Being Rich or Poor Is a Choice!

by Krantcents · 61 comments

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Rich or poor is a choice!  I realize that some of you may feel this is controversial, but give it some thought. You have control of yourself and you are not a victim. People who are rich, work hard. People who are poor generally make poor choices. It starts very young with education, role models and goals. Most rich people did not start out that way.  They made a choice and you can too!

I sometimes ask my students what their goals are or career choices? They all say they want to be rich and successful. Given a choice, who wants to be poor? Unfortunately, many of them do not know what it takes to actually achieve success. At fifteen or sixteen years old, they have not experienced success in school, sports or their personal lives. They have a huge disconnect between work and everything else! Soon they will want a part time job and they will not be able to point to skills or knowledge unless they can demonstrate it in school.

When you are a teenager, school is your job! How well you perform your job as a student will carry into the rest of your life. You do not need to achieve the highest grades, but you have to demonstrate work place skills. They range from reading, writing, arithmetic and considerably more. When I interview a high school student for a job, I want to know their grades, work habits, cooperation, and their attendance. In this high unemployment economy, I can easily hire the best for minimum wage.

You will be in school for twelve (12) or sixteen (16) years! The habits you learn or create in school will be part of your life forever. Whether you have high grades or mediocre grades, how you approach learning and how you handle difficulties is indicative of your skills set. Employers are looking for people who will overcome obstacles, learn new things and succeed in a variety of situations. It is not that different from school! What kind of student were you? Did your skills and knowledge help you in the work place?

If you had some success in school, you probably carried it over into the work place. It may have come from the classroom, a subject, a teacher, band, sports, clubs or organizations. Not every student will do as well as others academically, but they still need to demonstrate success in their lives through some of the other outlets in school. If you never experienced success, how can you achieve it? Failure is a discouraging feeling and you may give up, if that is your only experience.

The level or volume of success is different for everyone, but necessary for everyone. How well are you prepared for the work place? School is a safe place to learn the skills necessary for success. Success will give you the confidence to try new things and learn more. We build from success and failure, but it takes success to learn from failure. If you always failed, you will give up before you can achieve success. Poor people usually are undereducated and do not have skills.

As a teacher, I often see students who have given up. They may or may not cut classes, but they stop trying in their classes. The usually have excuses because it worked with someone before. Excuses such as I don’t like math, English or science! It starts with lack of skills. How can you like a subject you are having trouble with or failing? Rather than asking for help, they just give up. Sooner or later, they give up on their education and drop out of school. It is the first step to a lifetime of poverty.

Work is different, but similar to school. You need good soft skills to get along in school and work. The skills you learn from sports, clubs, and organizations in school round out your education. Those skills are just as important as the academics. More often than not, you will be fired for your poor soft skills than you specific skills and knowledge. Can I teach you how to achieve success? Of course, but you have to be willing to learn. If you have had a lifetime of failure, are you willing to learn?

Success builds on success! You make choices all day, choose something you will experience success. It may be academics, organizations or sports, but you have to maintain a C average to participate in extra-curricular activities. Where will you find success? It may be in one of your elective subjects or sports, but you must maintain your grades to participate. Success is not easy, but you learn from the effort. School teaches us how to handle a multiple activities, if you are successful.

Final Thoughts

I often hear students complain about school. It is very telling about how they handle things that are difficult or don’t like. How we handle this and failure is real important to achieve success. Progress is never a straight line is an article I wrote about the journey of achieving goals. Having goals are an important first step, however you still need to know how to achieve them. Simply wanting to pass a particular class is not enough, you need to know how. It is a metaphor for life. Employers expect you will have all the necessary soft skills for success.

A good education is an investment in yourself! Although a college degree is becoming necessary to enter the business world, it is not the only choice. Education or the acquisition of skills and knowledge is important for success. “Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” (Oscar Wilde) Education is your first opportunity to invest in yourself and it is never lost! The return on investment (ROI) far exceeds the time and effort! Being rich or poor is a choice!

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Edward Antrobus - If You Can Read, You Can Cook December 12, 2013 at 1:42 am

I don’t buy it. There are plenty of ways to fail or fall behind that are beyond your control. Nobody chooses to be poor, but sometimes poverty chooses you.

