Growing up low income

Growing Up in a Low-Income Family: An Interview with Genesis Hinckley

I recently had the opportunity to interview Genesis Hinkley from Genuinely Genesis about growing up in a low-income family as a Latina and changing financial narratives for ourselves and our family. I also grew up low income, and I am also a Latina.

So this was a really meaningful conversation for me. And I think also a conversation that is largely missing from the financial world in general.

How growing up low income affected my finances

Almost 40 million Americans are currently living in poverty and about “70% of Americans admit to being stressed about their personal finances these days and a majority — 52% — of U.S. adults said their financial stress has increased since before the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020.”

Low-income, or middle-income people are the vast majority of people in the United States. And it’s my belief that we need to create more content that addresses the financial realities and concerns of this segment of people.

Yes, it’s always interesting. It’s always fun to look at high-income people and dissect how they got there and what they’re doing with their money.

But it’s also really important that we meet people where they are and for most of the people living in the United States, where they are right now is in this middle to low income range.

Very few people in the United States are high earners. And yet so much of our financial media is slated towards these high earners and the options that they have.

So this conversation that I had with Genesis, it’s really for the people who are trying to navigate the world they are currently in while also perhaps trying to change financial classes.

We have a lot of people who come to the financial education space from high-income backgrounds, and we have very few people who come to this space from low-income backgrounds like Genesis and myself.

So I think this conversation will be really impactful for people. I know it was for me.

Our Low-Income Backgrounds

Kara: I’m so jazzed to have you here because I found you I don’t even know the TikTok algorithm was like you should know this girl. And once I started watching your content as like, yeah, I should know this girl.

So tell me tell us, what is your history? Like? What was your childhood relationship with money? Like, you know, what was your family’s financial standing growing up? And like, what was your, what is your, low-income background?

Genesis: Thank you for the thoughtful question. For context, my parents, they divorced when I was young. And so as a result, my mom had to take care of three kids entirely on her own.

She emigrated from Bolivia, leaving us with honestly, her having to take on a lot of different jobs, primarily for the flexibility and because she never really had the opportunity to seek further education.

And so when I think back on my childhood, I think of us moving a lot, primarily because we couldn’t find a location where we felt safe enough to say, and or we would go into like government housing or not, or my older brother would struggle.

[He] was struggling with my parent’s divorce, so he would kind of get us in trouble.

Lack of stability

And so it was a lot of it was a lot of lack of stability. There was no stability in our home. It just wasn’t a thing. And so I became very used to concealing the fact that we lived in the basement of someone’s house, or concealing the fact that I couldn’t afford to get anything at the Scholastic Book Fair.

I was used to concealing the fact that we just kept moving from place to place and it wasn’t for something cool. Like your your parents our work for the government or our diplomats, or whatever it is. That was significantly cooler than “Hey, we’re just broke.”

Kara: Yeah, oh my gosh, so much of that resonates with me. My parents are also divorced. And when I was really young, and I have two siblings… And I would say my older sibling really struggled with the divorce and then also just like testing boundaries their whole life.

Really still testing boundaries in some ways? And where are you in the childhood order?

On being the middle child

Genesis: I’m in the middle.

Kara: Oh, me too. Many similarities here… They say a lot of things about middle kids. But I feel like as the middle kid, I was very like, peace-seeking, you know? And I was very like,

Okay, well, I’m going to be good in school, and I’m going to be kind of the calm in the storm. Did you ever feel like you had to have that role?

Genesis: I think I tried to. But frankly, I, because I didn’t have my dad in my life. I’ve realized now as an adult that I really wanted that attention from like a father figure.

And I wasn’t going to get it from my brothers, and I wasn’t going to get it from my mom. So even though school truly became my escape, something that I could control in my life, I still felt that I was always kind of the bad guy.

Honestly, in like, [my] family and not to the fault of my mom, not to the fault of my siblings. It’s just kind of what the story like the narrative I wrote. When I was growing up, and so I’d say, Yeah, I was peace-seeking, but I wasn’t very good at it.

