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February 10th, 2009
01:23 PM ET

From Six Figures to Broke!

Chris and Linda Metzger in Sedona, Arizona.

Chris and Linda Metzger in Sedona, Arizona.
Chris and Linda Metzger at home.

Chris and Linda Metzger at home.
On their wedding day.

On their wedding day.

Ismael Estrada
AC360° Producer

Just watching newlyweds Chris and Linda Metzger, you know they were meant for each other. They have a world of stress on their shoulders, yet they find a way to smile.

They have been sucker-punched not once, not twice, but three times by this sagging economy. Linda was laid off in March of 2008 from her job at Lehman Brothers. She was pulling in well over 6 figures in total compensation and living a good life in Queens, NY. The couple was about to get married in a few months, but rather than sulking, they decided it would be a great time to dust themselves off and create a new life in Arizona.

They both nailed down similar jobs with similar salaries in the Phoenix area. They got married in June and relocated. They bought their first home together, two new cars and quickly found out they were going to have a baby. All was going well until a day in October when Linda was called into her manager’s office. For the second time in less than a year, Linda was laid off from a good paying job.

“They told me that the company was having economic difficulties and that they had to make budget cuts. They were afraid that they were going to have to let me go and that it was not due to performance,” said Linda Metzger, who added she couldn’t believe this was happening again. “The exact thing I said to my boss was, I just went through this!”

Only this time, Linda had a new baby on the way and a mountain of bills that needed to get paid every month. After telling her husband the news, they focused on figuring out how to deal with the loss of close to 70 percent of their income.

And then, one week later, when Chris Metzger arrived at work, he said couldn’t believe his ears.

“The owner of my company walked into my office and said, sorry we are closing this branch and we’re going to have to let you go.” Chris Metzger said. He now had to figure out a way to tell his new wife the news. “I just came home and she was upstairs, I walked upstairs and gave her a hug and said, I’ve lost my job today.”

Linda fell to the ground in tears. How were they going to survive?

I interviewed the Metzgers for a story on how today's economic troubles affect not only people who lose their jobs, but businesses that lose money when their customers lose their jobs.

I have a feeling the Metzgers will be OK. They maintain a positive attitude. They have cut unnecessary expenses. Chris got another job, though they are only bringing in a small fraction of what they used to earn.

They talked about opening their own business together. They laughed and joked, and put a good face on their life. I'm confident that they’ll find their way out.

As we drive around Phoenix we see empty apartment buildings, going out of business signs and struggling restaurants. I can’t help but think back to Linda and Chris Metzger and hope that they, and so many thousands more like them, will all be OK.


Filed under: Economy • Ismael Estrada • Ripple Effect • Unemployment
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Cori

    @ Los - 11103

    If you didn't personally know them, you would critize people in similar situations, so don't try to make it sound like they made smart decisions. Together they made A LOT of money, where did it go? What do they have to show for it? Investments??? Savings??? No one feels sorry for them...except for you. Anyone making that kind of money should be sensible enough to save, especially with a kid on the way. We've all been adjusting to the economic downturn, and those of us making 10 times less have more common sense. By the way, I used to live in Arizona, and you don't HAVE to have a car. Buses get you where you need to go, it's something you get used to. I have been using public transit for 8 years, so two cars, and probably a home they couldn't afford...they get no sympathy from me.

    By the way, I do have published work, what about you?

    February 11, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  2. Amanda

    If you make 6 figures and don't save for things like this situation, then it's your own fault. I make 40K and about 6 months of savings, because I don't spend money on 'wants' but NEEDS.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  3. David Redden shepherdville ky

    Thats what happens when you out-source jobs.

    You either become unemployed yourself, or you end up spending trillions trying to replace them.

    Either way, you lose.

    February 11, 2009 at 2:48 am |
  4. Sam in GA

    Here are 10 words that will keep you safe if you live by them: if you can't pay for it you can't afford it.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  5. Luis

    Dont worry were all going to be broke if the Federal Reserve prints money the way it does. No Joke. Zimbabwe like hyper inflation, where $1billion dollars is the price of a pack of chewing gum.

    February 11, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  6. sydell cowdrick

    these are two young beautiful caring people who took a chance on a new begining...... a marriage, a new job, a new house a new baby on the way... this is the american dream.... they did no wrong. our economy is in a shambles and we are all strong enough to survive this.... so linda and chris, you are in my thoughts and prayers and I Love You......

    February 10, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  7. david

    Why are we wasting time and a lot of money, with bailing out all of these companies that have gotten us into this!! Why not give the people money, about $50,000 or $60,000 dollars per person, suspend mortage payments for about 6 months, also fix the mortages with a government refi with a low interest rate(3%) as well as reduce their mortage loans, and halt all taxes for 3 months.

    This will help the american people as well as the economy!!

    February 10, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  8. Frank

    I just read that Obama is seeking Barney Frank to help to make reforms. Maybe these "smart" people in this article can get a job with the new "accountability" administration, too.

    Sorry, I can't pay for the any more bailouts – my retirement is gone. Oh well, I have another 40 years to save another retirement. Maybe that was the money transfer that Obama wanted. I guess he'll have to print some more pretend money for the "housing" rescue, along with the Iraq War and the bank bailouts and the FREE mandated "health" care and the new accountability agency and the infrastructure rescue and the car industry rescue and the tax refunds and paying Social Security back and the unemployment benefits and the alternative energy funding and the UN funding and the NAFTA funding and the global...

    Wait a minute. Those zeros won't fit in this little box. Maybe the Zimbabwe Treasurer has some time to help our "smart" bankers with this. I'm sure the banks can make new improved derivatives to solve all of our problems. Remember, we are the richest country in the world (I know it is in negative numbers, but they are really big numbers)!

