15 Things To Do When You’re Broke, Angry, and Feeling Trapped

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Last month I got an email from a reader I didn’t really know how to respond to.

Here’s what it said:

how can you get off of welfare and out of poverty if you are stuck and cannot work because if social security check and parents who don’t know much about financial education?
sometimes I get angry because I see no way out and I keep being in the same place month after month. I am willing to do whatever it takes to change but, its hard to beat the system, especially being black in America.
I am dead broke right now and I have computer connection and I will be finally getting a bank account pretty soon and I will do whatever it takes to build a fortune and move from away from this hell neighborhood that is not a very friendly environment.
how can I convince my parents to have a rich parent mindset and become wealthy or do I have to take responsibility to become wealthy on my own since I am 19.
I want to write an e book and I have an editor to help me.
I want to start trading, but I lack money and don’t know how to finance it.
would you please, give me advice on what I should do

It’s not the first time I’ve received a message like that, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I think an important thing to remember is that every expert was once a beginner, every champion was once a rookie, and that with a few exceptions, most successful/wealthy individuals weren’t born that way.

They all took incremental actions over time to build their knowledge, skills, network — and eventually their net worth.

But I was curious what advice the Side Hustle Nation community had for this reader, and wow, did they come through big time.

Here are some of the responses I received.

Start Small

patrickPatrick McCoy recommended starting small.

Break those huge goals into smaller chunks and work with what’s feasible.

Create a spreadsheet of the realistic cost behind what it would require to get up and running. Not the best equipment or education but just enough to start. Begin making baby progress and you’ll see results.

Matthew Miele echoed that sentiment: “Think of everything in small steps.”

matthewWhen I wanted to get into the stock market, I prepared PowerPoint pitches of certain companies and cold emailed investment firms and investors I knew.

Another thing I will mention is that because you are young (I’m 20, so very relatable) is to get your hands in as many things as you can because eventually someone will grab on at the other end. I want to get into private labeling but lack the necessary funds and have decided to use my skills (graphic design) to build some money for that business.

I would also try to reach out to people who have similar interests to you, offer to help them.

When I started, I asked for help and I had a couple key people who helped me so much, both directly and indirectly. I believe in paying it forward and being young like you, I would love to offer you some help. Even something as simple as getting on Fiverr could help. Feel free to reach out. Now is the perfect time to move forward!

Take Responsibility

dennis smithDennis J Smith said we are responsible for doing whatever it takes to make “our” future brighter and for creating our own success.

I would never put it on your parents, society, political leaders, etc. I don’t blame my parents for my past failures. Keep a positive attitude and the rest starts falling into place. That internet connection is gold, start connecting with positive people.

Make Up Your Mind to Change Today

michelle jacksonMichelle Jackson offered a wealth of wisdom.

1. Love Your Parents.

They have done a great job with you and have done the best job that they can with the resources and knowledge that they have.

2. Learn for Free.

Go to the library every day and go online to Youtube and KhanAcademy.com where you can learn nearly anything for free.

Focus on learning a new skill each month until you feel like an expert.

3. Join Private Facebook Groups that Encourage Entrepreneurship.

The Side Hustle Nation group is a great supportive place to start.

4. Consider a Fresh Start.

Figure out a way to move to another state and start fresh via a volunteer program such as Americorps.

5. Apply for Scholarships.

Apply for every scholarship that you can via Scholly. It was started by Christopher Gray, a black kid who needed money for college. You can check him out on Shark Tank.

scholly homepage

There’s another awesome program called Up With People. You can apply for scholarships and if you get in you will travel the world, meet new people, and see a different way of living. I did this program traveled to 21 U.S. States, Norway, and Japan. You will be profoundly changed.

6. Find Your Strengths.

You DO have strengths. How can these strengths help other people?

7. Find a Mentor.

The Small Business Association provides mentors for young entrepreneurs via their SCORE program, or find another service or individual to provide some mentorship.

score homepage

8. Network with Positive Influences.

If you live in a town with Meetups, go to Meetups to meet new people. You don’t have to focus on business groups; just any group that helps you meet/network/ and connect with others related to your interests.

If you don’t like computers and computer-related skillsets, then focus on trades that machines can’t do, such as plumbing, electrical, etc.

“Your net worth is the average of the 5 people you are most often around.” I have never lived in a situation like this but I have worked in a situation like this. The longer I worked around people who didn’t share my vision/were negative/etc., the harder it was for me to imagine what I could do and what I was capable of and I’m older than this kid.

Once I got away and aggressively surrounded myself with great people things changed quickly.

You are 19 and you have a full life ahead of you, dream big, do the work, be kind, and things will begin to happen.

9. Join Toastmasters

Develop the gift of persuasive speech. If you can’t afford to pay that’s fine; just go and listen to other people’s speeches. I’ve started attending Toastmasters and am convinced that most people in business have participated in Toastmasters at some point in their life.


