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Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

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Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by worrywart on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:31 am

Hello All,

I found myself being asked questions by a charming woman in a rather unique and unenviable situation. I thought that I would share the story with folks here, both to solicit your feedback, and also as fodder for DAWU discussion in general.

Here's our lady's story - I will call her "Karen" as a pseudonym:

Karen's in her mid to late-30s (I am guessing), and a wife and mother of three children ages 3-8. Her husband has very specialized, esoteric skills related to automotive engineering. While Karen's husband was working he earned a very handsome wage indeed, but he has now been out of work for 8 years! During these last eight years, Karen's husband has served as the homemaker of the house - meanwhile, Karen, who does not have a college degree, worked her way up from an entry-level Administrative Assistant to Executive Assistant. So, although the arrangement is a little bit unusual, it nevertheless "worked."

But then last September, Karen was laid off, along with numerous coworkers. Karen has a vivacious aura of competency, and her resume and references are impeccable. Consequently, she has not had a problem getting interviews . . . at least a couple every month, and sometimes one or two a week. That's a lot better than most unemployed folks I know!

For Karen, as she relayed it to me, her big problem is one of having to decline one position after another, because positions with the same duties and responsibilities as she's held in her previous positions are now often offering salaries of 50% what they expectably paid five years ago - and average cost-of-living in Chicagoland has increased since 2006. Karen shared with me her anxiety at lately starting to receive admonishments from various placement firms she's registered with. . . . They've told her that she needs to be "more flexible" regarding her salary requirements. Karen's reply has been to say that she cannot be so flexible in her salary requirements that she won't be able to pay at least her fixed monthly expenses, such as mortgage, car payments, groceries and so forth.

So here is the dilemma: After being out of work for eight years, Karen's husband is going to have a very difficult time obtaining ANY job, even jobs totally outside his field paying minimum wage. Moreover, were Karen's husband able to obtain an entry-level position of some type, and even if Karen then took a half-wage job, virtually all of her husband's income would have to go to childcare fees, and so the two both working would still not be able to cover their basic monthly fixed expenses.

The question is this: What is the best advice for Karen at this point . . . seven months into her job search?

Given the prevailing job market trends, Administrative Assistants are a position much in eclipse, because many organizations are now requiring middle-managers to perform the clerical functions they'd previously delegated. That leaves two types of administrative-assistant positions available . . . those with very low pay, and those Executive Assistant positions supporting Senior Officers. Those still pay well, but there are few total positions, and very few such open positions.

Should Karen pursue a different line of work, and if so, is there something that pays family-living-wage she could pursue without having to go back to school with all the attendant lead time and "perma-debt?" Or, do you feel that Karen must take a student loan and try to get a certification or a degree of some type? If "yes," than what kind of sheepskin would be the most likely to land Karen a job with which she could support her family? If Karen must retrain in order to be able to earn a family-wage, then what should she do to keep the roof over her family's head while attending school?

Anyway, my Brothers and Sisters of Displaced American Workers United, these were the questions Karen discussed with me. BTW, Karen is an orphan, and so she has no immediate or extended family who she could approach for material assistance. Karen's husband does have a couple of relatives, however, they live in the UK . . . and none are affluent.

Anyone? Thoughts or Suggestions? I will be talking again with Karen next week, and it would be great if I could get a couple of thoughts from the boards to offer her.

WW
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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:40 am

I would not advise Karen to borrow money for further education at this point. There are too many with multiple degrees unable to find work that pays a living wage.

Now is not the time to take on any additional debt, student loans are not like credit cards, you can't file bankruptcy and get rid of it, if unable to pay.

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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:12 pm

WW I admire your thoughts and helpful opinions/suggestions. I agree with N2B as to forget or postpone further ed costs. Right now its not gonna help your job search, put it off until things improve. If you got the Sallie Mae type loans, they will work with you with a small goodwill payment from time to time. Admin jobs, try non-profits in your area, they still have those available if you can find an opening. Not great pay but it can be decent.

