community stories

These excerpts are real stories that were submitted to us via our social media pages and email from people experiencing the One Paycheck Away burden all over the world.


If you would like to share a story with us, feel free to send us a message!

“Paycheck-to-paycheck is a universal middle class phenomenon.  More than ever, with COVID19 trauma and resultant lockdown this class of humans are melting down”

Sundaram R.

“There seems to be a great transitioning in the world to day.  Hence, people have been lied to for long that many are living delusionally living that lie.”

Jerel S.
Richmond, VA

“Many of my (creative) friends in UK live paycheck to paycheck or dole cheque to dole cheque as the UK has become a corporation (not as much as the USA) and creative people have been devalued in business since the 1980s.”

Sophie S.
“I would like to know why there is no media coverage or complaints that Congress is still getting paid with our tax dollars while so many have lost their jobs. Every one of them is wealthy enough to assume they have a hefty bank account that can carry them further than the average American. If we can't legally make them do it can they be shamed into it at least?
Katie A.

I know all about this from a past career. in my experience, these people all had crazy outgoings such as the latest phones, finance for cars they did not need and would waste £4 every morning on a costa coffee! Also they would smoke and drink daily but each month would put no money into savings. as soon as payday came, they spent their money instantly. Scary stuff. Hard to change all these bad habits though.”

Tom R.,

“I was a manufacturing engineer at an aerospace company in Mobile, Alabama up until March 26th, 2020. We relocated to the Mobile area December 2, for this same job. We bought a new home. We’re fortunate because we had savings. It has taken more than two months to get my unemployment benefits straightened out. I still do not know when we will be paid. The people who still have their jobs don’t understand how difficult it is for some of us to navigate the state unemployment systems.”

Alabama, USA

Paycheck to paycheck just leaves me farther and farther behind.”

Michael W.
Reno, Nevada

“I too am in that boat, but I feel fortunate to have grown up in a poor family and deal with this just as I dealt with growing up.  They are so right that this virus doesn't care who you are or who you think you are, and those more fortunate will have no idea of what to do if they have to skip, or maybe eat Malto Meal for a week or more.  They think staying home is tough to deal with wait until they hit that point.”

Michelle Y.

When I was a child, I lived in the most abject, squalid, hand to mouth, embarrassing, rat infested poverty in a cold water flat with an unheated bathroom out in a hallway. Imagine being a 5 yr. old needing to use the bathroom in the middle of a winter night. I lived deep in New York City's inner city, a horrible slum, with uneducated parents who were HS dropouts. We didn't live pay check to pay check because sometimes there wasn't in the last paycheck to last. We lived hand to mouth but sometimes there was nothing in the hand.

With the strong encouragement of my parents not to be like them, I remedied that.

A solid education, engineering school, graduate school was my way out. Today, I'm wealthy by any measure and most Americans would aspire to what I have and live the way.  I did it all by sheer force of will and so can everyone else.”

Nicholas B.

“Similar statistic here in Canada, I'm sure.”

Simon S.
Toronto, Ontario

“Even though I am not an American citizen; that is the case almost everywhere, unfortunately. ”

Rebaz M.
Iraqi Kurdistan

“Think most people in the west live pay check to pay check.”

Sean O.

“It's difficult for ordinary people in the UK too, but at least - for now - we've free health care.”

Jay A.

“Yes, I know 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and we are one of them. And to top it off, we used H&R Block to file our taxes last year as we have for the last 10 years and because our son was getting married March 9th 2019 we used Blocks Emerald Card to get our refund faster to take to Vegas where our son was getting married NOW we find out our Stimulus payment is being deposited into Blocks bank account and there is no way to change our account information. Looks like Blocks CEO Jeff Jones is getting a big stimulus payment but we are NOT!”


“I am a high school teacher. I come from poverty. I understand.”

Jon R.
Seattle, WA
teacher, word, bible

“Hello One, yes I did know that [80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck] as I'm one of them myself. What would you like to know living here in New Orleans where they take almost everything said as a joke and my city is one of the hardest hit. I've lived through hurricanes here all the way up to today. We just got home from the hospital  believe me the things I just watched was beyond horrible and my daughter has strep throat..we walked out and went to urgent care. I'm an accountant by trade so believe me I've seen so much. ”

Sara T.
Kenner, LA

“I grew up in a household with a divorced mom,  and then as a divorced parent myself knew we were just a paycheck away. After college, i became more fortunate but will never forget my roots. I realize that it does take a village.

Aleta A.
Buffalo, NY

I still do retail, but also raising 3 kids (1 adopted), and my wife is an at home parent because child care is stupid expensive. My rent is over 50% of my paycheck unfortunately, plus regular bills. I make under 45k. My rent is $1450. Electric $250, phone $100. Van bill $190 Insurance for two vehicles $200. Internet $50. Dog cost. Food cost change, medical bills unforeseen. No vacation to Hamptons this year. I do a second job and invest in the stock market with my free time for any side income. 

