National Edition

The troubles of being American and poor

Published: Friday, June 6 2014 6:04 p.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, June 6 2014 6:04 p.m. MDT

This photo taken Friday July 12, 2013, shows the Salyers' produce stand in Council, Va. Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and a vanishing American Dream. Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”

Debra McCown, Associated Press

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It’s really hard being poor.

Seriously. Take Melissa and Alex Kimmel, who were featured in Mandi Woodruff’s piece for Yahoo! Finance on Thursday and are in an upcoming documentary called “Spent: Looking for Change.”

While the Kimmels were against getting into debt — they paid for most things in cash and ditched the idea of credit cards — medical issues creeped up and soon they sought help from payday loans, Woodruff wrote.

But even that hurt the Kimmels. They were forced to pay fees on top of fees, making their financial situation even worse than when it had been, Woodruff wrote.

“Americans spend an estimated $7.4 billion every year on payday loans, a highly controversial form of credit that is doled out on the condition that the borrower will pay it back when they get their next paycheck,” according to Woodruff’s piece. “Given the fact that the majority of people using payday loans already live paycheck to paycheck, it’s often difficult to pay loans on time.”

So what can families do to help with their bills?

Vox’s Timothy B. Lee offered a guide on how to lower your cable bill. It mainly involves calling your cable provider, bluffing about cancelling your subscription and negotiating a new deal, Lee wrote.

“Starting out with a low introductory rate and then gradually raising prices helps Comcast get as much money as possible out of each customer,” Lee wrote. “As a long-time Comcast customer, I knew that if I called and threatened to cancel, the cable giant would likely offer me a discount. But I wanted to know more. How exactly does this process work? And what should customers do to get the biggest discount?”

And you have to be consistent with it, too, Lee wrote.

“Of course, you shouldn't overdo this,” he wrote. “The company does keep records of past calls, so if you call for a discount five times in one week they're going to figure out you're not serious about canceling. But if you don't get a good response from the first person you talk to, it doesn't hurt to try a second or third time.”

But people are not the only ones struggling to afford things. Even the United States can’t afford to get some things done.

Andrew Flowers of FiveThirtyEight wrote a piece on June 3 that looked into why America can’t afford to fix its highways, roads and bridges — even though it might lead to more jobs.

“Economists have long argued that better infrastructure — roads and highways, bridges and ports, tunnels and dams — results in greater jobs growth and business investment,” Flowers wrote. “So as government finances improve, why aren’t we seeing infrastructure spending return?”

The answer to that question might be the opposition to the federal government show by local and state officials, Flowers wrote.

As this is happening, the future of American money is changing. Not only is PayPal soon going to accept bitcoin (as The International Business Times suggests), but America is doing away with checks.

That’s right, checks are no longer the “king of the cash alternatives,” Quartz reported. A report by the Federal Reserve actually saw this coming, too, according to Quartz.

“Industry observers widely predict,” the report said, “that traditional paper processing will be phased out over the next few years.”

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @herbscribner

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