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How Long Can Your Family Survive Unemployment?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo   |   August 6, 2010    7:00 AM ET

Recently the job hunters of the world breathed a sigh of relief: On July 22, 2010, President Obama signed a bill restoring unemployment benefits to over 2.5 million Americans who have been jobless for more than 26 weeks, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

The national unemployment level has dropped slightly as the economy tries to pull itself out of recession, but the situation isn't moving fast enough for many families. While this reprieve comes at an opportune time for jobless parents, many of whom stopped receiving checks after June 2 when the first extension expired, the challenge of finding work in our struggling economy remains.

Parents caught in these unfortunate situations are having trouble finding work--even part-time jobs are scarce in many areas of the country. They've dipped into their savings (or used it up entirely), cashed in retirement accounts and moved to make ends meet. One hardworking father spent 36 years employed before being laid off; now, he's been out of work for 18 months and drained his savings to pay for health care coverage for his 13-year-old daughter who has diabetes. His older daughter is about to head off to college, but he doesn't know how he and his wife will cover tuition.

The stories of the aftermath of the recession are everywhere. And while most families can't prepare for 18 months (or more) of unemployment, it is possible to build an emergency fund that will protect your family, pay for your rent or mortgage, and also cover what's probably your second-highest monthly expense: child care. It's clear that having a savings plan in place is critical to surviving the longest recession since the Great Depression.

Experts differ on how much you should save (and the right answer is really whatever you're most comfortable with), but the general consensus is that families should have anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 stashed into a savings account. Generally, families should aim to put away at least three to six months of living expenses. The Wall Street Journal's Complete Personal Finance Guidebook says a minimum of three months' salary is a good starting point and even suggests keeping several hundred dollars in cash stashed in your home (keep it in a safe, not under a mattress!).

The unemployment numbers are staggering; close to three million Americans face joblessness by the end of July. With almost 10 percent of the country unemployed (26% in some states), the benefits extension means food on the table for a few more weeks. Rent for another month. Maybe a few dollars to stash away for the emergency fund, if they're lucky. This extension of benefits has given struggling families some breathing room -- perhaps just enough breathing room to focus on what's really important: caring and providing for your family in tough times.

  |   August 5, 2010    2:24 PM ET

We've all experienced crises in our lives. But crisis doesn't have to mean failure, loss and powerlessness. According to inspirational speaker and bestselling author Tony Robbins, it is precisely these moments of crisis that propel us to lead richer, fuller lives.

Now we are asking YOU to share your personal story through text or video.

(Scroll down or click "Read or Add Comments" below to watch Tony Robbins explain how to add your voice.)

This week we're focusing on relationships -- be it romantic, friendship or family. Have you experienced a relationship challenge or crisis that transformed your life?

Tony Robbins designed five questions that are very simple, but very useful and for some of you extremely powerful. He hopes answering them will trigger you to remember the path you took to solve your own crisis, and will also allow you to share it with this community.

Post your answers in either written form with a photo, or in a short (1-3 minute) video.

Here are the five questions (please write your answer in the caption field.)

1) What was your life right before the challenge or crisis hit?

2. What was the crisis you faced? What happened, and when it did, what did you feel and experience?

3. What pulled you through this difficult, unjust or impossible time? What was the trigger or catalyst for change? What is a belief, a strategy, a faith, a person, a tool? What made the change possible?

4. Once you turned the corner mentally or emotionally, what did you do to turn your life around?

5. How is your life better today because you lived through the crisis? How have you transformed? How are you stronger emotionally, physically, spiritually? What gifts do you have to give because of this?

How To Participate:

1. Click the blue "Add a slide" button below.

2. A HuffPost Social News box will open where you can upload a photo, write a title and a caption.

3. If you want to upload a video instead, simply click the "Video" button and drop in the embed code from YouTube, Vimeo, or whichever site you used to upload the video. You can also add a title and caption.

4. Click "Upload" and your contribution will be sent to a HuffPost editor.


  |   August 5, 2010    8:26 AM ET

Tuesday, August 4th's episode of "Breakthrough" with Tony Robbins follows the life of Ron and Marie Stegner, a couple facing financial ruin, whose marriage is hanging on by a delicate thread.

