C&P Telephone repairman Bob Richardson and his wife, Elsa, have a combined income of about $40,000, a sum that puts them solidly in the middle class. But they both agree the middle class doesn't feel like it used to.
Since the recession clipped Richardson's overtime hours, the family spends more time at their McLean home and far less at restaurants and movies. "We used to go to Wolf Trap, but at $17 a ticket, forget it," says Richardson, a 20-year employe who says he lost about $3,000 in overtime this year. The annual Virginia Beach vacation is out this year.
"We work very hard. We have always been careful with our money," says his wife, a secretary whose salary pays parochial school tuition for the two Richardson girls. "There is just less money to work with lately."
Not too long ago, says Richardson, the telephone company insisted its employes work overtime. But businesses, pinched by hard times, are turning to independent suppliers for cut-rate phone equipment, and overtime at C&P is mostly over.
"I can live on what I make," he says, but the $3,000 was used to "pay for the niceties." Without that money, he's not looking forward to finding tuition for his college-bound daughters.
"If I work a 40-hour week, no overtime, my mortgage, insurance, stock plan are automatically taken out. After taxes and Social Security, union dues and health insurance, I bring home $160. That's supporting four people."