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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:32 pm

booniebeast wrote:WW I admire your thoughts and helpful opinions/suggestions. I agree with N2B as to forget or postpone further ed costs. Right now its not gonna help your job search, put it off until things improve. If you got the Sallie Mae type loans, they will work with you with a small goodwill payment from time to time. Admin jobs, try non-profits in your area, they still have those available if you can find an opening. Not great pay but it can be decent.

Just reread the OP and can only say what we all here know too well, there comes a time when you have to make decisions before they are made for you by creditors. Have no info on what her income needs are nor do I want that but at some point she will need a plan B to wait out the market and have something coming in I would think. Non-profits span a lot of different places, from the local district of the Girls Scouts council, could be up to $35K there, homes for disadvantaged or problem children, same, just a lot of places especially if it's around a big city. Look into a mortgage remod to lower payments, We did and it was approved. Trade down the cars and learn to eat cheap. Our "Whats for Dinner thread is full of great ideas.

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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:41 pm

I agree with N2B and boonie. Life as she once knew is over. Wish I could be more positive. It is the employers market and they are taking full advantage of that. Jobs are not plenty at all.

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Post by Sovereign on Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:02 pm

Sell the house, trade down the cars, get rid of as much stuff and as much debt as possible.
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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by KeeptheFaith on Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:42 pm

I agree with everyone.....now is not the time to take on additional debt.....I thought that going back to school was going to help me and it didn't......now I have student loan debt and I still cannot find a job.....I would try to get rid of as much debt as you can and to live as lean as you possibly can.......unfortunately it is an employers market and the salaries now are not what they were five years ago.....The longer you are out of work the harder it is to find something.........
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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by worrywart on Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:12 pm

Hi Need2Bworking, Booniebeast, laramel, Sovereign, and Keepthe Faith,

I thank you all for contributing here. It is going to be a challenge for me to figure out how to deliver the message in such a way that it will pass through the force-fields people set up for themselves to block out things that they REALLY don't want to hear. But I have been giving tips and talking with "Karen," and so I have some cause for hope that I can come up with a gentle (though impactful) way to communicate to her what we here at DAWU already know (e.g., from way too much 1st-hand experience).

Thank you all again, and if any other advice for Karen occurs to you please don't hold back : - )

WW
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Post by Grlnxdor on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:04 pm

Over the years working for a mid sized corporation I learned a lot about how to deal with tough times. I found out that in business in cyclical down times the smart corporation would instead of getting smaller, would aim to become more diverse. One company actually began developing a whole new innovative production line at a really crummy time (2001) in my state in the construction industry. This action was probably the thing that saved that company from going bankrupt about a year later...the new sales as a result of this innovative product boosted the company and kept it afloat when many other businesses, both vendors, customers, and competitors were going out of business left and right. So having seen this with my own eyes I know that the choices are either go small or go big.

My advice to your friend would be this....minimize and downsize in every single way possible....our country is headed for worse times ahead I fear and any possible way to limit how much money is needed on a month to month basis is just plain smart. Next, determine that if she is going to go back to school then she is going to go BIG. Nothing else will do now. There are probably less than five job categories out there right now that are not feeling the recession pinch. I am not talking about football player or movie star. I am talking about actual obtainable jobs that require a great deal of education but at the end of the day are worth it. The top two are doctor and dentist. Obtaining the credentials of either these two degrees will ensure that she and her family do not have to suffer through the day to day struggles most of us are facing. Will this be hard to do? Yes. But will it be worth it? Absolutely. Because right now the masses that have gone back to school to study court reporting or medical transcription, or to become a paralegal....many many many of them will not find jobs. I know that not everyone can be a doctor or a dentist...but if you are trying to catapult yourself out of the mess that is engulfing our nation and the vast majority on this site...then I say go for as big as you possible can.

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Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:14 pm

Dr. or Dentist is probably not an attainable goal with a husband that has not worked in years, small children and a mortgage. I would not risk the massive amount of debt entailed.

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Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:28 pm

Words of wisdom from one Grlnxdor

catapult yourself out of the mess that is engulfing our nation and the vast majority on this site...then I say go for as big as you possible can.

All you can say are words of encouragement but not reality at all and your words, "the mess" engulfing the vast majority of us on this site? You must be employed so dont get booted out or you'll be joining us very soon. We give good and realistic advice not some grand ideal of a perfect world. Really?!?










