Freakout-enomics & Unemployment


My inbox is full of messages from freaked out readers who can’t find jobs. The influx of panic always corresponds to the release of monthly unemployment numbers.

  • At the beginning of each month, the media freaks us out and reports on our bleak job prospects.
  • As the month wanes, we grow accustomed to our ‘new norm’ as we find comfort in the fact that so many people around us are unemployed. It’s okay, we tell ourselves. Things will work out.
  • Then a new month springs up and we freak out again.

What’s worse is that this month’s news was accompanied by the sad news that you may never go back to work in your chosen career field. There are jobs available in nursing, engineering and green energy — but you’re working in telecommunications, Human Resources, or maybe an administrative field. The existing jobs in Corporate America are few and far between.

Believe me, I understand why people are freaking out. I grew up in a lower-middle-class family in the 80s, and we felt the effect of Reagan’s recession until Clinton was in office. I know firsthand — you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. In my opinion, the best way to get through this recession is to hustle. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few lessons in my life to help you hustle your way through the good times & the bad.

  • It’s okay to shut off your telephone to avoid bill collectors. You know you owe money. Your kids know you owe money. The entire world knows you owe money. Why do you need the hassle of a telephone call to remind you that you’re broke as hell? Turn off the phone and use the money you’d spend on a land line for something else — like paying your bills.
  • It’s not unethical to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy before things get too bad — but the key is to file early before your life is out of control. People will tell you not to file bankruptcy because it ruins your credit. Guess what? Not paying your bills ruins your credit, too. If you have excessive consumer debt, you probably don’t need credit for the next seven years, anyway. You need relief. The same people who tell you not to file bankruptcy are the same men & women who urge companies to file bankruptcy to reorganize and consolidate debt. I hate that kind of hypocrisy. If you’re loaded down with excessive consumer debt, talk to a lawyer and don’t let the moral issues get in the way of a smart financial decision. [The one caveat: once you file for bankruptcy, learn some lessons from my family and stop spending money so you don’t have to file for bankruptcy twice. That’s just wrong.]
  • Earn money wherever you can. Take surveys, donate blood, and accept quick cash for simple activities that you would normally do for free. I’m a big believer in bartering, too, and you can technically earn money by swapping services with someone in your social circle.
  • When someone offers you something for nothing, say yes. I’m not talking about Nigerian internet scams. I’m advising you to say YES to free meals, free groceries, free babysitting, free utilities, free legal advice, and energy assistance. You’re too proud to accept assistance? Okay, fine, but pride doesn’t feed the dog and pay the bills. If you have a need, someone is willing to help. Use Google and type in your need + assistance + your zip code. Call United Way, Salvation Army, and your local church. Still have a job and think you don’t qualify for assistance? You’re wrong. There is help out there even if you have a job but can’t pay all of your bills.

Finally, I’ll give you advice that’s been given to me by many people in my family: fuck this shit.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but surrender to the chaos, accept your reality, and eat a bag of potato chips. You aren’t less of a person because you can’t find a job in this economy. You are only less of a person if you categorize yourself as a victim, wallow in self-pity, and forget how to hustle.

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