Friday, August 20, 2010

Sobering Statistics

In its August 9, 2010 edition, The Wall Street Journal cited the following facts about the current state of the job market in the United States:

a) The number of 35-44 year old men out of work for at least a year totals 432,000.

b) The number of 45-54 year old men out of work for at least a year totals 608,000.

c) The number of 55-64 year old men out of work for at least a year totals 369,000.

d) The number of 55-64 year old women out of work for at least a year totals 267,000.

e) The median duration of unemployment is 25.4 weeks.

f) If the job openings were being filled as they have traditionally been, the U.S. would have approximately five million more gainfully employed people, according to David Altig, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

One other major concern and long term drag on the economy relates to the fact that many of those formerly unemployed are desperate to work that they are accepting positions and wages far below their previous earnings. They are no longer unemployed, but they are financially strapped, and are not in a position to exercise the form of patriotism desired by the federal government known as spending. One of the many examples of this phenomenon is Mary Lou Belmont, who was featured in the article. Mary Lou is a 56 year old married Florida resident who lost her job providing an annual salary of $117,000 as a compliance manager with GMAC Home Services, LLC in November, 2008. She just accepted a part-time job involving clerical work with a non-profit earning slightly better than minimum wage. While it’s great that she is productive and active again, the problem is that during her period of unemployment, she racked up over $100,000 in debt. In addition, she owns a five-bedroom, five-bathroom house which she is trying to sell for $929,000. And, there are many other choices in Florida. How many others are out there just like Mary Lou? She is no longer unemployed; yet she is unable to sustain her lifestyle. In fact, here is her quote: “Looking at what I’ll make per day now, I have to laugh. I used to spend that much in a day without thinking about it. It puts things into perspective.”

The cornerstone of any financial plan is a contingency plan and an emergency cushion and a commitment to live within your means. Too bad Mary Lou and so many others in their wise “golden years” never learned these basic lessons. And, too bad for the many of us who have been responsible and disciplined and have lived within our means who are now expected to rescue the thousands of folks like Mary Lou. Had they heeded these basic lessons, our entire economy might have well healed by now.

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