Archive for August, 2012

Since it’s all about me…

August 14, 2012
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The Market on election day in 2008

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Ask yourself, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” and the pundits say in the privacy of the voting booth people vote their best interest. Am I better off? What’s in my best interest? Let me try to answer this to explain my upcoming vote.

In 2006, my employer decided to move all manufacturing to China and close all its retail locations leaving me – a 14 year employee – unemployed. Prospects for a job in my area of expertise were slim and none. Home entertainment electronics rode the refi bubble and now it had burst. I received a generous severance package that allowed me to return to college to train as a teacher. This is something I had wanted to do very early in life and I took my unemployment as a silver-lining kick in the pants.

Nervously, I took a look at my retirement savings – a 401k that I had split up between three funds – one very conservative bond fund, a blue chip fund (also considered conservative) and a growth fund – and all had lost half to two thirds their value. I won’t be able to do much with that if I don’t get a job right away so we might have to sell the house.

I graduated in May of 2008. Job prospects in teaching are not what they lead you to believe, especially at the end of the school year. Because of state cut backs my licensure did not come through that Spring so I applied for unemployment. Collecting took some pressure off – we didn’t have to sell the house – and I applied for every job I could get to. I started substituting to get my foot in the door, but that still meant no work during the summer and I took up subbing again in the fall. I finally got a job as a long term sub and at the end of the year I still had no job.

With one exception I have never left a job in less than 8 years and now I’m about to do it a number of times. That summer, with my application for unemployment being reconsidered (as a teacher I have summers “off” so I don’t get to collect – yeah, but I don’t have a job and have the paperwork to prove it – I got a check in November – barely enough to cover the credit card shuffle) a stimulus bill was passed and I got my job back. Full time this time, but the stimulus funds ran out so again pink slipped at the end of the year. My third pink slip.

In 2010 I got a job in my home town’s school system so the commute is easy. I’m starting my third year this Fall. We have had lots of cut backs (we will buy NO paper this year – think about that), but I am still employed. My 401k has recovered and then some.

So now I will answer the question – I’m I better off? Hell yeah! Is it all better? Hell no! We still have too many fingers in too many wars. We still have too many people looking for work. We still have much to fix here at home. Would I like it to be faster? Yes! Would I like stronger leadership with a clear vision? Yes. The Romney/Ryan ticket would put me back in the mess I’m just getting out from under now (though because I live in Massachusetts with Romneycare my family never lost health insurance… Thanks, Mitt!) I will take four more years of Obama because, even though he is not the superhero I hoped for, he has at least changed my position from a free fall of uncertainty to landing on a ledge big enough that I can see my way up and out.

So, YES, I am better off than I was four years ago. Having a job, a renewed 401k and a health plan – that’s all in my best interest – has me voting Obama in 2012.

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