Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

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.

Read more in: Money | Work & School

Reader Wants to Throw Big Birthday Bash

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am about to celebrate a big birthday, and I am planning to have a party. I have spent some time thinking about it and contacting vendors to set things up. I am going for it, even though it is expensive. I can afford it at this point in my life. The issue is that some people are talking about me, saying that I’m being extravagant. I want to have my party, but I hate these rumors and comments. I feel like I deserve to have a good time for this turning point in my life. How can I get people to realize that this party is something I can afford and want to do, but I don’t want to hear their comments about it? -- Party On

DEAR PARTY ON: Do not indulge the naysayers. Create a guest list of people who genuinely support you. Invite them only. Let people say what they will about your party. Most important is for you and your guests to enjoy yourselves.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Holidays & Celebrations | Etiquette & Ethics