June 24, 2012

Dateline Episode - "America Now - Lost in Suburbia"

I watched tonight's episode of Dateline with great interest. It profiled 3 families living in the Boulder, Colorado area. One was a single mom and the other two families consisted of two parents with children. All three families were going through unemployment.

All three were getting assistance from a local charity, Sister Carmen Community Center, with housing assistance and access to a food pantry. It was very interesting to watch this as the job losses occurred in 2011. In the news we have been reading about how things are getting better, and they are in certain areas of the country. In our area for example there have been "real" jobs advertised in the newspaper and things seem to be picking up. This isn't the same for other areas of the country.

Here are the basics of this broadcast.

1. People live in denial when they lose their jobs. Denial is part of the grieving process of losing a job. They feel they can easily find another one soon and don't feel there should be much trouble finding work. I think that since they had been employed they have no idea what the job market is like until they lose their job. It's still rough out there and when these families found themselves unemployed they were then faced with the immense struggle of finding work. I felt awful for all three families.

2. Each family cut back and got assistance. Each family struggled with accepting assistance, feeling shameful that they were needing the help. The one thing that I thought was good was the counseling they received through the Sister Carmen Community Center. In one session the counselor tells one of the women that she feels that they are still living above their means and need to cut back further while another family was doing everything they could to cut back expenses. They cancelled cablevision, after school activities for their children and cut back on their internet service.  I know families that wouldn't have done these three things to save money as they would have thought that these were necessities. 

3. Each family had savings that they used up quickly.

4. Each family had to face the fact that they may have to take any job that came along even one that they were immensely over qualified for. Temporary jobs are better than no jobs at all.

5.  The middle class is becoming a forgotten class.

What did I learn from this broadcast?

1. I learned that it could happen to my family. No one is ever immune to unemployment and we should always be prepared for the possibility.

2. I also realized that I could cut back to the bone if I needed to in order to survive. During the broadcast I started to think of ways that I would save money if we needed to live on next to nothing. How about this? Turn off the lights and go to bed when it gets dark in order to save on electricity. Get up earlier when the sun comes up. Save your water from the first wash load in order to use again to wash the dark clothes. Use minimal of everything including laundry soap, shampoo and so on. How about taking a short shower every other day and on the off days use a sponge in a pan of water to wash up?

Bottom line, always be prepared for the worse to happen and pray that it never does. In the meantime you will have the security of knowing if the worse does happen, you can survive because you are prepared.

I needed to watch this as a wake up call to get more money into savings just in case the worse would ever happen. The worse may not be a job loss, but it could be the need for more money for retirement.


Anonymous said...

I watched it also. I found it as interesting as you did. I hope they have a follow up episode to show how these families are doing, because I will be wondering about them.

Debby said...

It is so sad to see how many families in our country have hit rock bottom with no hope for things to get back to normal. I too play the unemployed game with myself to try and stay on track with my spending. Unemployment is a real possibility in my husbands field of work, scary times we are living in!

Maureen said...

I actually play the retirement game to see if we could live off of pensions, I believe we could apart from our private rental. I feel I have learned enough to manage the house, but the idea of not knowing where we are going to live always hangs heavy over me...

Anonymous said...

I watched it as well. One thing I found interesting was the lady with the blond hair, whose husband worked at the athletic store. She seemed to be in denial for sometime. By that I mean refusing to apply for jobs that she felt was "beneath" her or not in her best interest. Thank goodness after a very long time she realized this.I too would like to see a follow up piece. Wonder what it would have looked like if they went to Ohio. I think the Sister Carmen center is a wonderful place for all of these families.

Frugalista Mama said...

I watched that program as well. I thought is was really interesting and show that hard times can happen to any of us. Really gives you perspective

John D. Wheeler said...

I didn't watch it. I haven't watched any live TV in my house for well over a year, when I gave up cable.

I've actually heard that it is a good thing for society as a whole that people do not immediately take the first job available when they are overqualified, as that leaves more openings for less qualified people, and prevents labor shortages for jobs requiring more qualifications.

Of course I think that doesn't apply when whole industries or professions are in serious decline. And I've also heard that businesses are reluctant to hire people unemployed more than 6 months.