“I don't want there to be this separation between the rich and poor. I may be part of the three percent because I've been fortunate and done well for myself, but I will never forget about the 97 percent. That was me growing up. I was so poor I dreamt about being just 'regular poor,' not 'poor, poor.'”—Marlon Wayans
“I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing.”—Neil Gaiman
We are products of our conditions. This means that as children, we often don’t realize our relative wealth and instead live in a sort of "ignorance is bliss" state. That is until something happens that snaps us into our reality. Here are some of the most interesting stories, as told by the users of Reddit, about the moment they realized that they were either wealthy or poor.
Realized I was well off when I came into school after Christmas break and my friends would ask what I got and I would give them the decent list. Then they would look at me with these wide eyes and go wow… you're rich.
When my elementary school donated canned foods for the needy, I thought it went to a homeless shelter or something. Imagine my surprise when they gave me this big ass box of canned foods one day.
I was all like, "No no no, we're not homeless."
And they were all like, "Take this food u lil thing."
So I did. My parents were ecstatic about it, but my excitement was somewhat dulled by the realization that I was the poorest kid in my class.
Also there was some applesauce in there that went south, and I puked it all up after eating the whole jar. It smelled funny, it tasted funny, but I still ate it. I still don't understand why I did that.
When my mom would leave the oven door open during the winter while cooking so she'd also be heating the kitchen, and we'd all pile into the kitchen.
It really hit when I moved here from South America. I was in fourth grade and all the kids wore different outfits every single day. This is something kids picked on me for. Kids talked about getting new video games so often and I was lucky to get one for Christmas. Looking back I know I wasn't poor, I never went hungry or without shelter. But I definitely was not wealthy.
I've had a bit of both, but not to either extreme.
We've been literally homeless and living in tents for months on end, but as a small child I just viewed it as an extended holiday and actually had a blast. I rode my bike every day and went exploring and just thought we were taking a vacation. Only when I was older did my mum say: "Oh yeah, well, we were homeless then" and my mind was blown because I had no idea.
We also lived in a trailer park for a while and again, I thought we were just on vacation. I didn't know people lived in trailer parks. It explained why all the other kids hated me, because not only was I an outsider but I was an outsider with a very weird accent (we were living in the South, I had a very Northern accent).
That's the UK by the way, not US, haha.
As a young teenager my mum got engaged to a guy who outright owned his own home and had a well-paying job. He lived in a very picturesque, idyllic village. I hated living there because again all the other kids hated me for being an "outsider" and again I had the weird accent and I wasn't welcome there. We also couldn't get DSL, which was a pain. Ever tried playing Diablo II on 56k?
Anyway, my mum also worked and suddenly all of her income became completely disposable. She didn't spoil me, but the shopping trips became more frequent and I was suddenly being taken to fairly expensive clothing stores and being allowed to pick whatever I wanted. I got whatever I actually asked for on Christmas and money just wasn't an issue anymore. It got to the point where I had kids at school muttering that I was "rich" and I felt a bit bewildered, but in hindsight I did enjoy a pretty privileged childhood, especially in my early teens.
Then my mother left the guy and we moved out and suddenly we were broke. I adapted very well, by then I was older and understood money and that we didn't have very much of it. So I got a job.
But yeah, my childhood was definitely a bit of both. Being insanely poor and actually homeless to being comfortably middle class to being dirt poor again, haha. As an adult I think I live a pretty frugal lifestyle. I'm not the best with money, but I also have no debt besides my student loans and I don't buy frivolous things too often.
I always had some inclination, like how we used to eat out at restaurants every day of the week, but it really dawned on me when I got my license and my parents wanted to buy me a brand new expensive car that I didn't even ask for.
When I realized my mom would change the price tags on more expensive toys to get me the stuff I really wanted. I know it's not right but I love my mom for risking everything and breaking her back to keep us happy.
My dad gave my Powerwheels away at a garage sale to a family who told their child they couldn't afford it. I whined and cried and he explained how some people can't afford things they deserve.
The moment I realized that my dad didn't just shoot/trap squirrels and rabbits for fun, but so that we had meat. Eventually I did the same. He used to go plant traps and go hunting, and would come back with meat.
Same thing with fish. He'd set yo/yos in the morning and my brother and I would go check on them throughout the day.
