It Can Happen to Any of Us.

I just watched this documentary last night called American Winter, and man did it freak me out… And made me want to cry at the same time. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit I did tear up a little in places… I can’t stand to watch children in poverty :(

The movie focuses on some families in the Portland, OR area who were doing generally “just fine” in life, and then hit a major financial rough spot and are now struggling to just survive. As in:

  • They don’t have enough to eat
  • Their electricity is being cut off
  • They’re being kicked out of their homes
  • Their future looks bleak
  • And their children are suffering with them

Sad sad shit… And most of them all said the same thing the first time they asked for help:

“I never thought this could happen to me.”

They were all “middle class” and then BAM – they can’t eat all of a sudden. And when you watch them go to the food bank for the first time, or pack up and head over to a shelter, it really sinks in.


How long could you survive if you lost your job today? And you can’t find employment for 6 months? A year? And your gov’t assistance runs out?? Where would you go?

All stuff we push to the back of our heads with the idea that “it could never happen to us.” And then if it did, we’d deal with it at that point.

Scary. But true…

And honestly I’m one of these people too. Yeah I try and plan and make sure my savings and investments are growing so I can live a financially-free life forever, but really that’s the main reason I’m doing it. I don’t think about losing my job(s) or not being able to afford food/heat/shelter – I think about becoming a millionaire. Which is all fine and dandy until the crap hits the fan.

  • What would I do if my online empire crashed over night? Freak the F out! And then go and get a job as fast as I can possibly can.
  • If I can’t get a job? Start pulling from all my savings and then move to a smaller place.
  • If you still can’t get a job? Move to pulling from investments, then freak the hell out even more.
  • If all that runs out? Move in with my parents and feel like a failure.

And maybe, just maybe, knowing my parents are around and willing to help at the drop of a hat is the reason I don’t ever think it could happen to us. I know in the worst possible case I can always fall back on my parents’ support, so perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones?

But how blessed are we to be able to have that? Those families in this documentary have no one. They’re literally close to living on the streets, or in their cars, and the moms sometimes go without food so their children can eat instead.

Makes you really appreciate everything we have.

One of them even has a $40,000 insurance bill because her coverage lapsed – for 1 month – and it happened to be the same time her daughter got seriously sick. $40,000 for ONE bill! Can you imagine?? And you still hear people talking about how “they brought it on themselves, ” and “they’re on their own, sorry…” It’s so easy to not care, isn’t it?

Yes, I guarantee these families could have avoided a chunk of these financial ills over their lifetime had they saved, yada yada yada, but who are we to judge? Are we perfect financial angels? Umm NO. And again, when you’re not thinking about going homeless at all of course you’re not going to plan accordingly. Which is why I wanted to blog about this so badly today. We need reminders!!! But we certainly don’t need to turn our backs on the less fortunate – if at the very least because we could be one catastrophe away ourselves.

The Takeaway?

  1. Have compassion for others
  2. Be thankful for what you have
  3. Reach for the stars, but plan for the worst
  4. Realize that losing your job, and money, CAN happen to you
  5. Continue saving and building up those emergency funds
  6. Try building something for yourself no one can take away
  7. Continue educating yourself and growing/attaining new skills
  8. Do whatever you can to protect your children – they shouldn’t have to worry about a thing
  9. People aren’t bad just because they can’t manage their money well – it’s a skill, not a moral thing
  10. And lastly, love the shit out of each other. Without your family and friends, you’re lost.

Can you tell that movie took a lot out of me? :) But we need it every now and then. We have to slap ourselves from our dreams once in a while so we don’t get caught thinking we’re above it all. These families, and all others, deserve basic human necessities like the rest of us. And unfortunately sometimes we’re left to fend for ourselves. So go after your dreams, but prepare for the worst!

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  1. charles@gettingarichlife December 10, 2013 at 6:03 AM

    The hardest part is when children are affected. In a recovering economy now is the time to build your net worth like crazy so that you can have a buffer. When the downturn eventually comes you’ll have something to fall back on.
    It seems most of them are healthy, that is priceless. I can always make money, I can’t always get my health right.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      Amen, brotha.

  2. jp @cashsnail December 10, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    A part of poverty & becoming homeless is also linked to the country “way of life”.
    Where I have lived (France, Germany & Belgium) a 40.000$ hospital bill can’t exist. Unemployement support is at 50% of your last salary and last for few years. It’s making it much harder to become homeless but it’s not a paradise.
    Would you accept 50% tax rate on your income to limit these bad situations ?
    Would you mind paying 15% of your gross income on social security ?

