Monday, February 02, 2009

It has been far too long since I’ve posted here. I’m trying to make a fresh start, and to post things that aren’t just diary entries but truly musings about the world at large. Of course, right now the world at large is looking pretty interesting.

As a 50-year-old woman, I’ve lived through a few things. I graduated from college with highest a 3.8 GPA in 1980 and couldn’t find a job to save my life because the economy was in such bad shape. I remember hiding in my house because I was embarrassed to go out and run into people and have to confess that no, I still didn’t have a job using my degree. I worked in dead-end jobs until the fall of 1982, when I entered graduate school. I earned my Master’s degree in 1984 and my career took a much brighter turn thereafter – thanks in no small part to the recovery of the economy.

In the 1990’s I changed jobs several times, convinced by the prevailing ethos that this was the way smart people leveraged their successes. And to some extent, it worked – by the end of the 1990’s I was earning a really good salary and our prospects looked bright. But the company with which I was earning that salary was a technology firm, and when the tech bubble burst in early 2001, I was one of those left unemployed. It took me six months to find a new job, and it was at about 20% less money.

But like most people, we made the adjustments we had to make and got on with the business of living. We wised up and decided not to keep buying larger houses, but to settle into the one we had and call it both home and investment for the time being. We were able to refinance for lower interest rates a couple times, so even now we are paying a very affordable mortgage.

During the period since our last refi, I have been offered even lower rates at times, but they were always variable rate mortgages. When I would demur, explaining that I remembered when mortgage rates were in the double digits, the friendly telemarketers always seemed surprised. One even asked me, “You don’t actually think we will ever see high rates like that again, do you?” Well, yes. I did think so and I still think so, though admittedly the current crisis does mean we won’t see them anytime soon. Still, I am grateful that I didn’t fall into that trap. We are very happy with our 5 3/8% interest rate and our substantial equity, thank you very much.

Now, I am unemployed again. On the one hand, I will confess that I am truly frightened – as I said, I’ve seen a lot in my life, but I have never seen an economic situation quite like this one. Every day the papers carry announcements of thousands of job losses. Where will we all find new work? I have interviewed for some positions I would be thrilled to get that constitute ANOTHER 20% pay cut. I would be thrilled to get them because the work is agreeable, the companies stable and well respected, and it would mean I could count on drawing a paycheck every week. Stability looks very, very appealing to me just now. And while the pay cut hurts, I know we could make the necessary adjustments. It beats continuing to live on unemployment!

On the other hand, when I set my personal unemployment issues aside, I am not as fearful for the overall economy as some seem to be. I know we are in very difficult times, and I know that it is devastating for some individuals. (Hence my fears for myself.) But I believe overall, we will come through this with the economy and standard of living in the country largely intact. I think we are creating some new headaches that will plague our children and grandchildren, but I don’t think they will be insurmountable.

So that’s where I sit right now. Personally, pretty scared. Globally, cautiously optimistic. I hope the two parties eventually come together to try to make the economic stimulus plan the best it can be. I don’t think it is there yet. And then, I hope it works. And in the meantime, I hope I can return to full-time employment to watch it all play out from a less fearful vantage point!

1 comment:

Shannon said...

Glad you're hanging in there. Hopefully something will come up soon. I agree about the economy. People just can't remember this ever happening in our lifetimes, so it's normal to freak out a little bit