HuffPost Readers Blog The Meltdown
On Monday, Arianna wrote a piece about the terrifying state of America's economy.
We've pulled together a selection of some of the standout stories to share with the rest of our readers -- both to do our part to document the downturn and to make sure that everyone out there feeling the financial pressure knows that they are not alone.
Like we said, the meltdown will be blogged. By you.
To share your stories, your tips, your fears, or your ideas with us, click here and fill out the simple form.
I am 62 years old and retired for 3 years. My husband and I always saved our money. If we had $100 we saved $25. We did not buy furnature for our home, but lived with hand me downs for 20 years. We raised 3 kids and sent them to college on one teacher's salary. We bought used cars and kept them for 12 to 18 years. The money that would have payed for "luxury items" was SAVED! Saved in my husbands 401K, saved in stocks and bonds. We sent all 3 kids to college without taking out loans or going into debt. They went to state schools with some academic scholarships and all graduated and are good citizens today. We felt like we had "done the right thing", and then one day in Sept. 2008 the 401K was gone. The money we had put into it when we had very little to add, but always made that deposit. That money was gone! It was our savings that took 40 years to accumulate with hard work, and even harder "sacrifice" to save it. Gone in a day! It was to be used to travel,something we never had time for when raising a family.It was for our kids when we are gone and our grandkids. But now it is gone.
My partner and I formed a business in 1979. We've had ups and downs over the past 29 years but we've survived nicely and managed to grow modestly each year...For the past 10 years, we've kept our expenses minimal and never had more than two associates in spite of suggestions that we add more people...Then came last November...Virtually all of our work dried up and what we receive now trickles in periodically. Our 2008 gross is down 50% from 2007.
I had surgery late last year and the only way we've been able to keep any staff employed is because I've been disabled and what would have been paid to me is going to staff. I'm seriously considering retiring since I have become physically disabled and there's little incentive to return to a business that isn't likely to survive much longer. My situation is no where near as awful as many others because we won't lose our home or our life if I am forced into retirement: Many other's aren't so lucky.
Roger, Stockton, California
i run a home daycare center and have since i was laid off toward the end of bush one's presidency. funny, but during that time, my husband and i both lost our jobs in the air freight industry 3 months apart from each other. of course it wasn't funny then. we did what we had to in order to support 4 kids. we delivered newspapers, my husband took a part time job at target. i decided to open my own daycare center within our home. i watched kids day and night. weekends and 24 hour care. i've been doing it now for 17 years. now i watch my daycare parents struggle as we did over 17 years ago. some are self employed and have no business. others are seeing co-workers get laid off and wonder when they will be next. others have been laid off and can't find jobs. others are forced to take pay cuts and work longer hours. these are just the families within my own daycare. my son is a recent college graduate and plans to attend law school since the job market is so poor. i dont know how he plans to pay for it though. we sure dont have the money to send him. we have a daughter in her freshman year of college who worries her financial aid will dry up. my IRA is worthless along with my husband's 401 K. we are fortunate to have been in our house over 10 years so we are not affected by the housing crisis. i see how our society replaced credit for wages. most of us dont know what it means to save for a washing machine, we just charge it. i remember my parents selling everything they could when my dad was laid off in 1974. now we live on credit. somehow we've lost sight of financial responsibility. we as a people, as a country, need to find our way back.
Karen, Arvada, Colorado
I worked for a tech company that provided support tools to the finance industry in New York and was in the first round of layoffs when this recession began back in January of this year (2008). After several months of looking for work I was forced to look outside of NY and ended up finding work starting in May in California. I'm a single parent with multiple sclerosis and a son in college. His father is on SSI due to emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver so it's been up to me to provide for our son. My choice was to stay in my house in NY with NO JOB or leave that house and come to California where I could, at least, find a job. I left. The house has been on the market since April and despite the price now being reduced to below what I owe on it, I've had NO OFFERS. I can't afford to live here and make payments there and am just waiting for the lender to foreclose. I will lose all my savings in that house. Three years ago when I moved to NY I put $50,000 down on that house. It completely aggravates me that the "experts" have been denying we're heading for a depression. Wake up guys, we're there.
