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The Color of Money Challenge

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By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, September 13, 2009

Long-term unemployment can work on a man's nerves.

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Being rejected time and time again can rob anyone of self-esteem, but for many this recession has hit particularly hard.

That's certainly the case with Juan Wilson. He and his wife, Bobbie, are participating in this year's Color of Money Challenge.

Since the first of the year, I've been working with Juan and Bobbie as they search for employment. Typically, participants have a goal of getting out of debt, saving, and developing better money-management skills. This time, I specifically wanted to help people who had lost their jobs.

Bobbie has landed a number of jobs, although her latest is only a temporary position as a paralegal. Her contract was scheduled to end in October but has been extended to Dec. 31.

I've also been working with another challenger, Rick Rose, who lost his $85,000-a-year job in May 2008.

Unemployment has reached 9.7 percent nationwide, with many experts saying it will soon hit 10 percent. Delve more into the statistics and it's already a bleak picture for men, especially black men such as Wilson.

"It's hard to stay motivated," Wilson said.

The same has been true for Rose.

"My lowest point was at the end of 2008," he said. "My resources were starting to run thin. I thought my unemployment was going to run out. The job market was particularly bleak at that point. I didn't have any leads or responses to openings."

Juan Wilson is at his lowest point now. He lost his job at a semiconductor company in 2008. He's sent out countless résumés and gone on many job interviews. He managed to get some part-time work, but that was temporary.

"Since the Great Recession began in December 2007, there has been a sharp rise in the number of married couples where a woman is left to bring home the bacon because her husband is unemployed," Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, wrote in a recent report.


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