The New Normal

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

cross posted at My Left Wing

My father faced a layoff in 1970, the year he turned 55. For the three weeks leading up to the event, Dad was a wreck. “Danny,” he said to me, “if I get laid off, I’ll never work again.”

I was laid off in 2009, the year I turned 55. Silly me, I thought that, since this is the 21st century, all that ageist crap was done. Hah!

Even in this “enlightened” era, if you’re over 50 and you’ve been out of work for more than 9 months (way more for me), nobody wants to hire you.

Approaching the third anniversary of being laid off, I’ve thought a lot about jobs and what’s become the new normal.

That last job enabled me to pay my bills and my loans with enough left over at the end of the month that my wife and I could afford to do a few things for grins and giggles.

There was paid leave if I got sick or if I wanted to take a few days off. There were paid holidays. (What a concept – getting paid for days I didn’t work!) I had weekends off. There was even a 401(k) plan, one of those do-it-yourself investment crap shoots for funding my retirement.

Those days are gone, most likely forever.

Three years later, the new normal is working seven days a week at three part-time jobs.

Two of them are jobs I would have taken as a teenager. I’m a sales clerk/host/dishwasher at a local restaurant and I deliver pizzas. These jobs keep me busy, but they don’t pay a lot. Between the two, I make less than what I got on unemployment.

The third job is the first work in my profession since I was laid off three years ago. I’m a contractor now, working part time and as-needed. My employer likes my work and will give me projects as long as he can, but if he runs out of projects, I’m done.

That’s another part of the new normal. Jobs, pensions, and 401(k) plans, while never completely secure, still used to seem like pretty sure things. Now they all hang on the thinnest of threads, along with Social Security and Medicare.

The scariest part is that I’m getting used to this. My first months of unemployment scared the daylights out of me. Today I can say “So what?” because I’m resigned to the economy staying in the crapper for a long time to come.

Some things still keep me awake nights. I haven’t made a payment on my Sallie Mae loans for three years. My monthly payment to the IRS covers only the interest and penalty fees. My retirement savings keep getting smaller. My IRA investments keep losing money, never mind that most of the stock market is going up.

Despite my pessimism, I can see the bright spots in my life. We haven’t missed a mortgage payment. We’ve had a few shut off notices on our utilities, but we always manage to come up with the cash in time. We can still afford to put gas in the car, and there’s still plenty of food in the fridge. Keeping these necessities intact, so easy to do when I had a real job, now seems like a major victory.

Plus, while I’ve got some decent paying work, we’ll be able to catch up a little. We won’t be getting ahead, but we will make some progress.

For now, that’s good enough.

4 comments

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    • TMC on January 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    with us. It is unbelievable that in this country, your story is not unique. At 55 you should be able to think of retirement not looking for another job. That congress and the president are even thinking about raising the age for Social Security and Medicare, while letting the banks get away with the theft of people’s life savings, is maddening and frightening. The worst of this is that we elected a Democratic president and gave him a Democratic congress and they both blew it because there is no two party system anymore, as WEB Dubois said, “There is but one evil party with two names.”

    The best to you and your family.

  1. The internet has become the crap/fake job board.  I can’t even join the National Guard anymore.  Voluntary retirement they called it, yeah more like gun to the head retirement.  Still there is much evil in the workplace since the engineered crash of 2008.  If you have a workplace that is.

    • pfiore8 on January 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    it isn’t a bad thing, to live leaner and smarter. and feel good about it.

    the way to distance ourselves from the 1% and their power, imo, is to be independent of their wares… and to find ways to reinvigorate our regional economies, develop town-centered living with bike and walking paths, and take back local politics.

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