Kara: Yeah, well… you had a lot going on, and like, what is peace? Even, a lot of people I feel like are [still] seeking it. And very few of us are finding it… I think, you know, these experiences that we’ve had… all of that comes out today in our content. Right?

So tell me a little bit about when you decided to start talking about money on the internet? Because it’s like, out of all the things that you could talk about, why did you want to start talking about money?

My low income financial background and how it affected my outlook on life

Being low-income affected how I saw the world

Genesis: Early on in my my seeking of identity, I found that growing up low income was a huge part of how I saw myself and how I felt in the world.

And as I matured, primarily through college, I found myself often talking about or finding ways to bring up the fact that I grew up low-income, because it really changes the way that you see the world.

Oh, wow. Like you have houses in multiple locations and my family to zero. And so just kind of interactions that I had in college, that made me realize, wow.

I realized that I was different, but I really am different. And there was so much shame associated with me growing up low income when I was low income, that I didn’t feel like I could be myself with people.

I didn’t really get close to people because no, I’m not inviting you over to like my basement, my basement of a home. And so just a lot of shame associated with it, a lot of embarrassment.

Being low-income doesn’t define me

And, and as I matured, I was like, Oh my gosh, why am I feeling this way? It’s something completely out of my control. And it does not define who I am, what I’m capable of.

It’s completely just more so my starting line. [It] doesn’t define where I’m going to finish. And that’s when I started realizing this is what I want to talk about.

And money is truly just like a journey. Just [like mental health]… there’s shame associated with not being okay, mentally. But then people feel more comfortable talking about it when they’ve overcome depression.

For me, it’s no, we can talk about the entire process. And there’s no shame around it because it’s a process.

We’re all dealing with it. And so I think about if tomorrow I suddenly become low-income again, I will talk about it because it’s normal, and it’s part of financial progression, the financial journey.

Kara: Yes, I completely agree. So many things that you just said resonated so much with me my little extrovert brain.. But yeah, I completely agree.

I feel like I like to talk about my low-income background, mostly because I do feel like in the financial sphere that we occupy. There’s not a lot of people who have experience with low income with or without right poverty, which I’ve never experienced.

It’s a lot of people who are like, I left my well-paying corporate job to become a financial creator or to start my own business or whatever it is. Or, I got, my partner [who] supports me, or my parents supported me or something like that.

And that has just like, never been the case. I mean, I am partnered, I’ve been my partner nine and a half years, T-bone, but this man cannot, if I stopped making money tomorrow, he could not pay his rent by himself.

Privilege is layered

Genesis: Like he’s low-income?

Kara: No, no, he comes from a very financially stable background. So it’s interesting. But like, you know, there’s layers of privilege to the world that we occupy that I feel that you and I don’t have familiarity with.

And so I want… my audience to know… you don’t have to have worked on Wall Street to understand how to invest. You don’t have to have family money to understand how a high-yield savings account can work for you, or how to buy your first property, or whatever it is.

So I like to talk about it to kind of make space. That’s how I see it.

Genesis: Yeah. Oh, yeah… you just all you see are barriers to entry. That’s all you see. And that’s very normal. Like as humans, we tend to look at the world with a negative lens, because that’s what will protect you avoiding negativity.

And so in reality, everything that I know, I’ve truly learned from podcasts, books, from having conversations about money with other people, from honestly, just doing it myself.

And so I completely agree where we have this perspective of, “Hey, you really don’t need to be born into privilege to like, be in a financially stable situation.”

Becoming a higher earner won’t happen overnight

Kara: Yes, yes. 100%. And, like you said, I mean, it can be a journey. It’s not just like, oh, I don’t want to be broke anymore. I’m no longer broke. But it is possible. And I think that that’s really important to share the journey.

So what is something or many things? And probably the answer to this question is many things. But what do you think that our fellow financial content creators, or like the bigger picture financial media, I’m talking about, like MarketWatch, and CNBC, like these big outlets?

What do you think they get wrong about low-income folks?