Krantcents December 12, 2013 at 6:59 am

They may not choose to be poor, but they do not do what is necessary to not be poor. Can everyone be rich? Certainly , richer than poor. It goes back to choices we make.

Lea Bullen December 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

I understand what you mean. To me it basically falls on you, you’re in control. You can to make the decision to make a change.


Krantcents December 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

You are always in control of yourself!

Jacinta December 27, 2013 at 4:20 am

*Adults* might be always in control of themselves. (This is disputable, based on way too many so-called adults that I know who “give in” to their anger or other strong emotions, and let’s not talk about the affects of “recreational” drugs…)

*Children* are not always in control of themselves. That is in fact, one of the defining characteristics of children. Children are learning everything, including how to control themselves. Expecting children to have a firm understanding of how their choices today might affect their future later is not sensible. If a teacher cannot engage a student’s interest, that’s not only the student’s fault. Something else is going on. Perhaps the teacher-student relationship is poor, perhaps there’s stuff going on at home, perhaps a role-model for the student doesn’t approve of school, perhaps the student hasn’t understood the fundamentals, perhaps the form of teaching isn’t appropriate for this student. Telling the student that by not paying attention they’re choosing to be poor later in life, especially if the child doesn’t have lived experience to know what that could mean, isn’t going to prove a motivating factor.

Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa December 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I think the reality is somewhere in between what the post says and what this comment says. I think anybody can be rich and anybody can become poor, but I think the opportunities vary greatly from one individual to the next.

Krantcents December 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I think the difference between rich ad poor is how much determination you can muster to achieve your goals.

Teffany @ Critical Financial December 12, 2013 at 2:19 am

I totally agree that education is our first opportunity to invest in yourself. It’s our personal choice if we want to be poor or rich. We are the one who takes control in our lives.

Krantcents December 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

We have much m ore control over our lives than we realize. It gets down to our choices whether it is education, training, skills or the decisions we make.

Gary Judge December 12, 2013 at 3:15 am

The wealthy can afford to put their children into Schools that enable them to become or know the next generation of politicians so have massive amounts of influence. The poor do not get this advantage so cannot leverage this kind of influence. Working hard is no guarantee of success, especially if you do not have access to people that can help you along your way.

It’s for this reason that if you are born into a particular economic situation, chances are you’ll remain locked in. I wish it were different but the statistics bear this out.

So if it is a choice (as this article suggests) then the odds are stacked in someone else’s favour if you happen to be unlucky enough to start out poor.

Krantcents December 12, 2013 at 7:02 am

Although my experience may be anecdotal, I was a teacher a poor, low performing school. there were students who got what they needed for success. It starts with parents who are supportive of education.

Edward Antrobus - If You Can Read, You Can Cook December 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Yes, but you can’t pick your parents. So other people are making those choices for you.

Holly@ClubThrifty December 12, 2013 at 5:55 am

I agree that education is the key to a better future…at least to a certain extent. Obviously paying 90K for a bachelor’s in fine arts may not be a great bet. =/

Krantcents December 12, 2013 at 7:03 am

It is still up to the individual to do something with their education no matter the major. My boss (president) was an English major. He went into marketing for a bicycle manufacturer.

Laurie @thefrugalfarmer December 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm

You’re right on the mark here. My husband and I never went to college, grew up in inner city crappy schools, etc., and we have made lots of money, and little money, all depending on how hard we were willing to work. Also, I worked for many years with poor from all types of situations, and saw first hand that a large percentage of them were NOT willing to do the work to educate themselves out of their poverty, even through the free tools that were offered them. I’d say in my case this was about 90% of them. The other 10% really wanted out and were willing to work and educate themselves to get there. My mom is a prime example. After my parents’ divorce, my mom – who stayed at home with us kids, had no education or drivers license – got sick and tired of being on welfare. She taught herself how to type, had a friend teach her how to drive, bought a bus pass and eventually a POC $250 car and went and found herself, after LOTS of searching, a job. Today, 35 years later, she is retired, not wealthy, but comfortably due to frugal habits and hard work.

Krantcents December 12, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Most poor people do not have good role models like your mother to see how to get yourself to a better place.

Donny Gamble December 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I definitely agree with this philosophy. Being poor is suppose to be a temporary state that most people seem to make it permanent. It just takes a little hard work and persistence to be above average, just depends on how bad you really want to be successful.

Krantcents December 13, 2013 at 6:16 pm

It starts with your education, training and a desire to make something of yourself.

Justin @ RootofGood December 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I agree with your premise here.

My kids go to the poorest school in the district (out of about 100 elementary schools). Needless to say, there’s a lot of “diversity”. What amazes me is all these kids that you would assume have zero future are managing to succeed. Many don’t have parents that speak English. Others are foster kids moving from home to home a few times per year. Some students have one or more parents in jail.

In spite of their circumstances, some of the kids do really well. I don’t know what makes the successful students succeed. A spark inside? Good teachers? Figuring out what makes people successful? Innate curiosity and desire to learn? I wish I knew so I could bottle it and sell it.

Maybe it all comes down to attitude and hard work. It’s hard to imagine a positive attitude and hard work NOT making someone more successful.

Krantcents December 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm

For many, it is the parent’s support or encouragement. Of course there may be some who are self starters too. As a teacher, I would love to take credit for success, but it is difficult in the few hours we meet each week and the size of the classes. I do get through to some kids though.

Levi @ Wealthnote December 13, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I have always enjoyed education and if I wasn’t so tired of being a broke college student I would try to stay in school forever. I never really understood how people didn’t like school and didn’t enjoy it.

You get to stick around reading and discussing all different types of things you are interested in (for the most part). Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Krantcents December 13, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Education was a ticket to something for me. I used it to learn even more in the business world. In many ways, aim always learning but it is not in a classroom.

Nick @ Step Away from the Mall December 14, 2013 at 3:18 am

I’m a big “you control your destiny” type of guy. Sure not every move will work out perfectly. But enough hustle over enough time will pay off!

Krantcents December 14, 2013 at 7:42 am

I consider myself a “control freak” too! I like having control of my present and future. It is one of the reasons I plan and set goals.

Michelle @fitisthenewpoor December 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

I disagree. You mention in one of your responses that it “starts with the parents.” That’s absolutely right, but we do not pick our parents. We do not pick if they will not be supportive while we are in school, or teach us correct financial habits, or bring us to the library, or can afford a computer.

I used to be a teacher as well in a very low SES school. Many students did have potential and a lot did get out of the cycle. But others had parents who wouldn’t even drive them to school. They fed them horrible fast food (dont get me started on grocery deserts), kept them home on important days, and wouldn’t show up for conferences. They never set an semblance of an example for their kids. And some were busy in gangs making loads of money and teaching the trade to their kids.

Yes, it’s possible to rise above it. And yes, anyone can make money. But if you do not have the foundation, you are not going to know how to go about doing it the right way. (or have the resources or model to learn)

Krantcents December 15, 2013 at 9:57 am

Parents are not the only people who can support children. As ateacher, I often hear m y students say, I am the only one who believes in them. It can be other family members or coaches, etc to support the children. It just should not be the gangbanger, drug dealer or some other criminal.

Bingowings December 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Exactly. Hardly anyone makes it if their chances are actively marred by dreadful parents.

Krantcents December 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm

A little parent support encourages children to excel Some children will do well aanyway, but they are the exception.

Untemplater December 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm

I firmly believe in education myself. I worked hard to get good grades, and those grades helped put me on a path that gave me a lot of good choices and opportunities. Knowledge creates possibilities.

Krantcents December 16, 2013 at 6:57 am

Good choices increases your chances for success!

maria@moneyprinciple December 16, 2013 at 9:43 am

I believe that we have the unfortunate tendency to emphasise the individual. This is important but anyone – even people who will otehrwise make good choices – can fail given that other conditions for success are not there. I believe that statements like the one you made, Krant, feed the neo-liberal rubish we have to live with and suffer. So on this one, I disagree.

Krantcents December 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

I knew this may be controversial, but I do feel that people make choices that affect their lives. I see it firsthand in a low socioeconomic school where some of my students make good choices and excel.

maria@moneyprinciple December 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Controversy is fine; made me think anyway and it is different. I still say many people have no or little choice. Deprivation lowers your IQ and doesn’t leave much mental space for any choice; even less good choice.

