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Almost Homeless
Old 12-08-2008, 08:26 AM   #1
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Almost Homeless

Compelling story in Business Week about a 59-year-old walking the streets of Manhattan trying to find work wearing a sandwich board sign stating he is almost homeless.
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The sandwich-board man isnít trying to shine your shoes or get you to step into a jewelry store in the Diamond District. Heís not pretending that he lost his wallet and that he needs $10 to catch the train back to the suburbs. No, heís trying to find a job.
Just as interesting as the story is the ongoing conversation in the comments section that includes comments from the man, his former employers, friends, strangers, etc.

Buddy, Can You Spare a Job? - BusinessWeek
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:33 AM   #2
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I think this fellow's problem may be that: he expects to get a job like his old job in the same location with similar compensation in order to avoid any reduction in his personal financial lifestyle - but really has nothing to offer that marketplace.

He probably needs to consider a new line of work, a relocation, & an adjustment of lifestyle.
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:36 AM   #3
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What a situation to find yourself in at 59. However, I came away shaking my head wondering how anyone can get to that age and not have saved anything for a rainy day. There are gaps in the story such as no talk about 401k, investments etc. so I am assuming there is nothing there.

As to the daughter, I am confused as to why he would think that her theatre degree would have people pummelling on her door with job offers.

He seems like a nice enough person, however there was nothing there to say that he thinks he should have done anything differently either.
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:42 AM   #4
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Man, you guys are tough.
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:53 AM   #5
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I saw some footage of an interview with the guy on the news (CNN? maybe). He seemed like a reasonable person and I felt really bad for him too, Martha. *

I am hoping that with this kind of world wide publicity, he will have a job shortly.

* However, Frank jokes that I am a "bleeding heart conservative"...
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:00 AM   #6
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The subject's latest comment on this story sounds like things are looking up for him.
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:13 AM   #7
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i am very familiar with the area just north of NYC. Beacon is just one of many towns in the suburban sprawl surrounding the Big Apple. the lifestyle is to live very close to the Amtrak on the east side of the Hudson River, buy a McMansion in the towns nearby, and commute to Manhattan every day. it is a rat race that never appealed to me.
My guess is he is holding a mortgage on some pretty high priced real estate whose value just plummeted, his wife is physically unable to work, and he has daughter's college tuition bills hanging over his head. and no job.
i certainly feel for this guy. if he had a 401(k), it is probably tied up in his last company's failure paperwork. or he never had one. or he tapped into it already for mortgage payments, unreimbursed medical expenses, or college tuition.
i give him a lot of credit for getting out there and attracting attention to his plight.
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:14 AM   #8
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I had some of the same thoughts. The guy claims to have made close to $100k salaries in his past. Yet he says he has no 401k savings, but he was able to send his kid to a [most likely] expensive private school to study theatre. The wife with a bum hip surely was bad luck. But he intentionally made the move to have an hour and 45 minute commute (with the expenses associated with that). But I wonder how different he is from the average college graduate with an English degree? Sounds like he had a nice run for 40 years of his adult life, and now life is biting back. He'll be back on his feet eventually if he is as highly qualified as all the comments on the story indicate. Maybe not making $100k a year. Maybe not in the NYC area.

Re: the daughter - getting a job at Borders and making very little. What did you expect for a theater grad? Aren't 90% of aspiring actors/models/theatrical folks employed in minimum wage retail or waitering jobs?

But, hey, it's a tough economy and I wish him the very best.
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:48 AM   #9
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Man, you guys are tough.
Life is tough sometimes. I certainly give the guy credit in that he doesn't seem to be whining.

Let's not forget though that life is tough all the time for some -
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/17/ny...l2/17Rday.html -
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:51 AM   #10
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Please don't think that I take any pleasure in reading about this guy or anyone like him. I came from a family who had absolutely nothing, I am talking about there being times without money to even buy food, so I made the conscious choice as an adult to make sure that this did not happen to me.

I hope that he is back on his feet again soon, however even if he is soon gainfully employed what hope is there that he will ever have a comfortable retirement?