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      Definitely good things to consider for sure. I’d pony up more in taxes with my fellow man, but not 50%.

      1. theFIREstarter December 10, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        Yea a nice balance is perhaps the best option. People always moan about taxes in the UK (actually they do everywhere no matter the rate). But with practically free health care the system works better than a lot of others I think!

        God save the queen! ;)

  3. Travis @debtchronicles December 10, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    I’ve been in a place where I was staring at the ceiling wondering where we were going to find the money to pay bills…..or if we would be able to stretch our money far enough for “normal” groceries that week (it’s amazing how much you can get for a little money if you HAD to). That’s scary enough….that feeling in the pit of my stomach is not something I’ll ever forget. But having utilities shut off, or being evicted, or having major medical bills….I cannot even imagine the stress, or the toll that would take on someone. Suddenly I feel like bustin’ ass even more….

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      That’s why I’m so glad people like you are out there sharing your story. To show it IS possible to get out from under messes and doing well again! Both you and Vonnie are super inspiring, so keep on spreading the message buddy :)

  4. Dave @ The New York Budget December 10, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    It’s easy for us lucky ones to hop on a high horse and say that other people should be more financially responsible. Many folks out there haven’t had access to the IDEA of financial responsibility. And they have so many forces every day in the opposite direction. I feel very fortunate to have learned about financial responsibility early on, because in a different situation, any one of us could be in the situation described in the documentary.

    I would definitely like to see more financial education programs. But you are right, even with those in place, lapsed coverage resulting in a $40,000 can decimate someone, regardless.


    This documentary is now on my list to watch (hopefully for when I am in a pretty even mood)

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      I watched it when I was hovering in a bad mood, and then suddenly I was grateful as hell!

  5. Holly@ClubThrifty December 10, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    Is it on Netflix?

    Yeah, some people just don’t plan well and others just get unlucky. I had a back surgery that left me unable to work in my early 20’s and if my parents hadn’t taken care of me I don’t know where I would be. It’s easy to bounce back if you have a safety net.

  6. Alicia @ Financial Diffraction December 10, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    This is where a lot of my money fear comes from – the unforeseen that can knock you straight out of your home. I think that’s why after having a few years of debt I’ve realized how debilitating it is, and am now on track to be a bit of a crazy saver – one financial extreme to the other.

    I do know, as bad as it may seem, that I could fall back on my parents like you – but I hate that concept. I am trying to be a financially independent adult, and that would hurt my pride so much, even if it wouldn’t necessarily hurt their finances too much. Sometimes you have to suck it up though, if it makes the difference between being hungry on the street, to having a roof over your head. I hope it would never come to that.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      Agreed. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, but if you channel that fear to hustling more to make sure it DOESN’T happen, that’s even better.

  7. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 10, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    Yikes! This sounds preachy, but holy-crap US healthcare! I just can’t wrap my head around the concept of healthcare being inaccessible. (Of note, many aspects of healthcare do cost money in Canada, just not to the same extent, at all.)
    It’s about time to be doing some major donating for the Christmas season :-)

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      It would be interesting to see how many people in the US are poor (or homeless) because of medical expenses alone… probably a decent size :(

      1. C The Writer December 10, 2013 at 6:05 PM

        On the other hand, the U.S. has VERY good healthcare. In Canada you might be dead because you had to wait so long for treatment. Better to live and have debt than be dead and have none, at least in my mind.

    2. jim December 10, 2013 at 7:05 PM

      Health care in the US is NOT inaccessible. Anyone – including illegals can walk into any hospital 24/7 and they can NOT be refused medical treatment. Can we get some facts straight here?

      1. Katherine December 10, 2013 at 7:27 PM

        Incorrect – the ER is for emergency medical treatment and does not provide preventative or ongoing health care of any kind for cancer, multiple sclerosis, colitis, hypo or hyperthyroidism, diabetes, heart disease, etc. For example, you cannot walk into the ER every 2 weeks and get chemotherapy, or show up once a month to refill your supply of insulin.

        Emergency care is not health care. Fact.

        1. jim December 10, 2013 at 7:39 PM

          Wrong – you can and they will.

