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Were you better off four years ago than you are today?

The release of the November jobs report – showing an 8.6 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in two years – is giving off a glimmer of hope, despite cautionary words from economic analysts. Still, many Americans are continuing to feel the same financial pressures and uncertainty that have become the norm of the new economy.

In this week’s episode of Need to Know, we traveled to northern Ohio to follow up with of the middle-class workers we profiled two months ago. Although they are still employed, they face cuts to benefits and wages that seemed constant and stable just four years ago, before the onset of the economic downturn.

Tell us: Do you think you were better off four years ago than you are now? How? Let us know in the comments below, through our Tumblr site or by emailing us at



  • Johnny4400sb

    definitely not! I was struggling after the 2003 crash! but that helped me get strong and be able to whether ANYTHING and am doing MUCH better these days! And I only work for myself these days

  • Dpinney3

    Absolutely not. I have lost clients, healthcare coverage, and my standard of living has plunged to levels below what they were when I was a teenager. What planet are the Republicans living on?

  • Bebm

    No way is it better now over 4 years ago. The Republic party and President Cheney (with Baby Bush as his puppet) screwed up the economy so bad I doubt it will ever recover.

    Twelve years of President Cheney with Baby and Daddy Bush. Our only hope is that if the Republics win next year that they do not bring back Cheney and  VP Rumsfeld
    Wonderful! Just Wonderful! 

  • Bankr8

    I watch American Children Starving. I see Children and the Old not being able to get any medical care and dyeing. I see our school systems turn into trash.
    I see our liberties being striped away. I see hate and greed as I have never before seen. I see our country being raped by a few with no care. I see a government that has become so infested with a lack of ethics and fraud that I can not say it is my government anymore. At least nothing I recognize.
    To let one child or elder person go hungry or not be able to get medications and or medical care should be a shaming thing. I see most people feel little or no shame just as long as they can get a new cell phone or tv they are happy.
    What a sad and filthy time in the US History. How sad we let one child die as we drive in our Porch.

  • Sallymander

    I’m much better off. I invested heavily for the first time in my life in the stock market when it hit bottom. Sold off most of it a year later for an average 360% profit.
    Became a millionaire who is happy to pay taxes.
    I feel for the people who didn’t have the opportunity and luck to do what I did.

  • Design360

    I have a job but I have lost most employer paid healthcare. I have also lost my 401K
    I have not had a raise in 8 years so my standard of living has continued to drop. I live with uncertainty of job loss everyday and I watch the repubs continue to destroy this country to protect their rich friends. So I say NO I am not better off and neither is the reat of the country and I blame the Republicans for failing to help this country recover from the depression they created.

  • Fowdi

    No, not better-worse.  My job is secure, so I’m not going to go hungry, but no raise for nearly 4 years, EVERYTHING costs more, health care costs and premiums continue to rise.  Washington politicians continue to worry about getting their party in power, they are NOT interested in helping us who they are supposed to represent.  I make about $9 an hour after uninterrupted employment for the last 13 years.  That’s sad, but I still gave 10 bucks to the single unemployed mom of 2 that I met the other day.  Her job probably went to Mexico, China, India or Pakistan.  If we elect Republicans, we lose our Social Security, etc.  If we elect Democrats, we’ll be another few trillion in debt.  We need to have bipartisan ticket to vote for–I’m watching for it–others are working on it.  

  • Steve Banicki

    No; however in 2007 I yhought i was.

    We are at a watershed moment in our economic history. We are in a recession but the way we do business after the recovery will be different from the post-recoveries over the last 70-years.
    In the past, we worked our way out of a recession with the help of the federal government providing some kind of stimulus package. In one to three years, the economy was back on a growth track and there were no serious, long-term casualties. We continued to spend and consume as in the past. More:  Hurt

  • Go2gulf

    I am for sure that when George Bush was President, we all had jobs, making money  gas was a lot cheaper, etc. .  Oh, yes, I lost my home last year, to foreclosure.  So, no, I am not better off, and I don’t know of anyone that is better off. 

