Tag Archives: unemployment

An ever widening circle of riff-raff

In an article in the November 12th issue of the Wall Street Journal, it’s reported that America’s job recovery is happening, but at two different rates of speed for different segments of the population.

As usual, the poor and lower-middle class, in addition to seniors, young people, those undereducated and the already unemployed are bearing the brunt of the uneven recovery and it’s a trend that’s troubling many as it seems to be getting worse.

Experts anticipated this type of sketchy growth but hoped, as past numbers had indicated, that incomes for those less fortunate would improve as they had in previous recessions.  This time however, almost five years since the last slump, things are not going as anticipated.  Simply put, people making more-$50,000 a year and up-are being economically repaired a whole lot quicker than their poorer relations.  They’re able to spend more and likewise, have more confidence in the government and the direction it’s going.

So, as another holiday shopping season begins, I’m pushed to think that the question for each of us becomes, “am I one of the poorer relations”?   You’d be surprised what the answer is particularly as the majority of the jobs regained have been lower paying ones.

It used to be that the term riff-raff meant hoodlums, thugs, criminals or those generally bent on causing trouble.  In turn, keeping out the riff-raff meant you were holding their kind at bay.  These days, for me at least, it seems the expression has politically-incorrectly evolved to include a much broader, more innocent segment of the population.  More and more the same phrase seems to signify a lack of wealth or opportunity that’s been afforded some individuals.

And if you listen to some members of the extreme right, you come away thinking that the term could include anybody and everybody; i.e. the homeless, the cognitively challenged, members of the LGBT community, the poor, both the lower middle and even some of the middle-class.   It’s an extra wide brush that’s painting people, all with the supposed intent of taking back America for the real Americans.

Maybe it’s me but it seems that everything from automobiles to electronics, from toys to education and from homes to hobbies; everything is being priced more and more out of reach of the ordinary citizen.  And with those high costs comes an inability for many to be able to afford or partake of, or participate in, or enroll in, or enjoy.  It creates a new caste and cultivates a culture of lost opportunity that prevents many from partaking in the pursuit of that elusive American dream.

In such a fashion, price is becoming the great un-equalizer for our society.  It speaks to the old adage, if you have to ask how much then maybe it’s not for you.  The issue is that when they say “you”, they’re referring to a continually growing portion of the populace; operative words being “continually growing”.  Besides which, I don’t think the adage was meant to include anything and everything.

So, as ‘Black Thursday’ looms and more vendors decide to deduct additional family time from their already stressed employees, I say again, ask yourself, what am I?  Where do I fit in this equation?

And if you don’t have a Lexus sitting in your driveway with a big red bow on it for your loved one, take a deep breath and appreciate that you just might be a part of that riff-raff crowd.  Welcome to the party.

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Filed under jobs & joblessness, Life and Society, Opinion

Money worries perpetuate themselves, create stress

In other words, if you have money, you worry about keeping and maintaining money.  It’s a simple truth; uncomplicated yet elusive.  But the quicker you accept that fact the faster you’ll become more prepared to deal and survive in these still unforgiving economic times.

It’s been three years since my spouse was laid off from her job.  Actually, she was fired without cause after 16 years and offered no severance package.  No need to go into any further details, since hers is not a unique situation.  Seniors, boomers and other long term employees about ready to cash out and retire, have all had to face the same heartless, and possibly unscrupulous, tactics put forth by employers under the guise of catchy new age names, like re-structuring and reorganization.

But the verdict was in, and the deed was done.  As she draws nearer to that glorious end day (early retirement), we try to relax as we’ve become somewhat accustomed to the ebb and flow of our savings.  We discovered that preparation was essential and can’t imagine these past few years without the help of both of our companies 401K and savings plans.  Since her separation, we’ve utilized funds from both in an effort to keep our proverbial heads above the waters of abject poverty.  But in doing so, as we watched our savings account accumulate and deplete routinely over time, we’ve realized a few things.

As the sole bread winner, I’ve experienced many a sleepless night these past 411 days as the stress from our situation plagues me; my wife as well, I’m sure.  But as our dollar amount decreased, my stress level took an unexpected downturn.  It seems that once the money was gone (or almost gone) then so too was the pressure associated with holding on to it.  It became, more simply, a matter of survival and no longer one of maintaining wealth (however meager), in addition to survival.  Still, losing money in an effort to combat stress is not the sole answer to the problem.  There are other things to be done in order to maintain good mental and physical health.

Keeping a positive attitude, above all else I think, is important.  Be thankful for what you have and not what you want (or need, for that matter).  You have to know and trust in yourself (if you’re an Atheist) and/or the Lord (if you’re a Christian) that you will be OK; that you and yours will make it despite whatever befalls you.   Get plenty of rest and exercise.   Maintain a healthy diet; your mind will follow the lead of your body.  In other words, if your body is healthy and happy, an unhappy mind is a bit harder to sustain.  Jump-start your metabolism by drinking plenty of water and eating multiple servings of fruits and green vegetables daily.   Sounds corny and routine but trust me, it helps.  Have fun, as much as you can under the circumstances.  Carry on a good sex life.  Do things together as a family; take walks, go on picnics.  There’s free stuff out there to do in life that’s mentally rewarding.  Do what it takes to take your mind off your economic circumstances for a short while.  Finally, pay yourself first.  This oft-times touted accountant’s directive takes on a new meaning in these troublesome times.   For me, it means prioritizing my spending with emphasis on me and mine and our happiness and well-being.

Now, I’m not saying that you should stop paying your bills but rather that you find a complimentary mid-point where doing so doesn’t hurt so much.  Look to slow that monthly hemorrhaging of cash from your wallet by reducing that cable or smart phone bill.  In the wake of so many Wall Street bail-outs and ever increasing legislator’s salaries, tax loopholes for the rich and the damaging political stalemate in Washington, I find thinking about my survival and contentment, along with my wife’s before anything else, a very easy thing to do.

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.”


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