Ch 18: Getting Help · Ch 25: Helping Locally and Globally · Increasing Income

How Money Actually Does Grow On Trees

In the minority world, the link between paper and sufficiency is almost absolute. If I write things on one piece, I get $400. When I write things on another, I get $31,000 (and counting). When I jot some more items on a third, I receive $872.

One of the greatest barriers experienced by people in relative poverty is the block to completing paperwork.

In one person, the challenge may be low literacy. In another, it’s the executive functioning involved in organizing receipts. For a third, it’s a response of anxiety. Neurological barriers may also include dyslexia, ADHD, schizophrenia, and so on. Logistical barriers may include frequent moves or homelessness (i.e., no place to store documents).

One acquaintance spends several hours every week dealing with financial crises because he “doesn’t have time” to keep his receipts in one place. I sympathize with the sense of overwhelm, but would wager the issue in his case is not one of time, but of organization and, behind that, a neurological difference.

Over dinner this weekend, a friend told me that in her effort to finally get her tax filing up to date, she took one dose of a minor tranquilizer. She was thrilled to be able to get it done, and wondered at how simple it now was. She’s about to see significant dividends.

Money grows on trees. For most of us, the amount we have is directly related to how much paperwork we’re able and willing to complete. Would you be willing to do more if it meant another $13,000 per year? $1200?

Now, we don’t have to be willing to chase every dollar. When it meant the difference between eating or not eating, I was willing to spend three hours on a document to get $30. Now I focus my time on papers that bring far more per page.

Do you crave the cash but struggle with documents? Ask an advocacy agency or effective neighbour to help you. Are you pretty good at paperwork and want to help a person achieve not just four extra tins of food this week, but enough ongoing income to buy as much as she needs? Consider volunteering with an advocacy agency.

What is the amount that makes paperwork “worth it” to you?

Action: Write down five of your special or unique circumstances (e.g., sole parent, bipolar disability, brain injury, recent abuse, adult student). Feel free to post them below, and I’ll help brainstorm cash resources specific to those.

3 thoughts on “How Money Actually Does Grow On Trees

  1. I seem to have some kind of issue with paperwork interacting with Asperger’s-associated executive function. I go through patches where I manage fine and patches where it’s too much.

    I had a student in a high-pressure laboratory course I taught one time, who also had a high-pressure job, who had this habit I found fascinating — whenever something went wrong, he would literally throw back his head and laugh heartily (but quietly) for a few seconds. The bigger the disaster, the longer and harder he would laugh. Then he’d gather himself with an “oh man, that’s funny,” and cheerfully tackle fixing whatever it was.

    I’d never seen anyone do anything like that before. I was pretty stunned.

    Then I decided I wanted that. I started copying him. We started telling each other when something went wrong (I had designed a number of things going wrong into the laboratory exercises) and having a good laugh together. I kept doing it after the course ended and he went back to his home state.

    Somehow I’ve forgotten how to get into that headspace, but I’m trying to remember. It was an amazing way to interrupt a stress/anxiety response.


    1. What a delightful and fun technique, HH!

      I, too, have off and on periods re: ability to do paperwork. Overall, it’s quite difficult for me—everything from the fine motor movement involved in writing, the visual-spatial matter of referencing various sources, and a thing where my brain jumps in and out of the concentration “groove” required. So, I save up a few to do at a time, not more than twice a week. Sometimes once a month.

      If I save the paperwork up, and do it in a batch when my Aspie body is really ready for it, it goes well enough.

      Paperwork is a serious barrier for so many of us…but if we can figure out a way to get it done—like engaging the help of a neighbour or advocate—it makes such a difference!


  2. I read a book once on “executive functioning”. It was a guide for parents with kids that suffer from this challenge, and had suggestions for helping them. One tip was to write down the step-by-step instructions for a sequence that the child frequently performs. For example, getting ready for school is: get dressed, wash face, brush hair, eat breakfast, brush teeth, check backpack. Having this handy on an index card made the difference between being late for school every day with accompanying stress, or successfully getting out the door on time. I have used this technique myself. Writing steps down on paper makes it sound easier.


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