  • NocturnalMission

    After 22 years of military service, I worked for several defense contractors overseas on contracts where the lion’s share of the contract awards were cut out by the front offices before the ink was dry on the contract. There were few benefits and indemnity clauses benefiting the respective companies, alleviating them of any responsibility if anything went wrong. No cost of living adjustments when the local currency fluctuation reduced our salaries by 35 to 55%…, no bonuses… but it was work that put 22 years of military experience and two degrees to work. After 15 years, the contract was rebid for the 3rd time and won by a company that eliminated positions (mine included). My former employers dropped me like a bad habit with an email stating they didn’t have any positions available but would keep my resume on file. I’ve applied for government jobs identical to the one I was doing and told I do have the required experience (to do the same job I did when I was on active duty)… and have now been unemployed for a year.
    The best jobs I can find now are part time jobs making minimum wage, if that… am homeless and not feeling hopeful anything will change anytime soon. I’ve attended job seminars, job fairs, and revamped my resume for each new position I’ve found through the myriad of networks supposedly out there to assist veterans. Net result – nothing. The blame game misses the bigger picture. Corporate profits continue to grow, stockholders and investors continuing investing and I can’t even get a response to job application. 

  • Brian Smith

    We thought we were better off, that was the scheme of the whole mess. They made use think things were great for the middle class and tried to hide the elephant in the room, which we all saw but ignored, mainly because we thought it wasn’t after us.

  • Awesomemt

    I feel I was better off when I graduated high school 20 years ago. I had health insurance and a job that let me take home almost as much as I make now. Now I have a college degree, but I have to work 150 miles from my home.  I have health insurance but now I have so many health care bills from surgery this summer that I had to have in order to go to work every day I go a little further into debt everyday. I feel like I should be able to  make ends meet better, and be able to put some money in savings, not be struggling just to get to work each day and keep food on the table.

  • Diane Kistner

    I am NOT better off today than I was four years ago. Four years ago, I was disabled, on low fixed income, and DH had a good job in IT that paid the bills. I had enough discretionary income to be able to afford to garden and can, and my health was a little better so I could handle toiling in the heat, unlike now. When he lost his job when the economy tanked, we lost everything, but thankfully we found a good landlord who has not gone up on our rent yet. DH was able to early-retire last year, so he’s also on low fixed income now, but we’re grateful we at least have the stability of a dependable, if low, income source. We know others who don’t have even that. Neither one of us is healthy enough now to work at Wal-mart like some of our retired friends do, so that choice has already been made for us. One less thing to worry about!

    Because of the horrible state of the economy, there have been no cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients for three years; but, hallelujah, a 3.6% increase this coming January will give me an extra $37.51 a month and DH $41.22! He had a heart attack this fall, and he also doesn’t have any insurance, so he has to pay for his heart drugs, blood work, and doctor visits out of pocket; sliding scale helps a little bit, though. He won’t have Medicare until March 2013, so at least we don’t have to worry about having to pay his Medicare premium every month. (Mine, knock on wood, is subsidized by a special Medicaid program in my state, assuming Congress doesn’t cut it so the meant-to-expire-in-2010 Bush tax cuts that hugely benefitted the wealthy can be extended yet again.)

    So now, I am still disabled, on low fixed income, but our costs have skyrocketed. Because of his heart attack, we can’t eat cheap processed food anymore, and my teeth are falling apart and need costly repair that I cannot afford. When I get the worst one pulled, that will leave me with no molars to chew my food with. That ought to cut down on the cost of food. I’m just trying to hang in there until our 13.5%-interest truck note with Wells Fargo is paid off in late 2012.

    One thing that is better now than it was before is the preventive care provisions of the Affordable Care Act. I can get a free wellness exam once a year and also have screenings like mammograms without having to come up with a sizeable Medicare deductible. So whereas before it was like I didn’t have any insurance because I couldn’t afford the deductible, now I can actually go to the doctor once a year and hopefully catch anything bad in its early stages. In 15 months, if he’s still alive, DH will be eligible for these preventive care benefits, too.

    We count our blessings. Lord knows there are lots of other people who are in far worse shape now than we are.

