Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Losing a job but finding work, part 1
"I didn't know we were living at the edge of a financial abyss until we fell, but eventually, we hit bottom and now we have a new life, better than the old one," my friend Mary said last week.
She and her husband are among the many who left Michigan during the recession.
"We lost our careers, paychecks and home, but now we are happier," Mary said.
A college student and stay-at-home mom while her kids were young, she finished her bachelor's degree the same month her boys graduated from high school.
Mary looked forward to working, and wanted to contribute to Purdue University tuition in Indiana.
When the boys earned their degrees in business, Mary and her husband moved from Auburn Hills to a smaller home in Brandon Township.
The new home offered five acres of land, a private lake and a pole barn to hold their antique Porsche, SUV, car and the truck her husband needed for the gardening and landscape business he hoped to create "when he found the time."
She commuted an hour each way to her office in Bloomfield Hills, and he drove the truck to an automotive plant where he worked as a manager.
The pressure and their pay seemed great, so Mary bought a time share, allowing them a Hawaiian vacation once or twice a year at a beach-front condo.
They threw lavish parties, even buying, preparing and serving corn beef and cabbage to their church congregation on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate their Irish roots.
Refinancing their mortgage each time the value increased on their home helped pay off credit cards and purchase luxuries.
Mary said: "Everyone believed income and property values could only increase, and with each increase, we could always afford more."
As layoffs started in Michigan, tensions rose with rumors about housing bubbles and corporate downsizing..
"We loved our home even more. On the dock at the edge of the lake, the worries of the day disappeared," she said.
In 2007, Mary survived the first round of layoffs at her office, but was given more work, faster deadlines and pressure from supervisors to do better.
In 2008, she skipped lunch, cancelled vacations, stayed late, took work home.
Then she lost her job in the second round of layoffs.
Stay tuned for Part Two