Get Training

mel edwardsMel Edwards advised that there are resources out there that can help such as coaches and advisers, and organizations like United Way and Goodwill that have training and funding to help people get out of poverty and back on their feet, especially folks in marginal neighborhoods and those who feel trapped in the system.

Also, decide who you truly are: what you value, what you can do now, what you are willing to do (specifically, instead of saying “I’ll do anything”), where you are willing to move to (to get out of your neighborhood), and what your responsibilities are.

Once you know “your truth” you have the foundation to build your roadmap and work it through to your destination.

I am a certified career and education adviser, and am launching Your Truth University to help anyone who is stuck and wants “more” but needs help. The focus is free resources, so this is a solid place to begin.

Make one positive step daily toward your dreams, and work on overcoming one obstacle at a time. You can do it.

Instead of “How to Get Rich,” First Think “How to Not Be Poor”

leilaniLeilani Orr asked what are you willing to do to make this a reality?

Are there jobs that you’re simply not going to accept ie; working in fast food, minimum wage tasks, etc.? Why not?

Are you willing to work for a smaller dollar amount in order to gain knowledge in a certain area? (Trades, etc.)

How much do you absolutely need to make to cover your expenses?

Everything above that is a bonus you can put towards building wealth. (Even if it’s a measly $10 a week.)

Who is responsible for your monetary choices of earning and spending? (Hopefully you are!)

What type of work is work that you enjoy? (Or think you enjoy?) Let that be a side focus until you get on your own two feet with a primary income, then invest extra hours in your “dream work.”

Surround yourself with people who think differently than the poverty mindset or “others should help me out of this mess” mindset.

Instead of being angry at the system and what you don’t have, be grateful for what you do.

Read and educate yourself in new-to-you areas, but don’t let that stop you from actually getting out and trying new things.

It’ll be scary. And hard. And boring.

Are you okay with that?

Work Harder Than Anyone Else

kianaKiana Porter-Isom said, “Don’t be afraid to work harder than anyone else.”

Surround yourself with others that have been where you are and are successful so you have a constant reminder that it is possible! I am a black woman (can be perceived as a double negative), brought up in poverty (foodstamps, welfare…), and was pregnant when I graduated high school.

I DECIDED that I was not going to fall victim to what society told me a young black un-wed mother should be. I took my booty to college (with my baby), and graduated. I came home and worked my way through grad school. I read a ton of great books. I listened to encouraging podcasts everyday. I created my own destiny AND YOU CAN TOO!!

Do not fall into the mindset that because you are black, or young, or poor that you can’t be great. Choose to do great things, to be more, to serve more, to accomplish more, and to have more and you will. And once your peers and parents see you doing these things, your actions will change their mindset.

Choose Your Influencers

patrick martinPatrick Martin suggested finding like minded people with similar goals. Especially those you can share a decent affordable apartment with that will be a positive situation. Do not use any drugs, alcohol or smoke cigarettes.

Don’t ignore blue collar work. While everyone else has been focusing on the white collar jobs, the trades have all experienced a shortage of talent. There is opportunity and real money there.

Save money. Save money. Save money.

When I got my first place, I moved in with two coworkers. It was in Boston which meant basically 4 months rent up front. I was working a barely above min wage job at the time, but I had saved every penny I could and actually lent the other two roommates cash to cover their portion of the upfront costs. Then I found the cheapest possible futon bed to sleep on. Smart sacrifices while others are seeking immediate gratification will pay off.

Decisions made from a point of desperation rarely work out as well as we would like. Build a foundation which covers your basic needs and expand from there. John Goodman’s monologue about “F*%# you money” in The Gambler is a good reference to this.

Control the Controllables

don the idea guyDon “The Idea Guy” Holliday recommended only exerting effort and thought on the things you can personally control. Don’t rely on changing your parents’ (or on anyone else’s) mindset.

Here are some other ideas on where to start:

1. The Library

Libraries house a lot of knowledge and employ people experienced enough to know where to find information. Make friends with a librarian and let them know the kind of people you’re trying to connect with.

Chances are your library is also a social hub of free meetings and seminars with individuals who have common goals.

Nick’s Notes: I’ve probably bought less than two dozen books in my lifetime. I’m all about the library. You’re already paying for it; might as well use it!

2. Mock Trading

You specifically mentioned wanting to get into trading. Don’t let a lack of capital stop you. Give yourself an imaginary $100 and invest and grow that amount by tracking your trading.

Take your imaginary earning and put it back into your imaginary budget. Prove a track record on paper using Google Sheets. Publicly share the spreadsheet with the world so they can witness your predictions and success.

Find a local meet-up with other people doing the same thing and/or join a Facebook Group of “traders in training” (or start your own!).