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Post by Grlnxdor on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:31 pm

I know of several people doing this right now in my pharmacy program. Doctors and dentists and actuaries and a few other professions are not feeling the pinch. I personally know five other students...two with three children each ....one a single mom with two kids and no support system.....a couple with a new baby and an older child. The point is right now no matter what you may do you are going to have to make choices. Most certainly going small is one option...and no matter what choice you make going small is smart to an extent....but as far as going back to school....the only careers I would go back to school for and incur debt for are ones that are still in demand and will pay six figures. And they are still out there. In my class alone there are a solid dozen students over the age of 40. General Practitioners and dentists at about 180,000 a year, actuaries at even more than that once they sit for all exams...these are very good investments...extremely good investments and nearly 99 percent of the students that puruse these degrees must take out substantial debt to do so. Even so, I don't know of any poor doctors, except the ones that are just absolutely horrible with their finances. I realize this path may not be for everyone but again...when tryign to find your way out of the maze of this recession all of us are going to have to think creatively and for some of us that involves thinking very big.

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Post by Grlnxdor on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:40 pm

I mean no disrespect....boonie...I know that you knonw that on the Internet it is not always possible to discern a person's meaning from the typewritten words...so let me say that I am not blaming anyonen...I feel extreme compassion for all the unemployed as I was one for several years and a 99er too. What I meant by your bolded text was that a mess has engulfed us all...one not of our making...like quicksand if you will....pulling families down, forcing them from long term jobs and their homes, and leavingn people feeling like there is no way out. One suggestion that I am givinng...advice I have taken myself is to try and catapult myself out of what feels like a black hole pullingn me into it..namely long longn long freakingn logn term unemployment. It is possible...very hard...and a real solution for some people who choose to go down that hard road.

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Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:53 pm

Doesn't really seem practical or feasible to me. Karen's husband has been out of work for eight years. With small children and a mortgage in that situation I would never take on the massive amount of debt a medical degree requires. No way.

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Post by Guest on Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:57 pm

OK can I call you Grl for short? Maybe I jumped the gun but if, my opinion here, re-read WW's assessment of her current situation, now is not the time to take the tiger by the tail, it's about short term, hopefully, survival. She really should look short term before it's too late, She can always go back to school later. She's young and maybe hubby will get back to work but after 8 years, really dont think thats whats what he wants to do. We are cool OK?

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Post by worrywart on Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:34 pm

Hi Grlnxdor,

I *do* appreciate the philosophy of getting big or getting small. In the case of "Karen," given her situation of having to support a (defacto) unemployable husband and three small children, a mortgage in a market (where selling one's home would be at a loss - or at best a very long term proposition), given the home-prices in the area in which Karen lives (and thus deriving an approximate mortgage amount) I would guess that Karen would probably need to have family earnings at about 55k per year . . . and 55k means "mac & cheese" for her family dinners, not "surf & turf."

So, in order for Karen to "get big," insofar as pursuing one of the high-ticket careers you've mentioned, she would need to attend school full time, earn at least 55k per year w/o a college degree, maintain her family in the absence of any self (or in-law) family to draw upon for financial, housing or babysitting support. We wonder then, how long would she have to borrow Superman's cape and keep this up?

Let's see . . .

PHARMACIST: six years of college including pharmacy school after B.A., plus a certification exam. In Greater Metropolitan Chicagoland, at least at this time, there is a glut on the labor market of newly degreed pharmacists, and so, in order to obtain a position as a pharmacist, candidates are often compelled to leave the metropolitan area and migrate to work in a rural location (where the wages for a pharmacist are considerably less than in the urban areas).

GENERAL DENTIST: eight years of post-secondary training (e.g., 3 years university prerequisites, Rigorous Entrance Exam (only 30% of applicants gain admission), 4 years dental school, two year externship). Student loan = appx. $200k.

MEDICAL DOCTOR: Four years Undergrad, MCAT exam, Four years Medical School, Residency (appx. 3-5 years depending upon sub-specialty). In total, approximately 12-13 years from the very start to finish.