Taking them through a series of experiences, Tony Robbins provides the Stegner's with tools to rekindle their marriage and get their life back on track. In this video, Tony explains how you can apply these same strategies to the challenges in YOUR life.


WATCH:


  |   August 4, 2010    2:52 PM ET

Episode two of "Breakthrough" with Tony Robbins, which aired last night on NBC, tells the story of a couple dealing with a particularly relateable challenge. Following a company layoff and failed business venture, Ron and Marie Stegner have lost all of their savings. The family is facing foreclosure. Tony Robbins takes them on journey to tackle the root of the problem -- their marriage.


WATCH:


  |   July 30, 2010   12:43 PM ET

We asked you to participate in the conversation about finding power in crisis, by sharing YOUR 'Breakthrough' experience and asked YOU to VOTE on which stories you found the most inspiring! Our winner for the week is: Robin Von Ohlsen!

Here is Robin's story:

"My husband Carl suffered a massive stroke in June 2005, four months after we got married. Here was a young man, ambitious, athletic, a loving father (and husband), active in his church and with a new bride, Robin, looking forward to the best years of our lives.

Then crisis ... a massive stroke left Carl in a wheelchair unable to move his right side, read or write. Many thought I would not take on the enormous responsibility of caring for my husband. But "crisis" made me the woman I am today!

I prayed to God to give me strength. My oldest son was in Iraq at the time, and my thoughts often led to him during times of sitting by the ICU.

How could my life take just a devastating turn in just a few short moments. I picked up my bootstraps, promised Carl (and his friends and family) that we would get through this. I learned that "patience" is a virtue and "laughter" is the best medicine. Carl came home and our relationship bloomed faster and stronger than any newly married couple I've ever known. My youngest son who lives with us, went through some very hard times while I was dedicating my time to Carl -- yet, this crisis taught him to care and "lift up" others -- now he is truly a great man. Pat is home from Iraq, bruised and battered, but thankful to have served his country and truly appreciates the little things in life.

We have endured many hospital stays, Carl losing his job due to complete disability, me, losing my job due to the economy, our loss of many friends (Disability shows you who truly is on your side) and yet, we've battled through together. Our doctors and family often admit that our relationship is one that each look up to -- for true happiness knows no crisis, only another mountain to climb. Through patience, persistence, love and family we still climb each and every mountain put in front of us...eager to see what's behind it.

Thank you Tony and Arianna for recognizing these needs in others.

  |   July 29, 2010    9:47 AM ET

Editor's Note:Voting for this week is now closed. Our winner is Robin Von Ohlsen! Read her story!

We've all experienced crises in our lives. But crisis doesn't have to mean failure, loss and powerlessness. According to inspirational speaker and bestselling author Tony Robbins, it is precisely these moments of crisis that propel us to lead richer, fuller lives.

Now, HuffPost Living -- in conjunction with "Breakthrough with Tony Robbins," a six-part primetime special airing July 27 on NBC -- asks YOU to share your personal story through text or video.

(Scroll down or click "Read or Add Comments" below to watch Tony Robbins explain how to add your voice!)

Tony Robbins designed five questions that are very simple, but very useful and for some of you extremely powerful. He hopes answering them will trigger you to remember the path you took to solve your own crisis, and will also allow you to share it with this community.

Post your answers in either written form with a photo, or in a short (1-3 minute) video.

Here are the five questions (write your answer in the caption field.)

1) What was your life right before the challenge or crisis hit?

2. What was the crisis you faced? What happened, and when it did, what did you feel and experience?

3. What pulled you through this difficult, unjust or impossible time? What was the trigger or catalyst for change? What is a belief, a strategy, a faith, a person, a tool? What made the change possible?

4. Once you turned the corner mentally or emotionally, what did you do to turn your life around?

5. How is your life better today because you lived through the crisis? How have you transformed? How are you stronger emotionally, physically, spiritually? What gifts do you have to give because of this?

How To participate:

1. Click the blue "Add a slide" button below.

2. A HuffPost Social News box will open where you can upload a photo, write a title and a caption.

3. If you want to upload a video instead, simply click the "Video" button and drop in the embed code from YouTube, Vimeo, or whichever site you used to upload the video. You can also add a title and caption.

