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‘Getting by’: Share your stories

By now, the story is familiar: In today’s difficult economic times, millions of Americans are seeing their benefits slashed, wages stagnate and paychecks stretched thinner to cover ever-rising costs. As policymakers wrangle over how best to restart the U.S. economic engine, “getting by” has become the new normal for many Americans.

We want to hear your stories of surviving in today’s struggling economy. How are you dealing with unemployment or underemployment? Are you part of the growing freelance nation, relying on contractual work that offers no benefits? How are you stretching your income to make ends meet? How has “getting by” affected your family life?

Share your experiences with us and we will feature them on our new Tumblr blog, which will focus on the human cost of America’s ongoing jobs crisis. You can participate by e-mailing us your stories at ntkonpbs (at) gmail (dot) com.

Our producers are also interested in showcasing some of your stories in upcoming broadcast segments. If you would like your story to be considered, please include your name and contact information with your submission.



  • Margaret Cortez

    Your tag line asks, “what do you need to know?” Well, here’s what I need to know:
    I need to know why Germany’s unemployment rate is under 6%? If they can do it, why can’t we?
    I need to know why other countries are able to offer free healthcare for all citizens but we in the US can’t.
    I need to know why we are raising the retirement age (or threatening to) while other countries don’t raise theirs.
    I need to know why I can’t get a living wage.
    Thanks for reading this.
    Margaret Cortez

  • Westtj5

    This should be more than interesting to compile!
    - Had to retire at 53 to avoid lay-off and loosing 25 years of benefit package (while it lasts).
    -Spent 75% of what investments I didn’t loose in crash to purchase a home and pay property taxes, move, etc.  
    -Started two small entrepreneurial businesses that are just ‘taking off’ with only a few small sales.  
    -Grew a veggie garden over the summer and preserved all I could while raising chickens.  Sell eggs, eat lots of eggs.
    -Just took on a part-time, minimum wage job for some income to pay my phone, utility bill, car insurance, etc.   

    So went from being ‘Upper Middle Class’ to poverty level in less than six months; but at least I’m warm at night.  Ready-almost-for the revolution.



  • Maria

    I would only participate if I could do so anonymously or pseudonymously.  That is because employers Google applicants.   

  • Laura M

    I am a recent college graduate. I have a major in Modern Foreign Languages(Spanish and German) and a minor in Business. I have been working since I was fourteen, and have ample and diverse workplace experience. After applying for jobs for about a year, I decided to look in a different direction, and left the country to become an Au Pair as a way of making a little money while, hopefully, boosting my resume. Now, I am considering deepening my already substantial college debt by going back to school for a graduate degree in hopes of making me a more desirable employment candidate.

    Laura M 

  • Suzie Brissett

    I lost my job in late 2009 when the company I worked for went under and have been unemployed ever since. I have applied to department stores, pharmacies, fast food restaurants and the travel industry where I have most of my experience and nothing. I am told sometimes that it is due to my credit which got hurt after being unemployed. I had to sell my car to cover bills and even got rid of the cell phone I had to cut back on cost of living.

    I am living in a one room with my mom and son where I share a bathroom and kitchen with others and I also have no living room. I am living on the minimum. I cut my hair off to avoid the salon and shave my own head to save money. I do not get nails done anymore, or eyebrow waxed as cannot afford either. I live on food stamps and thank God for Medicaid which has saved me from poverty.

    During the period that I am unemployed I have ended up in the hospital with a medical condition that has me on medication.  I would not afford the medication or hospital bill if I did not have medicaid. 

    I sometimes have two interviews scheduled for the day and yet no one has hired me. I have applied to the government, fast food restaurants, department stores, airlines and many other company still nothing. I have been told a few times my credit is bad which only happened because I have no job. I got rid of all credit cards, filed bankruptcy and still nothing. I have used up all my savings, 401k, IRA and my sons college fund. I am two months behind on my rent and my landlord told me I will be evicted if another month passes without me paying my rent.

  • Pointmansouthbay

    Laid off in April 2009 when employer moved out of state. have worked all my life since age 16. 58 year old Vietnam combat vet. (young) have not been able to land job. have had several excellent interviews but no luck. (several 2nd and 3rd interviews).  It is age and last position salary.  House mortgage several months behind; have been trying to work out something with BoA but all they do is keep racking up past due fees and penalties (yeah right). All savings gone, defaulted on credit cards, voluntary repossesion of vehicle. Took a temporary job which lasted 4 months and reduced my unemployment down to $132 per week. I’m screwed, not sure what to do next.

  • Lonewolf

    hang in there, thats all we can do. I’m 57 and living in my truck, YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS…

  • Kathy41263

    started a small bizness making some side money

  • Nemesis139512

    Lost job in March, 2009 when wife was pregnant. Had baby, but no money for daycare. 1 car she uses to go to work, I am home with baby. Unemployment… gone, savings…gone, 401K…gone. Other car repo`ed. Turned down for foodstamps, Medi-cade 4 times. Only had 1 in person interveiw, 1 phone interview since lost job. Can`t take baby to job interviews, sooo…..Exactly!

  • Lulu

    I am a 60 year old woman who was laid-off from my job in ’08. I collected unemployment between temp jobs of doing income taxes and the US Census. I had cancer while I had no medical benefits, but the County hospital did my surgery and treatments. I passed out one blistering hot day while I was interviewing people on my Census job, because I was so ill from the radiation treatments which I was receiving. I used all my savings and 401k to pay my condo fees, car insurance and utility bills. I got my health back and now have a job as a CSR at a decent company, but for less pay than I made 15 years ago. I’m paying off three years of back property taxes on a condo that is worth half of what it was. There’s never money for a treat and I cut the cable before I even lost my job. I borrow DVDs and CDs from the library for entertainment. I defaulted on a credit card which I used to pay for medical insurance premiums and for my prescriptions even before I was laid off. That company is trying to garnish my wages. I’m luckier than so many of the other people who have told their stories here. Most of the time I wish I had died from the cancer, but I’m here and will have to deal with everything. I haven’t had a vacation since ’06 and probably never will again in my life. I keep thinking that my grandparents had it so much worse during the Great Depression and had little children that died because there was no money for doctors and were buried in pauper’s graves. If they could deal with that, I can deal with this.

  • Shooting_star_132003

    I am 21 yrs old I have over 10,000 thousand in school debt I worked with an elemantry school for 2 yrs. And when they found out I was pregnant they laid me off for the 2first time due to budget cost the only thing that bothers me is if they new they were gonna do that should have done it sooner my fiance works for 14.50 an hour we have not been able to pay our electric in four months his work has taken all the benefits away to save money but the employer just bout a new and bigger house and 2brandI new vehicals. Now with a baby on the way Idk what we r going to do we have never had cable but I have a 22yrfox old car I depend on and its about to go out I just don’t know what we r going to do I can’t find work because of being pregnant I am a at risk and they r not willing to take the risk thank you Sonia reed 623 256 1824

  • demand_sider

    Brianna Lee,

    You could help alleviate this pain.  Write an article about what successful, growing, east Asian economies do to maintain their manufacturing base at all costs, thus ensuring growth. You must include the writing of former Forbes editor Eamonn Fingleton, or Pat Choate, or James Fallows, or Ivan Hall, or we’ll just have more of the same  neoliberal nonsense that has doomed America to decline.