That would mean proceeding on the theory that a cratered annual income is now the reality, rather than just an aberration

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Of course, most people in the USA live with this kind of insecurity permanently. In the middle of the 20th Century the USA had the strongest middle class of any nation in the world, but the USA as been in decline for a long time now.

Take the predicament of men my age at a time of 3.7 percent unemployment and add the army of people now filing unemployment claims — 4.4 million in one recent week alone. It’s unclear at the moment just what federal and state government emergency programs will do for millions of self-employed and gig economy workers, many already hustling in the best of times, who’ve been watching their work dry up and disappear.

If my own experiences are any indication, what comes next for many of them is insecurity about self-worth, status and place in the world. My name appears on mailing lists from my days as the old me. I’m asked to make generous contributions to organizations for which I had written big checks in the past; today, that’s out of the question. I feel sheepish talking publicly about all this, because I know how many live a lot closer to the edge than I do. But I’m not whining when I say my life is different now. Even before social distancing rendered the outside world strange, I would do a walk-through at the supermarket with my wife’s list in hand, to see if items close enough to what was specified were on sale. A pair of old shoes is resoled for a second time instead of being replaced. There will be no vacations for my family when this crisis ends.

And that doesn’t change the fact that I have some serious decisions to make about what these years of my life, and what’s left of my working years, can be. If I for once don’t follow the rules, take my Social Security early and start drawing from my 401(k) accounts, I will be poorer in retirement than all my planning and saving ever assumed. I can swallow hard and realize that a chapter in my life may be over. That would mean proceeding on the theory that a cratered annual income is now the reality, rather than just an aberration. I have to scratch together the dough for my property tax, my homeowner’s insurance and my monthly premium. I’ll keep an eye on the calendar and cross the line to Medicare as so many friends have begun to do.