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In this episode, Chelsea dives into five common but easily overlooked habits people pick up after growing up poor. Living in poverty has lasting effects we need to talk about.


Problematic relationships with food:

Impulsive financial behavior:

Resisting big purchases:

Avoiding social gatherings:

Living in discomfort:

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Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And if you have not already, please go ahead and hit that Subscribe button to follow every video we make.

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So sign up at the link in our description $49 off of Amanda's class using the code YouTube VIP for her four week course starting January 25. And today, I wanted to talk about a subject that is very close to my heart, and really a lot of the reason why I started TFD in the first place. For those who might not be aware, when I was growing up, my family was very, very low income.

Especially until the age of about 11 or so, our family was definitely below the poverty line, living paycheck to paycheck. Money was a huge source of stress and anxiety, and overall feelings of kind of insecurity and deprivation in my life as a child. And of course, I can't imagine how difficult it was for my parents at that time, and they did everything in their power to keep me a little bit shielded from it, but it definitely had a huge impact.

And then as I moved into my pre-teen years, I moved to a very, very affluent area where my family, at that time, was more middle class. But when you're middle class compared to a bunch of really rich people who drive BMW's to your high school and get them as 16th birthday gifts, you actually weirdly feel more poor than you did when you were actually poor but surrounded by other poor people. And these two experiences really shaped my relationship to money, my insecurities around it, my anxieties around it, and were really what led me to get myself into so much financial trouble so young, because I really associated spending-- and often spending in a reckless or unsustainable way-- with validation, with self-worth, or even really the only way a person can truly have fun.

That's how I quickly got into my credit card debt, drained my savings, was using check cashing services because I was over drafted everywhere. Basically, every bad thing that I was doing with money really at some level, I now understand stemmed from my serious insecurities around the subject, and overall fear of money as a concept. That being said, today at 32 and over seven years into talking about money as my full-time job, I feel very confident and stable with money.

As you guys have seen from my videos, there's pretty much nothing that I won't share financially. I have really no anxieties or qualms around the subject. I really don't associate my self-worth with things that I can afford to buy.

I really choose and try to find my self-worth and validation in other things, like things I can make, the way I make other people feel, and other generally more healthy things. But I also know as someone who's been to my own share of therapy, and who generally tries to be pretty conscious about my own psyche at play, that you never fully escape the notions and emotions around money that you grow up with. And many of us out there who may now be financially stable, who may have ascended in class, who may have a completely different numerical relationship with money, can often be held back by a lot of those same unhealthy emotional relationships with money, often because we grew up without enough of it.

So I wanted to talk today about the habits and the mindsets and the behaviors that a lot of us find ourselves locked in because we grew up poor, even if we're not anymore. And honestly, even if we still are. Even if we're still struggling financially, that's not a reason to not address some of these bad mental habits.

Because research from Cornell University shows that the overall stress of growing up poor can seriously impede one's mental health as an adult, even if they grow up to eventually be middle class, or maybe even higher. The stress can even take its toll on your physiological health, from witnessing your parents worrying about money in front of you to feeling alienated from common social experiences, like trips or birthday parties. Growing up poor can sometimes feel like a million little traumas that never really leave you.

And it's made all that much worse by feeling like you should be filled with nothing but gratitude for your current situation, and like you should simply move on from the things that were upsetting in your youth. So regardless of your current financial situation, if you grew up poor, here are some of the things you might still be carrying with you without realizing it. Number one is problematic relationships with food.

Food insecurity can result in people eating more, eating faster, and eating when they're not hungry because they don't know when their next meal will be or how much food they'll have. This was demonstrated in a 2016 study by Texas Christian University, which found that women who grew up poorer, when offered snacks, consume them at equal rates regardless of how long it had been since they last ate. Women who grew up more financially comfortable only ate high amounts of it if it had been long enough since they last ate.

Similarly, women who grew up with far less tended to eat just as much if they had a caloric beverage, such as a soda, as if they drank a zero calorie beverage like water, whereas those from higher income households would hold off from eating as many snacks if they drank a caloric beverage. Essentially, growing up poor or experiencing food insecurity will mean having a difficult time assessing what your body really needs or accepting that you have enough of it. And this actually runs parallel to behavior observed in foster children and adoptees, who often engage in overeating, hoarding, or even hiding food due to food insecurity that is essentially hardwired in their brains.

And what those observations found is that for people who have poor impulse control around food is that restricting food does not work. And labeling foods as bad only increases their allure. So if you're a person who grew up food insecure and then enters the complicated adult world of dieting and health trends, that can also result in bingeing or other disordered food rituals.

And while it is very common to experience overeating based on your needs if you grow up with food insecurity, you can also experience the opposite effect, which is overrationing your food because you're so used to having to keep it tightly controlled. And what makes that more problematic is that rationing mindsets aren't exactly frowned upon. In the early days of the COVID pandemic, respected publications were giving tips on how to ration food in case, we could never enter a grocery store again.