JK, Santa Clara, CA
I am 55-years old. I hold a doctorate in music (earned in 1994 - so that is really when my career began) and have an excellent reputation as a scholar, performer, and education. I teach at a small liberal arts college in Nebraska. We have seen a drastic drop in our enrollment. Students can't get loans or jobs to pay our higher than average tuition. Our music department is really struggling and was the target of faculty/staff cuts two years ago. This year, it was announced in August that the college would stop making contributions to our IRAs. I an really afraid: first for our department and my job and secondly for the college overall...So, here I am a highly educated professional with very specific skills, facing unemployment with little in retirement since I have only worked full-time for 10 years. I have a 20-year old son and college and co-signed post-grad professional loans for my daughter. I never expected, at my age, to be facing these obstacles. The stress is significant, but I don't know what to do except go to work every day and hope for a miracle.
Peggy, Omaha, NE
I just turned 59. I have worked for 42 years of my life. Now I am living in a tent in someone's backyard... I had to sleep in my car for a week or more. I could be staying in an RV, but the tent actually has more space... I have had no income since September and mostly $500 a month income for much of this year, except for June when I received more money from a friend. what I see is that all of our systems are set up to penalize and criminalize the poor. can't pay for registration and insurance for your car? you are a criminal. cannot pay for rent? cannot pay for food? cannot pay for gas? where are you supposed to go? cannot pay for health care? tough luck, go die. I have a BA degree and am a professional. Two years ago when I hurt my wrist I looked into going on disability but found out that I would be lucky to get approved in two years... welfare, food stamps? social security? I do not qualify because why? I am a third generation American and my family is DEAD but because I have no income, but had some money way back in June, and have a car, I do not qualify? the red tape and rigamorale is difficult to deal with... exhausting. they say they need substitute teachers, same red tape, and you have to spend money to get the job... where am I supposed to get the money? churches social service agencies, each one passes the buck, sends you to some place else. food banks expect you to live on tuna, peanut butter and pasta, if you do not have a kitchen, how are you supposed to cook the pasta???
My teenage son lives with severe autism, as do 1 in every 150 boys today. The greatest tragedy of the economic meltdown in the richest country in the world is the further erosion and neglect of our government in supporting people who need the most help, those with disabilities who cannot live independently. At a time when diagnoses have surged, ironically over the past 8 years services were cut and now will disappear, leaving aging parents to care for their adult children at home until . . . the inevitable. What happens to those adults with autism when their parents are gone? Thankfully institutions are not the answer anymore, however now there are no new group homes opening, and agencies serving the disabled no longer have funds to operate. When a provider can make more working at Wal-Mart than teaching a young disabled adult a vocational skill that says something about our priorities as a country. Why was there no money 8 years ago when we asked for help, yet billions are suddenly found to support banks, Wall St., the auto companies, construction companies, etc? The money is there - let's reset our prioirities and leave a standard of living to our children better than what can be found in Sudan. This is America after all.
Susan, Harbeson, DE
I used to work for Sony Electronics when they still made television sets here in San Diego (as recent as 2002!). When this business moved to China, I was laid off and tried to establish my own specialty retail business. Shorly thereafter I became a business statistic when the business failed. After a 18 month period of unemplyment, I found at a position in our local school district, making about 50% less than when I was at Sony. Within a year I found a better position at Pfizer, but the big-pharma was already foundering, and was laid-off after less than a year. Since then I have not been able to find suitable employment. Had my wife not been a highly skilled Registered Nurse we would have lost our home long ago and suffered additional financial consequences.
