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Show Us Your Safety Net!

The Marketplace Wealth and Poverty Desk is launching a series of stories exploring the safety net.  No we’re not talking about that thing circus acrobats use. We’re talking about the things people have to do when they’ve fallen financially.

In order to do this we’re going to need your help.  Have you ever had to go on government programs like welfare or food stamps? Or maybe you’ve had to ask your family or a close friend for financial assistance. If so, we want to hear from you!

As this series continues we want you to let us know what you’ve had to do when things got rough.  We’ll take your answers and post them (no last names will be used).  If we really like your answer, we’ll contact you for an interview!

Here are some great responses we’ve already gotten from people!

Kurt, Portland, OR-

“Eleven years ago I lost both my full-time jobs within a few months of each other. My income went from 80,000 one year to 8,000 the next. After a year and a half of applying for positions, interviewing and still not having a job, I took out a $10,000 loan to go back to school to study website development.”

Bernie, New Carlisle, OH-

“As an educated, talented person with a bi-polar challenge and an entrepreneurial spirit I have, from time-to-time had to rely on help when a business venture didn't go well or when something prevented me from finding a stop-gap job. One time when things were financially tough it took a relative stranger to make me aware of food assistance and medicaid to help with a baby who was coming. One other time we were forced to get government food assistance and most recently we received help from what is called the "Hardest Hit Funds" which helped with our mortgage payments. Sure wish I had rich parents who could help; but like so many other people in our country I don't relatives to fall back on.”

Geoff, Belmont, MA-

“I lost my 10-year job in March 2011. I was old enough to take social security but did not take that option right away. I have a child to support and a wife who was also jobless who had run out of unemployment benefits. What kept us going was my unemployment benefits and food stamps, although these did not come to enough to pay rent and COBRA premiums, let alone our food and utilities. So I tapped my savings.”

Frank, San Diego, CA-

“I am my own safety net and I am also the safety net of our family and friends. From the time I was very young, I have always been saving. I have always had a cushion of one form or another. My family and friends call me the Bank of Frank and for some of my family and friends, I have been their lender of last resort and at times, their deposit institution.”

Kevin, Chanhassen, MN-

“I was laid off. We cut back on our spending, my wife worked part time and I made a strenuous effort to get a new job. If appropriate, we collected unemployment.”

Robert, Coon Rapids, MN-

“Three months after the birth of our 3rd child, I was fired. My spouse was not working at the time, so we lost 100% of our income. It took 3 months for me to find another job (with a loss of 1/3rd of our income). We relied on cutting expenses, using savings and our parents from whom we borrowed a car for the duration of my unemployment (I had lost my company car) and borrowed enough money to buy the car necessary for the job I ultimately found.”

Peter, Prescott, AZ-

My wife lost her job this year... and in a previous year we had to short-sell our home so we had no access to credit due to the hit in our credit rating. fortunately, despite our income of 50,000 gross for a family of four, we live quite well because we have cut waste our of our home economics. waste = all cost, no benefit. so, in terms of utilities, resources, food, and behaviors... we simply do not waste anything. everything has one or many more uses. it is not hard, it is not problematic... just shifts in habits so that we can live quite well without concern by maximizing benefits while minimizing costs.

Gregory, San Francisco, CA-

I believe that I am solidly middle class, but maybe upper middle class. My wife and I earn solid incomes. We are both professionals, and have little to fear from the economic downturn. At most we will be inconvenienced. Because of the above statement, we are avid savers. We max out on our 401K plans, and fund our IRAs to the maximum. On the rare occasion that we have an unexpected expense, we draw from savings to cover the cost.

Kryshon, Houston, TX-

“I took the opportunity to start a business. We are now in our sixth year and growing. No help just desperate. Hard work and sacrifice are my safety nets. Its 9pm and I will be at the office for another few hours. “

About the author

John Ketchum is an assistant producer for Marketplace’s wealth & poverty desk.
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To address America's out-of-control income inequality, we should pick some overpaid CEOs, such as Michael Duke of Walmart, cut his salary+compensation from $25,000,000 per year to $50,000 per year and with the money saved hire 500 currently-unemployed people at $50,000 per year. Not all of the five hundred will excel, but surely we'll get more work done by employing 500 people than by employing one and leaving the rest to rot.

PS: your story 3/26 on figurative and real safety nets was insulting to your listeners' intelligence. If you want to do a story on social welfare, address the issue head-on; don't waste time on unnecessary trapeze metaphors.

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