Also, Grlnxdor, are you in Chicago-area? If so, you might be familiar with the historical Billygoat Tavern. If you go there sometime, one of the waitresses there who could be serving you has been a fully-accredited and certified anesthesiologist for over a year - she can't get a gig around here and is now seeking work out of state. The market is weird now for a lot of professions (e.g., some classes of lawyers are doing well while others are going bankrupt).

I am not in any way posting this note as a “slam” to your ideas, because I feel that you are certainly correct in saying that "getting big" can indeed be the right answer in certain cases. . . I am just not certain if getting THAT BIG is viable for "Karen," given her very-particular circumstances.

But factoring in the general idea of what you have said, and proportioning it by feasibility, would it be a practical option for Karen to get a "little-big" with a shake-n-bake (e.g., 9-month-study) certification in some hot-button software, such as SAP or SharePoint? Then, she might be "an Administrative Assistant who comes with a bonus" in the eyes of targeted prospective employers?

Just a thought . . . However, I am glad that you have something going on for you that you feel excited about, and I wish you much success !



WW
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Post by Guest on Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:55 pm

I agree with WW I like the grab the tiger by the tail attitude. But look at running a household like a business. You have an annual budget and a 1 year plan. You also need to have a 5 year plan as well. The 5 year plan is not gonna work if you do not focus on making your annual budget work. So in her case which is no different in a business trying to survive, the focus has to be short term for now. John

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Post by lendmeflight2 on Tue Apr 26, 2011 3:25 pm

In my opinion she needs to give up this big gid attitude. If this comes off as judgemental then so be it but I have reasoning for this.

Education is such a gamble. You take on debt, which she has trouble paying now, and you have no idea how many people are going to graduate with the same degree and then you have more debt and the same level of competition. If the 50% pay cut is more than her benefits then she needs to look into taking that. The family needs to downgrade now while they still have a choice. Don't wait until the bank wants to take your house. I know it sucks to give up on the dream but a lot of us have. At my old job I was making over $15 an hour. I can live on that here. Now I am applying for part time jobs that pay $8 an hour. I know about downgrading expectations.

Why has the husband been unemployed for 8 years. 8 YEARS!?!?! I have sympathy for the unemployed but for God's sake, what has he been doing? Putting out resume's for 8 years? If his skills are so specialized that he can't get a job he needs to look at something else. Again, he may need to downgrade the dream a little or a lot. Unless he has a disability, SOME income is better than NO income. Get a job at Barnes and Noble, develop some social skills.

If they have any equity in their house then they should sell it and get out of Chicago.
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Post by mrgolf on Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:02 pm

lendmeflight2 wrote:

If they have any equity in their house then they should sell it and get out of Chicago.
I hope for their sake they have equity in their home. I just read an article that 70% of home owners in las Vegas are "under water."
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Post by lendmeflight2 on Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:05 pm

It's unlikely that they do unless they have been paying on it for 20 years or so.
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Post by Sovereign on Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:35 pm

Still better to just cut losses and if necessary, go for a short sale. That mortgage is an anchor around the ankles.
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Post by gab1sco on Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:36 pm

lendmeflight2 wrote:In my opinion she needs to give up this big gid attitude. If this comes off as judgemental then so be it but I have reasoning for this.

Education is such a gamble. You take on debt, which she has trouble paying now, and you have no idea how many people are going to graduate with the same degree and then you have more debt and the same level of competition. If the 50% pay cut is more than her benefits then she needs to look into taking that. The family needs to downgrade now while they still have a choice. Don't wait until the bank wants to take your house. I know it sucks to give up on the dream but a lot of us have. At my old job I was making over $15 an hour. I can live on that here. Now I am applying for part time jobs that pay $8 an hour. I know about downgrading expectations.

Why has the husband been unemployed for 8 years. 8 YEARS!?!?! I have sympathy for the unemployed but for God's sake, what has he been doing? Putting out resume's for 8 years? If his skills are so specialized that he can't get a job he needs to look at something else. Again, he may need to downgrade the dream a little or a lot. Unless he has a disability, SOME income is better than NO income. Get a job at Barnes and Noble, develop some social skills.

