The Situation, Day 135

24 Jul 2013

Original Blogger tags: The Situation 2013

So, it’s day 135. This is either the last covered week (week 20) of unemployment benefits, or I have three more; I’m not quite sure. Without a new source of income, we will run out of money to cover mortgage payments either at the end of September or the end of October. We have burned through the money I withdrew from my 401K in March when I was laid off. I’ve been selling some possessions, guitars and music gear, but this is demoralizing, and not sustainable. We don’t have much more that is worth selling.

I was fortunate to have a 401K to cash out, and to get the food and unemployment benefits I’ve gotten — so far I have been able to pay every bill on time and my credit rating is, so far, completely unscathed. But winter is coming. And another son is coming — Benjamin Merry Potts, most likely around the middle of October.

Emotionally, the situation is very confusing. On the one hand, I have several very promising job prospects, and I’m getting second phone interviews. But these are primarily for jobs where I’d have to relocate, and a small number of possible jobs that might allow me to work from home. This includes positions in Manhattan and Maine. We’re coming to grips with the fact that we will most likely have to leave Saginaw. It’s a well-worn path out of Saginaw. We were hoping to stick with the road less traveled, but we can’t fight economic reality single-handed. And we don’t really have any interest in relocating within Michigan, again. If we’re going to have to move, let’s move somewhere where we won’t have to move again — someplace where, if I lose one job, there’s a good chance I can quickly find another.

So, we are willing to relocate, for the right job in the right place. The right place would be the New England area — Grace is fed up here, and I am too. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, or eastern Pennsylvania are all appealing. but it would not be a quick and easy process. It would probably involve a long separation from my family. I don’t relish that idea, especially if my wife has a new baby. That might be what it takes, though. I’ll do it for the right job and the right salary and the right place. In any case, we can’t move with either a very pregnant woman or a newborn. It’s would not be a quick and easy process to sell, or even rent out, a house. A benefit to a permanent job in Manhattan is that it would pay a wage that is scaled for the cost of living there. It might be perfectly doable for me to find as cheap a living arrangement there as I can, work there, and send money home. A Manhattan salary would go a long way towards maintaining a household in Michigan, and helping us figure out how to relocate, and I’d probably be able to fly home fairly frequently.

I would consider a short-term remote contract job where I wasn’t an employee, and didn’t get benefits, and earned just an hourly wage. Let’s say it was a four-hour drive away. I’d consider living away from home during the work week, staying in an extended-stay motel, and driving home on weekends. But it would have to pay well enough to be able to do that commute, pay for that hotel, and be able to send money home — enough to pay the mortgage and bills. A per diem would help, but the contract work like this I’ve seen won’t cover a per diem. We’d need to maintain two cars instead of one. Grace would need to hire some people for housekeeping and child care help. I wouldn’t be there to spend the time I normally spend doing basic household chores and helping to take care of the kids.

Would I consider a contract job like that father away — for example, an hourly job in California? That’s tougher. I think I could tolerate seeing my wife and kids only on weekends, if I knew that situation would not continue indefinitely. But if I had to fly out, that probably wouldn’t be possible. California has very little in the way of public transportation. Would I have to lease a car out there, so I could drive to a job? Take cabs? It might make more sense to buy a used car, once out there. In any case, it would cost. Paying for the flights, the hotel, and the car, with no per diem, it’s hard to imagine that I’d be able to fly home even once a month. Would I do a job like that if I could only manage to see my family, say, quarterly? Let’s just say that would be a hardship. I would consider an arrangement like this if it paid enough. But the recruiters who are talking to me about these jobs are not offering competitive market rates. It doesn’t seem like the numbers could work out — I can’t take a job that won’t actually pay all our expenses.

The prospect of employment locally or within an hour commute continues to look very poor. I’ve applied for a number of much lower-paying IT or programming jobs in the region, and been consistently rejected. These jobs wouldn’t pay enough to afford a long commute or maintain any financial security at all. In fact, I think we’d still be eligible for food stamps (SNAP) and my wife and kids would probably still be eligible for Medicaid. Their only saving grace is that they would pay the mortgage. Some of them might provide health insurance, at least for me. But I’ve seen nothing but a string of form rejections for these positions.

Grace and I don’t get much quiet time — we haven’t had an actual date night, or an evening without the kids, since March. The closest we come is getting a sitter to watch the kids for a couple of hours while we run some errands. That’s what we did last Sunday. I made a recording and turned it into a podcast. You can listen if you are interested.

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