When I found out that none of my friends ever went on family vacations. A lot of people claim to have never left the county but I think they were over exaggerating how poor they are, all those pick up trucks ain't cheap.
It dawned on me when I first started school and noticed that all the other families lived in houses and not derelict sheds. The sad thing is my folks still live in the same situation.
When my mom had to work two full-time jobs in order to pay the bills and afford food for her and I when I was in elementary school. Even then the majority of our food was rice, soy sauce, and Vienna sausages. Also when she couldn't afford a babysitter I was used to staying home alone since the age of six.
Well from birth to graduating high school my family went from poor to 1% so it's been interesting witnessing that through the eyes of a child/teenager.
As a small child with little money, I never really noticed anything. My parents made sacrifices to make sure we had everything we needed—a roof over our head, food on the table, clothes (salvation army but who cares). We never got fancy toys for Christmas or got to go on vacations like other kids from school, but we weren't hard done by. As a toddler we lived in a one bedroom apartment until my brother was born, and then we moved into a really dated post-war bungalow that my dad reno-ed himself.
As time went on, and my father became more and more successful, moving up in terms of the house we lived in, the presents we got. By middle school I knew my family was more wealthy than most. We had a nice-ish house in the suburbs, a cottage, I was into horseback riding, etc. By high school both my brother and I were in private school and our family was living in a 1.5 million dollar house.
I have been made even more acutely aware of it since starting university. My parents always raised us to be extremely modest, but sometimes it becomes apparent even with modesty. My friends know and sometimes it causes issues. I have a car that is paid for by my parents (as well as my tuition, books, housing, etc.) however all non-living expenses (restaurants, shopping, going out, etc.) is paid for by myself.
I have held a summer job every year since I started high school to save up for these expenses. The concept of going to my parents and just asking for money has never flown in my house... I have had many assumptions that people can borrow money from me and not pay it back because my parents have money, or they expect free rides, invites up to the cottage with no appreciation, even as far as to expect me to pay more rent in our shared house so they could pay less.
Yes I understand my parents have the ability to afford this all, but that doesn't mean I should be ripping them off to subsidize your life... Aside from the fact that most of the time it's my money you're expecting to spend, not my parents. I've had friends assume that I'll just pick up cab rides, drink tabs, etc. despite the fact that it's my saved up money going towards those things. Most of my best friends are paying their own way through school and we get along fine. I'm not interested in truly spoiled kids.
When I was in grade four I was sitting in my room looking out the apartment window and came to the realization I was lucky to have been born in a first world country and that my family had more money than a lot of the other families in our neighborhood. We actually lived in a really crappy area of Toronto because it was cheap and near my father's place of employment. Eventually we moved into the suburbs.
I realized that we had been well off when my dad's company crashed, we moved, and generally went from riches to rags overnight. Never really thought about it until then.
Realized that we weren't that well off when we had to drink powdered milk. Came home from school one day to find my parents had cut open my piggy bank to get money for gas so dad could go to work. And our Christmas stockings had oranges in them.
Mom would individually wrap pairs of socks to make it look like there were more presents under the tree. My parents did alright by us, but we were definitely lower class.
Poor—when I was young we "got" to take the bus everywhere and heating wasn't a thing.
Wealthy—when we went to Sears to "buy a new kitchen."
I now live in the middle and prefer the stability.
My favorite meals when I was little were beans on toast and Kraft Dinner. I loved eating it and we had one or the other every other night. Years later I realized it was because we weren't rich enough to afford more food.
Well my family wasn't rich but we are well off and a big slap in the face was when I started dating a girl in high school and realized she couldn't afford to do a lot of things so I would help her out as much as I could.
For prom her mother couldn't afford a dress and she was heartbroken. My mom purchased the dress she wanted and she was so thankful. I am now married to her and treat her like a queen and make sure she doesn't know what it's like not being able to afford something ever again.
Instead of buying multiple pairs of shoes, if it rained I'd tie grocery bags to my sneakers with rubber bands and wah-la, rain boots.
I realized we were comfortable, but only because my parents were super stingy, probably when I was around 13. They never once bought me a luxury item. They went halvsies on a car when I was 17. Other than that it was just clothes, food, etc.
But we lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood. We ate good food. I was well dressed. They weren't poor, just Spartan. No need for useless luxuries.
