Afraid to spend money: The psychological trauma of long-term unemployment

Job seekers crowd around the California Employment Development Department table to get information on available jobs.

How do you take control of your finances when, after six years of under- and un-employment, you suddenly have a job? That's the question facing Maria from Minneapolis, Minn.

Maria has no debts and her living expenses are minimal. After trying to live on food shelf items and exploring what $25 a week will get you (she never qualified for SNAP benefits), she's discovered real fruits and vegetables and other good things. She can work out a budget on the $1,700 she's making a month -- and possibly save one-third of her income. She wants to know how to save and how much and also how to have some money left over for the things in life that give her pleasure.

"The most important thing to do right now is to focus on building a safety net for yourself. You're going to build an emergency reserve or what I would call a confidence fund," says Barajas. "When people haven't had a job, they have deferred maintenance. Whether they haven't seen a doctor for a while or a dentist for a while or an optometrist for a while. You need to spend money on yourself -- rebuilding your self-confidence, making yourself more attractive, feeling great about yourself. Don't be afraid to invest in that. Notice I didn't say spend money on that, I said invest."

Click play on the audio player above to hear more advice from Barajas.

Plus, what questions do you have about taking control of your finances? Leave a comment and we may get an expert to answer your question.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.


I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...