Top 10 Signs of a Troubled Economy and/or the Apocalypse

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This is a gray area: When money is a problem, it can feel like the end of the world is near.
1. New Yorkers are sharing.
In “The New Collectivism,” New York magazine rounds up all the different trendy, forward-thinking, and practical ways city residents—often depicted as selfish Type A consumers—are coming together to share food, space, possessions, knowledge, and more. The list of mostly free or cheap options includes babysitter exchanges, bike-repair workshops, clothing swaps, handyman skill discussions, and communal compost piles. The editors explain: “The modern collective is more about pragmatism than altruism.” It’s about networking and experiencing new things, it’s about saving time, money, and space, and it’s about consuming less.

2. Nobody is going on strike.
OK, nobody is overstating it a bit. But, reports USA Today, throughout most of the 2000s there was an annual average of 20 major strikes, each involving more than 1,000 employees. In 2009, however, when the Great Recession took hold, unemployment topped 10%, and everybody feared for their livelihoods and lived more frugally, there were only five major strikes. That’s the lowest figure since the U.S. Labor Department began tracking these numbers, in 1947.

3. Cows are invading restaurants demanding free chicken.
The cows are actually people dressed in costumes, and they’re grazing their way into Chick-fil-A restaurants today to take advantage of a promotion: Anyone who comes in fully dressed as a cow gets a free meal.

4. People are getting married at T.J. Maxx, The Home Depot, and Taco Bell.
Man, the things some people will do to get a discount, or at least a free wedding venue. USA Today reports on the “trend” of couples exchanging vows in strip malls, big-box stores, and fast-food joints.

5. Mortgage rates dip to lowest-ever recorded rates—three weeks in a row.
Bloomberg reports that 30-year fixed mortgage rates fell to the lowest rates on record for their third straight week, winding up at 4.57%. And yet the housing market remains sluggish, slowed down at least partly by the huge supply of foreclosed homes.

6. The Royals embrace frugality.
Both Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles are discovering their inner cheapskates and saving money for the British taxpayers by, as examples, allowing former colony Canada to pick up their travel expenses and opting for cheap fixes rather than full refurbishments in castle renovations.

7. Many laid-off workers collected 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.
And even that was arguably not enough assistance in light of today’s economy: 4.3 million Americans have been without jobs for more than a year. These federal benefits, by the way, which became available after a laid-off worker exhausted his or her 26 weeks of state benefits, were ended more than a month ago and haven’t been replaced. Since then, over 1.2 million unemployed stopped receiving benefits. One of the frustrations the unemployed have to face is that it’s much easier to find a job when you already have one.

8. A woman in Colorado with leukemia nearly lost her health insurance because she supposedly underpaid her premium by 1¢.
Yes, the insurance company held back the woman’s benefits because it believed it was owed a single penny, reports the Colorado Springs Gazette. After three days and many phone calls, it was revealed that the 1¢ differential was a rounding error—made by the insurance company, not the customer—and the benefits were reinstated.

9. An uninsured woman in Michigan shot herself in order to get treatment for her torn rotator cuff.
After a month of agonizing pain in her shoulder, an unemployed, uninsured 41-year-old woman from Michigan made what she calls a “rational choice.” She pointed a gun directly at the locus of the pain, shielded her face with a pillow against her neck, and pulled the trigger. While the woman may have to face criminal charges, she was successfully treated in a hospital for both the torn rotator cuff and the gunshot wound. WalletPop tells her story, and offers less drastic solutions for those without insurance in need of health care.

10. An unemployed woman in Texas offers a $1,000 reward to anyone who can find her a job.
After more than a year with no work, a woman from Dallas who used to collect paychecks as a financial analyst and an accountant posted an ad on the Fort Worth Weekly website offering $1,000 to anyone who can find her a job, reports Consumerist (via
local station WFAA). She also posted the $1,000 reward on Facebook. Explaining her strategy, the frustrated woman said: “It’s based on if I get a job offer … I figure the worst case scenario, I’ll give them my first paycheck. Literally. That’s better than going another year like this.”

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