All I hope is that some young person out there reading about this guy's plight takes it on board and vows never to be in a similar situation. I am hoping this downturn in the economy is going to encourage Gen Y to think wisely about what they do with their money.
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:08 PM   #11
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Please don't think that I take any pleasure in reading about this guy or anyone like him. I came from a family who had absolutely nothing, I am talking about there being times without money to even buy food, so I made the conscious choice as an adult to make sure that this did not happen to me.

I hope that he is back on his feet again soon, however even if he is soon gainfully employed what hope is there that he will ever have a comfortable retirement?
Well said. I don't like to see anyone in these situations, but in some ways, it's even more tragic when it was arguably avoidable with prudent financial planning.

A few years ago (in the dot-com bust recession), there was one of those doom and gloom, lets-scare-everyone news stories about a 62-year-old executive who was suddenly unemployed and had no savings. I distinctly remember his quote: "It's like all it takes is one crack in the system and you can go from having a really good lifestyle to being literally homeless."

Now I'm sorry if sounds a bit harsh, but if someone who is 62 and enjoyed many years of a "really good" lifestyle would have instead saved and invested the difference between a "really good" lifestyle and merely a "good" lifestyle, if would almost certainly take more than "one crack" in the system unless that crack is the size of the Grand Canyon.

I don't say this to rub it in the face of people who aren't prudent enough to configure their finances to survive, but it shows how critical it is to not assume the gravy train will roll forever without derailment. It's a reminder of why we live below our means and save and invest as much as we do.

I blame a significant part of this on the woeful state of personal finance education. I believe there should be a full semester of this stuff in college -- just as they scare people in driver ed with movies like "Wheels of Tragedy" which show the blood and gore associated with reckless and drunk driving, maybe they need to show stories like these to 16-year-olds about what happens if you suddenly hit tough times and you have no "Plan B" in reserve. The lack of such education together with a social structure that emphasized consumption and "keeping up with the Joneses" has made a lot more of these sad examples than there really should be.
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:15 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by DangerMouse View Post
Please don't think that I take any pleasure in reading about this guy or anyone like him.
Me either


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Originally Posted by DangerMouse View Post
All I hope is that some young person out there reading about this guy's plight takes it on board and vows never to be in a similar situation. I am hoping this downturn in the economy is going to encourage Gen Y to think wisely about what they do with their money.
I don't know about that

- for at least three decades the information has been out there right in front of everyone on tv, radio, magazines, newspapers, highly promoted books, on the internet, etc etc saying to the American public:
"save for retirement", "how much will you need", "401k plans", "IRA's",
"don't count on Social Security" etc etc

In fact, we have been bombarded with it since at least the 80's - there has probably been more personal financial information available (& promoted) to the American people than at any time in history. And we all know about "The Great Depression".

I rather think there's quite a few folks who have had the income over the years to shore up their financial security posture, but "chose" to bury their head in the sand & spend all their money on "now" - choosing to believe the income stream could never be interrupted.

Perhaps you have to personally experience poverty or living in marginal or precarious financial circumstances to truly appreciate & be motivated enough to actually do something about your own financial security as an adult? Maybe just hearing about the pain of others isn't enough in this age of information overload?
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:36 PM   #13
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....
I blame a significant part of this on the woeful state of personal finance education. I believe there should be a full semester of this stuff in college -- just as they scare people in driver ed with movies like "Wheels of Tragedy" which show the blood and gore associated with reckless and drunk driving, ......
College? I would advocate it for high-school!

I think it takes an up close & personal brush with someone who's had the experience for it to really hit home.

Rather than movies, high school classes should bring in victims, repentant perpetrators, & the families of victims & repentant perpetrators to talk to classes. (that goes for drunk driving & personal finance victims)
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:39 PM   #14
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College? I would advocate it for high-school!
Yes, that's actually what I meant, which is why I mentioned teaching this stuff to 16 year olds. I typed before I proofread, apparently...
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:14 PM   #15
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most of life is luck and a lot of it is hard.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:35 PM   #16
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What a situation to find yourself in at 59. However, I came away shaking my head wondering how anyone can get to that age and not have saved anything for a rainy day. There are gaps in the story such as no talk about 401k, investments etc. so I am assuming there is nothing there.
Spouse's TiVo regularly records Suze Orman with closed captions, and that's the only way I can watch her. Her audience may be self-selecting, but she has no problem finding people in their 50s & 60s who've had a heckuva life and have nothing to show for it but debt. She even has shows made up of nothing but the excess material that she couldn't fit into her earlier shows. The woman could probably take a four-month annual vacation and still keep new shows on the air 52 weeks/year. Just to keep her audience on their toes, she occasionally does find someone worthy of approval for a five-figure "Can I Afford It?!?" purchase. But it's not hard to figure out the approval criteria, although that feat seems to mystify most of her callers.

