by Susan Dunn 11/23/2014
The American dream is that if you work hard, you can expect to get ahead financially. For most of us, that means you can save money, buy a reliable car, purchase a home if you want, afford quality child care, send your children to college, handle unexpected expenses, pay for your family’s health care and take family vacations.
But as John Lennon reportedly said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” That is exactly what happened to my family more than two decades ago. My husband’s business closed, he wanted to go back to school to prepare for a new career, we had three school-age children and a mortgage. I suddenly found that my full-time income qualified my children for free or reduced lunch at the public school they attended. By any measurement, we were clearly struggling to make ends meet.
Although this was more than 20 years ago and we are now better off financially, the same is not true for many families in Connecticut, as documented in Connecticut United Ways’ recently released in-depth study of the financial hardship faced by many working families throughout our state. The study reports that 35 percent of Connecticut households can barely afford life’s necessities. We have known that about 10 percent of Connecticut households live in poverty, but we have overlooked the 25 percent of households with income above the federal poverty level but below the state’s basic cost-of-living threshold defined in the United Way report.
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