And to an extent, you know, first gen folks like you and I, you know, like, something that really bothers me are those videos on those articles that are like, what rich people do versus what poor people do.

And it’s like, rich people buy assets, poor people buy video games, and I’m like, Oh, my God, you’re missing a lot of context here. What are some things that you would like to change around the discussion of low-income folks?

Genesis: Man, it’s so easy to like pass blame, and point the finger and say you’re low income because of your choice, essentially.

And what’s interesting when you ask that, I reflect back on when I first started creating content, and I was trying to understand what could reach low-income communities, and there were times where honestly… I didn’t know how to reach low-income communities.

Why? Because I’m not low income anymore. And there is like, no matter how hard I tried to think back, it won’t be the same as if I was low income.

Financial Shame

So I do want to acknowledge that and, and it’s interesting, because the other day, I was thinking, Okay, how could I really, really tune into, like thinking like I used to, and being in that situation of like, feeling shame.

I thought, oh, my gosh, what if like, we decided to be like low income, like, essentially behave as if we were low income for like six months.

And then I went through this process of like, I would I do not want to do that ever again. So I think definitely not passing blame because I think that a lot of the time, the reason there’s so much. Oh my gosh, it is so complicated: why people are low income.

It’s so complicated. And so truly, it’s a lack of resources, and a lack of opportunity, I think. And that’s just putting it like as simple as you possibly could. Because again, it is very complex.

As a creator, I want to meet you where you are at

And so, I think, a lot of like these financial content creators, they want to see you grow, but they also don’t want to meet you where you’re at. And meeting you where you’re at, is where I want to be.

I want to see you and be like, where you are is okay, what are your goals? Let’s get you there. Simple as that.

Kara: I love… how you phrased that. I agree. I just saw something totally unhinged on TikTok. It’s these two dudes talking to each other. One of them’s like, it’s amazing how many people think 20k months is a lot.

And I just like bro, but like median income in the United States right now is like less than $75,000. And that’s for a household, like a household. A lot of people don’t know this, but it’s anyone over the age of 15, who is working.

So a household income could include two working parents and also a working 16-year-old. So for that to be 75 grand, it really speaks volumes.

But yeah, meeting people where they’re at, not where you want them to be, not where it would be helpful if they were… at. That’s such a good starting point, I think.

And it’s a very compassionate starting point. And I often think that we could use more compassionate and personal finance. Oh, I’m glad you’re creating content.

Lifestyle Creep

Genesis: You know, what you just remind me of, is you said $20,000 is a lot in a month. And right now, I thought… I was just talking to my husband.

And we’re like, “Dude, we’ve been spending money, like, it’s our job, like, we’ve just been going at it.” And we’re like, “Okay, we need to slow down. Like… let’s not get too crazy… because we have these fluctuations, where we’re like, wow, we’re making so much money.

We start buying plane tickets, and this and that, and whatever you want, and be like, like, truly just kind of gets insane. And then suddenly, I’m like, No, we can only have buy two apples, one onion, like, I just feel like there are extremes that I feel.

Truly, I think it’s because of my low-income background, where I’m like, you know, what, we used to spend like nothing. So if I could spend nothing when we were growing up, then why can’t we spend nothing now?

It’s about balance

And I truly feel that it’s about finding a balance to, yes, treat yourself but also living within your means. And right now, we’re elite, we’re living too much within our means, essentially, like, what is it?

What is that term? When you when you essentially a lifestyle created lifestyle? We’re like, oh, wow, like, we can spend this money and this money, and you just have this desire to spend everything that you have.

So instead, I’m like, you know, what, we got to find another property and invest that in because otherwise, we’re just gonna go over here and, and get too crazy.

I really want to be more mindful about how we spend our money. Typically I am, but recently, we’ve been kind of crazy. And so I can understand why someone would say, “Oh, $20,000 isn’t that much.”

I mean, first off, it depends on who you are. But I like I get just understand, and that really is the you start to you just adjust in your mind. It’s lifestyle creep, you’re like $20,000, like, “Oh, I could make that with one video,” and then kind of think about it that way.

