Poverty Has Reaching Effects, So What Are You Wasting For?
By Neale Godfrey
This phrase that serves as the title of this article was coined at the Merit360 2016 conference being held in Pennsylvania, as of the date of this post. Millennials, totaling 360 from 85 countries, have been brought together by an organization called World Merit to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
This international group of Millennials is developing their own strategies to solve some of the world’s greatest issues. They will then present their action plans to the United Nations on Friday, September 9, 2016. I’m pleased that the UN is reaching out to the next generation for some inclusive solutions. Let’s face it; our Baby Boomer generation has created most of the world’s waste.
“Waste” includes the obvious culprits, pollution and trash, but it also comes in the form of money and human capital. We are leaving these young people to clean up our “hot mess,” literally. The most significant part of Merit360 is that it is not just an intellectual exercise; these young leaders will implement their action plans in their communities around the world when they return home.
Why am I, a generational family financial expert, writing about how Millennials are going to take on the challenge to improve the world? There are several reasons. First of all, poverty costs the world, and all of us individually, a great deal in real monetary terms. Secondly, the social impacts are staggering. Max Roser, in his report on World Poverty, states that The World Bank defines absolute poverty as living on less than $1.90 a day. The data shows that approximately 1 billion people live in poverty in the world. This is not okay.
I am on the Advisory Board of World Merit and was honored to be a judge at this conference, listening to these Merit360 participants present some of their plans to eradicate poverty and create a sustainable and healthy world.
We have poverty in the U.S. and it is real, but the criteria for classification are different than other countries around the world. The U.S. Census Bureau has compiled data and our poverty line is defined as annual income below $11,892 for an individual and $23,836 for a family.
We have over 14% living in poverty, which equates to about 45 million people. More than 1 in 5 children in the U.S. are living below this poverty line. We also need to note the income disparity, with the top 1% of the U.S. population owning 43% of the nation’s wealth.
Economic inequality is one of our countries most pressing issues. A report written by Richard J. Coley of Educational Testing Service and Bruce Baker of Rutgers University, entitled
Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward, indicates that, “Researchers have estimated that the costs associated with child poverty [in the U.S.] total about $500 billion per year, or 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”
Poverty is a vicious cycle. It costs everyone. The poor can’t afford healthcare, and will receive it for free. If they have trouble finding work, they are likely taking advantage of welfare programs and their kids will receive free schooling. In many cases, desperation will lead to crime; incarceration carries large costs. Higher education and higher paying opportunities are often not available in poor communities, which reduces the potential taxes these citizens could pay. The taxpayers pick up the burden.
The Big Culprit
The U.S. has a lot to think about. According to a Washington State University study, the United States “constitute[s] 5% of the world’s population, but consume 24% of the world’s energy.”
▪ Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day – that’s roughly 200 billion more than needed – enough to feed 80 million people.
▪ Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily.
▪ The U.S. has more shopping malls than high schools.
▪ The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75.
▪ Average individual consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world’s population lives on 25 gallons.
Poverty Is Sexist
▪ Of the 32.2 million of children that go uneducated in the world, over 50% are girls, according to
▪ 63% or 479 million of the world’s adult illiterate population are women.
▪ “Ever since the United States started measuring poverty, women have been more likely to be poor than men,” according to org. “Women and children account for over 70 percent of the nations poor.”
▪ More than half of all children in the US that live below the poverty line live in families headed by women.
▪ Worldwide, women make up the majority of the approximately 2 billion unbanked individuals.
Millennials Are Up For The Task
I was frankly skeptical when Chris Arnold, entrepreneur, co-founder and visionary behind World Merit (WM) told me last year that he was amassing a global cohort of 360 diverse Millennials and challenging them to find practical, sustainable “fixes” for the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I think my exact words were, “Are you kidding?” Chris never flinched. “It’s just what we do. At WM we build confidence, raise aspirations and provide opportunity to young people from every single country.”
In fact, Chris never flinches. This conference is merely one dynamic step along the World Merit path that Chris has created. He launched WM in 2012 “…as a platform to create an online and offline community of talented young people internationally.” Today, WM connects almost 250,000 young people and challenges them with exactly what the 17 SDG are presenting to the world.
As way of background, last year UN members “… adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda.” Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. The goals focus on such things as; No Poverty, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Responsible Consumption, Decent Work And Economic Growth, and Life Below Water and On Land.
Show Me The Money To Fix All That Needs To Be Fixed
Everyone gets overwhelmed with how we are going to pay for this. One good place to start is to look at global corruption. Without being a conspiracy theorist, it’s easy to understand the estimates that over $1 trillion each year that should be going to the poor, but never make it. All countries are guilty of this. If you have ever done business here or in a foreign country or travelled overseas with your eyes opened, there is blatant corruption, whether it comes in the form of buying up natural resources, using anonymous shell companies, “rescuing” money that never makes it to the needy, illegal tax evasion, and money laundering. This is not what my article is about. Don’t get caught in the numbers; it’s a lot. A trillion one dollar bills stacked on top of each other would be 63 miles high. Got it?
My son, Rhett and I witnessed this on a small scale in Nepal. During a trip prior to the devastating earthquake, we befriended a man and his family in Kathmandu. The earthquake struck later and killed 9,000 people. Our friend’s home and his business was destroyed. According to Reuters, over $4 billion was sent in relief funding from public and private global donors. If you do simple math, and include every person in Kathmandu, each of the 975,453 people should have each received over $4,200. Our friend has a family of six. That would mean receiving $25,000. And remember, not everyone was affected. He and his family received a total of $200. Yes, the question is, “Where did the money go?”
We All Need To Listen
The young people I got to work with at Merit360 were bright, engaged and frankly incredibly adept at looking at the problems and finding solutions. The goal was not for them to be totally disruptive, but to be collaborative, swift and come up with simple solutions. Social Media affords them this landscape. It is part of their DNA. Connection and instant information will have the power to unleash solutions and allow the agility to instantly adjust to change. If the solutions don’t work, they can shift, reboot and try again. Failures come from trying the same old things and coming up with the same old solutions… In fact, isn’t that the definition of insanity?
In a few hours, I watched these young people start to work together on solutions. For instance, the title of this article is a slogan for a new sustainable awareness and action initiative that Merit360 Millennials have already begun. I’m not sure of the name, but the tag line is, “What Are You Wasting For?” Isn’t that the real question? What are we wasting for?
These Merit360 youth have a voice, and as Chris put it, “All we need to do is listen.” It is not enough to just let these issues keep us up at night. We need to applaud these young people for doing something about these problems while they are awake. Nelson Mandela put it best, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
Neale Godfrey is the financial voice for Baby Boomers, Millennials, and their offspring. She is a New York Times #1 Best Selling Author of 27 books all empowering families (and their kids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfry make money lessons fun, interesting and a family affair. She also speaks the new language of kids: mobile video gaming. Godfrey has released 3 free iOS money games, two hitting #1 in Educational Gaming. The latest is, GreenStreets: Heifer International. She has been in the financial world for over 40 years, beginning her career as one of the first female executives in banking at Chase. She then went on to create the topic of “kids & money” while serving as president of The First Women’s Bank.