Financial Worries In Tennessee As part of our ongoing series of conversations with listeners about how they're weathering the financial storm, we hear from Nathan Bell of Signal Mountain, Tenn. Bell is struggling to find work to help support his wife and two children.
NPR logo

Financial Worries In Tennessee

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/96510668/96510651" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Financial Worries In Tennessee

Financial Worries In Tennessee

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/96510668/96510651" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. In a few minutes, they're following the campaigns closely, they've made their choices, but they will not be voting.

CHADWICK: First, this. The election is tomorrow. You know it's about the struggling economy. Day to Day asked for emails on how you are getting through. More than 100 of you responded. We've been running these interviews, and today, Nathan Bell of Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Nathan, welcome to Day to Day.

Mr. NATHAN BELL: Hello, Alex.

CHADWICK: So, what station do you usually catch our show on there in Signal Mountain?

Mr. BELL: WUTC.

CHADWICK: OK, good. Your emails say that you're very worried, frightened maybe, about your family's financial situation. What is it exactly?

Mr. BELL: Well, specifically, and I thought a lot about this because, of course, I've heard other people on the show who are far worse off than I am. But I was laid off about eight months ago and in that time period have had a grand total of two interviews, and I'm a pretty qualified guy with a good resume.

And I see my success in my life as being a good father and a good husband. I had a - my father and mother raised me in a world of opportunity, and when I wrote that email, I was thinking about what I might have to subtract from my children's lives as I went forward. I had been raised to believe that I had this support, this background, and I could see this fading away, and that's how I measured myself as a person. And so, by all those measures, I was setting myself up to fail.

CHADWICK: You were a former manager. You were working for AT&T. You had a management position there. You used to be a singer and songwriter. This was some time ago. A little bit of success there, but you got out of music to find something more reliable. Now, you're trying to do some singing gigs again. You've got two kids. You've got a home. You're married. Just what is it that you're trying to pay for that's getting hard?

Mr. BELL: Well, it would be everything, honestly. When you start to look at - our health insurance costs are the equivalent of a mortgage. We had our children late in life, and so we're in our late 40s and early 50s. And so, our health insurance costs are significantly higher, just the mere - I think it's interesting when the - there's a lot of talk about the middle class and a lot of talk about who the middle class is.

But I think, realistically, a lot of people are spending a lot more money to be the middle class than is really acknowledged. And when we cut everything back and take a good hard look at it, those real costs eat away at your savings and the potential for having a retirement account or college account or things like that. Now, we have - we're not there yet, but if you look at it, and you do the math, it's a very, very slippery, fast slope down.

CHADWICK: You see things getting narrower and narrower and narrower.

Mr. BELL: Sure do.

CHADWICK: And now, you're standing in the unemployment line, something I guess you had never expected to do. What's it like?

Mr. BELL: Well, it's, you know, it's a virtual unemployment line now. Almost everything's done online, which also, I may point out, for people who are not really comfortable with computers and fluent on the Internet, makes it doubly likely that people who don't have a shot at the moment are not going to get a shot. And you don't really get to present yourself the way you got to present yourself when I was first looking for jobs, when I was, you know, 11, 12, and 13 in the early '70s.

CHADWICK: You told us earlier that you're not sleeping.

Mr. BELL: Nah. Not much at all. And by the way, there's a lot of really, really bad television.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: What time do you wake up?

Mr. BELL: Well, I generally go to bed and wake up about a hour later, and it has accelerated the longer it's been since I've had what I would consider a steady paycheck.

CHADWICK: You've listened to these interviews that we've done earlier with people also in difficult circumstances, more difficult than the circumstances you find yourself in?

Mr. BELL: Seriously, yes, much more difficult.

CHADWICK: But still, you're sharing something with them.

Mr. BELL: I think we share a sense that, as individuals, this is - Americans are great people, but as a country right now, we've allowed ourselves to back into a corner that it's going to take a long while to get out of. And you can't get elected to any office by saying that it's going to take years to fix a problem, and that more people are going to lose their houses, and jobs aren't going to come back right away.

But I think, realistically, anyone who's paying attention, they can't see the end of this, and I think that's what I share with everybody.

CHADWICK: And you don't see an end.

Mr. BELL: I don't see a realistic end. I see a - I suppose we could prop things up again, but eventually...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BELL: Eventually, you have to pay for what you purchase, and that's going to come back to us at some point.

CHADWICK: Nathan Bell of Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Nathan, thanks for speaking with us on Day to Day.

Mr. BELL: It's been a pleasure, Alex.

CHADWICK: And I'll just note that you can hear some of Nathan's music at our blog site, npr.org/daydreaming.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.