Unemployment, underemployment, and falling out of the middle class


In our perilous economic times, you may need to reinvent yourself or slip out of the middle class. Don’t wait for events. Make something happen. Seriously. It’s that or unemployment may lead to a not-so-genteel slide into permanently shopping at dollar stores.

An anonymous writer at Boing Boing chronicles how he and and his wife live in LA, are well-educated, have years of experience as writer, and can’t find work.

I’m driven to save every possible penny these days because we’re going broke here. I’m 50 years old, highly educated, eminently employable, with nearly two decades of work as a professional writer, but I’m barely surviving. The same is true for my wife.

Underemployment is much worse if you are an barely employed high school teacher with $36,000 in student debt, like DJ Cook.

I would legitimately be better off if I was working for $15/hr with no student loan debt than making $56,000/year, getting laid off every year, only paying off the interest of my student loans and facing the possibility of defaulting on my student loans which would lead to a garnishment of my future paychecks.

Both stories have a common thread. They are waiting for something to happen while continually doing what used to work but which no longer does. Sometimes you need to make major changes. My wife is a CPA who, after a few years of underemployment, went back to college in 2009 and got a Masters in Taxation in a grueling nine months. Eighteen months after graduating, the degree directly led to a new, stable job.

I’ve been self-employed for 30 years. If one source of revenue dries up, I find something new to do. Things change, stuff happens, you have to be able to reinvent yourself, especially when you’re 50+ because you probably won’t get a job. That’s just how it is now. If you’re a freelance writer in LA and most of your work is from elsewhere, as with the Boing Boing writer, move someplace cheaper like Vegas because you can work anywhere. Underemployment coupled with student loan debt is indeed a bitch. However, hoping for stable employment in a field that doesn’t appear to have much of that anymore is no solution. Look for alternatives. Or create them. There is no other choice.

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