  8. Brian@ Debt Discipline December 10, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    Just check HBO on Demand and see that this documentary is on. I’ll be watching it tonight. There is another good documentary to watch from 2011 called ‘Hard Times: Lost On Long Island’

    Sad when children are involved and a good reminder for us all to be thankful for our own situations.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      I’ve heard of that documentary! When I see that On Demand I’ll watch it too :) Lemme know what you think afterwards.

      1. Brian December 10, 2013 at 9:53 PM

        Wow. Eye opening stuff, makes you really thankful for your situation. I couldn’t help but think watching some of the families being in such bad shape, but still having cell phones and pets. I think if I was ever in that situation I would get into survival mode. Cutting things like cells phones right away. We have pets, but if it was a choice of feeding them or my family I’d have to give the pets up as tough as that might be.

        1. J. Money December 12, 2013 at 4:37 PM

          Yeah, you do start to question stuff for sure (like, with one of them having nice and colored hair all the time, which changed colors?), but who knows the deals… I’d like to think they have free hookups somewhere or something rather than the alternative ;)

  9. John S @ Frugal Rules December 10, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Thanks for this post J! I think my wife and I will be checking it out tonight. I think the easy thing for many is to judge, but the simple fact is that any of us could be there in the snap of a finger. I think it also points back to the growing divide in our society between the haves and the have-nots. It can be easy to come back if you have a safety net, but many don’t have that. Unfortunately, it impacts the kids the most and it just gives me a sick feeling knowing that there are so many kids in this situation today.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Agreed. Hope you like it when you watch :)

  10. Joel @ SaveOutsideTheBox December 10, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Great post J. I totally agree. I’m thankful for my friends and family and the fact that I have a home to live in. But that could certainly all change pretty quickly. This is a renewed kick in the pants to help others in need. Thanks for that.

  11. Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions December 10, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    That is so sad. I’m not sure I could watch it! As a former Legal Aid lawyer, I’m unfortunately familiar with some of the devastating things that can throw a family from “comfortable” to poverty. The worst is when someone becomes disabled and can’t work, plus needs more medical care. The safety net system tries to keep food on their table, but they have to give up so much of their lives in order to make it work. Thus, why we shell out so much money each year for disability insurance — it scares me to think about that “what if.”

  12. The Warrior December 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    I remember getting “the call” from a collector threatening me and everything and thinking, “What in the world am I going to do?”

    I stopped, took a deep breath, and just started working forward. I couldn’t think about how I got myself in that position. All I could do is better.

    Thankfully, it was only like $1000 i owed to the credit card. I paid that off quickly and since, I have made sure that I wouldn’t be in a horrible position if something catastrophic happened.

    My emergency fund is not yet fully funded as we are paying down debt, but, if the worst happened tomorrow, I could tap into 401k and “get by”.

    Having a plan for the worst is far more important than a plan for the best.

    The Warrior

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:16 AM

      “Having a plan for the worst is far more important than a plan for the best.” – agreed!!

  13. Deacon December 10, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Wow. That is sad that so many people have faced these kind of hardships. I do have compassion for people that fall on hard times, and it is probably because I have been there myself. I remember one time I looked through couch cushions to find change so that I could get a Jumbo Jack at Jack in the Box. Man, how times have changed. We are so blessed my friend.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      Wowww I didn’t know that. Good for you for climbing out and rocking it now! And for sharing your message on your blog too – that’s helping so many people out there :)

  14. Ragnar December 10, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    After being functionally disowned by my parents for reasons that are not pertinent to this discussion, I became acutely aware of how fragile and tenuous my place in the world was and how little i understood about coming back from a disaster. I was literally in financial survival mode for a few years, hoarding money.

    I was laid off in 2010 which reinforced how tenuous it was, but I was married and had a support system through her.

    I feel for these folks because I was lucky. That’s what separated me from them.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      I’m sorry to hear :( Luck definitely plays a part here, just like it does in the uber-successful too. I hope you and your family are doing better these days.

  15. IV December 10, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and we continue to send billions to other countries.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      It’s true. But it’s also true that many people can BECOME rich too with some changes and hard work – which is important to know. Not all of our hands are tied.

  16. Paul December 10, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    On Sept. 30, my boss and someone from HR walked into my office and told me my position was being eliminated, that the company had no more work for me. This was my “two weeks notice”. So I packed my stuff into two boxes and left that afternoon. They continued to pay me for the next two weeks, so I got a mid-Oct. check. I got another check the first of Nov. for my accumulated vacation time.