Krantcents December 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I know there are extremes in this world, but I am mainly referring to people in the United States. I am also not using “rich” as an extreme either. I believe no one has to live with poverty if they try to do something about it. Again, I realize it is not a perfect world and I am generalizing about what results may be accomplished.

Chuck @ Tortoise Banker December 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm

“Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” (Oscar Wilde)

Love this quote!

Krantcents December 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I am interpreting it as education! Training and skills are something no one can take away from you.

Roger the Amateur Financier December 16, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Krant, I get what you are trying to say, I really, really do. This article says that you are capable of controlling your future and how much work you put into your work (and your schooling, until you get into the workplace) will determine how successful you are. By working harder and applying the skills that you develop, you can build your income and net worth, potentially building yourself up to rich with time and effort. I get that, and working harder and getting more schooling as a means to success is a good lesson to teach.

But the idea that ‘Being Rich or Poor Is a Choice’, that it is ONLY the effort you put into your work and the willingness to learn that determine your net worth, is BS, if you’ll pardon my language. There are simply factors outside of the control of people that can prevent them from becoming rich, regardless of their choices.

Let’s start with the idea that ‘You have control of yourself’. For some people, that’s simply not true; there are any number of mental or physical disabilities that limit, or outright prevent, people’s function. To cite just one, I have epilepsy. I have to take numerous medications to keep my seizures under control, and I’m one of the ‘mild’ cases, measuring my seizure totals by the number per month, rather than number per day. I, and many like me, are not in a position to work any harder, regardless of the choices we would otherwise make. (And I assure you, if possible, I’d be working a forty hour week and then some.)

Even limiting your statements to only the able-bodied and minded, it’s still not true. The difference between rich and poor is far from as simple as the amount of work done, and varies on everything from the amount of money provided by family members (note Paris Hilton) to yes, education. (And this is all before covering the possibility of living in a country that forces you to be essentially (or literally) a slave.) That becoming rich is essentially a matter of making a choice and applying yourself is far from true.

Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage children to educate themselves and work harder, telling them that doing so will increase their success in the future. But ‘education will help you in the future’ is a far cry from ‘being rich or poor is a choice’, and I don’t think the latter is something we should claim as true.

Krantcents December 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I disagree with the premise of only including able people! I think everyone can achieve something better even if it falls short of rich I have seen many students and people of average intelligence and abilities do very well. I believe everyone can have better lives when they make good choices.

I remuneration a student who overcame a lot of education issues and yet he still made his girlfriend pregnant. That alone, changed his life. I have had students who were failing suddenly turn things around because some positive encouragement.

S. B. December 16, 2013 at 8:44 pm

For 99% of people reading your article, it may be true. But do keep in mind that there are many people in the world that grow up under repressive dictators and governments where this is not the case. Someone living in Camp 14 in North Korea does not have a choice about being rich or poor. Something to think abut. Yes, we have a choice to be rich or poor, but not everyone on earth has that choice.

Krantcents December 17, 2013 at 6:56 am

That may be true, but most people are not in that situation. December 16, 2013 at 10:47 pm

The personal responsibility part of me would love to agree with this 100%, but I just can’t do that. I heard someone recently say to me “it is easy to get to home plate, when you start on third base.” I don’t think I was born on third base but I definitely think I was born on second base. I’ve been given opportunities to succeed beyond what others have been afforded. I agree that we can significantly improve our situation based on our choices and willingness to take responsibility for our choices. However I cannot say that the child born to a poor refugee family in Uganda, has a choice about whether or not to be poor. In our country this may be true that you have the choice whether or not to be poor, but in other places it is not.

Krantcents December 17, 2013 at 6:59 am

I do not disagree that some people have distinct advantages. I think everyone can have a better life by making better choices. The acquisition of training, skills and knowledge is much more than school.

Poor Student December 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I disagree with the statement “most rich people did not start out that way”. This is a very controversial topic, but I agree that the power to change your wealth status is through education and hard work.

Krantcents December 17, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Of course there is inherited wealth, but that is a minority. Most people who are wealthy did not inherit it.

jim December 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Hear, hear!!!!!!!! American exceptionalism – it all starts with your attitude. Good for your Krantz – you must have been/are an incredible teacher. Go, go, go!!!!!!!!!

Krantcents December 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Thanks, I think! I always believe we al make choices for ourselves. It is o different when it comes to your life.

