On December 1st, 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.
You can read the first post in the Blogging The Meltdown series here. And now we bring to you the second.
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 own a small retail business with 4 employees. I just laid off the last employee this morning. Unless something positive happens to the retail business soon, I expect to be out of business within 6 months. No one is talking about mom and pop business failures. I wonder - what next?
Francis, Durham, NC
My husband and I are college graduates and have worked since the 1970s. We saved every extra cent and put it into the safest market we could, IRA and 401K. Eight years ago my husband lost his job and could not get another in his field, he was either over qualified, or too old. We managed to get one of our kids through college, but not the second. We farmed what land we had for food, raised pigs and filled the larder. We gave some of our harvest to those around us that could not quite last out a week. I drive 2 hours to my job and with the gas prices this last year we have drained our savings. In Sept we lost our retirement, we can't help feel like we were robbed of everything and feel violated again when the federal government takes our taxes and gives it to the wealthy bankers and lobbyists. We are considering leaving the country for we know that unless someone stops this now, it will take Mr. Obama years to recoop and it will be far too late for us.
I'm in week 3 of my new job. I was unemployed for over a year, with almost 30 years experience as a paralegal/legal assistant. I now make almost $10,000 less a year than I did a year ago, with less benefits, more hours worked per day, and such a demanding workload I'm crippled in pain by the end of the day. In November I was facing eviction for the first time in my life. I'm almost caught up with my rent, but I made a decision to economize by cutting back everything: no more cable so no more TV (I get videos from the library), only 3 hours of heat in the evening, and try to eat on less than $8 a day. But the good news is because I can't afford to go anywhere, I stay home and work on my novel. But for comparison sake, before Bush was "elected" I had enough money with no credit card debt and thousands in savings to move to Milan, Italy and travel. When I received my paycheck last week, I had $5 to my name.
I retired from teaching in 2006. So, I am currently living on my retirement money. My husband's Social Security money is less than mine. Four years ago, before my retirement, I assisted my daughter in buying a vehicle by co-signing for her. She was gainfully employed. She paid her car note faithfully. Last year, the company that she worked for closed down leaving her unemployed. My daughter looked tiringly for another job. She finally contacted a Job Placement firm which found a temporary job for her. I had to pay her car payments for her for several months. I did not have enough saved to pick up her car payments. She worked for several months through the Temp service, and that job closed. She is currently unemployed; but is still going to school.
Her car was repossessed on October 19, 2008 after me making several attempts to refinance the car loan. We reclaimed the vehicle on October 29. I had to, again, go into my savings to pay for the repossessed vehicle. When we retrieved the vehicle, some of my daughters possessions were missing from the car. No one at the redemption company could explain what happened to her possessions-another problem which innocent victims find ourselves victims of. Is it fraud? Is it theft? We are faced with companies that will do whatever they want to people who are hurting.
I have three children who are all in college. My youngest is a Freshman. I pay over $1000 per month towards her loan. The eight years of the Bush administration has made it so difficult for people like me to survive. I can't tell you how difficult it is to keep up with my families' medical insurances. I thank God for the Change that is about to happen through the Obama administration. I look forward to living like a middle-class citizen again because no one wants to be poor. They just want a decent job to make a decent living.
Barbara, St. Louis, Missouri
I returned to college at age 53 and graduated in May with my Master's in Social Work, and 2 BA's in Social Work and Psychology. I graduated with Honors in my major, summa cum laude and Phi Kappa Phi. I cannot find a job. I have also looked in surrounding counties and have interviewed for several positions. However, the competition is tremendous and my age might have been an issue too. I have also applied for jobs outside of degree such as secretary, etc. I am literally one month away from moving all my furniture to my sister's garage, and living at the homeless shelter. My family has helped keep me afloat these last seven months and now everyone is tapped out. I am 53, raised my children, went back to school and might now find myself at a homeless shelter. My sister literally has no extra room for a guest as they already have someone living with them who is also unemployed. I am trying to stay positive but I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is crazy...I have so much to offer. I just want a job...
