In between my job search and enrolling in college classes (now that I can enroll and not lose UI benefits) I occasionally post at various blogs and web-sites. Ignoring for the moment the insulting Neanderthal view I’ve run across that people who are unemployed should not be ‘permitted’ to blog, post on-line, have an opinion, eat, sleep, p!ss or do anything other than “pound the pavement” 24/7, I am going to outline my current situation in some detail for the edification of those who have seen my post(s) and have not ‘written me off’.
I am 51 years old; my first full-time job was working in a camera store right after high school. Since then, my occasional breaks in employment have been measured in weeks or occasionally months. Once it was just days. I have a solid work history and have never been let go for anything other than a shortage of work.
In November of 2008 I was advised by the company I had worked at for the preceding 12 years that my position would no longer be available. I can’t name the company under the terms of the Severance Package I accepted. I will say that I worked for a multi-national business services company in outside sales to a particular group of accounts in about 30 of Ohio’s 88 counties. In addition, I can say that my 2008 sales results were about the best I’d had. Although nowhere near the obscene amounts reported in the “financial services industry“, I did earn some nice bonuses. Most of that money (after the maximum tax was deducted) was socked away.
Although I could clearly see the economy had turned, I felt that with my 2008 sales results, my 12 years of experience there and my total work life of over 30 years, I was in good position to take a sales position (perhaps not as senior) in a different industry. Of course it quickly became clear that what I thought of as my strengths were not seen that way by potential employers. My work experience also meant age; with its potential impact on health insurance rates. The great results of 2008 also meant that my total income was the highest I’d ever had. Companies seemed to think I could not be happy making less; and wouldn’t give me the opportunity to explain that I had made very little bonus in previous years and so was quite comfortable with much less than my 2008 W-2 earnings. And of course my 12 years with that one employer was valuable only to a direct competitor who thought I would divulge proprietary information; something I won’t even consider.
Between the bonuses and the severance package, I did receive income the first few months of 2009. As part of ‘keeping my skills sharp’, earning a little extra cash, and hoping to network with others, I took a temporary position with the US Census Bureau in the Spring of 2009. The estimated three or four month position was over in less than four weeks. And so it was May of 2009 that I filed my claim for Unemployment Insurance. I am now receiving the Federal Tier 1 benefits. Because those will run out in March, I won’t qualify for the other three tiers unless the US Senate stops farting around and does something useful.
As regular readers know, I have operated a part-time business selling my photographs on apparel, merchandise and as prints from a variety of on-line shops and galleries for a few years. Although those shops are still open (see link in right side bar), I knew that they could not provide full-time income in this economy; the number of people willing (and able) to spend on such luxuries is just not there. I do make the occasional sale; each card or t-shirt sale cheers me up and adds a few cents to my gross income (reported weekly on my UI report).
I have managed to keep the house. This is partly due to my savings, but mostly due to not purchasing ‘more house’ than I could afford; I actually qualified for my mortgage. Since I live in an ‘economically depressed’ part of the City, house values here haven’t fallen as far as some; but we are talking about houses that a few years ago were selling for less than $75k. Of course, now I would be lucky to find a buyer at half that. The car (one and only) now has about 120k miles on it; it’s starting to creak more than I do in the morning, but it works.
At the end of 2009 the State decided to jump on our President’s proposal to allow UI recipients to keep benefits while attending College full-time. It happened late enough that my FAFSA application was accepted for the Spring Semester. Being unemployed I qualify for a Pell Grant and so I can afford to attend classes starting next month. Of course, if the Senate does not pass an extension, I won’t be eligible for the other Tiers of UI and will have to drop out.
Let me be clear; none of the proposals I’ve seen are to extend the total number of weeks of Federal Emergency Unemployment beyond the current maximum of 53. The legislation would only allow those of us who filed UI claims in the past 6 months or so to qualify for some or all of those weeks. So if the US Senate extends the cut-off date to April, I would qualify only for 14 weeks of Tier 2 benefits- just a few weeks past the end of the Spring Semester. One semester of the college education that is supposed to help me start over in the workforce. That is why the US Senate needs to extend the cut off date to the end of the year. If they do that I would not get any more than the maximum but would have three full semesters to my credit. By then perhaps a recovering economy will provide a part-time retail job and some more sales through my on-line shops- and I will actually have a choice of working full-time or continuing to a degree. Such are dreams made of these days.
Regular readers here- and those who find me elsewhere on-line- know that my life is still good; I volunteer with two non-profits, have a great world-wide circle of friends and family, and love in my life. This post is not to garner sympathy but to provide some insight into an actual person behind the statistics.