If they have any equity in their house then they should sell it and get out of Chicago.



8 years is a long time for the husband to be unemployed. Is he disabled? If not, he should be working at ANY job that he can find and not put the burden of finding employment on his wife's shoulders. Why didn't he elect to retrain for something else over the last 8 years to provide an income for his family? I don't get that at all!!
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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by lendmeflight2 on Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:45 pm

gab1sco wrote:
lendmeflight2 wrote:In my opinion she needs to give up this big gid attitude. If this comes off as judgemental then so be it but I have reasoning for this.

Education is such a gamble. You take on debt, which she has trouble paying now, and you have no idea how many people are going to graduate with the same degree and then you have more debt and the same level of competition. If the 50% pay cut is more than her benefits then she needs to look into taking that. The family needs to downgrade now while they still have a choice. Don't wait until the bank wants to take your house. I know it sucks to give up on the dream but a lot of us have. At my old job I was making over $15 an hour. I can live on that here. Now I am applying for part time jobs that pay $8 an hour. I know about downgrading expectations.

Why has the husband been unemployed for 8 years. 8 YEARS!?!?! I have sympathy for the unemployed but for God's sake, what has he been doing? Putting out resume's for 8 years? If his skills are so specialized that he can't get a job he needs to look at something else. Again, he may need to downgrade the dream a little or a lot. Unless he has a disability, SOME income is better than NO income. Get a job at Barnes and Noble, develop some social skills.

If they have any equity in their house then they should sell it and get out of Chicago.



8 years is a long time for the husband to be unemployed. Is he disabled? If not, he should be working at ANY job that he can find and not put the burden of finding employment on his wife's shoulders. Why didn't he elect to retrain for something else over the last 8 years to provide an income for his family? I don't get that at all!!


I totally agree. Maybe there is a reason. Maybe he gets some kind of disability payment but after 8 years, 6 of which were before the recession, I would start to reconsider my job search methods. The problem is that NOW he is competing against all of us AND everyone that would work that low paying job he might get, plus he is probably over qualified with his highly specialized degree.
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Post by Guest on Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:47 pm

gab1sco wrote:
lendmeflight2 wrote:In my opinion she needs to give up this big gid attitude. If this comes off as judgemental then so be it but I have reasoning for this.

Education is such a gamble. You take on debt, which she has trouble paying now, and you have no idea how many people are going to graduate with the same degree and then you have more debt and the same level of competition. If the 50% pay cut is more than her benefits then she needs to look into taking that. The family needs to downgrade now while they still have a choice. Don't wait until the bank wants to take your house. I know it sucks to give up on the dream but a lot of us have. At my old job I was making over $15 an hour. I can live on that here. Now I am applying for part time jobs that pay $8 an hour. I know about downgrading expectations.

Why has the husband been unemployed for 8 years. 8 YEARS!?!?! I have sympathy for the unemployed but for God's sake, what has he been doing? Putting out resume's for 8 years? If his skills are so specialized that he can't get a job he needs to look at something else. Again, he may need to downgrade the dream a little or a lot. Unless he has a disability, SOME income is better than NO income. Get a job at Barnes and Noble, develop some social skills.

If they have any equity in their house then they should sell it and get out of Chicago.



8 years is a long time for the husband to be unemployed. Is he disabled? If not, he should be working at ANY job that he can find and not put the burden of finding employment on his wife's shoulders. Why didn't he elect to retrain for something else over the last 8 years to provide an income for his family? I don't get that at all!!

The job market didnt tank before late 2007 and into 2008, so he had plenty of time before. Reasons? we will never know but they could range from depression to substance abuse. Maybe neither but it is odd. The lady has a long road ahead unless Daddy has a lot of money to help. Could be his family as well. Hope for the best!

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Re: Plummeting wages = difficult questions : - (

Post by Guest on Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:23 pm

Its just not worth the risk for Karen to "go big" as far as education. In addition to the debt risks there is always a risk that she may not complete the many years of study required for the go big plan.

In that case she would end up much worse off than she is now, owing a small fortune in student loans.

Three kids and a husband who has not worked in eight years my money is on short term survival plans that involve no risk for taking on additional debt.

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