The Impact of Disenfranchised Communities

Currently, I am reading Elizabeth Willard Thames’s book “Meet the Frugalwoods – Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living.” In her book, Mrs. Thames tells the story of her family’s path to financial independence. There are sections of the book where she discusses living in economically disenfranchised communities and how that experience helped her to realize how privileged she was to be born where she was born, to whom she was born and to what race she was born. Reading her book made me reflect on my own starting point in life and how I am blessed to the point that I can even consider pursuing financial freedom.

I can think of many family members and friends who are economically disenfranchised just trying to make ends meet. It would be easy for Mrs. Thames or myself to say that these people are in this situation because of bad decisions they have made; or say they should pull themselves up by their boot straps. These statements are only partially true, at best. A Pew study in 2013 showed that only 26% of people born in the lower income bracket (generational poverty) are able to move up to the middle class or upper middle class. Only 4% are able to become high income earners. The whole concept of all it takes is hard work to make it American is only half true. Hard work can only take you so far.

Mrs. Thames came face to face with generational poverty when she was an AmeriCorps volunteer living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. On one occasion, a neighbor told her to “go back to where you can from!” It was at that moment Mrs. Thames realized that she was “just trying on the mantle of poverty for a year.” She “wasn’t living “with the reality of “in entrenched generational poverty with no way out.” She was a college educated Caucasian from an economically stable two-parent household that was solidly middle class. She had options, regardless of the surrounding she found herself in.

As for me, I am an African American, college educated man, from an economically stable single parent house hold that was lower middle class one step above poverty. I grew up in what started off as a culturally diverse neighborhood. After a few years of living there in my neighborhood was 80-95% African American due to white flight. As the years went by, shops and stores began to close down and nothing replaced them. When we moved there, there were three banks and three supermarkets within walking distance of our home. By the time I entered high school, there was only one bank and one supermarket.

I said all that just to show the economically disenfranchised communities that Mrs. Thames speaks of in her book don’t start off that way. It happens because of economic, political, social and racial bias. I truly believe that these are the causes of the downturn of my childhood community.

By the time I finished high school, I lived in a culturally-monolithic, food desert community. The nearest supermarket was more than a 60-minute walk away. I did not realize that my neighborhood was declining as a kid. I was clueless to what was going on. As I entered high school, my friends and I started asking questions like; what happened to our neighborhood. By then some of the middle-class African Americans homeowners had sold their homes to slumlords which was followed by drug dealers. Some of my friends got caught up in the street life the neighborhood had to offer; many of them grew up and moved to other communities.

When you grow up in that environment you inherit some serious mental baggage. Some of which I am still working through many years later. But I truly consider myself to be fortunate. I have overcome many of mental setbacks that comes with growing up in an economically disadvantaged community. I have also been able to conquer the self-limiting racial bias ideas and concepts I was taught to believe.


If want figure out how to get on the path to financial independence despite the economic cards you were dealt with, here are some tip I learned from Elizabeth Willard Thames’ book:

  • A frugal mindset
    • Frugaling” will only get you so far.
  • Earn enough money to cover all expenses and have leftover income to save and invest.
    • Don’t let your current situation define your final situation. Ask you boss for a raise or find a side hustle.
  • Have good life mentors
    • Surround yourself with positive and knowledgeable people to help guide you along your path when you need help.
  • Work hard at working smarter
    • There is nothing wrong with working hard but learning to working smart will allow you to make decisions that will shorten the time it take to reach financial freedom
  • Perseverance
    • During your life you there will be people that will tell you that you cannot seceede in your endeavors. Perseverance is what will allow you to outlast the naysayers and stay the path to accomplish you goals
  • Luck
    • You will need a little luck to make all the pieces fall in place. As for me:
      • I was lucky enough read the correct books and blogs to learn about being frugal
      • I am lucky enough to have a career that allows me to cover expenses with my income
      • I was lucky enough to have mentors come into view when I needed them.
      • I was lucky enough to be born with the mental fortitude to not listen to naysayers regardless of who they may be

So, regardless of your starting point in life you don’t have to let that be your endpoint. Life is a journey, how far will you travel away from your economic beginning?

Let me the impact of where you started your economic life from.

Remember, no one will care about your money more than you, not even your financial advisor.

The Broke Architect