Sorry, but I feel like if we can never go to a grocery store again, we got bigger problems than whether or not you ate your Chex Mix really slowly. And what's perhaps more troubling is that overrationing food, as it does tend to be associated with people in lower socioeconomic status, results in a situation where people who are of lower socioeconomic status tend to be underdiagnosed in restrictive eating disorders even compared to the general population where it is overall underdiagnosed. One 2017 study found that people identified as being from an affluent background are around 48% more likely to receive an eating disorder diagnosis, 52% more likely to be perceived as needing treatment, and 89% more likely to have actually received treatment in the past year.

Number two is poor impulse control with money, like your girl. While growing up poor for some might result in being incredibly over frugal and even stingy with your money, even when you don't need to be, for many people, it actually results in the opposite. In 2014, the American Psychological Association published research that found that people who grew up in poorer socioeconomic situations had a lower sense of control and higher instances of impulsivity.

For example, people from poorer backgrounds were more likely to say that they would prefer to receive a smaller amount of money tomorrow than a larger amount several days later. And while it's understandable to see where these impulses might come from, when in many cases you are not ever sure when you'll see that money again, so you may as well enjoy it now or get what you need while you have it, this particular financial habit is very destructive to long-term savings. In a 2015 essay in Marie Claire author Samantha Leal described growing up poor, not even being particularly aware that she was poor, and receiving $800 from her grandfather, who passed away when she was 22.

Despite other pressing things to spend it on, like student loan payments or investments, Leal spent it on things like dinner out and a cross-country trip. And this makes total sense when you think about how much more of a dopamine hit you get from spending money on things that bring you immediate enjoyment and fulfillment, versus saving it for some far-off goal which, if you've grown up poor, you've sort of been conditioned to believe you'll never have anyway. Because as one 2013 study from Princeton University shows us, growing up poor severely impedes your ability to make plans based on the long-term picture, and that the stress derived from growing up in these situations can often impair one's immediate decision-making skills.

But somewhat on the flip side, number three is working too hard to justify bigger purchases. And this actually does go hand-in-hand with compulsive spending, but there are added psychological and even gendered components. In the fantastic classic Simpsons episode, "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield", an all-time great.

The plot is kicked off when Marge comes across a markdown Chanel dress, $90 down from $2,800. But even at a bargain, $90 is a splurge for the Simpson family, and Marge is reluctant to buy it. She tells Lisa, now if it were a suit we could all wear, it would be different.

Now this scene is of course played for laughs, but like a lot of the early Simpsons, it is very much based on real class dynamics and lived experiences of the average American family, wherein often the matriarch will feel very uncomfortable making spending decisions that are just for her benefit because it automatically feels to her as selfish. And this habit not only coincides somewhat with people who grew up poor, but is also quite possibly very gendered. A 2009 study by Skinny Cow found that 86% of women try to justify every purchase they make, and 83% feel shameful after spending on items such as shoes, clothes, or accessories.

And while the broader feeling often comes from a place of not wanting to be judged for these purchases, even if, for example, you need them to be presentable at work, if you're coming from a poor background in which you're essentially judged for every financial decision you make, and made to feel as if you living in poverty is uniquely the result of your own bad decision-making, the need to justify, explain, or if not, forgo basically every purchase becomes overwhelming. Now of course, budgeting is important at any income level, and we shouldn't feel that every large purchase should be made completely without abandon just because we want to air too far in the other direction. But if we're able to be compulsive about the smaller purchases, which is often the case of those who grew up in poverty, but feel an extraordinarily high bar to clear-- even irrational compared to your overall finances when the purchase is larger-- that may mean we're budgeting in an unhealthy way.

A good way to offset this is to make sure that there are places in your budget specifically dedicated to these larger purchases, so that you know you're making them not just in a smart way, but in a sustainable and planned-for way. Number four is avoiding social gatherings. Now listen, nobody hates introvert discourse more than me.

I can't listen anymore to you guys being an oppressed class. As an extrovert, my main hobbies include doing cocaine, going to masquerade orgies, and murdering people. I just don't have time to listen to how great it is to cancel on plans at the last minute so you can stay at home and watch Netflix again.

Leave me out of this discourse. But where society needs even more empathy, in my opinion, is with people who feel that they have to eschew social lives because they grew up in a situation where it was too precarious to really have one. There are many people who would like to be able to socialize more than they do but feel that they can't because A, they're too traumatized from a past of not being able to safely, or B, feel that it will universally lead them into having to make unsustainable financial decisions in order to keep their friend groups pleased.

And there are low income extroverts out there. And a study from the Association for Psychological Science found that they tend to spend more money on status than their introverted peers. High status spending items included foreign air travel, art institutions and electronics.