Anyway, comfortably middle class.
I had a funny dynamic in childhood, my father would take huge risks in business and create huge wealth but was a super scrooge in his personal life. He would come home and talk casually about having bought two houses or a new commercial property that afternoon but we had a twenty-year-old tv sitting on a box in the living room and we would huddle in the cold with blankets during winter because he didn't want to pay heating costs. We never ate dinner out once in my childhood. He drove a messed up old truck that would always break down.
I never thought we had a big house, but the time when a friend was over in grade school and he said he got honestly got lost following me from one end to the other made me wonder.
I actually didn't really realize it until I was around 21 or 22 honestly. We were poor. My parents skipped dinner sometimes so my sister and I could eat, but as a kid I didn't really notice. It was only as I got older and was able to reflect back that I realized the sacrifices my parents made for my sister and I. They ended up securing a really great contract with their cleaning company when I was about 12 and things really turned around for us. They're good inspirations!
When I broke my wrist and my parents used a bread knife to saw my cast off so they wouldn't have to pay for the bill.
When I went over to my friend's house for the first time. I thought they were filthy rich, but now looking back I realize they were middle class. At the time, my family lived in a small trailer.
Actually only in retrospect I realized that we were wealthy when thinking about why some buddies didn't want to come with me to skiing or go traveling and later as a teen didn't want to go out partying as often as I did. Maybe they simply didn't have the money, then.
I have been very poor since then, too. As I'm already on this topic I want to say one thing: it is much easier to be poor after having been "rich" once, if you have always been poor poverty can never be regarded as a joke or not as easily. That's why I see people like Gautama Buddha, or several saints like St Francis who have been born into wealth and nobility and then chose to be poor in a different light than others might, meaning I maybe don't see them as grand and noble as others.
When my mom offered to just give me a paid internship at her company in High School. I'm in college now and I know people who'd love to have an unpaid internship let alone a paid one. Also the fact that I turned it down, and my wallet was completely unfazed by that.
I mean we're not rich rich... more like affluent. But that made me realize (in hindsight) just how many opportunities I had compared to people that were less fortunate than myself.
When another girl at school was made fun of for wearing Payless shoes. I had begged my mom to take us there the week before (we always shopped at Goodwill). I guess I dodged a bullet, that girl got called "Payless" for the rest of the year. Kids are mean.
I remember being probably six or seven years old when my brother told me we were poor. I didn't believe him. We had a TV, I had toys, we had an apartment and a car so I thought we were doing great. My brother explained to me that the clothes I was wearing and the toys I played with used to be owned by other kids and my mom bought them after the other kids were done them.
There were a few moments of realization.
I never realized it till classmates were making stupid comments about me always having new stuff and new clothes. I never cared if anyone had lots of stuff or not, I wouldn't have realized if someone was well off. I ended up lying about it and said that its just old stuff from my older siblings.
Another thing was the fact that other mothers had a job, I never realized how privileged mom is for not having to work, when others had to to make ends meet. And last but not least, I started to recognize that we got lots of things just like that during the year for no reason, while others only got it as a birthday present or for Christmas. Things that we took for granted that weren't even gifts but a necessity you just get, like new skis/snowboards/snowboard gear/whole year ski passes/toys/a pony/clothing. I was in my ivory tower.
And I remember the moment where I asked a classmate where she got those sweets from, they were a brand of a discount supermarket chain, and I've never seen them before, because we never entered such a shop for buying groceries before.
When it really hit me: A mom of a friend was taking me home, when we were in front of the house, she asked me if we lived in a flat in this housing/residential complex and she looked surprised when I told her that the whole thing is our house and that its not several flats.
And although it seems really embarrassing for me not realizing it quicker, I must add that I'm glad that my parents never gave me this "we are rich"-attitude. Nowadays I see this quite often how some wealthy kids are such show-offs, who brag about stuff and who feel like they are superior to the less wealthy kids. My parents never made a big deal out of it and were rather down to earth, and they also gave a lot to poorer kids.
When my brother and I ate but my mom didn't... And then, years later, my stepdad bought a $35,000 truck and a $22,000 motorhome (both used) in the same year. I'm happy she's happy. :)
Realizing what having an American Passport in third world countries really mean... "oh wow you live in Washington DC."
