A reader writes:
Downsized out of my career in my mid-50's, after 20+ years of faithful service to a 150-year-old company that declared bankruptcy some months after my termination. I got a decent severance - in the latest wave of layoffs, there were people with more years of service who got zilch. I have found some freelance daily-hire work here and there - last year my after-tax/after-insurance net was about 25% of what I had been making. Still looking, still hoping.
The 401(k) that I'd faithfully funded since the mid-80s lost a third of its value in just a few weeks. I had bad vibes about the bankster/gangsters over a year ago (CDO's and swaps? I'd read about them on internet message boards back in 2006, but gave more credence to my adviser since he's an expert and the internet is notoriously unreliable. Fat lot of good that did.) I know he wasn't trying to steer me in a wrong direction - he feels as badly as I do. Thank God BushCo never got their filthy mitts on Social Security.
I've always conducted my financial affairs in a conservative fashion, so I have a (dwindling) cushion to rely on and some equity in a home with a (for now) manageable mortgage. I pay for my own health insurance (a lousy policy with high premiums and deductibles - please, dear God - help me stay healthy.) The premiums are about four times more than I spend for food, all of which is prepared at home by me. I haven't been more than 15 miles from home in more than a year. When cabin fever sets in, I go for a walk.
I'm not complaining, really I'm not. I am able to stay warm and dry and fed, and current on my bills. I am fortunate - I know I am blessed. I don't take it for granted and don't consider myself more worthy than others who find themselves in far more dire straits. I could very well be in their shoes before this is all over. The worst part is not being able to be as financially generous as I used to be with a couple of friends who are - due to medical issues - much worse off. I do what I can when the alarm bells go off, but sometimes it doesn't feel like enough.
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