Beverly Hill, 60, was laid off in 2007 and hasn't found a steady, full time job since. She’s run up credit card debt and spent her retirement money to stay current on her mortgage, but she fears she won't be able to keep her house much longer.
I have had a full time job for only six months out of the last six years. The rest have been part-time jobs working for $8 an hour. Currently I work three jobs.
One is a seasonal position that runs from March to July as a live nursery merchandiser for one of the big home improvement chains. My biggest pay weeks are in May and June, when I can get 30 hours a week. It's grueling work outside in the heat.
The second job is for a large merchandising company which services big-box stores. This is an hourly position only, and the work I get is assigned to me on a "first come, first served" basis. I am only eligible to get 16 hours a week. Most weeks all I get are a few hours, nowhere near the 16. I recently got another part-time job with a local grocery store, but that’s only two days a week.
I've applied for full-time jobs, "real jobs" as I call them, but all I get are notifications of rejection. In my past, I've worked as an administrative assistant, purchasing agent, bookkeeper, head cashier/front end manager, cable TV installer, security guard, receptionist and, of course, a customer service representative. I've worked in the trucking industry, government contracting, electronics, real estate and other fields.
I can't tell you how many jobs I've not gotten because I didn't even have an Associate's degree, but had every single qualification required by the job. You'd think I could find a job, but I can't.
My credit rating is in the tank. One credit card is just about maxed out, the other one closed by the company for non-payment. I've had to use my credit over the past years as an adjunct to my non-existent salary. This, I suspect, is one of the reasons I can't find a job. Prospective employers check credit histories and assume that because I have so much debt it makes me a bad and irresponsible person. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I'm living off what was supposed to be my retirement money. I take out of my retirement what I need to pay my mortgage every month. The mortgage has to get paid. That’s number one, and that’s what I’ve told my creditors. I don't go shopping or do anything fun. I can't afford it. I eat a lot of spaghetti, because it's cheap. That’s my big joke with my sister -- that I’m living on spaghetti.
Because I own a house I am not eligible for any kind of [government] assistance. Not yet old enough to qualify for Social Security or Medicare.
I have no medical insurance. I don't go to the doctor for routine check-ups, only if I suspect something might be terribly wrong. A year and a half ago, after a few days of unusual pain in my lower abdomen, I went to the doctor. He wasn't so concerned about my guts as he was about an irregular heartbeat.
I was hospitalized. Two and a half days in the hospital came to over $40,000. After pleading poverty and asking to be considered a charity case, the hospital relented and lowered my bill to $12,000. I still can't afford to pay this. I'm eking it out a little at a time. After a year and a half, I've finally managed to pay off one of the doctors.
I still owe the hospital about $9,000. I owe about $30,000 to credit cards, and I owe another $50,000 on my house. So that's about $90,000. I don’t answer my phone because I constantly have the credit card companies calling me for money, and I can’t give them what I don’t have. I’ve told them, my house comes first. I’m going to keep a roof over my head and not end up homeless.
I have a home on 60 acres in central Virginia that I am going to have to sell. I have no choice. It's the only way I can pay off creditors. I’m hoping that when I sell my house, I’ll have enough money to pay off all my debt – the $90,000 -- and have enough left over to buy a little place in Florida.
I’ve checked out 55-plus retirement communities in other parts of the country where I have relatives and friends, and Florida is the cheapest. I’m not afraid to go to someplace where I don’t know anybody, because I didn’t know anybody when I moved here. I just saw the house, fell in love with it and decided I was going to buy it.
I don’t have children or a husband or anybody else helping me out in this house. The house is just too much for me physically and financially, and eventually I’m going to wind up losing it anyway, so what I want to try to do is try to sell it before I wind up losing it. I don’t know what’s going to happen if I lose the house. I’d have no place to go.
As told to Andrew Perez.
Beverly's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.
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