Good Bye MyRA

poverty cycle


MyRA was a program started to help young people and the working poor invest for retirement. Contributions could be as low as $5. The hope that young people and people with few resources could take part in investing for retirement (because we all know Social Security isn’t gonna be enough) was a lofty goal. This may have been especially helpful for people of color since we’ve all read the studies about net worth and cycles of poverty.

Unfortunately, the MyRA program will be stopped under the Trump administration. It was never really given the resources to take off. That was the main reason given for its close. The working poor don’t have lots of options to move up the socio-economic ladder and now they’ll have one less option.

Working Poor & Housing

I’ve written before about the working poor and about how folks can make different choices to not be a part of that group, so when I saw this infographic and calculator I wanted to share them. The image explains how many hours a person earning minimum wage would have to work to be able to afford a fair market rent depending on which state one lives in. Last year’s report from The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) states it more clearly than I can:

The ACS is an annual survey of three million households that provides the public with demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of the American population. After mining this data, our Research team discovered that while wages are stagnating, rental costs continue to rise and more renters nationwide are housing cost burdened.

That means that folks are working hard and not getting anywhere. It means that incomes are not growing, but rental costs are increasing by leaps and bounds! According to Business Insider, “To afford the national average two-bedroom apartment’s rent—$949 per month—a low-income household needs to earn $37,960 annually, which just isn’t happening. That’s $18.25 per hour—they only earn $14.15.”

Whoa! As I’m reading that last sentence again, I’m wondering why one would need a two bedroom apartment? Is it because you have kids? Why is only one person responsible for a two bedroom apartment? If the person is single why don’t they have a roommate? Of course I believe that all people should have a safe, clean roof over their heads however I’m concerned about acting like the people involved in these statistics have no power. I’d like to think that we have options in life. We can’t control everything, but there are things like education, character, procreation, leveraging our networks, creating our opportunities, etc. that we can control. Of course, there are systematic things at play like institutionalized racism, sexism, ageism, sexual orientation … ism … but those things have always been around and there have always been people that made a way out of no-way.

I saw this great series of infographics on The Punk Patrtiot website and I had to steal this one! The image shows how much money outsourced workers (foreigners), local workers (Americans), and CEOs (the 1%) earn per hour and how long they will have to work until they are able to retire. Of course, it’s propaganda (it says so on the image “Propaganda Times”) but in it’s hyperbolic statement it pokes at the reality of life for many around the world.  THIS is the essence of the term “the working poor”. It’s the idea that work is low-paying, the work can rarely (if ever) stop, and that millions of people get up and do it every day. The working poor aren’t lazy. They work hard. The problem is that many times, they don’t work smart.

Shay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. She speaks at high schools, colleges, and companies across the country. She has written three books on personal finance, including Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook”. Shay has been quoted on,, and The Credit Union Times, among others. To schedule Shay to speak at your event visit

Preying on Weakness

I saw this today in San Diego and it really made an impression on me. How convenient! You can cash your check, for a small fee of course, and then buy all your drug accessories in one place.

How nice.

How much money would someone actually leave with after patronizing this business? This is one of the saddest things I’ve seen in a while.


We All Have Agency

A favorite topic of mine is the concept of agency, especially with the working poor. Too many times I’ve spoken with people that get up at the crack of dawn to work a menial job then follow up a full day’s labor with yet another low paying job in the afternoon/evening and they will not agree that there is much they can do to change their lives.

There is an idea that the social, financial, and governmental systems that meter their lives are incapable of being changed, amended, and/or disrupted by people in their position. What?! As the saying goes, “power is never given, it is taken”. I honestly don’t understand why the working poor don’t put up more of a fight to understand, and change, these systems.

The first step is to learn all you can about credit, debt, taxes, investing, etc. You can’t manage or change what you don’t understand.

The second step is to become an advocate for yourself, your family, and your community. For example, make sure that you are paying a fair price for things, make sure that you are shopping around for the best loans for your credit history, ask questions and make sure you get answers before you sign any documents.

Next, vote according to what makes the most sense for you and your family. Don’t become swayed by flashy t.v. commercials or slick talking politicians. The government works for us, the people. The decisions the politicians make effect you in your daily life more than you think.

Lastly, share what you know with anyone that asks. Make sure that you pass on the knowledge and practice of that knowledge to your children and others in your community. There is strength in numbers and power in accumulated knowledge.

Power to the people!