Faking It Until You Make It?

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, August 20, 2009; 8:27 AM

What would you do if you lost your job?

Would you be honest with your friends and family about your employment status? Would you be embarrassed to be among the unemployed? In a report by Annie Gowen, some people would rather fake it until they make it again.

In last week's Color of Money Question of the Week, I asked: Have you lied about your economic status? Here's what some wrote:

Patty of Chicago, Ill., said that when her employer provided a replacement job service for people who were let go, she 'went to work' at the office of the service company. "Staying at home was all too painful proof that I truly had no work and no means to pay the mortgage once my savings had dwindled," she said.

Ben of Falls Church, Va., wrote he was let go from his teaching job in May. "I kept it from all but my immediate family and closest friends until I found a new position. The rumor mill churned at my school, and I even had to lie to my students about my status."

"I haven't lied about my situation, but my wife and I did keep very quiet about my own problems for a four month period," wrote one reader from Fairfax Station, Va. The reader wasn't sure if he was going to be laid off. As it turns out, he didn't lose his job, but he was reassigned. "I was tempted to share my situation with my children, but didn't due to their perception that my wife and I have lots of money which we don't!"

Jen of Atlanta, Ga., wrote: "I was unemployed for seven months and did not tell a lot of people because of their negative reaction to similar situations. I now know that some of my 'friends' liked my professional position more than me."

After their own layoffs, Jen said some of her friends "discovered that their entire self worth was tied to their job so they hid at home and worried about how to find a job. The rest of their time was spent 'faking' prosperity to anyone who did not know they were on the brink of losing everything."

Here's what can happen when you don't fake it when you lose your job.

"When I was let go from my company in 2002 due to downsizing, I told everyone I knew that I was looking for a job," wrote Pepper, an Arlington, Va. reader. "A friend at my old company was asked if she knew someone looking for an administrative position. She knew I was looking in that field. Within hours, my resume was on his desk and I was rehired within a week...at my original employer but in a different division."

Last Resting Place For Sale

With no money for basic needs and mounting bills, some people are selling their cemetery plots.

Layoffs, unemployment and heavy debt loads are driving "more people to scour their homes for assets to sell in hopes of paying the bills of the here and now," reports Brigid Schulte in Pressed to Dig Up Cash, Owners Market Their Cemetery Plots (August 17).

It's not unusual for people to have yard sales or sell their car to raise money during a recession. But for the Color of Money Question of the Week, I want to know: what is the most unusual thing you've had to hawk to make ends meet? Send comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your full name, city and state and put "For Sale" in the subject line.

Flipping Over "Flipping Out"

I'll admit it. I'm a tiny bit addicted to several reality shows on Bravo. For example, I couldn't wait to see how Jeff Lewis of "Flipping Out" would survive in an economy where he couldn't trade homes like kids trade marbles.

"At worst, the house-flipping shows were egregious lures into random acts of grubby deceit," writes Hank Stuever in his season opening review As Engaging TV, 'Flipping Out' Only Appreciates"(August 18).

"Flipping Out," Stuever opines, is an exception to the awful your-home-is-your-jackpot reality shows. I definitely agree.

Watching Lewis flip out because he can't make the money he used to pre-recession is just so delicious. I know that's mean. But it just feels so good to watch Lewis sweat after being a representation of the cads that helped push us into this recession with their greediness.

Bravo also serves up a slice of ugly consumerism in its Real Housewives franchise. I watch in disgust as the wives (although many of them don't have a husband in sight) spend, sass and slack their way through each episode. Lately, it's the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" that has me yelling at my television. Only three episodes into season two and already there's more bling-bling and more "no she didn't" drama.

All the housewives are a triflin' trip, especially Sheree Whitfield, the former wife of NFL player Bob Whitfield. I can't figure out how this wig-pulling woman earns a living. Robin Givhan wrote about the "Real Housewives" series earlier this year.

Just let their fussing and fighting and wretched excess be an example of how not to behave.

New Rules!

There are some new rules coming for your credit cards and I hope you are up on the changes. I wrote about a few in last Sunday's column.

In response Sunday's column I have received quite a few e-mails about the new rules and current credit card tactics. Here's what some wrote:

Cliff Bedore of College Park, Md., says, "I admit that most people are paying way too much for their credit cards and thus should know the rules but they should be encouraged to live such that they won't care about the new rules."

"I am a cardholder who has been very interested in the changes of the act, many long overdue," wrote Terry Kraft of Alexandria, Va.

Jonathan Zwickel of Fresno, Calif., wrote: "Our Congress has done its share to hurt the public. First, they give the big banks billions. Then, in the name of reform, pass weak rules for credit card issuers, allowing them to continue to force so many Americans into debt and bankruptcy, while allowing the credit card issuers to reap billions in usurious interest rates, and exorbitant fees. At least some credit unions will work with debt burdened consumers - unlike major banks who will not work with you until you are in default!"

Check out Nancy Trejos's Sunday report on the less rewarding credit card rewards programs, "There Goes the Prize" (August 16).

I'll leave you with Ali Kilpatrick of Burtonsville, Md., who says neither the old nor new rules matter.

"I'm now 31 and have not used a credit card in over seven years," Kilpatrick wrote. "You say that we will all keep playing their game, but I won't and haven't. All this boo-woo about credit becoming less available and rewards being cut strikes me as very false. When you sign a credit card contract, you are essentially signing away all your rights."

True that.

Charity Brown contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

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