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An ALICE Story

 Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing series about struggling families in our community. In January 2016, United Way of Thurston County released the results from the first ALICE study. ALICE stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed. The story below was submitted to us.  If you have a story to share from your own personal experience or about someone you know, we invite you to share it with us at www.unitedway-thurston.org/i-am-alice

Learn more about ALICE on our website 
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My story is probably like a lot of other stories. I raised three children without help from anyone. I had to work two and three jobs - all with low wages- in order to be successful. What has happened to me most recently however, has been so much more difficult to overcome.
 
In January 2009, at age 62 I received a layoff notice from my job which paid $50,000 a year had excellent benefits. I was really not worried as I believed I would find employment immediately. Not true. My age and lack of a degree were huge factors to employers.
My experience and excellent referrals meant nothing.

Unemployment, and then extended unemployment ran out. I was forced to take early Social Security payments so that I had some income to live on. I volunteered while I looked for work. I also contracted out for a couple of months and worked part-time through an employment agency when I could. They paid low wages and provided no benefits. At that time, I was paying $380 a month for health insurance. I was able to get Social Security eventually and then joined Medicare.
 

Just trying to keep everything together was immensely stressful. I sold anything I could in my home and sold off all of my jewelry and personal belongings to raise the money I needed. I never left the house as I wanted to hang on to every penny. No entertainment, no new clothes. It really put me in isolation. I tried to smile through it all. After a lifetime of working, I had nothing. Two daughters came to my aid and gave me upwards of $38,000 to help pay my essentials.
In January 2015, I took a part-time job that paid not much over minimum wage. That organization put me on full-time on April 1, 2015. I am still working at the job as an integral part of that organization's team. My pay? I make $14,000 a year less than in 2009. My health insurance is not covered as I refused the health insurance offered in order to stay with the doctors I have had for years. I still must use most of my Social Security to love on. This means I have no savings or money set aside for retirement. I will work until the end. Scary.