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This is how you will find out if you are poor
By John Kalya | Updated Jun 30, 2016 at 13:05 EAT

The economy is projected to be healthily growing at 5.3 % even as the 46% of Kenyans are still living below the poverty line. According to GeoHive rural/urban statistic, as at 2015, 11 million Kenyans are living in urban areas. This is 25.6% of the population. Then there are the burgeoning urban poor who are hole up in different slum located in almost every town. They are considered functional and are mostly situated close to the green suburbs to provide the much needed low-cost labor. Proximity allows them to save on transport, work for long hours and strategically for prevalent perpetration of crimes against the rich.

The statistics and dynamics aside, there is irony in defining poverty especially in urban areas. There is a tendency of mistaking external flamboyant appearance with loaded pockets. On the contrary it is easy to assume that the jaded and unkempt man running spare parts store downtown and living in a no-so-good neighborhood is struggling to make ends meet. The reality is that there are many poor people living is some of the “up-town” estates, dressed in fitting suits from Eastliegh and even driving the latest models of second-hand cars. They have assorted credit cards, a big smartphone along with a dangling Mercedes Benz branded car keys. So, how can you tell the sophisticated “rich” poor? Lifestyle and priorities:

They are in denial about their true status. They will use half or more of their salaries in paying rent in socially appealing parts of the town. In Nairobi, most of them reside in S/q in affluent estates like South C, Kileleshwa or Runda. They will also ensure that they live up to the standard of these neighborhoods by dressing the part. The latest fashion in the market and expensive colognes are part of the façade. They will ensure they appear in almost every other gig in town and visit all the classy clubs both in and out of town. Clearly, you are poor when you are spending significantly more than you are earning and more so when your priorities are geared toward physical appearance and trying to fit in; when most expenditure is on luxuries you can hardly afford and which do not generate any returns.

When you are investing in status symbols rather than wealth generating ventures you know you are trying to pass yourself as an impostor. It is common for most young people to acquire a car loan long before they have even completed paying their HELB loan. A car, in these parts of the world, is a status symbol for the rich. For most rich people it is a means of convenience, to get from place to place. With a car, a mortgage may be and the already unmanageable budget; people sadly resort to unscrupulous means of sustenance, preferably “sponsors” or pilfering company or government resources. No wonder it is hard to fight corruption and dishonesty.

When your productive years are waning and you do not have serious assets or investments apart from retirement package. Some people even do not have any insurance cover and sufficient saving to last six months even after working for more than ten years. Life is lived out from paycheck to paycheck, loans have punched holes on your pay slip and whatever investments you think you have are but white insatiable elephants.  Your kids even do not understand when open your mouths to say you have no money. “What do you mean?” We have a car. We are living in a big house. We go to a good school. We have Wi-Fi and digital TV. “What do you mean you have no money Daddy?” You just bow your head and bite your lips.

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