4. Click "Upload" and your contribution will be sent to a HuffPost editor.


  |   July 28, 2010    1:54 PM ET

Tuesday night, July 27th's premier of "Breakthrough" with Tony Robbins told the story of Frank and Kristen Alioto, a couple who suffered an extreme tragedy when the groom jumped into a swimming pool on his wedding night and instantly became a paraplegic. With Tony Robbins's help, the the Aliotos are able to reclaim their life and their marriage.

In this episode, Robbins explains the four core steps he took Frank and Kristen through to help them achieve their 'Breakthrough'. These same strategies can be applied to the challenges in your own life, today.


Step One: Identify where you live, emotionally.

Step Two: Identify the solution. What's the antidote? What's the emotional pattern that it would change the game if you lived it?

Step Three: Practice that emotion. Understand emotion is created by motion -- by the way you use your body.

Step Four: Condition it. Deliberately, physically make the emotional switch, and do this three or four times a day for three days to a week. You'll start to get a pattern in your body. A new pattern means a new life.


WATCH: Behind the Scenes of 'Breakthrough':


How Much Is Enough? Sharing Personal Wealth When Times Are Tough

  |   July 28, 2010    8:00 AM ET

Read More:

  |   July 28, 2010    7:30 AM ET

"Breakthrough" with Tony Robbins premiered on NBC yesterday, the first of six primetime specials. In this episode, Tony follows Frank and Kristen Alioto, a couple whose wedding night turned tragic after Frank suffered a swimming pool accident that rendered him a quadriplegic. With Tony Robbins' help, Frank learns to overcome his limitations and reclaim his life and marriage.


WATCH:



Growing Through Adversity: Victim or Victorious?

Dr. Judith Rich   |   July 28, 2010    7:00 AM ET

Tony Robbins' new series, Breakthrough: The Power of Crisis, launched this week here on the Living page, is taking on one of the most important issues of our time: How can we be empowered by crisis rather than impaled by it? How can we use adversity as a mechanism for personal growth?

This is certainly not a new question. In fact, it's essentially the human condition. Life really doesn't care if we like what it brings or if we're ready. Life is impersonal that way. Life "happens" and we are faced with choices about how we're going to deal with it. Will we be a victim of circumstances or will we use them instead to grow and become victorious?

In my own offerings here, I've been exploring this same topic, but in a slightly different context: How can we transform the fear-based consciousness of scarcity, which has so many people in its grip today, and live in the consciousness of abundance?

Recall, our definition of abundance is not about greed or excess. Abundance in the context of these lean times is about sufficiency, living in the flow of "enough." In the face of hardship, how does one overcome conditions of scarcity and create conditions of "enough?"

As Tony affirms, "It all starts with each individual's inner strength and resilience." So the question becomes: How does one shore up their inner strength when life has beaten them down? What do you do when the only thing in abundance in your life is scarcity?

Here's an email I received from a reader of last week's post, "Five Keys to a 'New' Abundance for Lean Times," that gets to the heart of the issue:

Thank you for that wonderful article: 5 Keys to Abundance. The words were well written and thoughtful and it certainly makes a lot of sense.


These types of articles are great but there is always one small problem. The landlord won't take the article or words as payment. Also the car companies, gas and electric companies and super market will not take them as well. You get the point. Life will not wait for us to get better and learn to adapt these words and move forward.

Perhaps if the world was more compassionate it would work, say for instance tell all of your creditors that you need three to four months to get well and they accept that. Yes I am cynical but I am also the average hardworking, family-loving person who is ready to throw it all away. Not because of what I don't have but because I can no longer support my family in ANY WAY.

The effort is great on the writer's part and it will probably help some of the people get through a couple of extra days perhaps weeks but is not a solution. I myself don't know the solution and try and figure it out every minute of every day.

When you love your family and they love you back and everyone is pulling hard together it certainly brings you closer together and you do learn a lot about your self but this for many people is not enough; they just can't survive financially or emotionally and the result is what you see in the news every day and often. --Jeffrey F.

Jeffrey has voiced a legitimate concern that hits to the core of what many people are facing in today's economic crisis. How do you pay the rent or buy groceries with "good ideas?"

