Here’s a tough question you should ask yourself if you’re still financially struggling at 35: “Am I to blame?”
In 2014, billionaire Jack Ma made headlines when he supposedly declared, “If you’re still poor at 35, it’s your own fault!” Sounds harsh, eh? Since then, it’s been found that Ma didn’t actually say that, but this idea has been around for quite some time. But, if you are really mid-aged and poor is it your fault?
“If you are born poor it’s not your fault, but if you die poor it’s your fault,” Bill Gates is reported to have said at an earlier point (I can’t find a legitimate source for that quote, so this, like the Ma quote, might be misattributed). An older version of this sentiment goes: “It’s not your fault if you’re born in the gutter but it is your fault if you die there.”
Whether or not Ma or Gates actually said those words, the truth is, there’s a high chance that many of us will end up—or have early ended up—being poor at 35. So here’s the real question: You’re 35 and still struggling financially, are you the one to blame?
Well, yes and no.
Who’s to blame for poverty, if you’re 35 and still poor?
It’s ridiculously simplistic to blame someone’s decisions for their financial situation. As sociologist Fabian Pfeffer tells BusinessNewsDaily, “People underestimate the extent to which your destiny is linked to your background.”
This might sound like a cop-out, but sometimes life just isn’t fair. Yes, success is largely dependent on hard work, but luck also plays a significant part. Studies have found that wealth hinges on factors that are out of our control, like:
- Our birthplace. A recent study found that the bottom 1% in Germany are better off than the top 40% in China. More than half of what we earn is determined by the country we live in.
- Genetic traits. If you’re conventionally attractive, you’ll likely earn more than your unattractive counterparts. If you’re taller, that’ll also work in your favour.
- Our parents’ wealth (or lack thereof). Ambition and hard work might get you far, but being born to rich parents—that’ll set you for life. Some people grow up not knowing when they’ll have their next meal. How can you pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have boots?
Now that we’ve acknowledged that externalities do make an impact on your financial health, when does it become your fault if you’re still financially struggling at 35?
- If you’ve made bad financial decisions. Haven’t we all? But are you learning from mistakes or repeating the same toxic behaviours over and over again? If you’re earning a decent salary but blowing it every month on shopping and nights out with friends without setting aside anything for your savings, then that’s all on you.
- If you don’t work hard. Okay, so your salary just isn’t enough to cover your day-to-day expenses and savings. Are you actually trying to change that? How’s your work at the office? You can’t expect to get a pay raise or a promotion if you keep producing subpar output.
- If you lack ambition. After working hard and still not getting results, some people lose heart and just give up. If you’ve resigned yourself to your lot in life, making no real efforts to better your situation, then—brace yourself, this might be difficult to hear—yes, it’s your fault that you’re still poor.
Good news: If you’re poor at 35, it’s not too late.
So you’re 35 or older, and you’re still struggling financially. Don’t lose hope—you can still turn things around. The very fact that you’re here on this site, looking for financial advice, is a good indication that you’ve got the will to make a change.
You probably know what it takes to manage your money effectively—namely, that you need to budget, save, and invest. All you have to do now is to apply what you know. Make smarter financial choices starting today and you’ll soon see the fruits of your labour.
What do you think? If you’re 35 and poor is it your fault? Let us know in the comments.
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