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February 2009 Archives

  • Would Laid-off Barbie rock recession chic?

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 25, 2009 3:00 PM

    Would she blog, join a Facebook group? Would she hang with other hip jobless folk at Laidoff Camp San Francisco and network over their mutual career malaise?

    Reading the Urban Institute’s recent report (opens pdf file) on rising unemployment among older workers, I suspect that Barbie, officially aged 50 (but assuming that she was 18 at her 1959 debut could be as old as 68 in people years) might not return to the sort of high-powered jobs she’s held as Mattel’s iconic career woman role model over the years.

    What about you? If you were laid off or took a buyout years ahead of your planned retirement date, what would be your money strategy? Has that already happened to you? Share your retirement planning story with our newsroom or share a public comment below.

    Jack Davis of Sarasota, Fla., 68, worried for many years about having enough money to retire, but then he did the math.

    After considering all the variables (taxes, long hours, commuting, costuming, eating out, office gifting, wear and tear on vehicles, gas, other commuting costs, etc., the pension I would receive in retirement) were considered, I was working for minimum wage. So I retired.

    Continue reading Would Laid-off Barbie rock recession chic?.
  • How to be an immigrant in a down economy

    • Posted by Jo Easton
    • on February 24, 2009 2:49 PM

    Are you an immigrant or do you have immigrants in your household? Marketplace wants to learn how the tough economy is affecting your family dynamics.

    The LA Times recently reported on the challenges families with older immigrant family members are facing. What about you — is your family facing challenges? Are you supporting a member of your extended family who is an immigrant? How, if at all, have tough economic times affected your family dynamic?

    Continue reading How to be an immigrant in a down economy .
  • The money side of military life

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 20, 2009 1:30 PM

    debt of service logo.JPGThis weekend, Marketplace Money airs “Debt of Service: Personal Finance in the Military,” an hour-long special program.

    Several months ago, we asked military families and veterans in the Public Insight Network to tell us about the money challenges of life in the armed forces. To some, military life meant a better education and a path to the middle class. Others found it hard to crack the civilian job market after they left the service.

    The relocations and spouse job changes are hard on military families, although some used the frequent moves to climb the property ladder. Some recalled how predatory lenders target service members.

    These insights were part of the show planning idea mix.

    Other reports have aired this week on Marketplace and Marketplace Morning Report. Jeff Tyler looked at veterans fighting to get disability benefits. Nancy Marshall Genzer looked at military steps to shield service members from predatory lenders. Amy Scott looked at the difficulties veterans face returning to civilian work in a time of rising unemployment.

    You can listen to the podcast, and then share your own experiences directly with our newsroom. Tell us your personal finance experiences in the military or explain your role in today’s war economy. Or use the comments button to share your insights with others.

  • A mix of metaphors


    Plane_crash_into_Hudson_River_28crop29.jpg (Photo originally posted to Flickr as Plane Crash into Hudson by Greg L/ Illustration by Marketplace)

    Last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demonstrated the power of words when his speech on the bank rescue plan rattled the markets. Perhaps, he should take a cue from the Public Insight Network and find a metaphor that helps him explain his fix.

    The Flight 1549 Metaphor by Fred Klingener in Roxbury, CT

    So far, all I hear is people arguing about restarting the engines or trying to make it back to LaGuardia. Some visionaries, so far ignored, are talking about trying to make Teterborough. Somewhere, I suppose, there’s a glider pilot who’s capable of salvaging something out of this, but we’re running out of altitude for him/her to work with. It’d be good if we faced it. The plane we’ve been on is never going to fly again.

    Continue reading A mix of metaphors.
  • Guns and Hoses

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 18, 2009 8:07 AM

    Pete Franks and son 2007.jpgWhat’s the recession doing to public safety?

    As people buy less and their homes fall in value, governments collect less of the taxes that support police and fire departments. Does that make us all less safe?

