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Piggy Bank Award

End of a long, dry spell

Tess Vigeland Jan 13, 2012

Tess Vigeland: Our little blue plastic friend is heading to Livingston, Mont. and the home of 35-year-old James Willich. I asked our friends on Facebook and Twitter for piggy nominations this week. James wrote — and I quote — “I want a piggy because after 44 +- months of unemployment, the curse is broken and now I can start saving again! Yippee!. So I called him up to get his story.

James Willich: I was on unemployment for a little while and that ran out. And then basically my wife supported me and I decided to go back to school and get another degree, an engineering degree this time. We’ll see if that can turn into something a little more stable than construction and real estate and all that.

Vigeland: So was it a layoff for you?

Willich: Yes. I was a timber framer for a company in Bozeman.

Vigeland: Well, of course as you know, you’re certainly not alone in going through this long-term unemployment. But for those who are still in that situation, do you maybe have one or two pieces of advice for how you got through it for that length of time?

Willich: You know what Tess, it’s really really really difficult to keep a positive mind set. First couple of months being unemployed is kinda like “eh… look for a job,” but it’s not that bad. Once you start to really get into long-term unemployment, it just kinda grates on you and it bears down on ya more and more. And I guess just the best advice I can give is just keep your head up, keep lookin’, whittle down your costs as much as you can. My wife and I have a big garden in our yard, so all of our food and whatnot that we grow during the summertime, we eat in the winter, ’cause we can. And just if it’s a short-term thing, you’ll be all right. If it’s a long-term thing, you’ll find out where your priorities lie. Keep payin’ the people that you have to pay and then the rest of them fall by the wayside.

Vigeland: Well let’s end with the good news. What are you going to be doing?

Willich: Well, this year, I have I believe a year and a half to two years left on a mechanical engineering degree. And I currently work for a transportation institute as a student researcher.

Vigeland: And you’re paid for it?

Willich: Yeah. I can start to, you know, buy my daughter a birthday present.

Vigeland: All right, well you can do that hopefully with the pennies and quarters that you’re going to save up because you’re going be sendin’ you a pig.

Willich: Hot diggity! I’m glad I finally have something to put in it!

Vigeland: I am too. Congratulations on the job and best of luck to you.

Willich: Thanks Tess!

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