So I understand. I don’t like blame these people for saying these things. It’s just the lack of self-awareness and awareness of like, just having compassion for everyone else in the world. That does not make money like they do.

Kara: Yeah, I agree. I mean, like, you can get used to anything. I mean, when I was in my 20s, and really low income, and I was working to pay off my student loans I lived off of like, 10 grand a year, and I got used to that, you know.

And so I can see on the flip side, like yeah, having a 20k month can become normal, but it is a very out-of-touch thing to say, especially right now. Everything is really expensive. Like I just couldn’t believe this man said it with a straight face.

When will it be “enough?”

But yeah, I completely agree with what you’re saying about fluctuating between I find myself doing the same thing now that I have more disposable income and and now that I have a certain amount invested, that makes me feel secure in some ways, and it also feeds my insecurity like it’s never quite enough.

Oh, I have to hit this milestone, need to hit the next milestone. They needed the next milestone faster.

And so I can also see how… [this podcast guest said] he was worth $5 million. The podcast host was like, and is that enough money? And he’s like, No.

Now I used to think $5 million, it was enough. But now I really don’t see how I can live without $10 million. Like, I need to hit $10. And actually, that was very self-aware of him because he said, you know, and once I hit 10 million, I’ll probably want to start aiming for 20.

Like, I don’t know if it’ll ever be enough. And I was like, Okay, well, at least you’re aware that you’re kind of in this cycle. And at the same time, I know that’s not a cycle I want to get caught up in.

I want to know what is enough for myself, and I want to be content there. Like, I don’t want to be on this endless rat race or like a treadmill of, I need to earn more so that I can spend more. So that I can… try and fill this void. I want to be able to fill it and be like it is full, I am full.

Growing up low income: how I changed my situation

How we intentionally fight against lifestyle creep

Genesis: Yes, yes. See, there are things that I do intentionally, to not let lifestyle creep up on me, you know, and one of the things that I do intentionally is one: I ride the bus. I don’t need a second car. I could buy a car, but I don’t need it.

Like I literally I will find a way to honestly experience inconvenience, to hold on to my humility, and hold on to awareness of how other people live.

Because I believe that that’s if you don’t, if you experience too much convenience in your life, that’s when you start to lose your humility and grace. And so that’s one thing that I do.

Another thing that I do is in our house is a 1950s house. It is in a great location. But sometimes I’ll go over to another friend’s house and they have like these… beautiful brand new homes that cost upwards of $600 to $700,000.

And mine cost $430. And so when I reflect that I can easily be like, you know what, Seth? We’re, I’m ready for another house, let’s find something bigger, something more like glamorous?

And could we afford it? Yes. But that would just deviate from really what means a lot to me, because that is the functionality of a home. I want it to be small.

Why? Because the bigger it is, the more you fill it up. And the more time that you will need to take care of it. Like it’s just more problems in my head.

And so that’s something that I’m doing intentionally like, I want things to break in my house. I want things to… think in a way that’s more creative.

Of oh, like, how can I make this area that has kind of some character into something a little bit more beautiful? And maybe that’s a weird way to think about things.

But I really want to be that like filthy rich person that you have no idea that she’s filthy rich. That is really like my goal in my life.

Because you know what? I was talking to my career coach the other day through my employer. And we were, he was really trying to figure out what it is that I’m searching [for.] Like, why… do I create content?

Why am I like seeing a career coach? Why am I writing a book? Why am I doing all of these things? And by the end of it, we came to the conclusion that the reason why I do everything is because of peace.

I am searching for peace. And is a bigger house going to grant me peace? Not the peace that I’m looking for. And so those are just very small things that I do to try to kind of keep me where I want to be primarily level-headed, especially when it comes to money.

Kara: Yes, I can really relate, I do the same thing. And it’s a discussion that I have with my partner all the time. Like we have one car, like you were saying, you’re one car household, and he biked to work.

