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V.I.P Member

I hope this isn't an obnoxious or lazy question.

I was hoping people could tell me a little bit about what sorts of financial assistances exist in the US, or California, specifically. I currently live with my parents so it's not relevant at this point, but I'm starting to think that I will never make enough money to live on my own. What do people do who don't make enough money?

I understand that disability is common. I was denied that. I realize that one could always apply again, but I don't imagine that as particularly helpful anyway since it caps your income.

With how high rent is around here, it doesn't seem feasible to me that everyone is able to afford it long-term.
I was financially targeted for five years so l have to move back with someone l lived with. I am older, and have PTSD, trauma, and distrust in general, so l am so thankful that someone said l want to finish my life with you(me). That's to deal with renting or owning a place. It wasn't my choice to be with but woman my age don't have choices as other woman have pointed out. And my trauma and PTSD make me hesitate to attempt working.
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Just Googled this, apparently California is the most expensive state to rent in, they reckon you'd need about $65000 per annum income, to rent a one bedroom flat. I expect people share, or there may be some low cost options, we have Housing associations in the UK who offer that, also there's some benefits people claim. There may be low cost accommodation for key workers like police, medical staff etc. Also try googling Californias Section 8 housing program, which aims to offer assistance to low income renters.
I feel for you Fino. Although I was mostly earning good money at your age I also went through periods where I wasn’t mentally capable of working. Australia has one of the most generous unemployment and disability schemes in the world but it still isn’t easy.

Our system is very similar to the UK’s but it pays better. I get subsidised housing and after paying rent I get $400 a week to live on. For someone like me that’s more than plenty. I’m actually better off than many people that work for a living.

I can’t give you any solid advice because I’m not familiar enough with systems in the US but I can tell you about some of the things that will be holding you back.

Age. Social security departments don’t like giving pensions to younger people, they don’t want to encourage younger people to be life long bludgers.

Appearance. This was one of my main problems, I looked young and healthy and more than capable of working. Explaining some of my mental problems merely started arguments. People I meet in every day life often have the same attitude, some argue with me and tell me that I’m just a bludger and I should be working.

I was on unemployment benefits for 12 years before I got the pension, and even then it took a couple of applications before I succeeded. In the end I had to cheat the system a bit to get what I wanted, and that mostly only worked because I was over 55.

Waiting lists for people wanting subsidised housing are many years long but they give priority to homeless people. I lived on the streets for 3 months to get myself on the high priority list, after that I only had to wait one month for a placement.

To get on the pension I signed up with an employment agency that specialises in finding employment for people with disabilities. I told them straight up that I didn’t want to work and that I wanted to go on the pension, they looked at my diagnosis and said I shouldn’t have any trouble.

They wrote out a list of things that I had to do in order to meet the criteria and they helped me with all the different forms I had to fill out. They really knew what they were on about too because this time when I applied for the pension it went straight through without a hitch.
I've been asking myself that for quite some time now that I am older and health
is declining.

There are sliding scale housing rentals here. If you are able to live on your own.
Also, section 8 and HUD can help.
Being on disability isn't enough to make it on your own, but it does get you more
government help than being in the homeless tent city section.

You might find someone to share expenses with or rent a room from someone with a big house that has empty room and lives alone. That's what I am doing.
If you can help them in some ways also, that can bring the price down.
Driving them, cleaning, gardening, etc.

Big problem is when you get older and still don't have any money and need
assistance. Assisted living in FL is usually around $10,000 a month unless you
can stand a dump like a longtime friend had to do when he couldn't live alone
anymore. He found one for $3,500.

Last resort is to become a ward of the state and live wherever they put you.
Take this with a grain of salt:

A) Lower your expenses:

- Van Life/Box Truck life/Bus life is cheaper than renting or buying house. You need to be able to drive and some basic mechanics.
- Home Gardening is a nice hobby and lets you save on food.
-Minimalism is to focus on just the important stuff and save money currently spent in other things.
- Stoicism is a good personal philosophy to focus on what you can actually do with what you do have. Things like using less hot water to shower, eating more vegetables and similar are easier with this mindset.
- Take self care. Esting healthy, doing some sport, sleeping well is a great way to improve health, being happier and save on medicines.