    As a retired military member (E-7), I get $2285 per month before taxes. I also have a 50% disability rating from the VA, which gets me $810 tax-free. Since I am married and have one child, I should be getting more from the VA, but I am still fighting that battle. I put in the claim in Jan., 2011, and I am still waiting. After taxes my income is $2942.64. I own two houses and I am renting out one of them, but the rent income is about $150 short of paying all the bills associated with that house. The job I lost was paying me $93,840 per year, so I am losing $7820 per month before taxes and other deductions. Because I have a military pension, I am ineligible for unemployment. I’m pretty sure I also make too much to qualify for food stamps. We do have around $10K in savings that we have not yet tapped into and $27K in non-retirement investment accounts.

    We were spending an exorbitant $1000 per month on food (groceries and restaurants). In October, we reduce our food budget to $800, in November to $700, and in December to $600. I think we can go down to $500 without depriving ourselves too much. My wife has been great about saving money on groceries. She is turning into one of those “super-couponing” ladies. We have discontinued our cable TV, but of course kept the internet since that’s where one has to go to find a job these days. We had already paid for Karate for the three of us through December, but will have to discontinue going in January. We put our house on the market this past Saturday. After paying closing costs and realtors, we will almost definitely lose money on any sale. We did sell some exercise equipment and are listing other items on Craig’s List and eBay. I just spruced up my wife’s resume and she is looking for a part-time job. If I don’t get any real job offers any time soon, I will likely start looking for something local. We have decided to move out of the area (Syracuse, NY), as the job market is very poor for someone with my skill set. I interviewed for one job in Omaha (where our other house is), but did not get that job. I have a couple friends keeping an eye out for jobs there, but I am also applying for jobs in other areas. The best place for me would probably be the DC area, but I did that for one year and hated living there. It would have to be a really awesome job for me to move back there.

    We have some savings and I have figured we need about $1500 extra per month in addition to my AF Retirement and VA Disability to get by. Right now we are waiting for one of two things to happen to trigger a move. If I find a job, we will move to the job. If we sell our house, we will move to Omaha and I will look for something temporary there. Our current tenants have a lease until September, so we can’t move into our house there. The job market there is much better for me, but I don’t want to have to pay two mortgages and rent without having a job. I did find a side gig transcribing some audio for a friend. It doesn’t pay much, but will be very welcome income.

    I feel so fortunate to have some savings to fall back on. We have decided to put moving expenses on our credit card and use our cash to pay for food and stuff like that. We were so close to paying off our debt, but now are just treading water. We had gone from over $40K to under $12K in a year and a half, but now are back over $12K. Hopefully we won’t have to increase that too much before I find gainful employment.

    OK, so I have one more job to apply for, then I’m back to transcribing audio.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 7:38 PM

      Oh man, good for you for TAKING ACTION though!! Amazing how much less you can truly live on once you’re put in the position, eh?

      I do hope you find a job you’re happy with and everything happens sooner than later for you :) I don’t blame you for hating the DC area either – super expensive here and people aren’t unfortunately as nice as other areas. Even moving down into VA as we did this Summer makes a world of a difference…

      Good luck! And thanks for stopping by and sharing your story with us!

      1. Paul December 11, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        Sorry about the length of my story, but once I got started, I had to get the whole thing out. I did leave out some of the details, but it’s mostly all there. I find I am much less uncomfortable with my situation after going through much the same thing upon retiring from the Air Force in 2010. At that time I really expected to have a job lined up before retiring, but that did not happen. I ended up going about two and a half months before starting a job (in DC). I didn’t much like the job and later found out I was being underpaid, but I really didn’t know my worth in the marketplace. Now I have a better idea about that and if I take a lower paying job it will be for a much better reason than freaking out about not being able to pay the bills. I did apply for a job in the Norfolk, VA area. I expect I would like it much better there than Alexandria, where I used to live.

        1. J. Money December 12, 2013 at 4:39 PM

          Don’t be sorry man, it’s great that you just let it all out. Who knows who’s reading this right now that could be helped by it? And yeah, Norfolk is def. cheaper and near some water so maybe it would be better? :) Hope you land it!

