Skip to comments.Unemployed at 62, his plight may be a sign of the times (Barf alert!)
Posted on 03/11/2003 11:40:19 AM PST by Jimmyclyde
Unemployed at 62, his plight may be a sign of the times
by Margery Eagan Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Here in the living room of what feels like a cozy English country cottage - china-blue walls, hand-painted antique chairs, latticed windows and fine woods - it's hard to believe the once-comfortable occupants are down to their last $2,500.
Not enough to pay their $2,000 monthly rent and $1,200 health insurance, never mind food or heat or gas.
But that's the very scary story of North Easton couple Dick Wilcox, 62, and his wife, Michele, 56. Dick was laid off from his $65,000, mid-level insurance company job a year ago. He cannot afford to retire.
And as a nation obsesses over war, its politicians seeming to forget the crushing effects of a jittery economy, Dick Wilcox has joined the unenviable ranks of older, unemployed, white-collar workers who can't find another decent job.
``It's like all it takes,'' Dick Wilcox said yesterday, ``is one crack in the system and you can go from having a really good lifestyle to being literally homeless.''
To prevent that is why he's spent three months now, morning after frigid morning, at busy Canton intersections. He wears fat mittens and a hooded parka over a neat suit and tie. And like an upscale version of your average street corner beggar, lifelong, middle-class taxpayer Dick Wilcox stands with a mix of humiliation, desperation and defiance behind the 4-by-6-foot plywood sign he made in his basement. And he begs, too.
``I NEED A JOB. 508-238-3226.'' That's what his sign reads in big black letters. ``36 Yrs. Exper. Insur/Mngmnt.''
Dick Wilcox has dropped off hundreds of resumes at companies and office parks. He's sent out hundreds more online. He's had two interviews and not a single job offer near the $50,000 he needs.
Now his severance, unemployment, modest savings and pension are almost gone. Michele Wilcox, who raised three children and supplemented Dick's income with a home crochet business, brought in just $9,000 this year. Her small business is yet another victim, it appears, of a shrinking economy.
A year ago, the couple planned to help an infertile daughter finance an expensive overseas adoption. They'd hoped to replace a 12-year-old car. Now, even if both find $10-an-hour jobs tomorrow, they're on the brink of losing their home.
Dick Wilcox, who has a can-do, take-charge aura about him - and unique ideas on making older workers more attractive - says he's still a bit stunned by it all. ``When I first lost my job I said, `Well, it's not the end of the world. I'll go out and find something else . . .' I never expected . . . this.''
Here is the good and bad news. Last week, his story made the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Since then he's had hundreds of phone calls, mostly from other older laid-off workers who are discouraged, too, ``and practically crying on the phone,'' he says. ``Out of work nine months, 14 months. Unbelievable, terrible stories.''
But he's also had calls from other media outlets, including nationally syndicated radio shows, cable TV's NECN and two of the three big morning network shows: ``Good Morning America'' and ``The Early Show.'' But the morning shows keep delaying him, he says, because of war stories.
Meanwhile, he says, not a single politician has called. ``They'd much rather debate the war than talk about the economy because they don't have any solutions. They just keep promising the economy's going to turn around. . . Now they don't even say it anymore and we've got tens of thousands out of work.''
Although media coverage has led to at least one promising interview offer, Dick Wilcox is taking no chances. He plans to be out again tomorrow morning, the corner of Route 138 and Washington Street, where people have climbed over snowbanks to shake his hand or bring him Dunkin' Donuts. ``One woman tapped me on the shoulder with tears in her eyes. She said, `This is the gutsiest thing I ever saw anybody do.' ''
He says that when he first thought of the sign, he was afraid to tell his wife or children. He was embarrassed, scared he'd seem like a failure, like ``some idiot'' standing in the road.
Yesterday, Michele Wilcox said she'd admired her husband's daring. Yesterday Karen Wilcox, their oldest child, said her father ``had proven us all wrong'' for ever fretting about his sign. She said her father had worked hard all his life and that when she heard him last week on the radio, ``I had tears in my eyes. . . . I'm so proud of him.''
But here is the problem that older workers face. If you say he needs to walk again, he is in essence the same as a kid just coming out of college. Who would an employer rather take on?? If a company has to pay to train somebody, they would rather train the younger worker. This is why saying that an older worker should retrain is fine and dandy, but even then they still face an uphill battle.
I don't mean to be insensitive, but I have to question this. If you went from having enough to live well for 20+ years to having financial difficulties, I don't see how you could have had a balanced and diversified portfolio. Even if you put everything in a Nasdaq index fund, you would "only" have lost 75% and would still have enough for 5 years.
Some of us have dreams of grandeur to retire at 55 or 62. The only problem is things happen along the way, mainly life, kids, a bad market and before you know it the plan has vanquished. The land of critcal mass is not achieved and a job loss turns your world on it's ear at the ripe age of 62.
Then comes the second guessing, not just yourself but others. Shouldn't have bought the new car in 1983, should have skipped those vacations with the kids in the 80's. Was prime rib every Christmas wise?
He seems to be trying, I wish him good luck.
When was that ... last year. You DON"T have the life experience to have put a lifetime into a career and then after 25 years+ have to start over ...
Not refering to you BUT some other person was saying pretty close to the same thing you did ... Duh I gotta job ... I bake cakes you should try that.
First of all ... who said I didn't ... Second ... people laid off in high tech have MANY years invested in education and in their careers, they are NOT just going to drop all of that at the first sign of trouble. By time they had realized that high tech was NOT rebounding like it always did before ... it was too late. They had lost most, if not all of their saving trying to hold on.
BTW ... throw away jobs don't count because the laid off high tech worker is NOT eligible for them. I know cause I tried
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