B) Increase your income:

- Serve others. From giving some online class, to learn how edit YouTube videos for content creators, to clean parked cars asking for a tip, to remote work, to help the elderly, to sell crafts, even gaming to farm gold/experience for others, whatever you can do for other human beings. Do it. Today there are many ways to serve others.
- Learn. Educate yourself so you can better serve others. Reading books, watching YouTube videos, taking online courses.
- The audiobook "Lead the Field" helped me a lot to tune my mindset on this.
- The personal MBA is another great book with basic knowledge about many business related fields, how to test a product, how to advertise yourself, how to priorice work... https://personalmba.com/buy-amazon/

C) Save and invest:

- Any money you save is to be used to create an emergency savings account. Like 3 months to 1 year of your expenses. This is to no longer rely on credit.
- Pay your debs. Once you have saved for emergency, pay debs. Each deb paid increases your income.
- Invest: Once you have no debs and have your emergency savings account done, its time to put your money to work.

Best of luck.
This is absolutely not an obnoxious or lazy question. It's very reasonable and has great implications for your independence. I'm going to follow this up in a sec, but let's start with where to live.

Homeownership is much cheaper than rent. In the city I live in, we bought our home for around 120k. Properties in the neighbors run 80k - 250k, so we're mid-priced. Buying a home with HUD assistance is very doable. We were living below poverty at the time (some unforeseen circumstances had come our way) but we had no debt. So we qualified for either a HUD or an FHA loan (don't recall which) and it paid our entire downpayment for us. The only stipulation is that the home remains our primary residence and not be used as a rental and, if we sell before nine years, then we repay the downpayment. Otherwise, the loan is forgiven. And it's a beautiful home. We never thought we could afford something as nice as this home. Sometimes you can pick up a condo for less than 80k, which is great because you can fix it up and resell it, but I don't know how federal assistance works with condos.

So the first thing I would suggest is freeing yourself from any debt you might be carrying. I.e., no credit cards, except for emergencies. No car payments, no past due bills that linger for months upon months. A financial planner can help you manage your debt if you have any.

Buying a home outside of a city does two things for you. First, it lowers your property taxes, and second, it allows you to take advantage of another Federally funded home loan vehicle for rural home ownership. I don't recall the acronym, but it provides low-income, rural borrowers a very reasonable way to get into their own home.

This federally funded rural program is, sadly, not available in every state. I tried getting my mom into such a program but it wasn't offered in her state. However, she had other programs available that functioned similarly to different aspects of the said rural program that could potentially be used to fix up her property. Also, many states run their own housing loan programs. These seem to change from year to year, so you may need to do some research or talk with your bank to see what's available to you where you live.

Here are some links that you might find of interest:

All about FHA loans here.
And for the State of California, I searched for low-income housing assistance loans. Here's what I found.

Keep in mind that whether or not you are or will be on public assistance, you still have to live somewhere. Homeownership will give you more freedom to do that on your terms.
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I. Public Assistance as a Mixed Blessing
About public assistance. It's a bag of mixed blessings. My personal bias is that, if you can make it without going on public assistance, then stay off of it as long as you can. You'll feel better about yourself and there will be no one looking over your shoulder every month scrutinizing every dollar you make.

(Some explanation might help. I learned we were poor when I was a teen. Keep in mind this was many, many years ago. At that time, we were living on around $7,000 a year--almost 50% below the federal poverty amount for a family of our size at that time. So yes, I am very grateful for the assistance we received, and no, I never want to be on public assistance again.)

II. What to expect from a reporting standpoint
With that said, when you enroll in a public assistance program, they want to know how much you make and what you own. When we went to sign up for medicare last winter, they wanted to know if we had given anyway or disposed of any personal belongings within the past 5 years. We had just moved 3x's in those 5 years--of course we had disposed of redistributed belongings! But what, exactly, that was and what its dollar amount was, was just impossible to say. (We're always asking ourselves, "do you remember that [say] sweater you used to wear?" "yeah. I wonder where that went..." & then we chalk up its absence to moving.) Anyway, just to say, being aware that this process exists might spare you from surprises down the road.

We used to have to report our income from every income source every month. I don't know how it's handled these days, as my experience was all in the pre-internet and pre-copy machine era. If last month assistance program x gave us $35 too little in aide, then this month assistance program y might overage us $40, and the following month our WIC (or something like that) would drop us altogether because we overran their monthly income allowance--which would mean having to reapply. This is just a hypothetical illustration but I think the point gets across. You have to become an expert record keeper and will have to self-advocate for your rights, because no one will do it for you. This also means that you will have to know how the programs work (to some degree) so that you can continue working. It's easier to get off assistance if you're not fully dependent upon it in the first place. This knowing how the system works, however, may place you in an uncomfortable situation: social stigma.

