I've been there since 1984, when I returned to school for my doctorate, with a few years "vacation" from poverty for my first, last, and only full time teaching job. Officially disabled in 1998. Haven't been able to work full time at any job since 1994.
For a while I was with a group of professional women who went out to dinner together once a month. When you're in a large group its better for the wait staff to put everything on one tab, then you figure it out later.
We didn't go to fancy restaurants, but most of the meals were $15 and over. So I always ordered a big salad or soup, and water for drink. .
We'd been doing it for several months when someone asked me why I only ever ordered salad when there was so much good stuff on the menu.
Fortunately, the rest of the group was stunned by the question. I mean, if someone always orders the cheapest thing on the menu, and that happens to be salad...do the math.
I'd always felt uncomfortable being around these highly professional women who wouldn't think twice about dropping $70 on a dinner. I think I joined them a few more times, then dropped out.
I am middle class by culture & background, but my disabilities put my income down far enough for me to qualify for Medicaid. Yes, someone with a PhD can be poor.
The reaction to that is often "there has to be something you can do," and I say, sure, I can do plenty. But what jobs allow you to stay off work several days here and there when you're at your worst, or come in late because your chronic illnesses deprive you of sleep?
Even with part-time jobs people have to be able to depend on you to be there at a specific time (pre-internet)? For a while I taught part time online after that became possible, but ultimately I couldn't even do that. PTSD doesn't care about schedules. Doesn't care that there's a deadline for grading exams and doing class grades end of term.
And these days, at 73, I can do even less. Sure, I could make money writing. I have the skills to do that. But there doesn't seem to be anyone buying my work. Not even on Medium. Or Quora. (The weird thing about Quora is that I get thousands of readers, but little money. I haven't been able to figure out how to change that. I am, in fact, very popular & people are always sending questions my way for answering.)
On Medium, my tax statement for 2021 says I earned a few pennies over $12 for the entire year.
And I absolutely hate the people who are always bragging about how much money they made on Medium. All you have to do is...yada yada...except I find what they suggest absolutely boring. I don't even read what THEY write.
In some ways I've been glad for COVID. It's been a long time since I've had to worry about money for a restaurant meal.