POLITICS
12/18/2013 05:46 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

'Thank God We Don't Have Kids. I Don't Know What We'd Do If We Had Kids.'

Joanne Van Vranken, 50, lost her salaried job at a market research firm in 2011. After spending 16 months unemployed and seeking full-time work, she took a part time job as a Home Depot cashier, making $9 an hour. She recently left that position to take a full-time, temporary job as an administrative assistant at a financial services company.

After I lost my job, I couldn't get anything. I couldn't get a part-time job.

I have extensive administrative experience, and I was applying for jobs at all levels, at all salary levels, through temp agencies, through permanent agencies. Every once in a while, I would get an interview. There would be months in between when I would get an interview. It just was really, really difficult to get any traction until I picked up the job at Home Depot.

At the outset, it was stated it was part-time. It's really difficult to get full-time at Home Depot. There were weeks when I would get 10 hours, and that was more often than not. Some weeks I would get maybe 20 or 21. But for the most part, my money would go to pay for our health benefits.

No repairs have been done around the house in years. We have leaking toilets, leaking faucets, leaking sinks. My car has needed some serious repairs. New brakes, new suspension, it needs a timing belt. I have not had the money to do any of those things.

The car -- that's one of the things that really worries me, because the new job that I took, the temp job, is a 60-mile round trip commute every day. And without good brakes, without a good suspension, I'm afraid that this is going to kill my car. And I don't have the money to buy a new one. But I have to do it, because we need to pay the bills.

One of the leaks is the hot water in the bathroom. So we have to keep it turned off. We just use cold water. If we want hot water, we go to the kitchen. Washing your hands in cold water or washing your face in cold water, it's not fun.

Every Friday night, we curl up on the couch with the dogs, and we eat pizza and watch either a good movie or a bad movie, doesn't matter, whatever we can get. But that's a lot of what our entertainment consists of. We don't go out a lot.

I've lived on Long Island my whole entire life. I live in the house that I grew up in, which I inherited from my mom. But we did have to take a mortgage out, because the person who was managing the estate let it rack up $40,000 in property taxes.

Thank god we don't have kids. I don't know what we would do if we had kids. I don't know how we would manage. It's hard enough with just the two of us.

I do worry about my retirement. I've decimated my 401k. I worry if I'm going to be on public assistance, if I'm going to lose my house, if I'm going to be one of those senior citizens whose only meal each day is from Meals On Wheels, God forbid they cut that.

As far as my outlook on permanent employment, I'm 50 years old. I don't know. It could go either way. I don't know if I'm going to be able to rebuild my 401k, and without a permanent job, I'm not going to be able to. I've had plenty of interviews and not gotten any jobs, and I always have to wonder if it's because of my age.

Christmas, we're probably just staying home, just the two of us, and going to cook dinner. Each of us only has one day off, so there's no option to see any family unless we take time off, which we can't really do. It will be me cooking dinner and just the two of us. We do presents, but I think there's going to be less presents. There have been less presents for the last few years.

As told to Ariel Edwards-Levy.

poverty

Joanne's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.

Have a similar story you'd like to share? Email us at workingpoor@huffingtonpost.com or give us a call at (408) 508-4833, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.

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