It seems we can’t go a day without ever more disturbing news about our downward spinning economy. Bank failures, auto industry bailouts, rising unemployment rates. Those newly laid off are just beginning to feel the pinch, dipping into savings accounts while they try to find new jobs. Meanwhile, those who were on the leading cuts have long ago turned to 401k and supplemental retirement accounts.
I first started to feel the pinch over two years ago as the company I was partner in struggled to line up new clients. First it was half-pay every other pay cycle. Then half-pay every pay cycle. At its worst, I drew only 20% of my expected monthly draw. Things improved, then declined again. The partnership ended as September 2008 ended. My stake in the company was so small that I had no say in the matter.
I’ve have yet to land another full-time position. I’ve filed applications, submitted resumes, had over a handful of interviews, and dozens more informal conversations. Some opportunities led to second and third round interviews only to be end with a “we are holding off on hiring” or something similar. In some cases, I’ve discovered weeks later that company is implementing ideas I presented during my interview. I’ve taken on two part-time jobs, a roommate, and contract work. It’s still not enough to sustain me.
The point of this sob story is not sympathy. It’s context. Yeah, things have been hard. Sure, I’ve felt defeated. And yes, I’ve sobbed. But somewhere among all the pieces, I discovered something…
We work. We earn an income. We buy things we need. We dream about things we want. We get better jobs. We earn more income. We buy the things we want. We call them needs.
That’s generally how things go when one climbs the ladder of success. But when the ladder morphs into a slide and income declines or disappears, we look for ways to decrease our needs. We turn of the lights when we leave the room. We cancel cable. We put student loans in forbearance. We take public transportation. One by one, we eliminate budgetary line items. Until in the end, you realize… We’re all just working for food!