Kim, Chico, CA
After years of scrimping and saving, building our finances up after our company folded, we finally managed to purchase a home this summer. We were fortunate not to get into an ARM, but to get an FHA loan and find our home below our budget. Unfortunately, seven months after we bought the house, my husband was laid off. What little we had in savings (after using most to buy the home) went rather quickly. While we had never been late (and in fact paid early at times) with our mortgage, we hadn't been in our home long enough to establish any real equity. I called up our mortgage company and explained to them our situation, anticipating that next few months might be difficult for us to make the mortgage payment--despite taking on whatever extra work we could--and asked if there was something we could do to get help, however temporary, to meet our monthly payment on time. The advice they gave me was to stop paying my mortgage entirely.
Let me repeat that: We were told to stop making our mortgage payments.
This, I clarified, included the current payment I had managed to scrape together and any future partial payments I might be able to make. See, if I don't pay my mortgage and end up in serious default of our mortgage, there are government programs and different financial aid agencies that will help us pay our mortgage. But for those families who have never been late, but had encountered a hardship, there is no help whatsoever. To me, this seems crazy. Why in the world would my own mortgage company advise me NOT to pay my mortgage in *hopes* that *maybe* some government program will bail us out? This seems like the sort of massive idiocy that got our country into this economic trouble to begin with.
Fortunately for us, unlike so many other families who have lost their livelihoods through mill and factory closings, my husband is now back to work and we may see only one late payment as we get our finances back on track. This isn't the case for everyone though and I cringe when I think of how many homeowners my mortgage company has advised to simply stop paying all together. We, as a national society, need to adopt a policy of prevention, rather than reaction in more areas than one.
Jennifer, Wisconsin Rapids
It all started a couple of years ago. My husband and I were both laid off from our jobs within a few months of each other. We still had 4 children at home. Thank God, we had a great landlord, or we would have been homeless sooner rather than later. We still owe him money for back rent, which we are doing our best to pay off. We both finally got hired at a GM dealership after about 1 year later. We had rented our house from him for about 9-10 years. He lived right next door. When he went away for a long needed vacation, our house caught fire. My 14 year old son (at the time), saved my life, as well as his little brothers life by pulling us from a room engulfed in flames...We waited all night for the red cross to show up, but they never did. We had no money, clothes, food, etc, as we lost nearly everything in the fire.
My husband was paid by commission, I was paid hourly. So, he took some time off to try to find us a place to live. I went back to work, suffering from trauma as well as smoke inhalation. It was very difficult for me to work. I could not concentrate at all. They say that's what smoke inhalation does. The Red Cross finally showed up the next day, but can only pay for a motel for 3 days. I was frantic. Where were my children going to sleep? How were they going to eat? Thanks to my co-workers, they all chipped in to raise money for us to stay in the motel a little longer...Then, a little girl who went to school with my 6 year old, told her Mom what happened. Her sister was an apartment manager. They helped us to get an apartment, and let us slide on the rent for 2 months. She is truly an amazing person, to help us out like that. I will forever be grateful to her.
...About a year after, while we were still trying to recuperate, our Company got bought out. My husband was one of the first batch laid off. I was laid off a few months later. His was commission, which was low because nobody was buying or having their cars serviced. I only made $8.50/hr after working there for 4 yrs with no raise. My 64 yr old husband got a job at a liquor store. He makes $8.50/hr. I am nearly deaf and have 4 messed up discs in my back (which need surgery) so I am having no luck in finding a job. I am ready and able to work, no matter what. But, being 50 yrs old, and bad health (which I do not tell prospective employers about) nobody will hire me.
I cannot hide the fact that my hearing is bad, as people have to speak up when talking to me. With NO health insurance at all, I have to pay out $540/mth to my doctor. My unemployment has run out. But, if I do not find a way to pay for my Doc and my scripts, I would be in excruciating pain, unable to move at all. TN is not kind to the working poor. My husband grosses around $2,000/mth. Take that with an $870/mth rent, lights, food, etc, you can see the trouble that we are in. I have applied for disability and was denied. I do have an advocate working to get it through, although she said it could take up to a year or more. Hopefully, it will come through sooner and we will all get Medicaid. So, there it is in a nutshell, although there is much, much more.