    Pete Franks, a volunteer firefighter in Hastings, Iowa, says it has become more difficult to recruit new volunteers to his department.

    There has been, for some time, a decline in volunteer firefighters and volunteer rescue/EMS personnel. This is particularly true in rural/exurban areas like ours. Although I can’t tie it directly to recession, it seems as though fewer people are able to, willing to, or inclined to get involved. Economic concerns and personal stability tend to push volunteer obligations to the margins.

    Let’s hear from those who work in paid and volunteer public safety jobs - fire, police, and emergency medical services. How are all the foreclosures, layoffs, and dwindling tax revenues affecting the way you do your job? You can share your insights directly with our newsroom, or post a comment below.

    Jeanne Criss, a retired emergency dispatcher from Huntington Beach, Calif. has noticed cutbacks at the department where she still works the occasional fill-in shift.

    In the long term, we will never be out of business, but, like the schools, our ability to perform our duties will become more and more compromised until the economy turns around. One thing that has happened is some training has been cut, which can’t be good. And some repairs, upgrades and improvements have been put on the back burner.

  • Are you working, or networking?

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 17, 2009 8:12 AM

    Are the new social networking tools like Facebook or LinkedIn helping you or your circle of friends return to work after a layoff? Share your story privately with Marketplace, or post a comment below.

    Marketplace reported on a guy who Tweeted his layoff on the micro-blogging service Twitter as it was happening. Friends responded with tips and referrals. He blogged about his layoff and mentioned it on his LinkedIn profile, eventually landing his next job.

    Michael McWhortor crop.jpgPeople in the Public Insight Network like banker Michael McWhortor, of Cordova, Tenn., rely on formal or informal networking to get work rather than want ads or recruiters. He’s recently used LinkedIn to help others.

    I re-connected with a friend who used to work for me 6 years ago — we were both fired on the same day — and who was recently laid off again. I happened to have a connection at a company he was looking for a job in, and I was able to connect the two for an interview.

    Margaret Schneider.jpgMargaret Schneider, an office manager from Northwood, N.D., rebounded from her layoff using social networking but it was a struggle. She started with the Workers Compensation office and its employment agency, but that didn’t really work. She took a retail job and continued looking:

    I joined Facebook, Linkedin, and MySpace and asked my friends to continue looking for me. Finally a friend spotted a job and dropped my name. I got that job and that’s what I am doing today. I’ve been there a little more than a month.

    It might not get you your next job, but you can be part of our Public Insight Network and follow us on Twitter.

    Continue reading Are you working, or networking?.
  • Top ten advantages of being laid off


    Rebecca Jones’ lay-off experience was like a scene from American Idol Hollywood Week:

    We knew that business was slow, and everyone knew that layoffs were coming. We just didn’t know how many. Everyone was told to be available for a Tuesday morning meeting. About 15 minutes before the scheduled meeting time, we all received e-mails telling us to report to one of two conference rooms. One room (mine) was laid off (31 people total— nearly half the company). The other room was told we were laid off and asked to return several hours later, once we’d all cleared out our desks. Those last 5 minutes before the meeting, when I realized the rest of my team was going into the other meeting room was when the reality started to set in.

    After the layoff Rebecca was heartened by the kindness demonstrated by her friends and colleagues. After being taken out to lunch for the umpteenth time by a former co-worker, she put together a list of the Top 10 Advantages of Being Laid Off…

    Continue reading Top ten advantages of being laid off.
  • I'm from the government, and I'm here to help...

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 13, 2009 10:05 AM

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wants to spend $50 billion to prevent home foreclosures. The plan might create a standardized way for lenders to evaluate which mortgages to modify before homeowners default.

    That’s important, because lenders now have discretion over which mortgages to save and which go into foreclosure. Often, lenders won’t even consider rewriting a mortgage until the borrower stops paying. This plan would analyze default risks while homeowners are still current on their payments.