There are actually competitions run by a variety of companies who hold virtual trading contests — you might be able to win the funds you need in order to get started.

3. Penny Stock Clubs

People who lack significant funds themselves often add their money to an investment “pot” and go all-in together as part of an investment club. Check your local meetup.com (or ask your librarian!) to find out about clubs in your area.

4. Find a Mentor

Whether you explore formal mentor match-up services like Big Brothers / Big Sisters or you reach out to someone on your own and ask for a few minutes of their time to interview them on how they got started (and how someone in your situation might get started), finding a generous person who is currently where you want to be in the future isn’t that difficult.


Connect through social media or LinkedIn and strike up a conversation.

5. Audit Courses

There are a ton of colleges that have started posting live and recorded classes and lectures online in just about every subject — and most of them are FREE!

You won’t get course credit or a formal degree, but you’ll get new ideas and knowledge that you can apply toward achieving your goals.

Learn a Trade

brendanBrendan Quigley suggested learning a trade or two.

Not just manual labor but choose a couple of trade-like jobs, such as locksmith, graphic designer, electrician, etc. Then go find someone in this trade that you can donate your time to for free. Spend more than 2 weeks with each.

Learn, listen, and work as hard as you can each day.

Not only will you get experience that you can put on a resume, but you will also learn what you like, what you’re good at and what you have to offer.

Then do what you love the most, and never give up.

Work Backwards

Sway Suaz said you must first have a clear vision of where you want to be in the future and plan that success working backwards.

That way, you can easily figure out what steps you need to take now to inch your way to that point. To clear a forest, you must first knock down a tree.

Build Your Foundation

andy mccabeAndy McCabe explained no house can be built without a solid foundation.

A solid personal foundation means knowing, at your core, who you are and what you stand for.

I recently started reading Wooden by Steve Jamison. I believe it’s worth passing along some nuggets from the first pages.

Coach John Wooden lived his life by two sets of simple (in content) principles:

Never lie. Never cheat. Never steal.

Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses.

He also carried a written creed with him his entire life, titled Seven Things to Do.

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Help others.
  3. Make each day your masterpiece.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance, count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

John Wooden was the most successful coach OF ALL TIME. No one has EVER accomplished the records he was able to achieve. And he didn’t set out to set any of the records that now stand.

There are no silver bullets. There is no ten-step guide to success. What I’m reading is someone who is letting their circumstances define their possibilities. The two are not tied, except in the trapped thoughts of a victim mindset.

If you’ve got a computer and access to the Internet, you’re already ahead of 90% of the world’s population – literally. The search for a solution has to start within.

If you say you are stuck – you’re right.

If you are waiting for someone else to take action – you’ll never take action.

If you are willing to do whatever it takes – it will take change; personal change. Mindset change. Expectation change.

Setting out to build a fortune is like deciding to become an Olympic speedskater, except you’ve never worn skates. Fortune is a result, not a goal. Setting a proper goal is key to getting the desired results.

You can’t change other folk’s minds – ever.

You don’t need help writing a book – just write the words.

Are you letting the world define you? Why are you giving that power away?

Get Positive

sean Sean Marshall said to leave the victim mindset behind.

the words, “stuck”, “welfare”, “angry”, “dead broke” and more all jumped off the page. Start with your mindset first. Get positive. Pump only positive stuff into your brain.

While you’re getting your head right, you’ve also got to take action. Dude, listen to every single one of Nick’s guests on his podcast! Everyone there started out with nothing. Sometimes with crazy debt even. They took focused action and made it happen.

It all boils down to one of my favorite words: hustle. Start with Side Hustle Nation!! You’ve got Google and YouTube and about a million podcasts of people all sharing exactly how to do it. There’s no excuses.

Phew. Rant over! Best of luck. Looking forward to hearing your success story!


danielleDanielle Dibba said, “I have three words for you–you can write!”

You are clearly a talented communicator with your words. I encourage you to pursue your writing and engage anyone who will help you.

It’s your life and you sound like you want something bigger out of life. It doesn’t mean leaving the people you love behind. This means just going for it! I think in your heart you already know this is what you want.

Follow your gut that’s telling you to write that ebook! Go for it!


jenniferJennifer Wenzel advised to utilize your library.

There is a literal wealth of free information and resources there. Check out these books:

Build your empire.

Develop a Learning Mind

tanyaTanya Dallas noted that developing a learning mind will help.

When you have a lot of negative elements of your environment ingrained in your mindset, you need higher education and an HONEST mentor who will make you understand what it means to appreciate your past for making you who you are.

It’s not about forgetting where you’ve learned but EXPOUNDING on your experiences.

I don’t know where this reader is in the way of opportunities for college, but that was my mission and goal since I was 9. I mapped my way to the farthest regions of the earth to escape my surroundings. If that’s not a possibility, I would lose all my friends who weren’t positive, and go to school.

