Saturday, December 04, 2010

You Lift Sixteen Tons...

And what do you get?

Thirty years older and deeper in debt.

I received my "Social Security Statement" in the mail the other day and it kind of bummed me out.

Page three of this document laid out my Social Security Earnings by year, going back to 1978.

I really didn't start working, full time, until 1979, so I decided to look at the 30 year period between then and 2009. I felt the best way to make sense of this train wreck was to graph it. You may wish to click on the graphs to make them more legible.

A few notes:

I entered the manufacturing arena in 1979 as a QC Technician for the Carborundum company.

You'll notice my first big negative spike was in 1981. This was the year I quit that gig (in early January) to "run off and join the circus," so to speak. When that fell apart in March of that year, I remained unemployed, with no income, until July. That is when I started a 16 year ride at Ohmtek (now Vishay Thin Film),

I started, once again, as a QC Technician but kept failing upward until I was the Manager of Inspection and Testing.

You can see how thing used to work in industry. I would get performance reviews with pay increases dependant on on well I was doing. Like the first part of a roller coaster ride I went up, up, up until...

I was let loose from their payroll in early 1997.

(Here comes the scary part of the ride. Please keep your arms inside the car at all times.)

Owing to several bad-mojo factors (unable to find a permanent job, family health issues and the like) I relocated from North Tonawanda, NY to Fayetteville, NC in spring of 1998.

I snagged an Industrial Technician job at plant that made big valves and in-line strainers for the next seven years until I was shown the door in 2005. You can see the big dip in income for that year!

That was followed by two really low-paying years at the label-printing company, followed by my gig at the dishrack factory (see the big spike in 2008?), followed by being laid off in 2009 (see the dip?)

Seeing it all laid out on a graph put me in a rather depressive state.

Then it hit me.

The 1996 and 2008 earning were almost identical.

Maybe I finally made up for lost time!

Maybe I finally had turned it around!

Maybe once these rolling lay offs end and the economy recovers I'll be back to 1990s-style "prosperity!"

A little voice was heard to whisper in my ear, "Psst. Hey, Craig. Ever hear of the consumer price index? To get an accurate picture of where you're at, go back and calculate your earnings pegged to 1979 dollars!"

So I did:

See that lower line? The solid one? See how it has trended negatively over the 30 years that have been my professional career path?


"But, wait a minute," that little voice said. "Why don't you figure your percent increase/decrease since you entered the job market? Just use the new data and peg it to your 1979 earnings."


Ooh, baby!

Remember that "fat" year in 2008? The one where I thought I was turning the corner before the economy imploded?

If I convert that to 1979 dollars, then I only took a -4.2% pay cut since my very first full time gig!

I grew up always hearing about stuff like "peak earning years" and "America's middle class is the envy of the world."

My conclusion?

I'm screwed.


Blogger KL from NYC said...

Gee, how cheery!
I'm still unemployed, too, and not surviving well on part-time substitute teaching work.
And, I just spent the last month going through the public assistance process (I might get food stamps and some medical coverage, but I haven't heard the outcome, yet).
Anyway, I came by to tell you that there's a faux-Beatles 45 that doesn't even try to be The Beatles (it's a doo-wop group). It's from Miracle Productions in CA, which has the slogan "If it sells, it's a miracle."
The new year has got to be better, right? (I keep telling myself that.)

January 01, 2011 11:29 AM  

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