Money Struggles & Living Simply

Last month writer Tim Denning posted a cool article giving us an inside perspective from actor Keanu Reeves on money.

For context you can read the article here, but as a brief summary, The John Wick star and overall smooth and cool actor says that he “lives simply”. He stays away from social media and a-list parties, and he doesn’t focus on money. He in fact gives most of it away (if someone could get Keanu my CashApp information that would be most amazing).

The article was by all means an interesting read, but also one I didn’t totally align with it. I made the following comment after I completed the read:

While this is beautifully stated, it’s a bit abstract.

The average working American is forced to think about money on a daily basis in a stressful manner because most of us don’t make enough of it to bring ends together, and will never even see the kind of money Keanu Reeves has made. It’s easy not to worry about money and “live simply” when you’re worth a few hundred million or so dollars.

I get focusing on your work/craft and the money will come, but that’s just not a reality for a lot of people who are doing all they can and still aren’t able to financially bring things together..

This one comment has received more claps than any one of my stories. Over a month later, I am still receiving claps and messages from people who relate to my comment (it would be great if Medium paid at least a nominal fee for comment applause).

My comment was not to slight Tim or his article. It was a great read. It just presented a scenario that’s easier said than done.

This is also not an attack on the rich. It is great that Keanu has taken full advantage of the opportunity to do what he loves, and he is paid handsomely for it. It’s wonderful for him, and he has the right to live how ever he wants, and do what ever he wants with his money.

The difference though is that with money, he also has the access to “live simply”. For some of the rest of us though, that’s a stretch.

Discussing money is tough because everyone has such a different relationship with it. Those who have amassed financial wealth or who at least earn enough to do more than just get by are sometimes either oblivious or overly critical of those that struggle with money. Sometimes those that are doing everything they can and still struggle lash out at those that have attained comfortable financial means. The growing wealth gap in this country speaks to this imbalance as a small number of rich people get further and further away from the rest of us financially ans they get richer and richer.

The response to my comment tells me that a lot of us are detached from Keanu Reeves and his theory of “living simply” because our issues with money are no where near simple.

The average working American is living paycheck to paycheck and is only about one of those checks away from homelessness. Saving money for rainy days and to enjoy life is a daunting feat for so many people because the rainy days keep coming.

I recently had to purchase a car because the one I had prior was on it’s last wheel. It was still running but among the various repairs it needed, both of the catalytic converters were shot (don’t ask who designed a car that needed two catalytic converters), and replacing them new (because you can’t replace them used in Georgia) sang the tune of $1500 or more. I don’t have that kind of money just sitting around, and a lot of people don’t. So I bit the bullet and dove into a car note, which was not at all what I wanted because my previous car was paid off.

I then had to spend $100 dollars on an alignment and $300 on two tires shortly after the purchase. It was a hard hit but the alignment clearly wasnt checked by the dealer, and by the time I realized it, my front tires were no longer safe. The moving and shuffling to pull $400 together was not easy, and I had to delay other payments and make other arrangements to get the funds.

So many of us cut back and sacrifice. I don’t get to travel often, I rarely shop, and so many other things are limited for me.

This is not for lack of effort. I’ve also done the second job. I drove for Uber for three years, and while that was helpful, it was also extremely tiring. I would have to drive a full eight plus hours, three to four times a week to make it worth while, and even that resulted in increased maintenance costs for my car and increased spending for gas. With Uber’s pay structure at the time I was lucky when I actually made a profit.

To top all of this off, when you drive for Uber, you’re a 1099 employee, meaning taxes are not taken out of your income, so I now owe the government for trying to make extra money. Money I am still figuring out how to pay back.

Meanwhile, one of the most profitable companies in the world, Amazon, has managed to skirt federal taxes. So the government is after me for tax money, yet a multi-billion corporation that can more than afford to pay taxes has found a way to just skip it with what so far seems to be no ramifications.

What was that again about living simply?

Personal financial messes aside, while I’m thrilled for Keanu Reeves, his “live simply” theory is not practical for many of us.

We’re one of a very small number of countries in the world where people spend their working life paying off college debt, or where people go bankrupt from medical bills.

And OK. Just then I may have lashed out at the rich with my comments on Amazon, but in this instance, the unfairness is searing, especially when the rest of us feel like we have a world of debt on our shoulders.

While I’m not pushing for a socialist system, what I do believe is that financial unfairness in this country is unreal. I don’t necessarily want the rich or the government to take care of me, but both could be more of a help in offsetting costs. Some things like college and medical care should not be nearly as expensive as they are, and the rich should be subject to the same rules I am instead of being constantly given tax breaks and loopholes to escape financial responsibility.

For those that took the time to clap for my comment and message me, I just wanted to tell you that I hear you, and I totally relate. I know how it feels to do all you can and that still not be enough. I hope that something works out in your favor, and that you are able to find some kind of relief.

It’s tough out here for a lot of us, but instead of “living simply” we have to “simply keep working”.

Writer of life, Actor, Host/Comedian, and Spoken Word Artist. The last great Atlanta native.

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