Also when I would tell my friends my parents have multiple homes that serve as rental properties, my mom told me that they will be okay when they are older and retired they will be financially independent.
I didn't really realize we were rich (more like well-off) until it went away. The recession hit us hard, but my parents always tried to act like we are doing okay. But it is easy to notice our situation when we went from piles of presents under the Christmas tree to one or two for me and my brothers to share.
In a way that is when I realized how well off we were and then how poor we have become. Of which my family still isn't recovered and I don't know if or when we will. Another good comparison for how the times have changed is birthday presents I've gotten over the years, although some were combined gifts for me and one of my brothers.
One year I got a trampoline (with my brother) and another I got an Xbox. I'll admit I'm now 19 so I don't expect to get much for my birthday but this year I got two shirts and two shorts. Last year I got a backpack. I miss the days where we had money for gifts, I know that is a bit selfish but if we had that money then we wouldn't have to worry about a foreclosure on our house that may be coming in a few weeks.
My dad always had high-end Mercedes Benz cars as I was growing up but when he quit his job when I was about 16 I found out they were company cars. It wasn’t until he had to buy his own car that I realized I was dirt poor.
My parents were poor when I was a small child, then became wealthy when I was a young adult. I had no idea they were not financially well off, but my sister and I made our own happiness just by playing outside with friends. We had no comprehension of our place in the economic totem pole.
When my dad made me wear my outdoor shoes as indoor gym shoes. EVERYONE else had new shoes for both. I would of course lie and comment on how cheap my parents were.
When my dad got laid off the first time, many many years ago. My mom hasn't worked since I was very little because of injury, having no money come in was scary, and still is.
I finally realized that we were only getting one income my whole life and that's why I didn't have everything others did. But when my dad lost his job, that’s when it really hit because we couldn't afford anything anymore. Still figuring that out now but now I can help support my parents by working.
When my mom dropped me off with my grandparents for a few months, I did visit them for a week or two at a time every year but this was quite an extended time. I realized something was wrong because we had to move out really quickly a couple of days before this.
I asked my mom years later and she informed me that we were squatting in the house. We may have been poor but I was never hungry and never had to live on the streets. So in the scope of things not that bad.
I didn't grow up objectively rich, but comparatively so. I knew when my best friend would never let me go to her house. She eventually told me she thought I would judge her and her family because they lived in a tiny run down place and I was in the suburbs. I was horrified—she was feeling shame I never would have wished her. :(
Note: Sorry for rant. Apparently I needed to get this off my chest...
It tears me up that my daughter knows how poor we are, and has since she was at least six (nine now). Apartments, constantly moving, passing on toys and trips.
That's not to say she goes entirely without. After rent, my biggest expense is her gymnastics tuition. She's a competitive gymnast and trains constantly. Like, four times a week after school and twice a week before school. We've also managed to put her in lyrical dance (once a week) and violin (twice a week before school, different days).
We grab leotards from goodwill and befriend other parents to get hand-me-down gear.
But of course the other parents at her gym are pretty affluent. Team trips and training camps that her friends go to but she can't. And wtf can I tell her? That all my money is already going to her, so she should be content? Kids don't work that way, and I can't put it on her. She'd feel guilty as hell.
The worst part is that she's starting to accept it. She's concerned about prices when figuring out Christmas or birthday lists.
She's stopped asking about any sort of trips.
Two years until I graduate from law school. It can't come soon enough.
Never did realise it as a kid, kid me had totally thought sleeping on the floor, eating on the floor, and a rickety old house was normal even though I did go to my wealthier friends houses I had never thought of it as them being "wealthier" but had thought "man they clean a lot more than we do." My kid self wasn't the most perceptive.
I was in fourth grade and the popular girls from fifth grade took notice of me. I didn't know why at first but quickly figured it out.
My dad had given me a new watch in a very popular style. It had a small round face with interchangeable colored rings on the front of the face. Mine was Gucci. I had a Louis Vuitton purse and the Christmas gift for my teacher was an LV wallet. I had no clue what any of it meant and didn't care. The older girls lost interest in me when I wouldn't give them things.
Jokes on them. I found out later it was all knockoffs. My dad had an in with some excellent counterfeiters so that's how we had all the swag. Seriously, like a 13-year-old in 1989 is going to know to look at the stitching.
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