There's this thing that never gets mentioned in these discussions.
It's stupid, because it's the biggest thing.
I've been "poor." I've had no real money, I've had a great deal of variability in my income, I've lived on beans and rice for months. But I've never had the "oh shit" instability that the truly poor experience. Neither have most of my friends.
Because we went to college.
And I don't mean that we got degrees and things were all rosy.
I mean that before we'd so much as unpacked our bags in the dorm room for the first time, we had seven different companies offering us credit cards. And most of us took at least a few. So most of us - no matter what - had five to ten thousand dollars of revolving credit the minute we walked out of our parents' houses.
And fuckin' A, I used it like a lifeline. And I paid minimum balances, and the balance went up, and the balance went down, and when you had money you paid it off and when you didn't you took advances and I shit you not, I had a thousands-of-dollars-deep credit card balance from the age of 19 until the age of 35. But there was.never.a.time that I didn't know where my next meal was coming from. It was coming from MBNA or Discover or Chase. Period. Full stop.
Because I went to college. Didn't even have to graduate. Didn't even have to make it through the quarter. If you made it to a 4-year institution, you were the right kind of credit risk for the credit card companies. They wanted their hooks in you. Someone banked on you enough to get you there, someone would pay your goddamn bill if it got too steep. And if they didn't? Okay, they'd wreck your credit rating and get 20 cents on the dollar but those are the breaks.
The dividing line hits early. If you can get to opening day at college, you get revolving credit. And if you don't, you get the payday loan center.