  • Jay

    I am dramatically worse off now than I was four years ago.  In 2007, I was a busy freelancer juggling multiple clients while working from a nice apartment I had to myself.  I could afford to go out and enjoy life and even had health insurance.  When the market collapsed in 2008, my clients went with it.  I then went two solid years without being able to find any work at all (I applied for retail jobs and was rejected as overqualified), so used my Mastercard to cover my low expenses and fell into debt.  Now, I struggle to secure low-pay, open-ended, unchallenging contract roles that come with no eligibility for unemployment, no benefits, no health insurance – and I live with three roommates in a cheap house.  I don’t see anything improving enough – ever – to pull myself out of the hole into which I’ve fallen.

  • Catherine_Mahoney

    Four years ago I just began my current job, saw promise of getting raises and promotions over time, was facing near-extortionate costs to put my son in daycare so I could even take that job, and basically had a secure place in one of the nicer neighborhoods - the marriage, on the other hand, was beginning to crack due to other issues, but my getting my job and identity back was (I thought) to be enough to fix everything. And so would buying a house…
    In all this time I’ve seen everything go to heck around me: spouse lost his job twice, I never saw a raise or bonus but instead got my salary cut and insurance premiums doubled, we only share one car and take buses now, and the house is about to go into foreclosure. If anything, the last four years has made me feel trapped in my own situation, and not until very recently have I seen any way out of it.
    So while I can’t say the past has been better for me, I CAN say that I’m no longer afraid and actually excited to step out and take a new path for the future. What’s done damage-wise is done, I’ve already filed for a divorce, and I’m preparing to move to a city I’ve never lived in before to really start over.  I don’t like what the past few years has thrown at me, but I’m going to have some kind of say over what the NEXT four do.

  • Rick Sewill

    I am not better off now than I was four years ago.
    I blame the Republicans.  
    The Republicans only care about the rich.

  • Flhxrider

    The sad truth is obama and his failed policy’s and terrible leadership skills have put us in such a terrible situation its going to be quite a uphill battle the next few years after obama is either impeached, steps down, or is voted out. With any luck he will step down and give Biden a turn.

  • Dbcurlgirl

    Four yrs ago I divorced and obtained the home I have lived in for 11 yrs through a grant deed.  April 2010 took a 20% employer imposed pay cut for a period of 10 months.  At the suggestion of a friend I attempted a mortgage modification with BofA’s Making Home Affordable/ Obama plan.  Having complied with everything that BofA has asked of me, includeing not making payments.  BofA does nothing with submitted paperwork, then they tell you that your doc’s are out of date… your no longer in the program.  Now 30K behind due to them mot accepting offered pmts, I am currently trying to get a mod for the fourth time.  They have refused pmts from me for the past 18 months, reciently forclosed on my home and gave it an auction date of Nov 28th which I was able to have extended 30 days.  They have grossly mismanaged these programs.  The sad part is that I did not NEED to enter into any modification program.  I was current on my pmts when my pay was cut and could have simply rented out one or two rooms.  A Calif Judge for the class action law suit has thrown out claims like mine and the suit now only applies to those that were actually given a reduced pmt by BofA, and then BofA breached on the deal.  Homeowners in my situation are just SOL!  Each time I have applied, BofA has booted me out of the program just short of offering me the reduced pmt.  This is a travesty to the American homeowner!  Real Estate Vultures are at my door, in my mail box, and the Rich just keep getting Richer!

  • Diane Kistner

    Dbcurlgirl, it is outright theft, purely and simply. THEFT. When enough of us stop trusting the big banks and pull our money out, we can drive them out of business. Anyone who places the blame anywhere else but on the greedy bastards employing shock-and-awe techniques to rob us blind is forestalling the inevitable accountability moment.

