of the dangers of debt is that it has compound interest working against you instead of for you as it does with investments.

“I think the psychology should shift from ‘How can I spend money to make me happy now?’ to ‘How can I use this money to buy me financial freedom in the future?’” he said. “If you are able to make that shift, you should be able to overcome most reasonable hardships.”

5. You do not pay yourself first (in other words, you do not save).

“The No. 1 reason people end up poor is because they don’t ‘pay themselves first,’” said personal finance expert Barbara Friedberg.

What does paying oneself means? Well, paying yourself first means putting a portion of each paycheck into a savings account before divvying the rest out to cover expenses. Some set-up automatic savings that when your salary comes, your bank automatically deducts a portion of it and transfer it to a savings account you’ve set up. It’s convenient.

And of course….

The No. 2 cause is “paying with credit,” Friedberg said.

6. You choose temporary pleasures than your future financial needs.

Poverty is often generational, according to Luke Landes, a speaker and personal finance writer at Consumerism Commentary. You might be poor simply because your family always has been, “which is one of the hardest environments for making progress,” Landes said.

“People who should be in good financial shape may not be, often because the decisions they make aren’t aligned with their future financial needs,” Landes said. “Making conscious decisions that require some thought about the future isn’t as satisfying in the moment as choosing something that they perceive to have an immediate positive effect on happiness.”

Above the trap of splurging today just to make yourself feel better and end up cash strapped tomorrow. A rule of the thumb is to always ask yourself: Do I really need this? Or do I simply want this? And also: Will the money I’ll spend today return to me two-folds tomorrow? In other words, is this an investment spending? If not, do not spend (if you don’t need to).

7. You do not have an emergency fund.

Jeff Rose, founder of GoodFinancialCents.com, listed his top four biggest ways people hurt themselves financially:

“Not knowing how much debt they really have and how much interest they are paying.

Not having nearly enough cash savings in emergency funds. Not recognizing they need to save for retirement. Being oblivious to what is going on with their credit history. That’s as simple as requesting your free credit report and making sure all your information is correct.”

Why are emergency funds important? Think about this. If something bad happens to you or to a family member, of maybe just someone dear to you, and you have no emergency fund to turn to, what do you do? Right. You borrow money. You get a personal loan so you could shoulder medical expenses or whatever emergency financial need you have at the moment.

Now, you have a debt. And more often than not, this debt will just continue to grow because more often than not, we do not learn from the mistakes we do: not having an emergency fund. And with a debt, it would simply be even harder to establish an emergency fund.

Note: Emergency funds are usually worth three times to six times your monthly paycheck.

8. Saving money is not your priority.

“In my own life, I saw the biggest financial stagnation when I wasn’t paying myself first, even when I had a nice-paying job,” said personal finance expert Philip Taylor of PT Money. “When you get paid, make sure you are saving those first few dollars for your future.”

“Do it automatically each pay period, and you’re more likely to stick with it,” he said. “You get ahead financially by making savings a priority.”

9. You don’t learn from mistakes and you fail to course-correct your finances.

Probably the most stupid way of getting stucked in a financial problem is failing to even correct the ways that brought you there in the first place.

“There’s almost always a cheaper or better way of doing something, but you have to get into the habit of questioning and challenging your current way of going about it,” said Stefanie O’Connell of The Broke and Beautiful Life.

“Use your creativity and critical-thinking skills to find and implement more cost-effective alternatives, whether it’s renegotiating your insurance rates, switching banks or planning your next vacation.”

10. You are spending too much on rent or housing.

Did you know that the rule of the thumb in renting is that you need to spend no more than 30% of your net income (income after tax)? If you are spending more than that, think about getting a smaller space. 

“Spending too much money on rent or a mortgage,” is the biggest reason people struggle financially, said Andy Josuweit, CEO of Student Loan Hero. “After living in New York City for a few years, I met dozens of young people who were ‘house poor.’”

“These were people who make above-average incomes but end up spending too much on rent,” he said. “As a rule of thumb, you should try to keep housing costs under 20% of your income, as opposed to the 28% to 30% limit that most banks allow.”

11. You do not have a money plan (or a financial plan).

The biggest reason people stay poor, according to Elle Martinez of Couple Money, is “not having a plan for their money.” “It is easy to hope that there is money left over at the end of the month, but many times, our behavior gets in the way.”

To curb behavior and work against bad spending habits, she suggests automating bills, saving and investing as soon as paychecks come in. “It’ll cushion the blow when emergencies pop up, and you’ll have something for retirement,” she said.

12. You don’t know where your money is going.

Donna Freedman, a personal finance expert and writer, said the biggest thing she sees keeping people in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is not having a budget.

“If you don’t know where your money is currently going, you can’t turn it in the direction you’d prefer it would do the most good,” Freedman said, whether that’s saving up an emergency fund, staying current on rent or mortgage payments, working toward retirement savings or even paying for a vacation in cash.

“When you know you have enough money to deal with all of your needs and some of your wants — plus those pesky emergencies — you can sleep very well at night.”

13. You do not know what you want and what you need. You just can’t separate the two.

“People, generally speaking, have a hard time differentiating wants and needs,” said Grayson Bell, personal finance blogger at Debt Roundup.

“They use the word ‘need’ for almost everything they purchase, causing them to actually believe they ‘have’ to spend the money.”

“You might ‘need’ a car for transport, but you ‘want’ the luxury model,” he said. “This mentality keeps us down financially.”

14. You do not have a college degree or any training of some sort.

Louis DeNicola, a consumer expert and writer for Cheapism.com, said that ‘sometimes it comes down to unfortunate circumstances that work against you’.