And add in that it's commonly accepted that millennials can easily spend over $100 a month on alcohol alone, and it's easy to see why being extroverted is associated with spending a lot of money. And if you also happen to grow up with particularly avoidant personality traits or habits, it can be doubly difficult to say no in social situations where it feels like spending money is the only way to be accepted. Looking back on how I got myself into such extreme financial trouble, it was exactly that.

I was an extrovert who wanted to be accepted, wanted to have a healthy social life, and felt that the only way I could do it was by putting money on my credit card in order to keep up. In order for me to get to a more healthy place with my finances, I literally moved halfway across the world, because I knew that if I kept in the same social dynamics that I would never be able to fundamentally change how I related to my money. It certainly wasn't the only reason, but it was a big contributing factor, and the six or so months when I first moved out of the country and I had an extremely limited social group allowed me to get a slightly better footing because I wasn't constantly being pressured to do things I couldn't afford to do.

Lastly, number five is being OK with significant discomfort. Now whether that means driving your car well past its need for repairs, keeping monthly contacts in for three months, wearing threadbare clothes that need to be fixed, or generally doing anything else where you could afford the better-- and in many cases safer-- alternative, but feel bad spending the money to do it. This is an extremely common trait with people who grew up without enough.

One of my favorite anecdotes from my period when I was trying to fit in and still dealing with all kinds of money insecurities is when I stole-- I think it was my parents' credit card, I can't quite remember-- but I stole my parents' credit card, I think, to buy a pair of Uggs, because in 2007, that's anything a girl could ever dream of. I bought them, the second or third night promptly went to a bonfire where it had my feet a little too close to the fire, and completely melted the bottom of one of my two Uggs so that they were like-- I could feel the ground through them, basically. But I couldn't afford to replace them, so I basically wore melted Uggs for at least a year after that.

It was a dark time for Chelsea, let's put it that way. And I wouldn't do that again, but I have noticed even in myself some tendencies to wear things past a place where they need to be repaired, or eschew buying very basic, affordable things that could improve my quality of life, because I grew up with it being so normalized to experience that discomfort, or to use broken things, or to not really have enough to replace it. And don't get me wrong, culturally, on aggregate, we live in a world that is way too focused on replacing things that don't need to be replaced, buying more than we need, having a different outfit for every photo, and many other wasteful habits.

But going way too far in the other direction isn't healthy either. In fact, for example, temperature comfort is one of the most interesting class divides. In 2019, NPR analyzed 97 of the most populous cities in the US, and found that in 75% of cases, ground temperature in the summer was hotter in poorer neighborhoods.

Low income people are affected disproportionately by extreme weather, and despite the adverse effects that heat and cold waves can have on people's health, it's hard to convince people who are used to rationing to turn up the A/C. In a 2017 study by The Conversation, 88% of respondents said they personally knew people in households with either very young, very old, or otherwise medically vulnerable people who still avoided turning up the air conditioning during heat waves because of costs. 1/3 of respondents even knew of households that avoid turning on electric fans to reduce their bills. As someone who grew up in a household where it was perpetually like 60 degrees during the winter, and I had to sleep with pajamas, a fuzzy robe, and fuzzy socks on, and the most dreaded part of my day was having to take a shower because of how cold it was going to be before and after, I now am like a lizard in winter.

My shit is like 100 degrees at all times, and my husband is like, I can't live like this. And I'm like, but you don't understand how it was. And while you may view temperature control as somewhat superfluous, things like medical coverage are not.

And yet that is often something that people choose to go without even if they could technically afford it. And as someone who for a long time didn't have health insurance, I know just how that mentality can work. When going to the hospital is viewed as a luxury, there are a lot of things in your younger years to get used to simply waiting out at home, like bad colds or flus or even physical injuries, whereas others might run to the ER more rapidly because they know it won't bankrupt them.

According to a 2020 study by Bankrate, 22% of Americans put off or altogether avoid going to the doctor to avoid the cost, with millennials outpacing boomers in this trend. And these trends can also impact others' perception. A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that poorer people are perceived by others as having higher pain tolerance, even if they don't necessarily have higher pain tolerance, which may be reinforced by the fact that lower income folks on average tend to eschew seeking medical treatment for things higher income folks would.

It's like it's not because it didn't hurt when they cut their hand, they just can't afford stitches right now. If any of these things sounded familiar to you, it's important to remember that A, it's not your fault for having some of these ingrained habits and beliefs, and B, just because you have them now doesn't mean you're condemned to have them forever. But it is extremely important to confront and unpack our habits and emotions around money the way we would any other element of our mental health.

We focus so much on things like our relationships, our friendships, our careers, and analyze every little bit of detail of what happens, let's say, on social media. And yet tend to treat money and the relationships we have to everything it represents as either secondary or totally taboo to even address. But if you grew up lower income, even if you are now more financially comfortable, it is likely that some of that is still lingering with you, and possibly keeping you from living the full, fruitful, and unencumbered financial life that you deserve to live.

As always, guys, thank you for watching, and don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for new and awesome videos. Goodbye.