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An Open Challenge To Dust Yourself Off

A job posting board in Denver was bare last month. The United States lost 2.6 million positions in 2008, and the number of unemployed workers has grown by 3.6 million since the recession began in December 2007.
A job posting board in Denver was bare last month. The United States lost 2.6 million positions in 2008, and the number of unemployed workers has grown by 3.6 million since the recession began in December 2007. (By Matthew Staver -- Bloomberg News)

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By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, January 25, 2009

The hope didn't last long, at least for some.

Barack Obama wasn't president a day before we were brought smack back to the harsh realities of our economic times. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 330 points, or 4 percent, on Inauguration Day.

It's not just the stock market that continues to deliver bad economic news.

Foreclosure filings soared more than 81 percent in 2008, according to a year-end report by RealtyTrac, which publishes a national database of foreclosure and bank-owned properties. More than 3.1 million foreclosure filings -- default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions -- were recorded last year. Put in perspective, that's one in 54 U.S. households that received at least one foreclosure filing during 2008.

Personal bankruptcy filings topped 1 million last year, an increase of almost 33 percent from 2007. Sam Gerdano, executive director for the American Bankruptcy Institute, said he expects the "upward spike in personal bankruptcies to continue in 2009."

Since the recession began in December 2007, the number of unemployed workers has grown by 3.6 million. Last year, we lost 2.6 million jobs.

It's no wonder so many people have given up hope that their finances will be fine in 2009. But even if you're frightened, you can't give up. That was the message Obama delivered in his inaugural address.

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America," he said.

Those are certainly inspiring words, but how do you begin that remake when you've been broke for so long? How do you overcome the feeling of failure for having to rent again after homeownership? How do you pump yourself up to look for work when so few companies are hiring?

You put in place a personal financial plan for recovery, much like Obama will have to do for the nation. And in keeping with Obama's advice, starting today, I'm searching for people who need help picking themselves up and dusting themselves off. As I have done for the past two years, I'm looking for participants for the Color of Money Challenge.

The theme for the challenge this year is "down but not out." Specifically, I'm searching for individuals or couples who have recently lost their homes to foreclosure. I'm also looking for people who have recently lost a job.

This isn't a pity-party challenge. The focus will be to give the challengers the tools and the motivation to get back on their feet financially.


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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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