    Stephen Sprague.jpgHomeowner Stephen Sprague of Bloomington Springs, Tenn., is retired and doesn’t really need mortgage help. But he’s got an idea for Congress:

    “Set and lock mortgage return rates across the board and forgive unpaid balances.”

    Jonathan Rich of Somerville, Mass., doesn’t need help with his two mortgages on his home and rental unit, but says a plan to keep his neighbors out of foreclosure would benefit him.

    “I think the government should seek out those with abusive mortgage terms and offer them refinancing at a fixed, reasonable rate.”

    Share your 2009 real estate plan with Marketplace, and read on to see what mortgage help others in the Public Insight Network want — and don’t want - from the government.

    Continue reading I'm from the government, and I'm here to help....
  • What's your "American Dream"?

    • Posted by Jo Easton
    • on February 11, 2009 2:05 PM

    For some the “American Dream” used to mean a house, 2.5 kids and a picket fence. But for many Americans, that house is getting foreclosed upon, the kids are going to underperforming schools and they know they have to repaint the fence, but they’d rather save than spend right now…

    So what’s your own sense of the “American Dream” and how, if at all, is the recession changing it?

    And in case you’re wondering, the term isn’t that old — it was coined in 1931 in a book by James Truslow Adams. Heard of him? Maybe not, but the idea sure caught on… Is his definition your definition? And does it need to change in light of this gem of an economic mess we find ourselves in?

    Click here to share your insight directly with the newsroom… or leave a comment below.

  • Getting stimulated?


    Amidst all the talk about bipartisanship, bi-brinksmanship and Tom Daschle’s glasses, it’s easy to forget what this stimulus bill is really about: Uncle Sam injecting gobs of cash into the U.S. economy. As Schoolhouse Rock teaches us above, the bill might be altered before it becomes a law, but we’ve still got a pretty good idea about where the money is going to go. Instead of waiting to follow the money, we’d like to get where the money is going before it arrives - that way we’ll be better prepared to report on whether or not it’s making a difference. To that end, if you, or the place where you work, is expecting a boost from the proposed stimulus package, we want to hear about it.

    Share your experience privately with Marketplace, or add your comments below.

  • Sign of the times: a view from the back of the line in Boise

    • Posted by Jo Easton
    • on February 10, 2009 4:33 PM


    (Idaho Department of Labor, Boise office, Monday morning, 10am. Photo: Christine Acosta.)

    Idahoan Christine Acosta is laid off. She sent us this picture and a description of the scene on Monday morning at the Boise office of the Idaho Department of Labor.

    The faces and moods here have changed and increased so dramatically, I barely recognize it. Even the knowledgeable and well-meaning staff are so overwhelmed and frustrated. By the time the main office in Boise opened at 9am, the parking lot was full and police were directing traffic onto street parking, which require payment, and the day’s line of the unemployed had already queued up around the corner.

    I last collected unemployment in the spring of 2007 following a corporate layoff, but never saw the office look then like it does right now. Children now get a table for coloring, while waiting for their parents. All forty computers with Internet access are in use. Two years ago, the office was mostly empty and I spoke directly to my case worker, without a necessary appointment.

    I spoke with one gentleman, aged 53, who asked me to help him submit his birthday and Social Security number into the online Department of Labor database, because he said he was more of a “hammer and nails kind of guy.” Without basic computer skills, I worry how well he can fare looking for a job, in a office which now conducts most — if not all — of its application and communication processes online?

    You can hear Christine’s own story of getting laid off right after a personal success on The Story, an interview program also from American Public Media.

    Have you snapped a “sign of the times” picture, or want to share your story? Click here to share directly to the newsroom, or you can leave your comments below.

  • Haggling: The Final Frontier

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 10, 2009 8:14 AM

    On yesterday’s Marketplace you heard how frugal consumers could bargain big discounts with phone and cable companies, or the local gym.

