Dean of Personal Financial
Advocates Ltd. Photo: Lester Forde
with the astronomical cost of living, those whose salaries
once would have put them in the middle class find themselves
struggling to make ends meet. They own no assets and often
live pay cheque to pay cheque.
These are the people we define as the working poor.
This series by the Guardian Features Desk looks at the profile
of these workers, their spending habits, their choices and
dilemmas. It also looks at solutions to their difficultiesoffering
advice on how to budget, save and invest.
Smith* is a self-confessed spendthrift. She often finds
Though it doesnt stop her from looking fashionable
and trendy, Smith, who works as an executive secretary at
a financial firm, says that each month she finds it difficult
to pay her rent of $450.
Uninsured, she does not have any savings in any financial
People like Smith make up the working poor in
According to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia (www.wikipedia.org),
the term working poor describes individuals who maintain
full-time jobs but remain in relative poverty.
These individuals, the Web site added, had negative net
worth and lacked the ability to escape their situations.
were some months when I had no other choice but to borrow,
Smith said, in an interview at her two-room apartment in
Laventille, on October 15.
Smith, who receives a salary of $3,500 plus an acting allowance
of $450, rents a semi-furnished apartment with burglar-proofed
of the furniture in this apartment, I met there. I just
bought a couple of things to make myself comfortable and
entertain my friends, she said, pointing to her peach
and white concrete abode.
Sitting on a bench in front of her landlords garage,
Smith admitted that her wild spending and lifestyle were
her biggest problems. These she promised to change in the
is never enough to ever go around, its frustrating,
the 29-year-old complained as she brushed her long two-toned
weave away from her well-made-up face.
Melissa McIntyre* is a single parent. She, too, can never
seem to make ends meet.
Even with two salary increases in three years, the 31-year-old
mother of two can hardly set aside anything to save.
A receptionist with the North West Regional Health Authority
for the past ten years, she said she moved from her parents
home after being transferred to another health facility.
With this move she has incurred additional expense.
grocery bills have increased, I have to hire a taxi to take
my children to school, pay a rent and utility bills,
she said in a telephone interview on October 20.
am still awaiting [a] travelling allowance, she said.
She has $5,000 saved in the companys credit union.
She said she gets a 50 per cent discount on services at
the hospital. She has a health plan for herself and her
children, and a pension plan, both through her employer.
Before becoming pregnant with her second child, McIntyre
said, she used to purchase clothes on credit. Those were
cannot tell the last time I bought clothes.
made uniforms to wear Mondays to Fridays to lessen on the
purchase of clothing.
Fortunately for McIntyres childless younger sister
Cindy Trent, her pay cheque for the past year and a half
had allowed her to save at least $100 a month.
Trent, 27, who works as a receptionist at a lawyers
firm, said although she does not receive the benefits her
sister enjoys, she was saving for the car of her dreams.
$100-a-month savings is reaping great rewards, she
said in a telephone interview.
In August Trent, who still lives with her parents, was able
to make her first down payment of $1,800 on the car.
I am not pressured into contributing to the home just yet,
I know very soon I would have to give something.
Trent said she spent most of her free time at home watching
DVDs or dining at TGIF, a fairly expensive restaurant, with
Although Trent joked of stealing from her cash pan recently
to buy a gift for a friend, she never takes money from her
*Names have been changed to protect the subjects identities.
to financial coach and mentor Nicholas Dean of Personal
Financial Advocates Ltd, most of the money problems people
face are not because of not having enough money, but due
to their spending habits.
Speaking during an interview at his office on Carlos Street,
Woodbrook on October 26, Dean said the most common method
of spending was impulse spending.
is all about how one deals with their response to marketing
and advertising stimuli, said Dean, dubbed The
Debt Therapist by his clients.
have a client who works for $1,000 a month and was able
to make it through the entire month with money left over.
There is another who works for $30,000 and just could not
seem to save a penny, he added.
begins and ends in the head.
People need to win the war in their heads first and then
change their mindsets.
you think you are poor, then the world gives you exactly
that, he said.
month you have choices that could lead you out of debt or
deeper in debt.