She's hoping her education and language skills will mean a quick promotion and higher wages. Though she pays little in rent, she tells me that after her car expense, diapers and clothes, there's no much left for food. A quick calculation reveals her car expenses alone will eat up nearly a third of her $14,790 annual income.
If you can't quite relate to a single mother of four, who recently lost a significant amount of income, then consider Joan.
Joan tells me over and over that hers is a good story that people need to hear. Unfortunately, for her and her family she is right.
Moving meant Joan's day care income was gone. It also meant a cut in her husband's salary to $40,000, and an increase in rent from $875 monthly mortgage payment, which included principle, interest, taxes and insurance, to a trailer park rent of $1,125.
Doing some quick math for Joan's situation reveals how the Great Recession has decimated middle class America: after taxes $40,000 is about $30,000 take home in New Jersey. Less $5,000 for carfare to get to work. Less $13,500 for rent. Utilities and phone, let's say $2,400; way too low, right? That leaves $14,100 for food, insurance, diapers, laundry, clothes and every other vagary life throws at a family of six. Since a decent family health care insurance is at least $9,000 per year, I'll bet they aren't making what's left of the COBRA payments.
Joan wasn't embarrassed to talk about her situation with me. For whatever reason, she wanted people to know her story. But she was the exception. There were many others seeking a week's worth of food who didn't want to be noticed. They were still well shod. One middle aged gentleman, escorting his wife, was twitching. He didn't care to share his story.
Why You Will Choose to Be Hungry
Setting priorities when your budget gets squeezed is exactly why food is going to come last and why you're going to be left with little or nothing to feed your face and the hungry faces of those you love.
In a strange subversion of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, when things get tough in our modern world, you will put food last. "There are a couple of reasons," explains Traore. "First impulse is we don't want other folks to know we're struggling. So, Americans have a tendency to decide to pay for the visible expenses first."
If you think about it, it's pride, practicality and the unwillingness to give up hope too soon. Mix it all together and before you know it, you're hungry.
You've been out of work for a couple of months, but obviously now is no time to sell the house. So you'll continue to make the payments as long as you can, especially in this market.
The car is leased or not yet paid off and you have to get to interviews and in today's environment public transportation to a job may not be an option. Anyway, you don't want to start taking the bus or train when a better situation is probably just around the corner, and the neighbors will notice the Camry is gone.