    But have you ever bargained for a lower price in a big retail store — and gotten it? What’s your winning formula? Are retail chain stores the final frontier for hagglers?

    Click here to share your experience privately with Marketplace, or add your comments below.

    If you work in retail, what’s it like to be on the receiving end of a bargain request? Are you empowered to make a deal, or are bargain-hunters just a big hassle? This is the place to vent.

  • What are you paying these days for coffee?

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 9, 2009 8:30 AM

    Scott Jagow, blogging at Scratch Pad — our companion blog here at Marketplace — is having some fun with the whole McDonald’s versus Starbucks coffee wars. Who’s still paying $4 for coffee? Would you like bacon with that?

    So here’s today’s question: How much are you paying for coffee? How and why is it different than, say a year ago?

    Channel some of your caffeinated buzz our way. Send your insights directly to our newsroom, or share them here via the comments link.

  • Waiting out the housing slump? Or diving in?

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 6, 2009 3:00 PM

    What’s your real estate bet these days? Buy, sell, hold — or run from the room screaming? Share your insights privately with Marketplace, or add public comments below.

    If Kenny Rogers was your mortgage coach when you bought at the top of the market, he’d have said: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run…”

    But it’s hard to run when your money’s already on the table.

    Folks in the Public Insight Network say they are waiting out the market. Some want prices to recover, others are rooting for a greater slide. Leah Hyman.jpg Motives like job security, lost equity, and bargain lust are keeping them on the sidelines….

    Neighborhood organizer Leah Hyman, 29, says she can afford her Portland, Oregon house but it’s a heavy load added to paying student loan debt.

    Home ownership sucks up over half of my income, which kind of stinks and is a little stressful, though I am not concerned about my ability to make payments. I have no future real estate plans until I start making a significantly larger income.

    Continue reading Waiting out the housing slump? Or diving in?.
  • A monkey on the back of small business?

    • Posted by Jo Easton
    • on February 4, 2009 10:02 AM

    Small business owners and entrepreneurs have been telling us what they need so they can succeed in this economic climate. For a lot of them, it’s something — anything — to help them either provide health insurance to their employees, or remove employers from the health care equation entirely.

    Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman reported yesterday that a House committee is listening to small businesses.

    North Carolina small construction company owner John Spurrell, from the Public Insight Network, gave voice to what we’ve been hearing a lot of lately:

    What we need in this country more than anything is some sort of universal care to get that monkey off the back of small business.

    That, though, is not the line the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is toeing when they talk with Congress — they’re focused instead on finding ways for small business owners to pool resources across state lines to get greater bargaining power with insurers.

    Are you a small business owner? What do you want from the government? What could the government do (or not do) to help you succeed? Click here to share your thoughts directly with the newsroom… or leave a comment below.

  • Laid so many words

    • Posted by Sharon McNary
    • on February 3, 2009 6:00 AM

    laidoffwordle.jpgFor a few weeks, we’ve been asking people in the Public Insight Network about layoffs. What’s it like to be laid off? Do you have job survivor guilt when others are laid off? Are you the one choosing who stays and who goes?

    Well, here’s a bit of word art that takes the responses to a single question, “What’s your layoff story?” and arrays them by word frequency. Thanks to

    Add your own layoff story, either privately to the newsroom, or in a comment below.

  • Is the recession affecting caregiving?

    • Posted by Jo Easton
    • on February 2, 2009 2:00 PM

    If you have insight into caregiving, either as a professional or as a family member, we want to hear from you. Share your experience with Marketplace.

    Every day when you open the newspaper, another sector of the economy is reporting bad news: U.S. manufacturing is down, the retail market is in the tank, and the auto industry is on life support. We haven’t heard yet of major changes at health care companies. But is it really possible that health care and caregiving within families aren’t feeling the pinch?

    If you’ve got experience with caregiving — from any angle — we want to hear your perspective on how the recession is affecting caregiving. Click here to share your thoughts directly with the newsroom… or leave a comment below.

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