January is Financial Wellness Month. In honor of this special emphasis, I wanted to share some thoughts this week on avoiding poverty. Poverty can be a touchy subject, but I think it’s important to talk about the ways we can avoid it, just like any other pitfall we may encounter in life. Please pass this message on to the young people in your life. It’s one of the most important nuggets of life wisdom they’ll ever receive.
I believe every child is a masterpiece in the making. Sure, there will be some blemishes, but each of them is unique, priceless, and filled with potential. With a strong support system, excellent guidance and education, and an appreciation of their worth, value, and opportunities, they’re well positioned to fulfill their dreams. The fact is, life success also requires living strategically and avoiding choices that can derail futures. Foremost in this is avoiding poverty.
William Galston, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, columnist, and former Clinton Advisor, did a hefty amount of research on the subject of poverty. Thanks to him, we are better aware of some of the chief causes of poverty. His important conclusions, based on his research findings, are surprisingly simple. Dr. Galston asserts you need to do three main things if you live in the United States to avoid poverty:
Finish high school, marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20!
Here’s the real kicker: only 8 percent of families who do all three are poor; however, 79 percent of those who fail to do all three are poor.
These statistics are compelling and make perfect sense. Students who fail to finish high school will not have access to many well-paying careers and will not be perceived as well by employers. Those who have children before marriage (many teens and young adults) will find it that much more difficult to enter college or complete their degree due to the immense responsibility and financial demands of raising a child. Finally, those who marry before age 20 tend to have higher divorce rates and greater career and life challenges. The common thread of all three poverty causes is reduced access to attractive careers due to lack of education or life circumstances.
Words cannot express how much better our lives, the lives of our children, and our culture would be if more people simply heeded Professor Galston’s advice. These three choices won’t guarantee success, but they will help avoid some of life’s biggest derailers.
Are you surprised by the wisdom and logic of these research conclusions to avoid poverty? What are your thoughts on them? Are you as parents, teachers, and mentors sending this message to the children you guide?