  • ShannonDocs

    Far worse. Four years ago our income was steady enough that we could take the kids on one vacation a year and make some good charitable commitments. Then one year ago my company-loyal (24 years), multi-award winning investigative journalist husband was downsized to make room for younger and cheaper. The high-paying clients I’d had in my freelance career dried up in 2008. No one wants to hire us because we’re viewed as over-qualified and expensive, even for hourly wage jobs, which we would GLADLY take. We are keeping our home by the grace of our (dwindling) retirement savings and must now get insurance through the state to keep our tween kids and ourselves covered. Paying the winter heating bill is going to be a dicey proposition at best. As journalists, we’ve always seen how middle and lower income families are forced to live in this country. Unfortunately, many of the always-haves didn’t get the reality check.

  • Wild Bill

    In some ways it seems like the slaves had it better off than the middle class does nowdays.
    At least they got free room and board.

  • Jpalmerbrown

    Thanks for asking the question.  
    In an absolute sense, the economy is smaller, and most of us
    outside the top 1% are worse off. 
    However, I think we have forgotten how bad things were four years
    ago.  The economy was shedding jobs at a
    rate of nearly 1 million per month, consumer confidence was at an all time low
    and the world was on the brink of a financial meltdown.  Compared to those conditions, we are much
    better off than we were four years ago. 

    The assertion that we are worse off now than we were four
    years ago is like handing someone the controls to an airplane at 80 thousand
    feet in a complete tailspin.  The pilot
    manages to pull out of the freefall, level off and is now starting to slowly
    climb, but you claim you are worse off because you used to be at 80 thousand
    feet and now you are only at 40 thousand feet.  

  • Twisk

    Poles verses true reality show different answers.
    This question was posted early December 2011, now that the Christmas holiday has passed reality speaks loudly.

    People can cry all they want but if the majority of the public was so tight on money you wouldn’t have a flurry of people carting large screen TVs out the door everywhere you go. Standing in lines overnight for that Smartphone and. Video game they didn’t need. Is the economy hurting? It sure didn’t appear that way on Black Friday.

  • Scattedbrain

    A year ago inflation was  distant but observable.  Today it is here.  If inflation makes one better off, yes, I’m better off.  Truth, I’m scared, getting poorer, and see little hope for a brighter tomorrow

  • buchfrau

    How can you blame a political party that did not have control of Congress?  The Democrats have passed these laws that Obama has signed.  Or Obama has decreed expenditures by Executive Order–like the Libyan war?  You need STUPID stamped on your forehead to warn people that what comes out of your mouth is just plain dumb!

  • Mba1979

    4 years ago I had a job! Today I have been out of work for 3 years and looking at having to take Social Security at 62 this July to make ends meet. 4 years ago I had money in the bank that could be used to take trips, today all trips even to the grocery store require planning. 4 years ago my employer paid most of my health insurance. After losing my job I had to buy my own and have downgraded it twice so I can afford to pay for it out of savings. Each year the cost goes up 18-20%. Hopefully I can hold out until 65 and Medicare.  Also, I don’t have the money for copays so avoid going to the doctor unless necessary. Basically it is just for major medical expenses.  Thus the answer is no I am not better off, the money we put aside for retirement basically gets no interest thanks to the Government. So I am glad you asked the question.

  • CarolBrown

    Four years ago I did not know of the malignancy that was corrupting our financial system.  Today I do.  Building a life on truth is always better than building a life on falsehood.

    Four years ago we had a lot more money in the bank.  Today we are ok because we’ve always lived within or below our means.  However, if I were a working parent with children at home I think I would be panicked.  And if I were an unemployed parent of those children I don’t know what I would do.  Instead we are “enjoying” life, existing on the social programs set up by the generation that came before us.  I am absolutely angry at my generation for not providing the same security to the younger generations who will have to invent a new American dream.

  • Underhiswatch

    Be prepared for $8.00 a gallon for gas $3.00 a dozen eggs and $6.00 a gallon for milk if that idiot gets re elected. America is doomed and will become Greece II, but the rest of the world will not bailout US like the US bailed them out, they will just look and laugh. When your dept becomes higher than your intake, you are doomed. Thanks Obama we are now there.  $16.8 Trillion in debt, $16.5 Trillion in GDP…And it only took him 3 years, just think how much more damage he could do with 4 more. I see 15% unemployment coming soon.