Skip to comments.Unemployed at 62, his plight may be a sign of the times (Barf alert!)
Posted on 03/11/2003 11:40:19 AM PST by Jimmyclyde
Unemployed at 62, his plight may be a sign of the times
by Margery Eagan Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Here in the living room of what feels like a cozy English country cottage - china-blue walls, hand-painted antique chairs, latticed windows and fine woods - it's hard to believe the once-comfortable occupants are down to their last $2,500.
Not enough to pay their $2,000 monthly rent and $1,200 health insurance, never mind food or heat or gas.
But that's the very scary story of North Easton couple Dick Wilcox, 62, and his wife, Michele, 56. Dick was laid off from his $65,000, mid-level insurance company job a year ago. He cannot afford to retire.
And as a nation obsesses over war, its politicians seeming to forget the crushing effects of a jittery economy, Dick Wilcox has joined the unenviable ranks of older, unemployed, white-collar workers who can't find another decent job.
``It's like all it takes,'' Dick Wilcox said yesterday, ``is one crack in the system and you can go from having a really good lifestyle to being literally homeless.''
To prevent that is why he's spent three months now, morning after frigid morning, at busy Canton intersections. He wears fat mittens and a hooded parka over a neat suit and tie. And like an upscale version of your average street corner beggar, lifelong, middle-class taxpayer Dick Wilcox stands with a mix of humiliation, desperation and defiance behind the 4-by-6-foot plywood sign he made in his basement. And he begs, too.
``I NEED A JOB. 508-238-3226.'' That's what his sign reads in big black letters. ``36 Yrs. Exper. Insur/Mngmnt.''
Dick Wilcox has dropped off hundreds of resumes at companies and office parks. He's sent out hundreds more online. He's had two interviews and not a single job offer near the $50,000 he needs.
Now his severance, unemployment, modest savings and pension are almost gone. Michele Wilcox, who raised three children and supplemented Dick's income with a home crochet business, brought in just $9,000 this year. Her small business is yet another victim, it appears, of a shrinking economy.
A year ago, the couple planned to help an infertile daughter finance an expensive overseas adoption. They'd hoped to replace a 12-year-old car. Now, even if both find $10-an-hour jobs tomorrow, they're on the brink of losing their home.
Dick Wilcox, who has a can-do, take-charge aura about him - and unique ideas on making older workers more attractive - says he's still a bit stunned by it all. ``When I first lost my job I said, `Well, it's not the end of the world. I'll go out and find something else . . .' I never expected . . . this.''
Here is the good and bad news. Last week, his story made the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Since then he's had hundreds of phone calls, mostly from other older laid-off workers who are discouraged, too, ``and practically crying on the phone,'' he says. ``Out of work nine months, 14 months. Unbelievable, terrible stories.''
But he's also had calls from other media outlets, including nationally syndicated radio shows, cable TV's NECN and two of the three big morning network shows: ``Good Morning America'' and ``The Early Show.'' But the morning shows keep delaying him, he says, because of war stories.
Meanwhile, he says, not a single politician has called. ``They'd much rather debate the war than talk about the economy because they don't have any solutions. They just keep promising the economy's going to turn around. . . Now they don't even say it anymore and we've got tens of thousands out of work.''
Although media coverage has led to at least one promising interview offer, Dick Wilcox is taking no chances. He plans to be out again tomorrow morning, the corner of Route 138 and Washington Street, where people have climbed over snowbanks to shake his hand or bring him Dunkin' Donuts. ``One woman tapped me on the shoulder with tears in her eyes. She said, `This is the gutsiest thing I ever saw anybody do.' ''
He says that when he first thought of the sign, he was afraid to tell his wife or children. He was embarrassed, scared he'd seem like a failure, like ``some idiot'' standing in the road.
Yesterday, Michele Wilcox said she'd admired her husband's daring. Yesterday Karen Wilcox, their oldest child, said her father ``had proven us all wrong'' for ever fretting about his sign. She said her father had worked hard all his life and that when she heard him last week on the radio, ``I had tears in my eyes. . . . I'm so proud of him.''
It's called retirement.
Nowadays, it's called still having several years before retirement. I figure I'm not gonna retire until I'm seventy-five, and will probably continue to work part-time after that - partially because Social Security and Medicare will be non-existent, and partially because my wife will kill me if I'm hanging around the house all day - she just about did that when I was unemployed for several months last year...
Lots of good apartments in the Detroit suburbs for $500 to $800 a month. I think they could afford that much on far less than $50K a year.
It ain't the Gov'ts job to find you employment, you dumbass.
Phineas Taylor ("P.T.") Barnum. Broke, knocked around creating various animal shows until age 70 when he teamed with the Ringling Bros. to START his circus.
Lydia Pinkham, unemployed 60-year-old housewife with a husband in a wheelchair and two teenage boys. Started selling her "vegetable compound" and it took off, making her a millionaire at age 70.
C. W. Post---a "youngster"---was only in his early 50s, but unemployed and ill. He went to Battle Creek Michigan to the Kellogg sanitarium, where he tinkered with a new cereal that tasted like, well, "grape nuts," even though there were no grapes and no nuts in it. Of course, he became a millionaire with Post cereals.
Oh, and Paul Revere. He was 70, and hardly unemployed, having had a thriving copper business, but he was only looking at expansion, creating the first integrated copper rolling mill in the country.
Unemployed? Look at it as an opportunity for greatness.