I worked my way up from assembly worker at a defense contractor to being an engineer and mid-level manager with only a high school diploma. This was accomplished through years of working 60-80 hours a week. My performance ratings were always excellent. Two years ago a new policy was implemented that you had to have a degree to stay in my position. Despite my having performed at a very high level for over 27 years I was laid off 18 months ago. I stupidly thought that my years of experience and excellent performance would allow me to obtain another position in the industry. After submitting my resume for over two hundred job openings, I received only one phone call. The interview seemed to go well until they asked for my salary history which I provided. The interview ended abruptly and I never heard another word from them. I am now working part-time in the retail sector. I am now looking at bankruptcy, but hope to at least hold onto my home (prospects for that are very shaky). Like many others, I feel like a fool for dedicating myself to a company that dumped me without so much as a thank you for my service. My wife and I have now used all of our life savings to try to stay afloat. The money is now gone and the stress is taking a major toll on both of us. We may soon be homeless. Apparently all our hard work has earned us is not the "American Dream", but the American nightmare.
Mark, Colorado Springs
About a year ago, I left the relative safety of my position as a foreman for a prominent union painting contractor to start an environmentally friendly paint company. I went green not just to put less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but to spare myself the long-term negative effects of working with traditional paint. I feel like I couldn't have picked a better time to go forward with this idea, as Portland is consistently one of the "greenest" cities in America. But now, people who have money are holding onto it, and clients that last year were taking out home improvement loans are getting turned down this year (or not even applying because their equity is gone). To top things off, I'm competing with paint crews who aren't paying their laborer's taxes or living wages because they are undocumented and they don't have to.
Steven Smith, Portland, Oregon
I was laid off at the end of July. I am an optimistic person, and so looked at the lay off as an opportunity to return to school full-time. I signed up for a full load of classes. I did exceptionally well, pulling straight A's. However, at the end of the quarter when my tuition bill rolled around, it was much higher than I expected. I contacted the office of financial aid, and they explained that I could file for a change of financial status, and apply for additional funding. So I did, but the amount of money I received was minimal, peanuts, really. I still had an outstanding balance of 3400.00. So not only am I laid off, but now I can not afford to return to school, at least not until I pay down the balance. The amount I receive from the Illinois Department of Unemployment is not enough, and now I worry my husband will be laid off. His job is dependant and closely connected to the automotive industry. If that happens I don't know what we will do. We have worked so hard to preserve our good credit, to pay our bills on time, to be responsible people. I lay awake at night wondering if I will be able to find a job before my unemployment runs out.
Rocio Chavez, Chicago
Ten years ago I became a widow. When my husband died he left me with a comfortable income that was to have lasted the rest of my life. The first 2 years were good. Then old George Bush came into office and that all changed. First 9/11 happened and the stock market fell. Shortly after that tech stocks tanked and I lost 1/3 of what was invested, mostly in mutual funds. I never really recovered that money, but it was slowly starting to inch back up. This past fall I lost 1/2 of what was left, thanks AIG, and now I have enough money to live for 5 years, and then I will be homeless. I am terrified of the future, and some days can't deal with any of it...
I was born right after WW2, and have seen recessions before, but this is as close to a depression as I can remember. Being alone only magnifies my fears, and at this point in my life I have very few options.
I am now looking for a job at 63 years old. My medical insurance is killing me, and for the luxury of having it, I pay $450.00 a month with little to no coverage. Most everything is out of MY pocket. I am counting the days until I hit 65 so I will get Medicare! That's sad. So here I am looking for a job, and am up against people years younger than me. To keep things afloat I have refinanced this home that I have lived in 40 years, and now I may not have it in 5 years. How many more things can you cut from your life? I go nowhere, and up until a few weeks ago I couldn't afford to drive the car any place but to the grocery and do errands once a week. I see people all around me losing homes, jobs, hope, and their future.
Ann, Medina, Ohio
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.
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