What or who do I blame? Myself mostly but I do wish we focus on education more in America. Hiring quality teachers. Having proper class sizes. Learning real world economics and finances. Trade classes for those that are fit for it. Instead I got used like a cog in the system and before it was too late. I’m grinding making $22 an hour, living paycheck to paycheck with a credit card debit looming over me. 

Colorado City, Texas
Well I live in Liverpool, England, but many of us are exactly the same, plus we’re sick of our government just like the US! I’m a single mother of 2 kids who’s an air hostess who’s currently furloughed & very stressed out. My youngest is 5 & mixed race & we have the BLM going on at the minute - feel like the world is going mad! If anything I’m fortunate enough to have a roof over my head & myself & my kids are healthy. The one thing that keeps me going is my friends, love is always the answer.”
Lesley M.

“Lived this way most of my life.”
Dana D.

“I’m in the UK, but my brother & his American wife live in San Diego.  He’s just lost his job & she’s having to stay working at a convenience store.  Btw, I lost my job in education due to this corona crisis.  It’s the same here, most live pay cheque to pay cheque.   It’s a tough world!”

"I'm a former investigator for the US Dept of Labor. On top of living paycheck to paycheck employers often 'steal' wages via illegal deductions, improperly counting hours worked, misidentifying workers and improper overtime calculations. Industries where wage theft occurs the most is probably number one agriculture. It happens most frequently in traditionally low wage industries, usually manual labor and frequently reliant on immigrant (legal and often undocumented) labor. Construction, hotel, restaurant, office cleaning/housekeeping.
I think more recently employers have been misclassifying employees as independent contractors without regard to the rules that must be met for that to be legit.”

“Our landlord had no intentions of giving us back our security deposit so to move to a new place we had to come up with First months rent, last months rent, security deposit, of course when you switch your utilities they hit you with hook up fees and required deposits, all in all at the bare minimum it would cost us $1500 to move.  That doesn't sound like much but in appalachia,  if you have work you're lucky, there just aren't ANY decent paying jobs.  My fiancee has been with the same company for 6 years at what is considered up here to be a "good" job doing secure data entry, and after 6 years she still makes minimum wage....there's no point or hope in asking for a raise because why would they pay you more when if they posted your job online tomorrow morning, they would have 200 applications by close of business willing to work for minimum wage.  I was waiting tables which was highly seasonal in a summer boating/winter skiing area...that meant half the year I could go to work and have 2 tables and make 20 dollars and have spent 9 dollars in gas to get there.  Eventually we managed to use her tax return (mine still goes to the state due to outstanding taxes from my years as an addict) to scrape together enough money to move.  We lucked into an amazing place through sheer coincidence and managed to get a 3 bedroom house for what we were paying for a one bedroom apartment.  That takes us to October 2019.  Things were just starting to show a positive turn, her and I managed to have a savings account with over $1000 dollars in it, which while it doesn't sound like much was a huge deal for us.  After working for subcontractors, farmers, and other jobs that mostly paid cash found a job up here working across the state line to maryland as a cook making $12.50 an hour.  Crossing the state line for work was vital as the MD minimum wage was $11 and WV minimum wage was $8.75. I was so desperate for steady well paying work that when the manager said they would start me out as paying me cash weekly then add me to the payroll in a few months I was pretty much forced to agree.  A few months turned out to be 6 and I eventually got added to payroll after that manager was fired and was "officially" an employee starting January big deal I thought, the owner loved me so much he just walked up and gave me a 1.50 an hour raise after 3 months and I loved the people I was working with and for and had no intentions of leaving...  Then this pandemic hit.  I went from working 38-45 hours a week and bringing home a very good paycheck that combined with hers was actually allowing us to get ahead...stay ahead...and start saving to having a maximum of 10 hours a week and then eventually nothing....the owner stayed open as long as he could but we're a diner, not a location set up for carry out and he lost a lot of money trying to keep as much of his staff working as possible.  Then the real shock came when he was forced to temporarily lay us off and I applied for unemployment.  Due to the fact that I had been doing odd jobs for a few months and the previous manager hadn't done her job and put me on payroll, the state only has a record of me working from January 1st on which leaves me ineligible for unemployment.  My fiancee has a compromised immune system and from March 7th to today was diagnosed with Strep, Strep G, Influenza A AND B.  She also has a genetic kidney disease and in 1 month her kidney function went from 79% to 59%.  Her doctor informed her that until this is over she is 100% not to return to work and it took her company a week or two to come up with a policy for employees who couldn't work due to childcare or health issues.  She currently has 2 days sick leave left and then is supposed to apply for unemployment.  We have no clue how that will go because technically her job is open and she doesn't technically have the virus.  At this point we are maybe 2-3 weeks from having 0 dollars to our name and having tapped out every source of borrowing we are able to access.  Honestly the money part of this pandemic isn't what is hitting me hardest though, I've been homeless before and if it keeps the people I love safe and healthy I'd choose to be homeless again in an instant....My mother, father, grandfather, brother, and fiancee are all immune compromised in varying extents. The worst being my brother, my fiancee, my grandfather, and my mother in that order.  Yes, the money factor is certainly a stressor in my life, but for the first time in my life I have a woman I love with all my heart who I would gladly choose to die and let her live...I have deep strong relationships with my family and am coming face to face with the reality that it's looking increasingly likely at least one of that group that means the world to me will probably not make it through.  To be perfectly frank, if I were to lose them all I would lose every good thing i have in my life and the reasons and people I have to get out of bed in the morning.  I feel like I'm on a beach watching a giant tidal wave come sweeping towards me and knowing there is nothing I can do to stop it, all I can do is hope that all my dreams, goals, and desires aren't literally swept away for a second time.”