There are free classes online for nearly anything, and anything worth doing is worth learning. Being around people who push you to ‘better’ is a miracle.

Your Turn

What advice would you offer this reader? Were you ever in a similarly hopeless rock-bottom situation? What did you do to pull yourself out?

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

21 thoughts on “15 Things To Do When You’re Broke, Angry, and Feeling Trapped”

  1. I can’t wait to read about where you end up! There is so much hope for you. I want to read the rest of your story. That’s your ebook!!!

    What does your neighborhood need? You can make things better. I saw a Ted talk about a man who started a group of Urban gardeners. They started planting in the dirt near the sidewalks and created something amazing. You can do that too. You can make things better for you and for the people around you.

  2. This advice was beyond wonderful! For those who are just starting out and have no idea where to start, it is a roadmap to potential success. When you start working for yourself, it’s not easy to find the best way to do things but if you take these suggestions you can succeed!

    • Hi my name is Henry I am on disability. I am in government housing, I only get half of what I was supposed to have on disability. I have been trying to get out of here and get my own place.I have no help from my family they want me to be stuck in a very small 2bdrm apartment. I don’t even have a vehicle and I am on disability for my back and if I need to go very far I have to beg my daughter to take me anyplace and I see drs alot.The rest of the time I have to walk every place I go .It wouldn’t be a problem if I was 20 again. I am 52 and wake up and go to bed in pain.I am tired of everyone wanting to know what I am doing, where am I going, what did I get in the mail, how much is my electric bill. I go through this every day every month. Please help me I stay broke and want to have my own place.

      • Talk to whoever gives you disability money as to why you don’t get all of it. Disability might also be a tax deductible. Start getting passive income, and only spend on what’s necessary. Plan your finances so you have more profit than expenses and know where you’re better off spending money. Have your money work for you, and have as less of it as possible taken (taxes, fees, interest, ect.) instead of banks, tou could invest or (i heard) put it in a life insurance like banks. I also heard those aren’t taxed, so that way banks don’t make a exploit you. Less doctor visits and more self knowledgable healing (books, etc) is a whole lot less expensive. Change basic, foundational things like diet and excercise to strengthen, not irritate, your body. Hustling in your free time whether it be learning skills, working remotely online, or interning somehow is helpful but not to the point of burnout. Sell and trade things you don’t need, and start a business or trade. Even taking time out for your own rest and growth is an investment. Work smarter, not harder.

  3. Wow! There is so much good stuff in this article, I can’t even handle. Michelle’s advice to do Americorp is one I never considered recommending to someone in this position, but it’s such a great idea. There are opportunities out there and the fact you reached out to ask for help shows you areally open and receptive. Don’t sleep on some of this advice! I would love to be updated on their journey and feel free to continue reaching out to this community. There is room for all of us to win!

  4. Consider military service. That will get you out of the neighborhood. See if you can qualify for the Coast Guard…less chance of getting messed up. If not, try Air Force then Navy, in that order. I joined at 17, made a man out of me. You get Ed benefits when you get out and often some college credits for having served. Plus you can save $. Give you a heck if a lot of self discipline too.

  5. As someone training to be a librarian, I would emphasize the value of libraries to help anyone who is out of options or ideas. A big role of a librarian is helping patrons when they have run into an obstacle.

  6. Hooray for the power of community! I hope this young striver connects back with you in 6 to 12 months and lets us know how he’s coming along, and what he’s accomplished. Thanks for sharing this with all of us!

  7. These are all great ideas! I love the FREE education and mock trading idea. My girls started with mock trading and guess what? My 7 years now has the $1,000 out of $5,000 to start investing! I actually started my business the same year, I was on welfare, so it can be done! I hope your reader takes this advice

  8. This post is just what I needed. Thanks! By the way, I’m happy to see using your local library getting mentioned in here. It seems like now that everyone has the internet readily available, a lot of people have forgotten the library even exists!

  9. Wow this is a really great article. I’m actually in a similar spot as the reader and this made a very profound impact!! Thank you for doing what you’re doing, you truly are helping people.

  10. This all sounds great, but what about the costs. Everything has some cost associated with it. That free online course isn’t actually free. The computer costs a small fortune to someone who can’t even feed themselves properly. Then there is the cost of the internet. I only have internet on my phone, which doesn’t work for taking any courses. Don’t forget the cost of electricity. The computer programs needed to take the course. This is an example of some hidden costs to so called free online education.
    I don’t know what you call being broke, but broke to me is no money for anything.
    How do you do anything when you don’t have skills, talents or money. Thanks and God Bless

  11. having nothing would be poverty and being broke would be lack of finances i think
    or just to respect all maybe semi-broke might be a better word for it if you have a roof over your head and food but 0 in bank account and wallet…


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