All this abundance philosophy sounds good on paper, but when the resources are all dried up and the rent is due, then what? It might sound and feel good for a nanosecond, but when the rubber meets the road, the rent is still due and the kids are hungry. Let's get real.

Seriously! Let's do get real. Jeff feels he no longer can support his family "in any way," and is "ready to throw it all away." So let's examine Jeff's situation more closely because his circumstances and his despair echo what can be heard across the land in many people's lives today.

Let's look at how Jeff sees his situation: Given what's so, Jeff feels he can no longer support his family in any way. To this I ask: "Is this true?"

Jeff tells us he loves his family and they love him back and they're pulling closer together through this experience. I know love won't pay the rent, but notice, the family is pulling together. They could be moving apart, but they're not. I'm not sure if Jeff truly gets what a valuable resource this is.

There is something here that money can't buy. So while love, alone, doesn't pay the rent or make the car payments, within this circle of love and connection called "family," or even friendship resources, there is a fountain of possibilities waiting to be loved into form. And that form might very well turn out to be what pays the rent and puts food on the table.

There is a sacred bond, a deeper connection, that manifests when people come through hard times with the love and support of family and/or friends. It comes into being when people dig deep to find within themselves the strength and courage they didn't know they had, the commitment to their future, the legacy they leave behind for those who follow, and their commitment to stand for themselves and each other to realize and live into their greatest potential.

Talk to men and women who have been in military combat together -- people who have stared death in the face together and come back to tell about it. Talk to people who have been through the catastrophic illness of a family member together. Talk to those who've sat at the bedsides of their dying loved ones together. What will you discover? There is an unspoken, sacred bond felt by those who confront life's biggest challenges and who learn and grow from them together.

Do not sell this sacred bond short. In the department of valuable resources, this one is right at the top of the list. It's intangible, yes, but if asked to choose which is more valuable, the love and support of family or money to pay the rent, what would you choose?

There will be people who, in the identical circumstances as Jeffrey, with all the same complexities, fears and misgivings, will turn their circumstances into a turning point in their lives. They will take this same hand and play it, not from being ready to throw it all away, but from stepping into the void that is already there, choosing it (it already is), and summoning from their deepest and highest selves, their powerful intention to move forward.

People who prevail and get to the other side of hard times do so because they discover a part of themselves they didn't know they had. In so doing, they realize that it was only under the pressure of what felt like no choice, they in fact chose the hand they were dealt and used that exact same hand to get bigger. They were victorious in the face of what looked like being dealt a losing hand.

Those people will look back on this time and see this was when they chose to live as a conscious act, an act of volition. And then they set sail toward creating the rest of their life. Why couldn't this scenario be yours?

Likewise, there will be people who, dealt this same hand of cards, will respond by feeling empty, passionless and drained dry of life. Like Jeff, they've lost access to their inner resources and in the face of hardship are ready to "throw it all away."

Which response do you think is going to produce breakthroughs, and even success? Which is going to empower someone to press on, dig deep and come out winning?

Do you have a choice in the matter? Thinking you have no choice is a choice itself. Which choice is more empowering? Which one opens possibilities?

Surely in the face of "throwing it all away," giving up, resigning, the doors to possibility are closed. The mind has decided there is no way forward and thus, it comes about. There is no way forward.

We literally speak and think our reality into being. If the mind says, "This is it. I'm done. I have nothing left. There is no way forward," this thought takes form and creates itself on the material plane. Thoughts become things.

Abundance begins when you choose exactly what you have, not as in resignation or "settling," but as a place from which to begin. If you're in resistance to what already is, you are not in the present, where the only opportunity to change things resides.

Resistance is a form of denial that has you locked into a belief that "this shouldn't be happening" and thus, you're stuck right where you are. All the resistance in the world will not change your current reality. You must stop resisting and choose what you have. Only then, are you available to take committed actions that will begin to turn things around and thus, transform your life.

I sense that Jeffrey has not completely resigned yet. He has reached out and this is good. If he'd truly given up, he wouldn't have taken the time to write with his question. He is still in the game, but on his way to the bleachers, while looking over his shoulder to ask one more time, "Is there another way other than giving up?"