“Many people lack access to good-paying jobs and have limited time or opportunity to receive training that would allow them to get one of those jobs”, according to DeNicola.

If you want to remain employed and you do not have a college degree or training, you can only go so far. Unless you become a businessperson, your degree won’t matter anymore. Of course, to become a successful businessperson, you’ll need skills which you can get through actual life experiences or thru training.

15. You are investing in things, and not in yourself.

Julie Rains, personal finance writer and founder of Investing to Thrive, also said that economic disadvantages play a big part in why some people are poor, but that’s not the only thing holding people back.

“Others might find themselves in crises because they have repeatedly underinvested in areas with long-term benefits — [such as] professional career and education, savings, investments — and over-invested and overextended themselves in other areas, such as luxury products and upscale housing.”

16. You are eager and busy to get rich quick.

“Too many people are looking for the quick and easy way out of poverty and are trying to get rich quick”, said Jon Dulin, founder of Money Smart Guides. “Whether it be a hot stock, a job or business idea, too many of us chase the idea that we can come into extraordinary wealth overnight,” Dulin said.

“Sadly, it doesn’t work this way,” he said. “You have to put in the hard work to become rich. We see the rich now thinking they got lucky or made it without much work. But we don’t see behind the scenes at just how much work they put in to get where they are.”

Having great ideas is not a bad thing but to follow through your ideas like a crazy person could bring more trouble to you than good. Imagine investing your hard-earned money in a business idea you did not even thought about carefully. Imagine losing all the money at the end of the day! Take it slow and carefully. Know if it’s a wild goose chase.

17. You do not know how to budget or even if you do, you do not stick to it.

Having a budget is Personal Finance 101, yet many people still don’t have a budget or don’t stick to one.

“Many end up in financial hardship because they think they don’t need a budget,” said Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, personal finance blogger at Making Sense of Cents.

“No matter how rich or poor you are, a budget is almost always a necessity because it can help you figure out where your money problems are and what you can do to improve your financial situation.”

18. You are always one step behind your bank account.

“Not planning ahead is the number one reason I was broke as a younger me,” said Linsey Knerl, blogger at 1099 Mom. “From not keeping track of due dates and getting hit with late fees to not planning out trips and losing track of deposits and withdrawals that led to overdraft fees, planning was my big challenge,” she said.

“It was never about not having enough money initially,” Knerl said. “It was that I was so bad at planning and I missed important opportunities to hold onto it. It’s the little things that kill a budget.”

19. You buy idle, or worse, depreciating assets instead of productive ones.

“One of the main reasons that people can become poor is that they focus their time on buying depreciating assets like cars, ATVs, boats, etc.,” said Deacon Hayes, personal finance blogger at Well Kept Wallet. “Because of this, they have little resources to build wealth and, therefore, they continue to live paycheck to paycheck.”

How can you fix this problem? “Focus on buying appreciating assets like stocks and real estate, which would grow over time and eventually give them more resources so that they are no longer living in poverty,” Hayes said.

20. You do not want to sacrifice your comforts even temporarily. Or, you are unwilling to sacrifice at all.

“The No. 1 reason people end up poor or in some type of financial hardship is because of bad behavior,” according to Brian Fourman, personal finance blogger at Luke1428. “Success with money is only 20% head knowledge,” he said. “A person’s actions have to change in order to win, and most aren’t willing to sacrifice and do that.”

21. You are a have-it-all person.

Pauline Paquin, personal finance blogger at Reach Financial Independence, said, “People end up broke because they want too many things too soon.”

This is especially challenging for recent college grads who go from living on peanuts to having a livable paycheck but still can’t “realistically afford the new house and the new car and the nights out and the holidays abroad,” she said. This gets particularly dangerous when you start using credit to fund all those purchases, which “can cripple your future financial life,” Paquin said.

Instead of trying to have it all, Paquin advised picking one big “want” to budget for and leave the rest for the future when you’ve had a chance to build up some savings and earn a pay raise. “Living one more year like a student while saving your first paychecks can help tremendously.”

22. You are paying too much for your cellphone.

Lance Cothern of Money Manifesto said that the No. 1 reason people end up broke is that “they buy cell phones and cell phone plans they can’t afford.”

Instead of opting for a top-of-the-line smartphone and unlimited data, he said, “People should stick with cheaper phone carriers that have affordable rate plans, no contracts and lower-cost phones that you aren’t pressured to upgrade every year or two.”

This is particularly worrying among the younger generations. Whenever a new iPhone comes out, everyone seems restless and wants to get the new model of the iPhone despite it being too pricey and despite it being not a necessity.

Fine. If you are earning millions a month, go ahead and get the new iPhone every time a new one comes out, otherwise, you better check how you spend your money.

23. You spend more than you earn.

Nick Loper, founder of Side Hustle Nation, said the root cause of being broke is nearly always the same: People “spend more than they make.”

“As far as I know, that’s the only cause of bankruptcy,” Loper said.“The good news is you can tackle this from both sides of the equation,” he said. “Spend less to live within your means and work to earn more so you have more financial breathing room.”


ToughNickel. (2017). 10 Reasons Why People Are Poor: “I Have No Money!”. [online] Available at: https://toughnickel.com/personal-finance/10-reasons-why-people-are-poor-i-have-no-money- [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Time.com. (2017). 23 Reasons Why You’ll Always Be Broke. [online] Available at: http://time.com/money/4320973/why-you-are-poor/ [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Dachen, I. (2016). Pulse List: 14 reasons you will always remain poor. [online] Pulse.ng. Available at: http://www.pulse.ng/gist/pulse-list-14-reasons-you-will-always-remain-poor-id5799679.html [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

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