“The first thing that goes through your mind is panic. You worry about telling your spouse. You play it out in your mind. What kind of options do you have? What can you sell or leverage?”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, over the past year, Arizona has suffered the “biggest job losses in percentage terms” than any other state, according to the Aug. 22 issue of the Wall Street Journal.
And, in those months, all of us have been touched by the terrifying reality of the pink slip, either in our households, extended families, neighborhoods or perhaps to our own employees.
One East Valley man agreed to open his pain to me — and to you the reader. He works in construction, the hardest-hit industry. His expertise ranks high among those who build America, as he’s a commercial structure superintendent. Last year, the 44-year-old was laid off. But he had wisely prepared his finances, had savings and extra food supplies, plus a few investments.
Thus, his family did OK while he searched for another position and was successful. But a month ago, that job ended.
“I had a 401(k) left to cash (in),” he tells me. Then, as if talking about someone else: “It’s taking your future, just to live in the now. Whatever retirement you’re working toward is going to be put off — and then you wonder how long you can make your payments, while the whole time you’re looking for work.
“It’s terrifying. It’s frustrating when you go online and there’s nothing out there and when you do apply, there’s no response.
“Of course the biggest bill is the mortgage. The second you don’t make the full payments, they put negative marks on your credit.”
And, now, his carefully protected credit score, once the finest available, has crumbled with everything else.
“You can’t refinance the house you purchased as a fully qualified buyer, because you don’t have a job and can’t cover your bills. You now owe 50 (thousand) to 60 thousand more than it’s worth and in fact, it dropped another 30 percent in value this past quarter.
“It’s a never-ending spiral taking you to a place you’ll have to dig out of when you get a job.”
“What happens,” I asked the father of three teens, “if you don’t get a job soon?”
“We lose our house and cars. We’ll have to uproot.” He chokes — his feelings now painfully close to the surface. Then, “We’ll find places with family — more than likely have to split up to make that happen.”
Life is completely on hold, he reflects: “No matter what you’re doing, it’s always in the back of your mind.”
As for the toll on his marriage, “We spend a lot of time talking. She’s very understanding, but it’s hard when you don’t feel like you’re doing your part.” Quietly, he adds, “The most precious thing in life, right now, would be to know that I can provide for my family.”
This man is a member of my family, but it could be any family. He represents us all, our best parts. He doesn’t blame, but reflects on lessons learned.
“I will obviously value whatever comes in my future.” And the man who carefully prepared for emergencies wishes he had tried harder. “Preparation for the future is probably the greatest thing I’ve gotten from this.”
Instinctively, man (male and female) fights for survival. It can be celebrated that this exact instinct built the world’s greatest nation.
But, from the beginning of civilizations, government has destroyed that freedom, imprisoned that instinct in dominion and imposed too many harmful demands on free markets. It just needs to get out of the way.
Self-respect is maintained, not through a handout, but through individual work. Historically, Americans help the needy, but in the end, with the exception of the young and infirm, self-respect cannot be satiated by a third party, government especially.
I believe this: We will rebuild. Today, the unemployed are statistics, but tomorrow, they will put their lives together and in the process, restore the American work force. That’s what we do. Let no man put asunder.