Derek K.

“I have been looking for media coverage of my experiences of workplace injustice in corporate America or suggestions to improve economic equality for years.  It’s tough for ordinary Americans later alone Blacks to get their voices heard. Yet sometimes they do have solutions that usual experts may not have. They have experienced & know things others don’t. Diversity & inclusion is a vital component of effective problem solving.I have a BS in business computer & computer science, MBA, Microsoft certifications & 20 years IT experience. I reported discrimination, bullying, harassment or email threats of termination by manager in 2016 & 2018 in Charlotte NC. Employers terminated me without investigating. Arbitration agreements were involved which means the cases could not go to court. I settled on the first one but decided not to pursue arbitration on the second. Employer gets her way. No accountability. No justice. At-Will Employment law allows termination for any reason or no reason at all. Employers abuse these obviously unjust laws. There is no personal liability for workplace injustice including discrimination. Law protects perpetrators. have been unemployed for 2 years.”

Charles A.
“What I don't understand is the long waiting lists for housing. People get tired, depressed and some died while on waiting lists. I am still a full time volunteer CEO and agencies that get millions in budgets keep homeless people on waiting lists and treat them like animals. They pay their staff, those that are actually doing the job peanuts. Obviously I am in full support of whatever could be done to help homeless and low income families and to advocate for better pay so that people can stop living from paychecks to paychecks.”
Debbie O.
New Mexico
“Been at my job at a charter school my pay 9 bucks as a hard worker I do a lot as a office clerk a teacher aid a kitchen working also but my boss gets 3000 every two weeks and she is a Secretary I have the same certificate of business”
Betty P.
Albuquerque, NM

What about  a leukemia patient that  loses his job and has to fight to get the bills paid and the trials and tribulations. I'll think about it. Actually, I am still living check to check, disability don't pay worth a damm & you are penalized for doing more”

Fred D.

One paycheck away no kidding. Masters in psych, licensed therapist, chose to work non profit post grad for last 16 years, student loans from prestigious school.  Im screwed”

Steve A.

“Absolutely! I'm also in the Central District and would love to help. There is sooo much to see here tbh. This area imo is the most heartbreaking. I walk past eviction sites DAILY. I see new 'proposed land notice' signs go up daily on people's lawns whose families have been here since longer than this was a place. The people who made this neighborhood and city what it is are regularly displace. This was a primarily African Immigrants/Black/Jewish/poc neighborhood....we had Afrikatown, so many different African Grocery stores, cultural centers, churches, restaurants and Amazon is trying there best to white wash it all away. They've killed the small business and the community. There are so many little encampments EVERYWHERE. on the streets, on the sidewalks, the shelters are full and they keep building deluxe luxury condos where affordable housing used to be. Yes, I have a lot to share & would love to help be part of a solution one day & for now settle on raising awareness & bein loud!"

Kara A.
Seattle, WA
"I think that a subject like this deserves more open discussion. Personally, I am incredibly lucky to not have to worry about this but I have heard so many stories on this concern both here in the UK and from the US. It is heartbreaking and it shows that we need to do better."