Jacinta December 27, 2013 at 4:04 am

For the middle and upper classes, this is probably true enough. But you run into problems when you try to generalise this out to fit everyone including those already starting at disadvantage. North Americans believe so strongly in the myth of the self made man; that anyone can make it, can overcome any obstacle, if they just try. But this is just as subject to confirmation bias as the premise of this article. It’s also just as wrong.

If you’re a kid coming from a very unstable home such that one of your biggest preoccupations is worrying whether an adult is going to come home drunk and belt you or your siblings tonight… you probably won’t be able to spend as much time focussing on school work as someone who lives in a safe home. If you’re a kid whose malnourished due to poverty, you won’t be able to concentrate as well as someone who is well fed. If you’re homeless, or you work a few part time jobs to support your family, or you have adults in your household who don’t believe in schooling, you might have a hard to impossible time finding a safe place and time to do your homework, yet alone any other study. And the lists go on.

If you’re poor and living in an area with disadvantaged schools, then even if everything else is going okay for you, you’re literally already at a disadvantage, and you can study your heart out but your high schooling is not going to be seen as equal worth as a better school.

Then there are other forms of systematic discrimination, such that black kids experience more racism (from teachers, other parents and children) than latino kids who receive more racism than Asian kids. Any form of racism is another bunch of hurdles put in the way between you and good grades, and good learning. Then, of course there are problems if you’re not heterosexual as well, or even suspected to not be heterosexual. It’s hard to learn if you’re in so much distress that merely not killing yourself is taking up so much energy.

If you’re middle class, but only by virtue of previous good luck and your sibling or a parent is struck with some form of disease or disability that causes most of your carer’s attention to be spent focussed on them, you probably can’t get the help you need no matter how you ask for it. Bonus unlucky points if the family is ashamed of the disease or disability and has schooled you out of mentioning it.

If the child has a disease or disability, then almost no matter what they choose, they are going to have hurdles galore put in their way, both by their health but also by access issues (just try getting a “special” kid into a “regular school”, even when it’s their body with the problems, not their brain). Then there might be issues with stairs, accessible bathrooms etc.

So yes, a lot of kids who give up when they should keep trying will probably end up poor. You can certainly make the case that their giving up is literally making that choice for them and depending on more information about why they’re giving up and what their family life is like, I might agree. But that’s A -> B. You can’t just assume that therefore B -> A as well. People can be poor, and can end up poor through circumstances that – as children or teenagers – they couldn’t control. So “being poor” is no more a choice for many folk as being born to rich parents is for others.

Krantcents December 27, 2013 at 8:12 am

I teach (13 years) in low socioeconomic schools! My students go through a lot of issues just to go to school. They may be immigrants or children of immigrants. English may be their second language. There are a lot of support for students such as therapy, tutoring etc. The one element which can not be legislated is parent support. If the parents do not emphasize education, the system or teacher cannot succeed and neither can the child. My experience is the children who are motivated usually succeed. It does not guarantee success, but it certainly helps.

STEVEN J. FROMM, ATTORNEY, LL.M. (TAXATION) January 2, 2014 at 5:53 am

Awesome post. Education can set you up for the rest of your life. But hard work and diligence is just as essential if not more so. The combination of both and being resilient and learning by your mistakes will lead to both monetary and spiritual richness.

Krantcents January 2, 2014 at 8:07 am

Although education and training is important, it is still up to the individual to do something with it.

Jon @ MoneySmartGuides January 11, 2014 at 7:44 am

Everything in life is a choice: we choose to try or to do nothing. We choose to get up and start working or sleep in. The sooner you realize that you control most everything in your life and start taking the steps to get what you want, the better off you will be. I fully believe people choose to be rich or poor.

Krantcents January 11, 2014 at 9:32 am

We make those choices early in life thanks to good or bad role models.

Krantcents December 27, 2013 at 7:55 am

I am not telling the child anything! I am trying to point out to adults that there are consequences to their choices. If you are a parent, you should help your child achieve in school. There are always situations that may be an exception to what I said, but all children can learn sufficient skills in school or get additional training to achieve a successful career. You can even make many mistakes along the way and still achieve success. What I am saying is if you keep making bad choices, you will likely be disappointed with the results. It all starts with learning skills!

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