So if you find yourself underestimating the stupidity or laziness of the average American consumer then record a few episodes of Suze, turn off the volume, and recalibrate your expectations.

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He seems like a nice enough person, however there was nothing there to say that he thinks he should have done anything differently either.
I think his job-search marketing plan is more brilliant than the Naked Cowboy! He conned Business Week into doing free headhunting for him, and there have to be a dozen companies willing to hire a guy who'll try publicity tactics like this. Heck, he'll probably get more auditions than his daughter.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:38 PM   #17
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I rather think there's quite a few folks who have had the income over the years to shore up their financial security posture, but "chose" to bury their head in the sand & spend all their money on "now" - choosing to believe the income stream could never be interrupted.
I see this with three in-laws. One has a pretty good income now working in a power plant, but his idiot wife told him to stop contributing to his 401k because "it's losing money". And he dumbly went along with it! She's a waitress and will have SS and nothing else. He will have a pension from that and National Guard (NG pension might pay for groceries).

Another SIL and hubby both have six-figure incomes but have virtually nothing saved. Nice lifestyle now but he wants to retire and can't. But he's always the first one to order appetizers and pick up the tab for everyone, and "gotta have" that second home in SC for the golf courses.

One of the most useful classes I took in high school was in finances. A lot more practical than plane geometry or diagramming sentences.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:47 PM   #18
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I dont understand why the guy wont change his line of work,hey if there is no call for assembly managers maybe its time to drive a truck,or get a job doing something else,and at 59yrs old and 30yrs on the same job and he has no pension?why doesnt he retire now.
No i didnt read the article
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Old 12-08-2008, 03:23 PM   #19
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I did find the comments section to be interesting reading. It sounds like he emailed some of his friends and they helped out. Give the guy credit for creative job hunting, if he doesn't land something after his 15 minutes of fame that will be pretty scary.

Yes, he should have some saving but.... Between layoffs, wife's medical bills and putting DD through college, and living in an expensive part of the country isn't surprising that hasn't saved a lot on 100K salary.
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Old 12-08-2008, 03:38 PM   #20
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Interesting bit from the comments:

"Kent" said: "As for the daughter- let her pay her own student loans. Those ought not be his responsibility. As others have already commented, taking out large amounts of student loans to fund an education in a field that does not pay well is simply unwise. In such a case, one has not positioned oneself to repay those loans."

Then "Paul's daughter Lila" said in response: "I do pay my own student loans. I also buy groceries, and provide my own health insurance. The trouble is that most colleges also insist on parents also taking out loans. My father merely mentioned this to drive home the point that student loans are a fact of life even for those far out of college... and a common debt. As for going into something "unwise" perhaps at this very hour "unwise" but that being said the media industry does in fact have money. It would sicken you to know just how much money it has. Perhaps I've been unable to get my foot in the door just yet, but I accept my "unwise" decision because I also accept that I only have one life... and I shouldn't have to spend the entirety of that life not practicing something I love just for the sake of money. You can happily have your "wise" decisions and when you are laid off, or let go... what good are "wise" decisions? Are you any happier or richer when you are equally unemployed as an artist?"

Seems like the daughter doesn't mind impoverishing herself and her father, as long as she can pursue her dream?? Maybe someone should have notified her that there are a ton of great affordable public colleges and universities in the NYC area that would give someone a solid profession with good earning potential that could fund a lifestyle that would allow her to pay her bills and to pursue her dream of being involved in theater. I know or know of plenty of people that have day jobs but are still involved with theater or showbiz on the side (nights and weekends).

Money can't buy you happiness, but it sure can buy you a lot of stuff to make life less crappy...
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