I am now planning to attend a paralegal certificate program at a local university in January, and should be on the hunt for employment in May. I have been unemployed 3 weeks to long to qualify for extended unemployment benefits, so I have received almost no help from the state or Uncle Sam. At 54 years of age none of this is coming easy for me. Aside from the financial issues, the emotional stress has been tremendous. Had it not been for friends and playing sax in a local big band, I probably would be dead by know. I've learned that money is not the most important thing in life! I consider myself well educated (BS Virginia Tech, MBA University of Phoenix), and have a lifetime of operational business experience, so why can't I find suitable employment? When somebody with my education and experience is tossed away by society, I wonder how those less fortunate can make it. We are fast becoming a third world country, it's not the place I grew up in. I fear for the next generation. Best regards,
Drew, San Diego, CA
This is what amazes me about my life in America right now: No heat. No heat last winter.....No heat this winter....And I thought I was alone. But this year, I checked in on the Frugal Living board of a popular mother's website, and what did I see? Women asking each other what to do when you have children at home, and you can't afford to fire up your furnace. And then, a few women on another mother's group I belong to admitted that they had no heat this winter, as well. Some of these women are pregnant, and due to deliver this winter. Most of us have husbands who work; but the downsizings and wage stagnation, and unemployment have taken their toll. So when money ran out, and the heat bill couldn't be paid...well, there never was enough extra to get the heat turned back on. Here's another thing I've learned: Having a college degree no longer serves as a safety net against impoverishment. I look around me, and well-educated friends simply can not find jobs. Naturally, I worry about the struggle.
Faith, East Windsor, NJ
I am 61 years old and bought my first house in 2007. The bank told me that I could afford a home up to $160,000. I had no money for a down payment. "Are you sure I can afford a home for $160,000?"
"Sure, no problem."
When all was said and done, I found a home for $151,000 and the monthly payment was almost $1,300. I am not in foreclosure but I have built up a credit card debt of $7,000. I have made my mortgage payments but I have not been able to keep up with other monthly expenses. I cannot afford to refinance at a lower rate because I do not have the cash for the closing. It will just be a matter of time before I lose my home.
I have a Master's in Library Science, I make a nice salary but I cannot afford my home. Foreclosure is on the horizon and I do not believe I have any options but to lose my home. I feel like I have been robbed these past eight years.
The current bailout does not seem to be making its way to Main Street.
Hjordis, Durham, NC
I am a 42 year old single mother. I've been without a job for a year now. All my savings are dried up at this moment and I don't know how I am going to meet my rent for this month. I've started a vending business about three months ago with the perspective of getting a monthly stream of income, but at this moment i've jet to get all of my routes. I can not afford to shop at the supermarket, me and my daughter are living of the local food pantry. I have to cancel my cable and cook at least once a week to safe on my electric bill. I only pray that our next President is able to fix this and he will need all the help that he can get. It is a relieve to see that the gas prices went down. I try to keep a positive outlook on the situation, through my faith in God. I pray for our new President and helps to know that through him we have hope for the future. I hope my story will help someone to see that eventough we in this situation all hope is not lost. We all have to have faith that it will get better, because of the faith that we have as americans.
My story started with a layoff (11 of 25 employees) from a small biotech company outside of Philadelphia in June 2007. It took me 5 months to find a permanent position with a salary in alignment with my experience. In the 5 months it took me to find this job, I lost everything.
I am a divorced mother of three. When I divorced, I was doing well financially (I do not receive alimony) and purchased a townhouse for myself and children. When I lost my job, the savings were gone instantly as Unemployment Benefits did not cover much. As the mortgage got 2 months and then 3 months behind, I had no idea what we would do. I could not find a way to stay afloat. In desperation, I sent my younger children to live with their father. I did not want them to go though the horrifying process of 'mom falling apart at the seams' because we were about to have nowhere to live. My oldest child went to live with family friends (he was 16 at the time).
The economic meltdown was causing a complete meltdown of me and my family. The mental stress and anxiety became too much for me I and made two attempts on my life. Two days before Christmas Dec 2007, I had to be out of my house for good. My van was repossessed as well. I was no longer allowed to see my younger children due to my suicide attempts. My depression was all consuming. I did not eat or sleep well for months. I filed for bankruptcy and hoped the New Year would offer some ray of hope.
Today, 02Dec2008, I am employed. I am renting a place with my oldest son. My two little ones still live with Dad. He has not allowed them to return to live with me and I do not have the finances to fight him. I miss them every moment. Although money is extremely tight (I am starting a second job this week), we are making it.
Keep coming back to the Living page to see what other HuffPost readers had to say and to learn meaningful and practical ways to cope with and learn from these troubled times.