The Daily Courier Logo
Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
8:24 PM Tue, Sept. 25th

Column: Simple ways to avoid poverty

For the Christmas holidays, my wife and I took our motor home, and drove to Southern California. On Christmas Day we went to one of my sisters' homes with my mom, my three sisters and their families. We also spent time with our two sons and their families. It was great spending time with them and it was so wonderful seeing what good parents our sons and daughters-in-law are. It was especially encouraging watching our sons interacting with their kids and seeing what wonderful fathers they have become.

These moments brought to mind the financial struggles that young families go through to make ends meet. Both of my sons' families are living above the poverty line so that isn't a problem for them, but I have a nephew and a couple of great nephews who might be staring poverty in the face in the not too distant future. Driving back to Prescott, I recalled hearing or reading about a formula for young people to avoid poverty.

Back in Prescott, I jumped on my computer to see if I could find this formula. I found three websites that address the issue: one from the Brookings Institute, one from Neal Boortz, and one intriguingly named "To love, honor and vacuum."

Interestingly, the most influential liberal think tank, the Brookings Institute and the conservative commentator Neal Boortz, agree on three actions that they suggest can avoid poverty. These three are: 1) complete high school, 2) marry before having children, 3) get a job. The wordings were slightly different but the ideas were exactly the same.

The Brookings Institute site mentions that if one does all three the "chances of being poor fall from 12 percent to 2 percent" and one's "chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56 percent to 74 percent. Brookings defines middle class as... "$50,000 a year for a family of three." Boortz cites these same statistics.

Brookings points out that numerous poor families need supplements to their earnings like food stamps, housing and welfare, but they also state that such assistance should not be "unconditional." Boortz, on the other hand, suggests that poverty is a "matter of choice." While that statement may be overly broad, it is true in many, many cases. While some blame society, the rich, corporate greed, and personal circumstances for poverty, a large percentage of the poor have made bad decisions.

The 'tolovehonorandvacuum.com' website states unequivocally, "Single parenthood is the biggest ticket to poverty there is. Marriage, on the other hand, often acts as a 'get out of poverty free' card." The author on this site gives the following advice, "So if you can, steer clear of losers and abusers, find someone stable and kind to marry (I know that's the hard part), stay married, and wait until you're married to become a parent. Finally, stay out of trouble. If you're in jail, it's hard to feed your family, and it's hard to get a job afterwards."

This site also notes that William Galston, a University of Maryland Professor of Public Policy found that graduating from high school and then taking a job, "any job," gives an individual "almost a 90 percent chance of avoiding long-term poverty." Those who take those jobs, even low-paying, uninteresting jobs, "find themselves more employable down the road."

One other activity should be avoided. The abuse of alcohol and drugs should be avoided. Many people who abuse those intoxicants plunge themselves and their families into poverty or can't get themselves out of poverty because of their use.

The conventional wisdom is that one must go to college to get ahead. The conventional wisdom is always conventional and seldom wise. Many of the trades can't find enough qualified workers. Machinists are at a premium. Welders are always in demand. Specialized mechanics for aircraft, robotics and other specialties can obtain high wages because of shortages in particular fields. Quality gunsmithing is in demand. Yavapai College's Career and Technological Education Center provides this area with a very practical alternative to conventional college courses and has an excellent record of employment for its graduates.

If a student decides to take more conventional college courses, he or she should look and decide on a course of study that would make them employable after they graduate.