Sense & Sensitivity

Reader Living Hand to Mouth Needs a Plan

DEAR HARRIETTE: I hear all this talk about the economy improving, but honestly, my friends and I are not doing much better than a year or so back. It is tough. I feel like we got left behind or something. Or maybe it’s only talk about the major improvements in the economy.

I feel like a failure. I work hard and am always willing to work long hours, but it doesn’t seem to matter. After several years, I now earn less than I used to, not more. How can I keep my spirits up when I am feeling so down about money? It doesn’t help that my friends and I are in the same boat. We are all basically living from hand to mouth. Who knows if any of us will ever be able to retire? I feel like an idiot. I’m not asking you to help me find a better job. Instead, I want to understand how to feel about my station in life. Right now, I just feel worthless. -- Down and Out

DEAR DOWN AND OUT: As you can tell from your friends, you are not alone in not experiencing the bounty that some news reports suggest America is enjoying. It really depends on the industry that you work in whether you would benefit from the changing economy.

That said, you are where you are. Many people’s income decreases as they get older. That’s why it’s wise to save in your early years. If you weren’t able to do that, what you need to figure out today is how you can live on less and save whatever you can for your retirement. Do your best to accept where you are and then to get creative about how you can earn more money. Draw up a budget that helps you to understand exactly what you earn and what your expenses are. Determine how much money you want to save in the next three to five years, then map out a strategy for doing so. You may want to talk to a financial planner to help you. Even on a modest budget, it is possible to set yourself up for your later years. Instead of feeling worthless, claim your value and map out a way to get to your goal.

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