Which to Jeff I say, "Yes! Yes!" For sure you're going to lose if you retire to the bleachers and sit out the rest of the game. If you throw it all away, you're not even going to give yourself a chance. So what if you've given yourself 1,000 chances? How do you know your chance is not at 1,001 or even 1,002 or beyond? How many times did Edison fail at the light bulb? 10,000? How do you know it's time to quit? What if the game is just getting started?

And as for the rent, what if love and courage can pay it? What if self-love and courage are the missing ingredients that would have Jeffrey know he's capable of winning, even if the score doesn't look good? I'm reminded of a young man named Nick Vujicic, who was born with no arms and no legs. Nick is a winner. If you want to know what resilience and courage look like watch this. It's worth 4:11 seconds of your time.


WATCH:





We have the hand we're dealt. It seems unfair that some people should be dealt all aces and then there's Nick Vujicic, who chose what he has and wrote his own rules about what it means to be dealt a life with no arms and no legs and we're all richer for it.

Choose the cards you're dealt, the ones you like and the ones you don't, and play them full-on, play them with everything you've got for as long as it takes, for your very life might well depend on it. In a very real way, it does. For sure if you throw in the cards, you lose.

Jeff, I hope you still have your uniform on and are headed back towards the field. The team is missing a player without you in the game.

And to anyone who can identify with Jeffrey, to those who question if it's worth it, to those who wonder if they matter, to those who don't see a way out, please remember this: the human team is incomplete without you on it. You came to play out your life and there's no one else who can "do you". There's something you came to do, someone you came to be, something you came to learn and contribute.

You are essential to the story of humanity. If you don't contribute your unique piece, the human story is incomplete. So if abundance is scarce or if scarcity is abundant, go for it anyway. Your current circumstances are precisely what you have, so choose them and then get busy creating from there.

I'd love to hear from you about how you're being resourceful in dealing with scarcity or other challenges at this time. Please leave a comment below and/or come pay a visit to my personal blog and website: Rx For The Soul, where I'll be blogging on this on a regular basis.

And hey, we're all in this together, so let's Become Fans and hold hands while we traverse the peaks and valleys together. You can contact me personally at judith@judithrich.com.

Abundant blessings, wherever your path leads you.

  |   July 27, 2010    2:00 PM ET

For three decades international star Tony Robbins has served as a key adviser to renowned world and business leaders. His work as an inspirational speaker and bestselling author has directly impacted the lives of millions of people in 100 countries.

On Monday, July 26 Robbins spoke LIVE with Huffington Post Senior Editor Willow Bay on HuffPost Living's special section Breakthrough: The Power Of Crisis.

Watch Tony's advice on how to create your own "Breakthrough" and answer viewer questions about persevering through tough times.


WATCH:

Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



  |   July 27, 2010    9:08 AM ET

Tony Robbins's six-part primetime special, "Breakthrough," tells the the stories of individuals and families who suffered an extreme crisis, and with simple but powerful strategies were able to not only get through it but come out even stronger and happier.


  |   July 26, 2010    3:00 PM ET

Tony Robbins explains the idea behind his partnership with HuffPost Living and our new special section, Breakthrough: The Power Of Crisis.

(Scroll down or click "Read or Add Comments" below to watch the video)

"I don't think it does justice to people to take the level of challenge they have and give them a few paragraphs as an answer. And secondly it's my answer -- not theirs," said Robbins.

"We're partnering with the Huffington Post to give you a simple little process you can do right now," he said. "It's a way to realize that no matter how tough things are, you've faced many crises before and you probably found a way to get through them."


WATCH:


A Chance to Break Through: How You Can Use Crises to Transform Your Life

Arianna Huffington   |   July 26, 2010    3:25 AM ET

A month ago, when Tony Robbins was passing through New York, we met for a drink. In the course of our conversation, we realized that -- from our different perspectives -- we both had been thinking about a similar problem: how can people faced with enormous challenges carry on without collapsing under the burden?

I had just finished my upcoming book on Third World America in which I write about the millions of middle class Americans who are suddenly finding themselves without a job, or without a home, or without the possibility of giving their children a better future. By the end of the book, I found myself consumed with identifying practical solutions and sources of help that those struggling could use right away -- instead of anxiously waiting for government to act. And I recognized that it all starts with each individual's inner strength and resilience.

