Nov 7 by John Hope Bryant


America has a teetering class of people from all walks of life, living with a wobbling sense of staggering uncertainty. They aren't just the poor. They are the nearly poor, the almost poor, the could-be poor, the was poor, the really poor, the somewhat poor, the temporarily poor, and, of course, the persistently poor.

This class of Americans is hard to define. It extends across traditional class, race, and economic lines. It includes people who work and don't earn enough to cover their expenses, whether this is a low-income single mother earning a living as a waitress or a married midlevel accountant earning $50,000.

This class is as likely to have high incomes as low incomes, whether people are living on $75,000 in a major city or $15,000 in Des Moines, Iowa. An annual income of $50,000, which is the earning of about half of all American families, is just about the point at which living standards become tight in a city such as Washington, DC. So this condition is detached from absolute income and is more related to overall money management and long-term stability.

This class of Americans lives from one paycheck to the next, from one emergency to the next, one step ahead of collection notices, late fees, overdraft fees, and utility cutoff schedules. That sense of perpetual worry gnaws at a person's psyche, and over time begins to erode one's sense of self-confidence.

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