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No Sympathy for High Earners

The Wall Street Journal had an article in it that told the story of Wall Street traders who’ve lost their jobs. One, Carlos Araja, was a crude oil trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange. He made $200,000 a year. He now makes $28,000 as a waiter in the same posh restaurant in which he used to eat caviar and order $200 of wine. Welcome to the real world, Mr. Araja.

When I was pregnant with my son, I had to leave my job as an RN making $38,000 a year in my twenty-fourth week of pregnancy. After my son was born prematurely, the lupus I had that was manageable became unmanageable. I had to wait three years to be granted Social Security Disability. During these three years, we survived on my husband’s salary of $29,000 a year. I wanted to apply to WIC (Womens and Children’s Assistance) but we made $1,000 over the limit. We made it through those three years and I’ll give you some hints, Mr. Araja, on how to do it:

1. Clip coupons—use them if they make a brand name item cheaper than the store brand. Otherwise, use the store brand. We changed our son’s formula to WalMart’s brand, after checking with his pediatrician, since all the ingredients are almost exactly the same.
2. Find freebie sites on the computer. There are a million of them. You can get some pretty nice stuff for free and use them as gifts at Christmas or Birthdays.
3. Do on-line surveys. Do the ones that give points for each survey you do. They add up. We got gift cards to restaurants, free movies, free movie rentals, free cat food. And a lot of free baby things.
4. Forget eating out at fancy restaurants. Find a pizza place that offers $5 pizzas on Mondays or Tuesdays, use a rental coupon, and have dinner and movie at home.
5. Swallow your pride and accept any gifts from friends and family. You’ll be able to repay them eventually, if not in cash, but as a barter. You clean out his garage or mow his lawn, or take out the trash.
6. Write about your experiences, both as a trader and a waiter. Submit it to a number of magazines. Many will pay for your work.
7. Finally, don’t sit and whine about your lot in life. If you were smart, you put some of that $200,000 away and have a nest egg. We don’t. We blow it on food, clothes and our mortgage. We haven’t been out to dinner for over a year. We’re saving our pennies so our ten-year-old son can attend Space Camp in August. And that, my friend, is a good investment.