Tony, meanwhile, had been working on "Breakthrough with Tony Robbins," a series of primetime TV specials for NBC focused on the stories of people who had been dealt an incredibly bad hand by life. He showed me a clip and I was not just deeply moved but, more the point, I was struck by how these people were able to find the strength to transform their lives -- even in the most extreme circumstances.

The clip I saw was about a newlywed who jumps into a swimming pool on his wedding day, hits his head, and instantly becomes a quadriplegic. When we first encounter them in Tony's special, premiering tomorrow night, he and his wife are trapped in their house -- the wife feeling depressed and angry; the husband feeling guilty and at a loss for what to do. The transformation in this couple's lives that we see by the end of the hour is stunning -- and I knew it would be really inspiring for anyone going through difficult circumstances of their own (most of which, of course, would pale in comparison to becoming a quadriplegic).

By the end of our meeting, Tony and I had decided do something on HuffPost that would focus on solutions instead of problems. The result is Breakthrough: The Power of Crisis, which launches today.

I now turn this blog post over to Tony:

Arianna and I have been friends for two and a half decades and when we recently met we talked about what a different America we're living in -- one where, for the first time in our history, we have a generation of people who believe the quality of life for themselves and their children will be lower in the future than it has been in the past.

It's not so hard to figure out why this is, all you have to do is turn on the news -- and hear about the job losses and the foreclosures and the bankruptcies and the destruction of the environment in the Gulf.

No wonder so many people are feeling like life is beyond their control. That numbing feeling tends to create what we call learned helplessness. We begin to almost expect to feel like we're puppets on a string reacting to events as opposed to free human beings directing our own destiny.

It's a dangerous place to be because, once we believe it, we accept it and we no longer even fight the challenges.

The question is, what do we do? Arianna and I have talked about this extensively. For me, it was creating a television show to remind people of what they already know. When you actually witness real people making real changes, two things happen. Yes, you are moved -- maybe even to tears -- but, more importantly, you are inspired.

The series, I hope, will remind people that we are more capable than we think we are -- that we all have greater inner strength than we give ourselves credit for.

We wanted to start a conversation about this on HuffPost. We both agreed the strongest approach is to focus on solutions, not problems, because most of us are already all-too-good at sharing the story of our problems. We know them so well, they can end up controlling us. And the most powerful way to find the solutions that can turn our lives around is to reconnect to what we already know so we can learn from ourselves and from others around us.

We've all experienced multiple crises in our lives -- be it health, career, financial, family -- and most of us have found ways to eventually break through.

What exactly is a breakthrough?

It is a moment in time, an opening when what seemed to be impossible becomes possible. You meet someone and get inspired, you learn something, you're given a strategy or tool. Or maybe you get angry enough to finally do it -- you take decisive action and your life changes.

Either you use stress or it uses you. Some people go through terrible things and are able to move beyond them and, indeed, use their experiences to help others.

How do you react in a crisis? We designed five questions that are very simple, but can be very useful. Answering them will trigger you to remember the path you took in your past to solve your own crisis, and allow you to share your breakthroughs with the HuffPost community.

Using HuffPost's social slideshow tool, you can give your answers in writing or in a short video. Here are the questions:

  1. What was your life like right before the challenge or crisis hit?
  2. What was the crisis you faced? What happened -- what did you feel and experience?
  3. What pulled you through this difficult, unjust, or impossible time? What was the trigger or catalyst for change? Was it a belief, a strategy, a faith, a person, a tool? What made the change possible?
  4. Once you turned the corner mentally or emotionally, what did you do to turn your life around?
  5. How is your life better today because you lived through the crisis? How have you transformed? How are you stronger emotionally, physically, spiritually? What gifts do you have to give because of this?

Back to Arianna:

Each week, our community will have the chance to select the top five examples of breakthroughs posted on the site, and we'll feature them. And each week Tony will come on HuffPost after his NBC show to join the discussion -- and to offer specific tools and strategies for overcoming crises.

So check out our Breakthrough blog, and answer the questions. Do it on video or do it in writing, but remember to focus on the solution, rather than the problem.

Together, we can use our collective knowledge and experience to support and help one another through even the most challenging times.

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