There’s a fascinating hashtag trending on Twitter as I write this called #WhenBrokePplGetMoney. I love this hashtag because I get to read responses from “ordinary” people — people who don’t read financial blogs and books, people who wouldn’t normally visit this website. Their answers reveal a lot about how our society conceptualizes rich, poor, and windfalls. Here’s what they’re saying:
@Fatty_Kami: #Whenbrokepplgetmoney They Blow It In One Day
@AyannaFlySolo: #whenbrokepplgetmoney they dont know how to act!
@antmoorfield: Competitive capitalism is alive and well at #whenbrokepplgetmoney. Some good prejudice and stereotyping there from the economically secure.
@DopeassvanZ: #whenbrokepplgetmoney they blow it all on clothes and shoes
@darkmavisxxx: #whenbrokepplgetmoney the first thing they buy is an 874 inch TV.
@SameOl_GC: #whenbrokepplgetmoney they pay the Direct TV Bill and cell phone bill and ask the landlord for an extension
@MissyyE: #WhenBrokePplGetMoney they lose it quick.
@Flygeriaa: #whenbrokepplgetmoney they completely forget that they owe you
And my personal favorite …
@BeaumontTXChess: #whenbrokepplgetmoney Send me some and I will let you know.
What Are People Saying?
With a few exceptions, most people seem to be saying the same thing: the broke are broke for a reason. The broke can’t manage money well. They spend too much and save too little.
Interestingly, the few who defend broke people are the ones who write with full sentences and proper grammar, using phrases like “competitive capitalism” to show that they’re educated. I wonder if they formed their opinion from real-world observation or from a textbook? How many truly “broke” people do they know intimately?
What Are People NOT Saying?
Just as interestingly, many people didn’t jump to one obvious purchase that “broke people” allegedly make. Opinion seemed spread as to whether the money would be spent on clothes, cars, wheel rims, alcohol, drugs, shoes, cell phones, or TV. There was only one conclusion people agreed on: the money would get spent.
What Really Happens?
What really happens “when broke people get money” depends on who you are. If you’re William “Bud” Post, who won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania state lottery in 1988, you’ll be $1 million in debt within a year. Post filed for bankruptcy a year after he won the lottery and now lives on food stamps and a $450 monthly stipend, according to Business Insider.
Suzanne Mullins of Virginia suffered a similar fate: she won $4.2 million in 1993 and opted for yearly increments instead of a lump-sum. But she quickly spent more than she received and used her future payments as collateral for a $200,000 loan, on which she promptly defaulted. The loan company successfully sued and was awarded $154,000, but they couldn’t collect because she no longer had any assets.
Sometimes the Broke Need A Break
But other lottery winners have used their gains as impetus to better their lives in a sustainable way. When Chris and Tina Crane won $42 million, they used it to trade-in their Michigan home … for a pecan farm in Georgia, reports ABC News affiliate WZZM 13. Every morning they rise before dawn to milk cows, bale hay, drive the tractor and live a farmer’s lifestyle. Chris, age 52, calls it “retirement” — a chance to work a job he loves rather than a job he needs — but adds, “I probably work harder now than I ever did.”
When Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in the Illinois lottery in 1996, he launched a successful retail business selling gourmet popcorn. He also became a lottery success story: a man who invested his winnings in starting a small business that provided him with a career he loved and stable income. (Unfortunately, his sister-in-law murdered him in the hopes of getting an inheritance. She’s now serving a life sentence.)
So What’s the Verdict?
It all comes down to attitude.
Broke is temporary. Some people see “broke” a temporary state that lasts 20 or 30 years. Perhaps you were born into a very low-income family. Perhaps you had to balance two jobs in high school while studying late into the night for a shot at a scholarship. Perhaps you have to start at a community college before you can transfer to a more expensive 4-year school, and you need federal loans to finish your degree. Perhaps you had to take the bus to job interviews because you couldn’t afford a car.
But internally, you believe this is temporary. You’ll finish college. You’ll get a good job. You have great money management skills and a strong sense of personal responsibility, and every time you get a little bit of money, even just $5 or $10, you invest it wisely — buying a textbook, opening a Roth IRA, starting a savings account. Soon it adds up to $1,000, and then $3,000, and you discover the power of compounding interest.
Then there are those who stay chronically poor. Every time they get money, they spend foolishly and lose it. What’s sad is that some of these people are benevolent — some give to family and friends who want loans and handouts — but at the end of the day, they’ve failed to use money as an opportunity to invest in their education, their job training or their future.
Look at what successful lottery winners did: they purchased job security.
So What Happens When Broke People Get Money?
My favorite answer said it best:
@BeaumontTXChess: #whenbrokepplgetmoney “Send me some and I will let you know.“
Sources: Big Lottery Winners Who Buck the Death and Destruction Trend, Debbie Schlussel
10 Lottery Winners Who Lost It All, Business Insider