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.''
Renting a four-bedroom home at his age for $2,000 a month (for just him and his wife) is just insane, even if he still had his $62,000 a year job. After taxes, that rent would suck up half his income! No wonder he didn't have anything saved up. My father also lived in the Boston area and he never made more than $40,000 in his life yet he was still able to retire at age 62 just a few years ago. He bought a house in 1968 with a mortgage of $151 a month (which seemed like a lot back then). He paid the house off and sold it upon retirement whereupon he bought a place for cash down in Alabama where he never has to worry again.
This should be a lesson for younger people to make some sound decisions today so that they never had to end up like "that guy." Get out of debt. Buy a home. Live below your means and invest/save the difference. Do it today. It's not too late!
And my Grandparents were shot by Russian soldiers before they turned 40. Sometimes life is tough.
I think there are a couple things wrong with this article:
1)I think people have lost sight of what REAL tough times are all about. I keep hearing about people losing their jobs in this economy, but I don't know anyone who has lost a job. I don't see masses of starving people who lost their farms in a dust bowl.
2) Dick Wilcox's problem is not unique to this bad economy. But it is very typical for the sales and management business. In the mid-90 I went to a resume workshop sponsored by the state's Employment Development Department. And the majority of people in attendance were middle-aged to near-retirement-aged men who had lost their long held sales or management jobs. They work at a business for so many years. They get used to maintaining a particular lifestyle. And then they stop meeting their quotas or they manage themselves right out of a job.
2) Also, I wonder about Dick Wilcox if at age 62 he still doesn't own his own home, he's stuck paying $2000 a month in rent, and he's run out of his "meager" retirement savings. It sounds like Dick hasn't been very money-wise to start off with. Why is he trying to hold on to a fancy English country cottage that he never owned? If he was concerned about maintaining this lifestyle he should have had more than a meager amount saved up by this time. I just don't feel sorry for the guy. Some people go through life never preparing, never doing without the things they want today.. and when their lack of planning bites them in the butt, they go knocking on the doors of those who did save and who made a habit of forgoing luxury items, and who bought homes that fit comfortably in their budget.
3)What the hell does Margery Eagan think will become of people like poor Mr. Dick Wilcox if and when the terrorists unleash a nuclear or chemical attack in America?
There was an article in the Wall Street Journal about this guy a few days ago which had a lot more financial information. He only managed to save $13,000 in a 401(k), most of which has been spent paying that $2,000 rent.
Last week I ran into a guy I knew years ago. A few years back, he was a middle-manager for software quality assurance for IBM. Last week, he rang up my purchases at the supermarket. My brother-in-law was a consultant for KPMG a few years back. Now he sells tennis stuff
The new reality is that there is no job that is secure. Not manufactoring (gone to china), not construction (taken over by illegal immigrants) not technology (outsourced to India or China, or taken over by H1Bs).
There was one smug freeper on another thread who was not worried. He's a sales rep for an outsourcing firm. He does not yet realize that the people in India who currently man call centers will also be able to make sales calls.
Perhaps he was unfortunate enough to have done so.
Most importantly you didn't waste your time standing on an intersection for 3 months in the freezing cold.
Like many families we have had our ups and downs. During the downs hubby delivered pizzas and I worked banquets for tips and cut back to bare necessities. During the ups we never overspent and never ever took the future for granted.
I don't believe in spitting on the guy but I think we can all afford to take a lesson from this. Fact is, he did make some poor decisions that have contributed to his situation. (There is more information in the WSJ article that bears this out.)
It is a liberal tendency to make excuses for people and say things like "You should walk a mile in his shoes before you judge..." Not that I'm accusing you of having liberal tendencies. But life can be very tough on those who do not learn from other's mistakes. There are far too many people in this country living on easy credit and beyond their means. There are many others out there in the situation this man is in (or will be soon). Yet, it need not be so. Hopefully many will learn from this man's plight and make the corrections in their lifestyle today so that they do not end up like this man tomorrow.
And as we continue to export the nation's productive forces to places like Red China these problems can only get worse.
We're already at the beginning of an intellectual Dark Age, in about fifteen years we'll be a third world country if things like this continue.
Nope, and I didn't say anything of the sort. My point is, when you NEED a job, You do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get one. If that means pulling up stakes from Florida and moving to Alaska, fine. If it means moving from a $2000 a month apartment in MA or CA or wherever to one in Peoria, IL or Pussyhump, AR, you do it. I have a very nice one-bedroom apartment in Nashville that's less than $600 a month. Two-bedrooms are maybe $750 a month. ANd like I said, there are over 5000 jobs listed on one website in his field. But I guess that's not as much fun as being interviewed by the WSJ or appearing on TV.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.