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Recession, unemployment woes dominate 2009

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As Americans waded the waters of the most challenging recessions in modern history, the Recorder kept readers informed on the latest business news throughout 2009.

We covered a variety of topics – from recession survival tips to the importance of having a living will, and everything in between. Below is a month-by-month summary of some of the more popular news items of last year.

January

As the economy continued on a downward spiral, job seekers were encouraged to look outside the box – the green collar field. These jobs are growing in popularity and those with the skills that translate can earn a decent salary such as a conservation consultant, the ecotourism industry, construction, planning and land use careers and legal careers.

With anticipation and hope, consumers, entrepreneurs and investors were eager to see how the newly elected Barack Obama administration would respond to pressing inherited economic challenges. Like other Americans, Hoosiers are struggling to survive the official recession. Obama visited various Indiana towns to console worried constituents. There was speculation of burgeoning job sectors in Indiana such as alternative energy and possible tax breaks to ease worries.

In local news, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development implemented measures to expand access for Hoosiers seeking unemployment benefits, training services and job search assistance.

February

President Obama was back in the news and Black Americans wondered if and when he would tackle race relations in addition to other societal ills.

Parents were given suggestions on teaching their kids positive spending habits. Parents who want to teach their toddlers the value of careful spending should try to use cash rather than credit cards while out shopping with kids. Paying with cash shows them that buying means payout so they never get the idea that credit is free. Once kids are six years old, experts recommend weekly allowance – after a few years, give allowances biweekly to help kids learn to plan to spend their money and stretch dollars.

Columnist Michael G. Shinn asked readers to do their part to help get the nation back on track by beginning with their place of worship. He suggests tithing and getting back to good values such as volunteering one’s time or donating to a charity.

In areas of business, a study stated the relationship between consumers and companies can remain strong even after customers file complaints. In such tough economic times, companies that responded to customer complaints retained business.

March

The auto industry took a major hit during the recession. Added to the list of casualties, General Motors eliminated its long serving Pontiac Motors Division.

Shinn commented on individuals facing the realities of their financial situation and planning for the future. He also suggested changing one’s perspective on their situation and shifting their investments.

A national speaker, trainer and former Fannie May broker-specialist urged readers not to wait for the trickle down effect of President Obama’s stimulus package, but proposed ways on avoiding foreclosure. If working with borrowers doesn’t prove successful, she suggests loan modification, a short sale, reverse mortgage, receiving disability payments as a temporary aid, getting a roommate or selling unnecessary items to cover household costs.

At the end of the first quarter, cash became king as credit became hard to come by. To manage cash, readers were told to reduce expenses, examine financial records and create a cash flow sheet, track expenses and analyze where money is being allocated. Individuals should always remember to pay themselves first.

April

Advice on wise financial spending continued with reminders to readers on not spending more than they earned. Readers were also reminded of the value of saving and watching out for scams and false charities.

As the recession waned on, it came as no surprise to some that Blacks were hit hard by the recession. Some facts: the unemployment rate at the time for Blacks was at 13 percent; the last time the employment population ratio for Blacks was at such a low was April of 1993; and nearly one in three African-American teens were unemployed compared to one in five whites.

Individuals were given advice on planning 2009 taxes and bracing for upcoming changes such as required minimum distributions, the making work pay credit, first time homebuyer’s credit and vehicle purchases. Refund information was also given as well as record keeping, what to do for a change of address and tax return mistakes.

May

According to Shinn, estate planning is the most overlooked area of financial planning. Effective estate planning avoids conflicts, shortens delays, reduces expenses, provides for an orderly transfer and maximizes the legacy of one’s estate. He suggests all individuals have at least a basic estate plan in the form of a will.

In May, the U.S. Department of Labor stated the country lost 5.1 million jobs since the recession began. Those who were looking for jobs were encouraged to not only focus on a stellar resume, but a stellar appearance as well.

As summer was approaching and students were competing with adults for summer jobs and more than 500 young Hoosiers participated in the Department of Natural Resources’ Young Hoosiers Conservations Corps sites throughout the state. Students learned basic construction, historic preservation and greenway development skills.

As many continued to doubt the economy, forecasting economic indicators such as one’s personal economy, employment, the stock market and interest rates helped ease fears.

June

For many homeowners who were falling behind in mortgage payments proactive tips such as understanding financial obligation, looking at options and refinancing their loan were given to readers.

Americans were delighted when on May 22, 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act seeking to curb some of the credit card industry’s abusive and deceptive lending practices.

While local law firm Coleman, Stevenson & Montel LLP showcased diversity, excellence and experience, columnist Shinn gave readers tips on true financial independence.

July

Economic recession worries waned, but entrepreneur Kenneth Allen encouraged Recorder readers that starting their own business is always a good idea – especially during a recession. Allen suggests doing an inventory of one’s self to discover their individual gift, take risks, be analytical and be able to make wise financial decisions.

While Blacks were urged to start businesses, they were also encouraged to support and patronize existing Black businesses.

Ending the month of July, Recorder readers learned about increases in crime due to desperate “unemployable” people. Indiana’s unemployment rate was at a staggering 10 percent while the national Black unemployment rate was estimated at 14 percent compared to eight percent for whites.

August

Those who had the proper finances stored away for a rainy day took full advantage of the first time homebuyer tax credit and purchased a new home. Scammers were quick to capitalize on this segment and readers were warned of homebuyer credit schemes.

Many Americans wanting to live the “good life” were most affected by the recession stemming from credit card overuse and not saving enough money. Shinn laid down the blueprint for a healthy good life in faith and hope, family and relationships, mental and physical wellness and career and finances.

September

Months leading up to September were a roller coaster ride and September was a good time for individuals to take a good look at their 401(k) and make the necessary adjustments to stay on track for retirement.

Readers were given advice on setting financial goals and telemarketing complaints were on the rise compared to the same time last year.

October

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Indianapolis welcomed John D. Clark III as the new executive director and CEO of the Indianapolis Airport Authority and learned about his love for aviation that spanned back to his childhood.

Recorder readers learned of a company called Benefit Specialists Associates that helps individuals navigate the Social Security Disability process.

The Alpha Mu Omega and Chi Chi Omega chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. joined forces to host the Economic Smart Fair at Castleton Square Mall.

Unfortunately reports were issued stating that there will be no cost-of-living increase for 57 million Social Security beneficiaries in 2010 because consumer prices have fallen.

November

As 2009 was quickly coming to a close one couldn’t help but notice that tax season was approaching. The Recorder helped readers understand they should examine their finances, look for ways to reduce tax burdens, harvest losses, defer income if necessary and beware of the alternative minimum tax.

As the nation continued to reel over double-digit jobless rates, Black males were looking at numbers almost twice as worse. Almost one in five Black men 20 years or older were without a job in November. The disparate rates of Black male unemployment have teetered near recession-type numbers above eight percent since 2001 but since April, the rates surged around 17 percent.

December

November reports showed unflattering unemployment rates among Black men. Black officials looked to the White House and demanded action be taken on staggering amounts of unemployment in the Black community. With Obama’s special ask force for the middle class, the automotive industry and the financial sector – Black intellectuals wondered where was the task force designed for the Black community?

The Recorder gave information on home refinancing as well as understanding what one’s home is worth.

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