"I’m from Canada but live in Italy. I’m 42 and I’ve lived pay check to pay check for what feels like 20 years. I’m able to keep my expenses very low though so I manage to get by, but I don’t now how other people survive! I consider myself pretty lucky!"
"We are mostly in the same state here in the UK too. How can we even consider having any life savings these days?"
Tom R.
West Midlands
"Well I'm certainly working class and have lived paycheck to paycheck my whole life in Glasgow, as have my parents before me, thankfully no tails of real hardship just the daily grind, i will try to see the work you do, i watch a lot on hardship & injustices in America fact and fiction, there are lots of similarities with Scotland and life, i mainly watch things on the usa as i never fails to amaze me how stupid  and evil people can be, mainly people in power, reading and watching a lot on the 13th at the moment, unbelievable what the powers that be can get away with, with help from propaganda.
Paycheck to paycheck is definitely a big similarity, in Glasgow most working class probably don't realize that they are in poverty as they are so used to it, most would take offense at the insinuation that they were, yet food banks and the need for free school meals and so on is a must, 1 in 3 children in Scotland living in poverty, there is a massive change needed in the world but with boris over here and trump over there, i can't see it any day soon."
Kev D.
"Our story is as Americans, we lost everything in the 2008 crash, jobs, illegally foreclosed on. Then took out student loans and started over retrained in Art and IT, then sold everything and moved the fam to Scotland in 2013. Under the UK's increasingly hostile immigration policies, and looming Brexit, plus a changed US we don't even recognise anymore, it was a bit of out of the frying pan and into the fire. We have had to fight for our visas to hold on to our new life and the visas here are very expensive. But if we lose our job tied to our visa we would never return to the US. We will start over in a different country like Ireland or Norway. Even if it took another 10 years before we had citizenship again in a new country, we still wouldn't go back to the US. Our lives are immensely improved even with the uncertainty of being an immigrant. We are both former US military and proud of the promise of America but heart broken at the way things have gone since we have been away. Fyi I learned and studied Scottish Gaelic and use it on my social media to support minority language rights. There are loads of stories of folk here that are similar to the paycheck to paycheck life yet situated in a context of a still free NHS and free Uni education in Scotland. It is why employers here get away with offering such low salaries relatively. There is still some relative exploitation issues but I believe the US is much worse. Changes because of Brexit can end up making the UK as a whole a real mess because salaries are not likely to increase yet US companies want a similar profit margin and deregulation especially on things like pharma and food standards. People here that are culturally used to having a welfare state will be decimated and sold out more than ever after Brexit if the US is given its way with the UK in trade deals. Its as if the UK's last colonial exploit is the UK. My two cents anyway.I am relatively well connected here and volunteer in a local organisation that came about because of the rise in Airbnb short term lets that have hollowed out so much of Edinburgh. We have met with the city and Scottish government about them delevoping regulations to tackle the short term lets issues in the city and around Scotland. We follow the belief that housing is a human right (Leila Farhani, former UN Special Rappateur for housing and Make the shift campaign was helpful for us to learn the framework and network of this issue.) and that the commodification of homes is a serious problem. The issue of whose land is whose and what is it being used for is a hot topic in Scotland that has been going before the clearances even. My American story is wrapped up in this same topic as my Scottish ancestors left frustrations here for a new life in Canada. Taking up a new farm stead of 10 acres in an area that had just been cleared of the native population (the colonised become the coloniser sadly) in Grey County Ontario. A generation after, my ancestor migrated to the US. The family were native Gaelic speakers and even attended a Gaelic speaking church congregation in the area with mostly Gaels from the Western Isles and the Highlands. I learned this doing my own research whilst I had started learning Gaelic as I figured it had to be in the family somewhere. My husband's Scottish ancestors came from Ayrshire and East lothian. Two women who both married into the Mormon faith because of missionaries to Scotland. So, I think a lot of these topics are important to be seen as more fluid because the America ideas and what people wanted to get from going there and or living there, started before they left their home countries. And in our experience bringing the family back to Scotland, was very much an ironic sort of full circle. We had left the Mormon religion in 2009 and as cult programming often does, were left asking question like who are we and what do WE think? How are we to frame our lives and our existence? I tried attending different faiths right after leaving the Mormon church as there was this programmed guilt for not attending some sort of church. But those feelings quickly were abandoned as I realised for me the church experience was all too similar and that organised things were not for me. In my art degree, I was encouraged to make art from a personal perspective. I looked into the basics of who I am. I made loads of work about my Scottish heritage, post mormonism and post military. I researched Scottish artists and culture loved what I was finding. A European influenced sense of community that was humanist focused in a sense. Religion had run its course in European culture and has been fading to the background. The idea to actually move to Scotland in any sort of planned way started around that time. The momentum built and the draw or pull to be in Scotland for me became nearly obsessive and felt a bit fated. When you leave a cult, you lose friends and family. So looking towards heritage was grounding and after so many of our relationships went predictably sour due to us taking up the status of worst type of person who "had the truth, yet rejected the truth", we really had nothing to lose or stay in the US for. We did everything right. We paid our bills on time, we said no thank you to a religion that wasn't for us, we took responsibility for ourselves and did the whole work several jobs thing after we lost it all in 2008/2009. I feel like our experience of so many very quintessentially US things ( I like to say US, because American really should be everyone North, Central and South)."
Allasan B.