Session 4: Jeremy’s Story

Posted March 26, 2011 in Curriculum. Tagged:



Jeremy’s Story

There’s a lot of talk about how things have gotten more economically insecure for my generation, that there has been a “risk shift.”  I can see it in my own family history – which I learned more about at a recent family gathering.


My name is Jeremy and I’m 29 years old.  I work in construction and would like to be an electrician or go to college someday.  I’ve worked for several building contractors, but I’m between jobs right now.  I have no health insurance, which is worrisome, as I’ve had some minor injuries and back pain recently.  I rent an apartment with two other guys and have about $1,200 in the bank.


I have two credit cards, one of which I owe over $4,000 on.  Most of that came from a visit to the emergency room when I smashed my foot.  I’m just paying the minimum payment until I get a job.  I don’t have the money to go to college or do an apprenticeship.  Life feels pretty insecure, but I figure that’s true for most everyone I know.


My parents have helped me over the years, passing on my dad’s truck.  But they’re not rich and it wouldn’t be fair to ask them for much.  The good news is I don’t have to worry too much about my parents.  They bought a house in the 1960s and have a pension from my dad’s job as a custodian at an auto parts plant.  My mom worked after she raised us kids, which meant they were able to save some money.  I used to think I might be richer than them, but not any more.  They said I could move back in with them if I had to.  Yikes.


My uncle Lou, from the Italian side of my family, also worked in construction his whole life.  He seems like Mr. American Dream.  He started working in the 1960s and today has health insurance, a retirement pension and a second home on a lake.  He went to college on the G.I. Bill so he didn’t have to borrow money.  He bought his first house with a low-interest government loan.  Those don’t exist now – just sleazy subprime mortgages.


Not everyone of my parent’s generation did as well.  My aunt Letty from the African- American branch of my family could tell you about it.  She did all right — she went to a teacher’s college and got a steady job, and now has a retirement fund and health insurance.  She also owns a small house and recently paid off the mortgage.  She says that she faced a lot of racial discrimination when she was younger, though.  But her brother, my uncle Stan, wasn’t so lucky.  He worked at a hotel for twenty years and later did odd jobs, and never was paid enough to be able to save any money.  He had no health insurance or retirement funds.  He lives in a rooming house in Baltimore on his Social Security check.  But his check is small because many of his jobs didn’t withhold money from his paycheck.


I’m envious of many of my older relatives who seemed to have had steady jobs for decades.  They got health insurance and retirement funds through their jobs, something I can’t imagine today.  Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade.