Lifestyles of the broke and unemployed…how to stay losing and lose it all

Every now and then either in my online or offline life, a topic comes up and it dawns on me just how few people are really versed in that topic. Most of the time, it matters not to me, I mean the reality is no one can know everything about a topic and there are plenty of topics I am clueless about.
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Case in point as I was furiously trying to get caught up on work this afternoon, I was listening to NPR’s Marketplace Money with Tess Vigeland. I enjoy this show though sometimes the advice is a bit off the mark, today there was a discussion about finding a job in this economy. With only one job available for every four folks in need of a job, that means someone is going to be ass out! Well, the so-called professional that Tess was speaking with suggested that unemployed folks need to do more than just look for a job, that’s so 1900’s…I mean survive and looking for a job? Screw that shit! Nope, you need to be bettering yourself while you are unemployed, learn some new skills! OK, maybe you don’t need to learn some new skills, well you need to volunteer, show that you aren’t some parasite on the ass of us working stiffs
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On the surface this sounds reasonable at least it did to many when I tweeted my irritation about this advice. Only one person said maybe that was a bit much to expect. I am sorry but having spent 18 months unemployed not that long ago, let me tell you being unemployed is no picnic in the park. Lately the rhetoric thrown around is that the extended unemployment benefits serve as a deterrent for many to seek gainful employment. Well let’s take a look at what an actual unemployment check looks like. Back when I was receiving unemployment benefits in 2007-08, for 26 week, I received a whopping $242 a week! Let me repeat that, I received $242 a week! That was way less than what I actually made when I was employed. If you think it’s gotten any better since my time on unemployment three years ago, let me share this fact with you; in the 3rd quarter of 2010 the average American who was receiving unemployment benefits received a whopping $295 a week! Even in expensive places like New York City, the maximum unemployment benefit is $405 a week with the average unemployed New Yorker receiving a sweet $330 a week!
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Turns out that when one is receiving unemployment depending on their overall family income there are no other benefits they can receive because those unemployment checks are far more cash than a TANF check would get you. If you are fortunate maybe you can add a few SNAP benefits aka food stamps to the mix but by and large, when you lose your job, all you get is that unemployment check.
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In my case, I had the lousy misfortune of losing my job which by the way I lost because the department I was teaching in at the career college I taught at was closed. Teaching business classes wasn’t profitable enough to the blood suckers so my ass was toasted for no reason. No cause, just sorry we closed the department and you are jobless.
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The same year I lost my job was the same year that several of the Spousal Unit’s clients decided to reduce their expenses and longtime clients stopped outsourcing work to him. In a one year period our family income was reduced by over 60%! In 2008 our income was roughly $38,000 for a family 4. Yet according to the powers to be that determine who is poor, we weren’t poor, hell we weren’t technically even playing in the poverty playground. Yet we all know $38,000 is not enough for a family to live on. The reality is if it were not for my in-laws sporting our ass’s long term, I doubt we would have become homeless but pretty damn close.
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Mind you I had graduated with my shiny new master’s degree in 2006! This was not supposed to happen to us but oh it did and it was bad. The 18 months I spent unemployed were more or less the beginning processional to our dance with bankruptcy. By the time I landed a job in late 2008, we were behind on all but the bare essentials. I tried for months to work with Visa, MasterCard and Discover but those bitches decided my meager $5-10 a month payments were not enough and sent their top bitches on my ass otherwise known as the bill collectors.
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During the time I was at home sitting on my ass enjoying the hard work of others for my whopping $242 a week check, I watched my own kid as I could no longer afford childcare. I stopped using all but the basic paper goods; to this day we still use cloth napkins. I took up bread making, not because I aspired to be a bread maker but because it saved money. I clipped coupons, and basically figured out how to stretch what money we did have. All the while, squeezing the life out of my networks and spending hours a day submitting resumes. I offered up some volunteer consulting services, even ended up doing some freelance grant writing to supplement our income once the unemployment ran out.
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The reality is though there was no way I could have managed a regular volunteer gig, as gas cost money and so did childcare. I suspect that is the reality for many of the millions who are unemployed, volunteering is luxury when you are living on Survival Street and for perspective employers to expect it is ludicrous.
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In the ideal world people would have a nest egg for such occasions but that’s not realistic for many who are just getting by. Having had the kiddo in 2005 and graduated grad school in 2006, any nest egg we had was long gone, the reason I had gone back to work was to get the debt squared away and rebuild the nest egg but reality had different plans than we did. Life happens.
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I fear as I hear more and more employed people refer to the unemployed as “them” and so called experts suggesting what for a number of unemployed people is simply not realistic advice that we are just all working towards creating a permanent underclass. The truth is being unemployed sucks, we should not have to prove ourselves while unemployed just because the hiring authorities are clueless. If a candidate has a work history, and other credentials stop creating added barriers!

8 Comments
  1. November 7, 2011
    • November 9, 2011
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    • November 9, 2011
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  5. November 21, 2011
    • November 21, 2011

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