Friday, December 1, 2017

Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal, a review

          I mentioned Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal in a post in February titled “The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost.” Here’s the link:;postID=4928010732861946006;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=13;src=postname

I hadn’t read the book, which I saw featured a couple of times on the PBS NewsHour. Sawbuck, one of my favorite readers, who had just gone through a period of prolonged unemployment that required him to move to another state to accept a lower-paying job and cost him his relationship, wrote me that the book was excellent and I really should read it. It finally became available through the library’s interlibrary loan program. Sawbuck is right.
          The book, by Elizabeth White, was independently published last year. I would like to have known more about Ms. White’s story, but even without that background, she has written a helpful book, and we know that as far as faking normal, she’s been there.
          Ms. White points out that today’s 55-year-olds who are in financial trouble are in the perfect storm of age discrimination, pay that has not kept up with inflation, the elimination of defined-benefit pensions, and a 401(k) defined-contribution retirement system that most employees don’t understand and that come with high fees that will reduce or eliminate much of the earnings that one would expect from constant investing.
On a personal note, Dan converted his 401(k) to an IRA when he lost his job (at age 56) last year. It is doing better than it ever did at his employer, Three Initial Company (TIC). Under a normal administration, we could expect, perhaps, some examination of 401(k) abuses. Perhaps we’ll see what happens when we have a normal administration again.
          Ms. White recommends forming Resilience Circles with a few friends who are in the same situation. The circles can meet in person or online. Each person must be honest, and put aside faking it at least during the meetings.
          In addition to Resilience Circles, Ms. White lists more than 100 online resources that may help with everything from food assistance to saving your home from foreclosure or you from eviction. I had no idea there was so much help available. It certainly doesn’t get advertised much.
          Ms. White explores ways to turn what you have into income—maybe renting a bedroom if you can. She discusses tiny houses and cohousing. Kansas City has put together a tiny housing community for homeless veterans. I’m curious to see how that works out. As for cohousing, my limited explorations into that option led me to, gosh, how to put this, yuppie nutjobs who were far more interested in style over substance, and, I suspect they would have been very much into power once the project was completed. For more than the cost of a freestanding home, they were proposing individual units and a central kitchen where everyone would share meals. Maybe I’m odd (OK, I’ll admit I’m odd), but I have times when I need to be alone and not share meals with anyone. It could be dangerous to their health. And the group was anti-car, so parking was inconvenient, which would make aging in place a challenge.
          And Ms. White has attitude advice. Probably the most helpful is, when you get offered something that’s a lot lower on the totem pole (or pay scale) than you’re used to, “Get off your throne!”
          As I mentioned earlier, the book was independently published, which means it’s a challenge to get libraries to order it in spite of its being mentioned on PBS and other media. (The copy I read came from a Jefferson City library.) As I write this, has it for $13.24 plus shipping. The ISBN is 9781530055852
          If you have someone on your shopping list this season who may fall into the fifty-five, unemployed, and faking it category, this would make an excellent gift. I have someone in that category, and this is what they’re getting for Christmas.

© 2017 Larry Roth

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