The second personal finance real life story in our weekly series is from Andrea, who lives in Apex. Her family has been struggling since her husband lost a job he had worked at for 18 years.
With the unemployment rate in NC at 9.4 percent for May, there are hundreds of thousands of people feeling the pain of this difficult economy. Many of our Smart Shopper readers live with unemployment and underemployment every day and some of them have generously offered to share their stories with us.
For the next few weeks, you will see how the economy has changed the way they live, eat, play and make ends meet. Some of them are successfully digging out after long-term job loss and some are smack dab in the middle of the black hole, struggling to pay bills every month. These are their real life stories and I thank them all for sharing their experiences.
My hope in running this series is that their suggestions and tips will be helpful to others who are also struggling. The creativity and determination these folks have shown is very impressive and I hope you are able to take away some helpful information from each situation.
My husband is a software developer who worked for the same company for 18 years (rare these days). Two years ago the Raleigh office was eliminated and he lost his job (with no severance pay ... after 18 years!). I was mostly a stay-at-home mom to two girls. I worked part-time at the Cary YMCA, where I could take my girls to work with me at no cost (if you work in the nursery). I did that for nine years.
We went through an entire mutual fund to pay our bills since unemployment benefits did
not cover our bills; and of course we had no severance money.
The worst part has been losing our health care insurance. My husband found another job in three months, but his new employer only offers limited health care insurance. They pay for most of his coverage (he pays $100 a month), but that is only for him, they don't help cover family. If he adds his family we would have to pay a total of $1,028 a month (almost as much as our mortgage payment). Our older daughter has coverage through her university but our younger daughter and I only have a high-end deductible plan, and it's $330 a month. We don't go to the doctor.
My husband also had to take a big ($30,000 a year) pay cut (although we're grateful that he found work at all). We have had to cut corners and my couponing has had to go into high gear. We can only buy what we NEED and forget going on vacation. There is no expendable income.
I have had a few part-time, seasonal jobs in retail but have limited job skills since I mostly stayed at home.
Andrea and I chatted on the phone and she shared some other tips and thoughts about their journey.
She mentioned that she was very frustrated about the health insurance issue because she had been in the Air Force and had applied to the VA for health care benefits. She was denied because their income is apparently too high.
Andrea also said that they have cut out extras like going to the expensive salon. She now goes to Cost Cutters with a coupon and then uses a box of hair color from Sally Beauty Supply to color her hair.
They don’t go on vacations and only take day trips. They only eat out for special occasions and she has signed up for all the reward programs at restaurants, Sally Beauty Supply and other stores.
She looks for work every week, but with limited job skills, she has only had success finding seasonal employment in retail.
The good news is that they are no longer dipping into savings and her husband is able to contribute some money into his 401k. Unfortunately, his company does not offer a match on those contributions.
In the end, she did say that she knows she is better off than many others so she is grateful for what they do have.
My great thanks to Andrea for sharing her story and her suggestions for making ends meet in difficult times. Stay tuned for next Thursday when we’ll hear from another Smart Shopper reader about her struggles and triumphs. As I always say, it’s your money – spend it wisely!