III. What to expect from those around you
There used to be quite a stigma against people on public assistance. My mother has permanent brain damage from domestic abuse. She cannot work. (Something about passing out and collapsing to the floor while attending patients scared the bejeebers out of both the patients and her employer!) But she looks...normal. She talks normal; she seems normal. Just, don't ask her what she did yesterday; she might not remember.

Growing up, people who she thought were her friends would badger me that people like her shouldn't be on public assistance because she looked fine. I have never told her about their two-facedness. They of all people should have known the daily difficulties and continual trials she endured. I would like to think that the tenor of the public's perception of public assistance has changed quite a bit since then. But it is my opinion that while the words have changed, the meaning is the same. Today you're likely to run into the anti-entitlement crowd. The average person seems to forget that the system is there for a reason for public assistance, to help those who can't help themselves or to help those who have difficulties helping themselves. Our culture values promoting self-independence; if you need assistance to live independently, then don't let those nay-sayers keep you from doing so. You'll be better off for it, and so will society as well. Nay-sayers included.

IV. What to expect from yourself
I know this might be a curious category to include, but I think it is an important one. How you see yourself, and your identity, shouldn't be wrapped up in the value of your bank account (or lack thereof). Sadly, for many people it is. (I was just talking about this with a friend the other day & I appreciated her take on this. Maybe you will, too.) You have an intrinsic value that far outweighs the circumstance you are in or the help you might potentially receive. This is where your true identity lies, in who you are as a person. If public assistance can help you, then take advantage of it. But beware that public assistance does require a certain amount of cooperation on your part, and those continual demands can erode your sense of self and identity.

It is very difficult for someone raised in public assistance to escape its shadow. After I grew up and left home, I promised myself that I would never again accept public assistance. But when I found myself working two part-time jobs at about 60 hours a week, and had to choose between buying food or buying gas for my car so I could work, I signed up for food stamps. When the much-needed help came, I cried terribly. I had promised myself that I wouldn't become my mother and in accepting the aid, I had just let myself down. My identity was too tightly wrapped up in the perceived value of a couple of pieces of paper for me to stay with the aid. For my own sanity, I needed to get off the assistance. I did--I still have a remaining $20 in a box around here somewhere as a reminder to myself that that is not the way I wanted to live--even though it came at a high cost to my health to gain the experience necessary to be eligible for a higher paying job. (The human body was not designed to work 70-90 hrs. a week for months on end.)

V. The Bright Side of Public Assistance
I am very pleased that I now work for an organization that administers grant programs that help low-income and disabled residents. The job posting I applied to only listed the basic duties, yet the more I learn about this program, the more I feel so humbled to be a part of it. We offer a wide variety of federally funded assistance programs to our residents.

So, the first place you're going to want to look is the city in which you live. A lot of the aid will seem piecemeal. Maybe it will be help for replacing a water heater for a low-income resident, or maybe it will be daycare assistance for a specified time. Apply for what is relevant for your situation. Aid programs change every year and there may be application requirements such as (obviously) income or certain times during the year where aid may be sought. But there is a lot of aid out there.

Here are some links to assistance programs that may be able to help you get out on your own and avoid the income cap that comes with a disability award:

1. The State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) has a list of links here.
2. I'm not sure, but I think this Benefits.Gov website is also for the State of California.
3. Private entities also distribute or manage Federal grants or even have private funding that supports their activities. I'm not sure if that is or is not the case with MoneyFit.Org, but here is a resource list they offer. Here is another resource list from NeedHelpPayingBills.com. Note that this list has links to other charity organizations and medical resources as well.

These are just a few examples of what you may find on the net. If you want to realize your dream of living on your own, but are worried about how you will do that, perhaps some of these resources may help make your dream a reality. While I am not a proponent of entitled help, I am a proponent of empowered help. And you're right, disability insurance, in this country, pigeonholes the disabled into a box from which they cannot escape. You don't want that. What you want is a step-ladder, not a box. If you do eventually move out of your parents' home and you find yourself struggling, maybe some of these resources may act as a step-ladder to help you work toward your own financial independence.

VI. Final thoughts.
The best way I have found to remain independent of parental or government aid is through education. If you're willing and can invest yourself into a certificate or trade or degree program, you will grow your skillset and hopefully can work towards financial independence, despite having a disability. Don't let the disability hold you back. Find a way around it.
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