  17. Michelle December 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    This is so sad! I agree that we need to show others compassion. I once overheard someone saying that there shouldn’t be fundraisers for kids who have lots of medical bills because they brought it on themselves. I never wanted to punch someone more than that time.

    1. C The Writer December 10, 2013 at 6:11 PM

      I can’t see how it could POSSIBLY be the fault of a CHILD that they got sick. Adults smoke and drink, or do other stupid things, but kids do nothing to make themselves sick. If they get sick, it’s probably the fault of their parents (for not feeding/caring for them right) if it’s anyone’s fault.

      1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 7:39 PM

        Wow. That’s just horrible.

  18. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 10, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    It’s really sad to see people go through that. I felt bad enough about myself going without a job for 6 months, but we were living with my in-laws and had savings. Some friends of mine had to declare bankruptcy because of some medical costs that were just too much.

    I just wrote a post yesterday about some things I learned when working with people who live on less than $1 a day. It’s really interesting to me that our the Western societies are constructed so that it’s completely impossible to live that way, but millions of people around the world do it, and a lot of them are very happy. There’s still suffering, but there is definitely a resiliency that you just don’t see here.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 7:40 PM

      I bet. Don’t we always poll pretty low in those Happiness tests too from around the world? It’s good to be reminded of the abundance we have, even when we feel like we’re poor.

  19. Jessica December 10, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    I’m sort of surprised that it took a movie for you to realize how fast that people can be turned from middle class to poverty. Its happening every day in this country and despite what the media for most of our population the recession isnt over. I know for me personally, I know people still struggling despite having multiple jobs because they were out of work for so long. The healthcare situation alone can bankrupt people with a single illness. I have good insurance and I still have dropped over $10K this year for surgery, tests, and doctors visits and thats after I paid for premiums.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 7:42 PM

      It didn’t make me realize it, it made me *remember* that it’s still going on. Which we tend to forget when it’s out of the media for so long. Affects you a lot more too when you start getting to know someone/a family too that’s struggling through it, as this movie did.

      1. Jessica December 10, 2013 at 9:14 PM

        I dont follow traditional media much anymore so I have no idea what they are showing but its hard *not* to notice it for me in everyday life just because of the nature of my job and the people in my life. I think most people have they same issue that you do though, they live a life so far removed from the lower classes that they are almost insulated from it. Its a huge issue in our society and like someone else said the have and have nots are growing farther apart everyday. I totally get that its possible for someone from a lower class to get rich but now a days its definitely equal parts hard work and absolute luck.

        1. J. Money December 12, 2013 at 4:41 PM

          Agreed! Luck certainly plays a part of it. And all (honest) wealthy people will say the same too :)

  20. Samantha December 10, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    I just watched this movie on HBO and I have to say, I’m in complete agreement. Scary stuff! This week my company laid off 5 people, and made an announcement today that there is no more overtime allowed.

    I am definitely counting my blessings to be employed, to be saving, to be healthy. Sometimes you forget the little things and its so easy to complain about your commute and forget how lucky you are just to have a good JOB!

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 7:43 PM

      Ouch – I hope you’re safe for the long haul there!

  21. Stephanie December 10, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    I cannot imagine watching that movie. I had this discussion with my sister earlier this year. I knew I was going to lose my job home everything! I have had 3 major medical probs this year. I don’t know what I would have done without insurance because my med expenses this year were under $1000. I also have a flexible spending acct (pretax of course) to help offset some of these expenses.
    I am capable of supporting myself on tiny sums while paying debt, bills, rent et al. That being said there is not a morning I don’t thank God for my work.
    I also make it a point to do a random act of kindness every day. Whether I buy coffee for someone, give a helping hand or slip someone a $20 it reminds me how large a fortune I have. And how blessed I am. Indeed, we could all be in their shoes! Being kind often costs so little; find a way to help someone every day.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 7:44 PM

      That’s awesome! Good for you :) Random acts of kindness are the best.

  22. liz December 10, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    As much as I sometimes dislike or get bored of my job this is a good reminder that I am lucky to have what I have. It isn’t so bad.

