America: What's your money story? Credit.com contributor Bob Sullivan is hitting the road to ask the people he meets across the U.S. that very question. Whether it's your struggle with student loans, what you did when you lost your job, how you dealt with a house that was underwater or the ingenious way you paid off a major debt – we want to know about it. Everyone's story is unique, but the concept of money – and the challenges and triumphs that come with it – is universal.
Bob's travels are taking him through Chicago, Iowa City, Omaha, Denver and then Seattle. If you're along that route and want to share your money story, you can reach out to him on social media, using the hashtag #AmericanMoneyStories.
LOGAN, Utah — Trina Foster-Draper looked around her homey, brand new two-bedroom apartment and let out a big sigh. She's recently been laid off from her call center job at CenturyLink in Logan, Utah, but she was in a new home anyway, and proud of it. She'd been living in subsidized housing for more than a decade, but two factors came together recently that finally allowed her to splurge on a nicer place. First, her final two children are soon graduating from college. And second, her father has moved in with her and can help pay the rent.
"I've been living with a food budget of $20 a week for a while," Foster-Draper said. "Things are better now. I won't be writing $5,000 tuition checks anymore." Her children attend a Utah state school.
Foster-Draper, 56, was in the middle of raising four children when her marriage dissolved at age 40. She then had to figure out how to earn enough money so could get her four kids fed, and eventually, through school.
Life in Logan is comfortable enough, but good jobs are hard to come by. She was a trained chef, but stuck in the "land of fast food," that wasn't a career option. She started out in food service, cutting fruits and vegetables for college students. She bounced from job to job until she landed a customer support gig at CenturyLink.
High turnover is the norm in any call center, but Foster-Draper learned all she could about CenturyLink and managed to last more than five years there. When her call center was finally closed and all workers laid off this year, she was near the top of the seniority ranks. That was essential, because her severance package got her just across the finish line
"I was given health insurance through next spring, when my kids graduate, so that's great," she said. "That's what I was really concerned about."
Foster-Draper is now headed back to school to learn IT — the third time she's had to completely shift gears in her career. IT jobs are plentiful in Utah. She's not sure how long it'll take, but she's not worried. Her new apartment home is next door to a Wal-Mart, and she figures she'll work there until something turns up.
"Hey, everybody in this valley is overqualified. That's the way things are today, you have to keep reinventing yourself," she said. "I've gotten by on less before."
Want to read more of Bob's #AmericanMoneyStories? You can follow his road trip on Credit.com.
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