Thursday, October 21, 2004


Most people do not know how to be successfully poor. If you are a failure at being poor, you are miserable. You moan and groan and constantly wish for more money. . You rail against fate and beat your breast and lament your bitter circumstances.

The truth is, to be successfully poor, you must act rich. Remember, rich people usually always act as though they are poor. They are frequently downright niggardly, buying vegetables that are bruised, and picking up clothing at second-hand sales. Actually, this is how they got rich in the first place. If you had always acted poor, you would probably be rich, too, but that's a different story. Chances are, you were squandering your pitiful supply of money while the millionaire was turning off the unused lights in his house and turning the temperature down two or threedegrees.

So, the first rule is, you must walk around pretending you are rich. Hang onto each penny as though spending it is a matter of life or death. And learn to be a good actor. Don't call your pathetic dinner "Hamburger and Noodles". Give it a French name. Oeuffs de la Creme. Anything. Hardly anyone besides John Kerry speaks French any more, so be creative.

Now, gain a reputation as a grunge. Sure, you're stuck with your ragged clothing, but act as though you selected them purposely. Toss a scarf around your neck. Slap on a hat. Look and act eccentric. Millionaires are almost always eccentric. Only the non-privileged look normal and conform to certain fashion standards, so you must haunt those Garage Sales. They will help you become successfully poor.

As for your home, just declare that everything is antique. You know and I know that many antiques look just like someone's household discards, so pour it on. Call the ragged couch a remnant from Aunt Fanny's Victorian Era which she bequeathed to you when she died on the Riviera in a boating accident while enmeshed in an affair with Ernest Hemingway. You can toss in a few Hemingway stories. Call him "Papa" and talk about the fishing trip you and he enjoyed off the coast of Cuba. Tell similar stories about other possessions, up to and including the old toaster that you just know would "bring a couple of million at an antique auction, but I hang on to it for sentimental reasons".

Your car is your biggest problem. Millionaires, while niggardly about electricity and room temperatures, usually drive large, expensive cars. So, to be successfully poor, you must select just the right, broken down, battered, used vehicle. Buy an old Cadillac and claim it is a relic from your younger years that you just can't part with. "Daddy gave it to me, the old dear, when I first went to Yale. Oh, the frat boys and I had really memorable times in that car. I'd cut off my arm before I would sell it!"

Now we have to talk about jobs. Never admit to any potential employer that you are poor. Most employers only hire successful people. In fact, they prefer to hire employed people. It gives them a thrill to think they are hiring someone away from another employer. So, not only must you pretend you are wealthy, but you must be gainfully employed. Perhaps you can invent the name of a law firm. "I'm a clerk at Piddley, Piddley, Pointer and Piddley, but the case load is just too much for me."...or something along those lines. Be creative. Give them the telephone number of a friend who will of course answer the phone in stentorian tones..."Piddley, Piddley, Pointer and Piddley, may I ask whose calling please? Mr. Piddley. He's out of town today with the secretary. This is Mr. Pointer. Yes, yes, he works for me. Excellent man. Good worker. Steady. Couldn't make it without him."...

Now that we've gotten you a job, you have qualified for being successfully poor. However, if you have a job, you may not be poor too much longer. So, now, we have to go into the problems of climbing from the depths of utter poverty to the frantic Middle Class. Under no circumstances can you use the tactics of being successfully poor to enter the magic portals of Middle Classdom. This requires a completely different outlook on life and can be pursued in my lecture, How to Be Miserably Average.