Our car is a little bit older. And he was like, I’m getting a little embarrassed of our car. And I was like, I’m so fucking proud of our car because we don’t have a car payment. You know, this car is paid off. I will drive this car to the ground.

[He said] I don’t know… the paint, it looks a little weird over here. Like it’s kind of old and I was like, who cares? It’s like that’s not the status I’m chasing.

The status I am chasing is enoughness, peace, and ultimately free time. Like I’m very interested in early retirement and not needing to work and having the ability to sleep in. I love to sleep.

Oh my god, I love sleeping. If I want to sleep until 10 on a Tuesday like that is true luxury to me. Oh, not having a Lambo as art. Whatever.

Genesis: Yeah, it depends on what you’re chasing… I know someone who drives a Porsche. It’s like, okay, like, I like, ask yourself why? Why do you need that?

And, you know, what if you are at peace with your answer to that completely okay. But when I start to be like, Oh, I should have gotten a Tesla because, like,

Okay, well, why, even though it’d be actually inconvenient because… [I’d have to] search for chargers? Like, why are you chasing that? And when? The answer is for other people, for external validation.

And that is when you’re doing it wrong, because that tells you that should tell you like red flag, you need to find more security within yourself and not seek security among the world.

Kara: Yes. Because truly like to quote, I believe, 2011, Drake, “YOLO.” It’s the motto but like, I often think, do I want to get to the end of my life and be like, Wow, I’m so glad I, I lived for other people’s expectations of me. Really? No, I don’t, that’s not what I’m going for.

It’s interesting, because you’re a parent, I’m not a parent. And so you have a tiny human that you are raising and like lessons that you are imparting to them.

A lot of things that we’ve talked about here today are definitely things that I would imagine, you would want your child to, like, maybe not right now.

But in the process of raising your kid… you want to talk about things like privilege, and you want to talk about things like enough and, and goal setting and hard work and community building and stuff.

So how are you approaching money for your child and children, maybe no pressure?

Focusing on Gratitude, Not Shame

Genesis: You know, what’s interesting is all throughout growing up, and I feel like most parents do this, it might be even more so within the Latino community is like parents reminding you like, “Oh, I was a kid, like, I didn’t even have a backpack.

I went to school with like a plastic bag…” [It’s] almost shaming you into feeling grateful for what you have. And that’s probably not where I want to, like the direction that I want to go in personally, more.

So I want to really focus on gratitude. And sharing is something that I’m really trying to, like, freakin ingrain in his brain.

So an example is, recently he and I were at church, and they gave him fruit snacks or something like that. I asked him in the car, I was like, “Oh, come on, let me have one.”

And he said, “No.” I was like, “Okay, I respect that.” Then later on, I was eating some chocolate, and he asked me if he could have some. I said, “No, this is mom’s chocolate.”

Showing children choices

So essentially showing him, hey, like if you said no earlier, and that’s a choice. That’s okay, I can respect that.

And so because I respected that for you, then you then like you are to respect that for me. Maybe you could think oh, well, you should have given the example to like, share with him.

Of course, I do that, but it’s more so to show him that it feels good to share. It feels good, good to enjoy something with someone else. And to show him the difference between the two.

And so recently, I was, oh my gosh, this was just the cutest freaking thing. But recently, I was going on a walk with a friend and I had snacks in my bag as a mom always does.

And he I offered him a tiny little piece of chocolate. It was like a pre-packaged little piece of chocolate. And it wasn’t really breakable. It was just like one bite of chocolate.

And I handed it to him. He immediately grabbed a chocolate and split it into two gave my friend one and then split, tried to split, the one piece with me.

Mind you he is only like three and a half years old, almost four. And he did that entirely on his own. He did not like I did not have to tell him to and he did that.

And so what I really am just trying to show him is that there are things that we’re gonna want that some people have, and we will want them to share with us. And so we want to behave as if we are the other person and essentially make us both happy.

All of us happy everyone happy by sharing. And that in and of itself is gratitude for what you have because you see its worth and its impact on other people.

More of an auditory learner? Check out our podcast-style interview on YouTube.

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