  23. jim December 10, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    Can we use a little critical thinking here? I can’t tell you how many holes (misrepresentations or misunderstandings) are presented in just the one article I read about this. Lets just start with Sharon whose daughter became ill and she took time off work to care for her child. Her employer cut her insurance coverage? WHAT? How long was she off and why wasn’t she taking advantage of FMLA leave and COBRA if need be and whole lot of other programs that are available out there? How about unemployment insurance (if she actually was separated from her job and not just on a temporary leave to care for her child). She can also just walk away from those medical bills and file for bankruptcy (which is probably the least of her concerns given that her child is ill). I’m sorry – I’m as sympathetic as the next person, but this just sooooooooooooo misrepresents the options that are available that it’s disgusting and people buy this hook, line and sinker – like we really treat people that way. BS – they did a study on the homeless in Denver and you couldn’t go hungry unless you chose to because there are so many programs (completely free) available. Critical thinking people!

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      So you’re saying all of these people, and the millions of others across this country (US), currently struggling in poverty choose to go hungry? And not feed their kids? And live in the streets? Come on now… Some may not know their options, or are too proud to ask for help, sure, but that’s one helluva blanket statement.

      1. jim December 10, 2013 at 9:32 PM

        What blanket statement? Where did I ever utter even one word of what you say I’m saying. I simply didn’t – there you go again making blind assumptions. I didn’t say any such thing.

        And as for Jessica, if she got fired “for cause” she wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment – otherwise she would be, i.e. if she left her employment to take care of a family member who has health problems – she’d get unemployment – which is going for what now 99 weeks? As for housing and food – there is Section 8 housing and food stamps, again, ALL for free. I used to work for Legal Aid and trust me there are soooooooooooooooooooooooooo many frickin programs out there it would make your head spin – and none of them costs a dime. They cover housing, food, health care and whole helluva lot more. Critical thinking, please.

        1. Jessica December 10, 2013 at 10:38 PM

          Jim, you must have worked for legal aid long ago. Section 8 housing has a huge waiting list. A quick google check tells me this:in my county (El Paso County, CO) its 2 years, in New York City its 6 years, and since your’e so fond of Denver, their list is 6 years with a lottery to even apply to get on that six year list.
          I have met a few people like you that feel like there are so many programs out there but unless you have applied or taken in part in them recently you really have no clue, Yes there are programs but many are out of money or take weeks/months to get on. I have helped elderly at my grandmother’s senior center apply and its a heartbreaking process.

          1. jim December 10, 2013 at 10:51 PM

            Lose the tude and site your sources.

            1. Jessica December 10, 2013 at 11:25 PM

              El Paso county Colorado

              New York City

              and Denver

              And there is no “tude”. I work regularly through volunteer work with people who are taking part of the public assistance system as recipients and I also know people who work as staffers in these programs. It is nowhere near as easy as you make the process out to be and is a system with very big cracks.

    2. Jessica December 10, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      If you work for a small company, there is no FMLA and Im not sure if your familiar with Cobra rates but they are insane. I know for me, my monthly insurance at work is $350 and Cobra runs $1100 a month which is almost what I make. And if she got fired instead of laid off, shes not eligible for unemployment. Sure, she could file bankruptcy which gets rid of debt but it doesnt pay for food or a roof over her head.

      Im with J Money on this one, some people might not know their options but its a blanket statement to say that this issue is misrepresented.

  24. Stefanie December 10, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    Thank you for this insightful and inspiring post. I always thought that I would never be in a position similar to this as long as I had a stable job, an emergency fund, and savings yet I find myself here after sustaining (what I originally thought) was an insignificant injury that leaves me incapable of working any type of job. Although I do not have parents to fall back on, this was a great reminder that even though I have to be on state disability (which is embarrassing and discouraging), I at least have extended family that is supportive emotionally and monetarily if need be. Thank you for the gentle reminder that things could be and are worse for other people. If I could tell my past self anything, I would suggest not just financial planning for death but also for a long term disability. I am proof that even though I am relatively young, it can happen to anyone.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      Aww, I’m so sorry to hear, Stephanie :( My thoughts and prayers are with you that things turn around soon for you! Keep up the positive attitude!!

  25. Barbara Friedberg December 10, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    I had to write in about this one. My childhood friends; Joe and Harry Gantz did this documentary. I lacked water for about 5 hours last week and just that tiny upset reminded me of how totally fortunate I am.

    So much of life is really about luck. I remind myself not to take anything for granted.

    1. J. Money December 10, 2013 at 9:45 PM

      That is SO COOL!!! The next time you chat with them be sure to let ’em know a nerdy PF blogger was touched by it :) I’m glad your water is back too!

  26. Michelle December 10, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    I keep hearing about this documentary-I need to see it. It is my opinion that we are in the midst of a huge social and economic restructuring back to how things were BEFORE the introduction of credit. I think that the concept of a large middle class is going the way of the dinosaur. The social and economic policies from both sides of the aisle are insuring that people will continue to struggle. It’s really, really scary. I have a lot of faith-but, I’m not the only person noticing this transition. I donate toiletries to a women’s day shelter throughout the year. I try to include a giving component to most of the things that I do. I am always aware of how fortunate I am. Thanks for this post.

  27. Kylie Ofiu December 10, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    It really can happen to anyone. I never expected to be homeless or really struggling. I got married, had kids, bought a house etc… Then he got violent, I had to flee with the kids and it got really messy.

    Thankfully we are ok financially now, but it was horrible and shows it can happen to anyone.

    1. J. Money December 12, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      I still can’t believe that – would have never guessed knowing you. So glad you’re open and telling your story too as I’m sure it’s helping others reading about it!!

      1. Kylie Ofiu December 12, 2013 at 9:02 PM

        Thanks. Yes, even when I was homeless no one knew. My parents had suspected I was a couple of times, but I lived interstate from family so it was easy to hide.

  28. Dear Debt December 10, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    I’m interested in checking out, especially bc it’s in Portland, where I live. I never thought in a million years I’d have an M.A. and be on food stamps, but lo and behold I could not find a job. I depleted my savings, went on food stamps and worked as a house cleaner and many other odd jobs to get by. I never thought that would be my life, because my life before that was ‘successful’. I now have so much gratitude, patience, and even more hard work ethic.

    1. J. Money December 12, 2013 at 4:43 PM

      Wow… good for you for doing what it takes, that’s some strength right there!

  29. jim December 10, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    Dear Debt,
    I have been really close to where you’re at – never took food stamps etc but lived below the poverty level, went hungry on several occasions, lived in really bad neighborhoods, went without just about everything else and often thought I’d have to file for bankruptcy. Little did I know that student debt is not bankruptable. What saved me is applying for every shit job that was out there and “lying” on the application regarding my level of education. Go for some entry level positions that only require a GED – it’ll at least put food on the table.(You can work 2 or 3 jobs at a time if you need to. God knows I did.) Meanwhile, network the hell out of everyone you know and everyone they know. That seems to be the real key to getting a job that matches your qualifications. Best of luck.

  30. Brian December 11, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    This just reminded me of a quote from Matt Paxton

    “We are all just 5 decisions away from a life changing reality. It goes both ways, you could be 5 decisions away from sh*tting in a bucket or 5 decisions away from becoming a millionaire. I’ve seen both.”

    He is a pretty interesting character and if you are a fan of the Joe Rogan Podcast he has a great appearance on there. (I’m not trying to plug anything feel free to edit/delete anything you need to, it won’t offend me).

    1. J. Money December 12, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      Oh man, haven’t heard of that idea before – or Matt Paxton/Joe Rogan – but it definitely strikes me. Will Google it, thx man :)

  31. Mrs. Frugalista December 11, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    I watched it and honestly my stomach was in knots and I cried throughout the documentary. Kids should not have to worry about having enough food or having a place to live. So sad.

    1. J. Money December 12, 2013 at 4:46 PM

      We gotta keep counting our blessings! So many people have it worse than us.

  32. Prepping Is Sexy December 14, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    You never what’s going to happen. My husband could lose his job tomorrow and we would be screwed. Thankfully we would still have food and various other resources (not money so much) to hold us over for about a year or so. But paying the bills and not losing our house is another matter. All we can do is realize the possibility that something awful CAN happen to us; then do our best to be prepared.

    Thanks for sharing, I’m going to check out that documentary you mentioned.


  33. J. Money December 16, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    Let me know how you like it :) And nice blog name!

    1. Prepping Is Sexy December 17, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      Absolutely broke my heart!

      I hate that this stuff happens to so many people, all the time. It always makes me think, what can we all do to prevent this from happening. So many of us are living just 1 incident away from this and don’t want to even entertain the possibility. If there are substantially less jobs than people, what can you really do?


      1. J. Money December 17, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        Pretty much keep trying and hustling your ass off until something fits :( It’s definitely not easy from everything I hear… sad indeed.