    February 10, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  9. William of Iowa

    What was it Alfred told the Batman fellow – "If we do not fall, how will we learn to pick ourselves up"? These two, make that three, are not quitters. They will find a way and hopefully with some creativity, show others as well. Good luck and don't look back!

    February 10, 2009 at 9:12 pm |
  10. Mike TerBush

    I feel for them - we tried to get out from under by selling our beautiful house in 2007. But I had just been laid off by GM, and then I got LAID OFF AFTER ONE YEAR AT UNIVAR!! I am out of reserves, and the stress and anxiety are just about too much. How am I ever going to pay off my student loan for the advanced degree that GM promised to hire me for after completion. I was a Contracted Engineering Supervisor, and I got nada, nothing, except a pay cut and a quick exit after 12 years of loyal service!

    February 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm |
  11. Heather.Ca,Us

    We knew my husband was going to be out of a job. It was just a matter of when. We didnt know the day, but we just knew it was a matter of when. We even had a code. If he called me from his cell, it happened. Well even though we knew it was going to happen it still didn't change how I reacted. I was in total shock and I fell to the floor and the world was spinning around me. I feel like I am living in a alternate universe and reality ever since. The only thing I have to be greatful for us having an appreciation for the basics in life. A home, transporation and food. I am not going to judge anyone for their financial choices. Everyone of us has their own situation. Whether you are wealthy or not, the loss of a job is still the same. I don't need an extra tv or another gadget. I am just grateful to have a roof over my head . Our situations may be different, but the fear and the worry is the same.

    February 10, 2009 at 8:35 pm |
  12. Dave

    Can someone explain to me how the "4 million jobs saved or created" will help the average person who's lost their job? Are the Metzgers supposed to get jobs in the construction industry? Do they have training for that?

    There seems to be a huge disconnect between the jobs people are losing and the jobs that will be created by the current bill. If you've been working as an auto worker, are you now supposed to become a plumber or work on a road crew and hope against hope that it pays the same so you can keep your house? In fact, will you have to sell your house and move to wherever the road crew job is? I mean, they can't be everywhere... 4 million jobs has a nice ring to it, but how this bill helps the average unemployed American escapes me.

    February 10, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  13. Kristen-University Park, PA

    While I hope these two will be ok, I like others find it hard to believe they don't have a savings after that six figure job.

    Its hard to feel sorry for folks who loose their big time paying salaries when a lot of Americans didn't make that kind of money in the first place and now with out a job.

    I don't know many people who loose their job, relocate to a new state, buy a new house and 2 new cars.

    Lesson learned for them but hopefully others can take something away from their story. This can happen to anyone regardless of how much you make. It just seems they would have some sort of cushion to fall back on. I would like to know the whole story.

    February 10, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  14. jarrod

    i know want they are going through
    but don't feel sorry! i am in a similar situation only i gave up the lexus purchased a camper payed up 2 years im ready

    February 10, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  15. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I, too, remember the 1980's crash. Been there. Survived that. Learned to live within my means, save, save, save, and plan for the unthinkable that can happen. Right now, I think things are secure. I would love to build my dream house and plan for this to be my piece of Louisiana I always have no matter where I roam in life. Reality says this isn't reality in this day, economy, and hurricane craps shoot we live in down here. I can appreciate losing a job. Been there. Done that. But I don't get not having the money saved to survive. Been there, done that, too, and spent the year taking off to regroup, grieve a bunch of losses, and hang out in Italy to get my head together. Those of us who survived the 1980's know you have to plan for those unknowns and overly crappy things that happen and hit you in life all at once. Guess the rest of America is figuring that one out, too.

    February 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  16. Annie Kate

    I hope this couple gets good jobs soon – its almost unbelievable that they both lost 2 jobs in the space of a year; how unlucky can you be? If they have savings I'm sure they wish it was more; I hope they have health insurance with an upcoming birth – that is one big expense.

    I hope the best for them and for all the others like them that are unemployed, or a small time business person having a hard time right now because of the banks, etc. Several of my family have lost their jobs too and they had 6 months of savings but its been a year since they had a job now and that 6 months of savings is gone now. The standard wisdom of having 3 to 6 months of savings isn't working as well in this economy – it puts off the inevitable for a while but for some folks it runs out long before another job becomes available.

    February 10, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  17. Los -- 11103

    I know these people. They not only paid for their wedding in cash, but all of the purchases listed in the article... they assumed no credit other than the home and cars they purchased. They moved across the country because of the economic downturn... They purchased the home with a comparable mortgage payment to their rent in NY, and the cars... you need a car in Arizona... if you want to work, that is. Both of them took pay cuts with their move.

    Sounds like Ron and Cori have it all figured out. You should write books.

    February 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  18. Rob

    This story is not sad, it's absurd. These two relocate out to AZ and buy two new cars, sign up for gym memberships, eat out constantly? Come on! I am curious to see how much of this story was conveniently left out like what their debt was beforehand and what their savings plan was once they bought the largest purchase of their lives. I don't feel bad for them. Who I feel bad for is this kid who is going to be raised by his or her parents since they will be living with them in the next couple of months FOREVER.

    Did either of these two stop to think for one second about the future? Did they think that they would just move from a place with jobs o plenty to a place with a whole lot less in a bad economy and everything would get easier?

    Also, who gets married (a huge expense), immediately relocates across country (another huge expense) and buys a house IMMEDIATELY (a really huge expense) and then decides "hey, what would help our money issues and mitigate risk? I know, let's have a baby!!!" (the biggest expense maybe ever – over time). This is the reason that government has to intervene – as much as I hate to admit it. Someone needs to save people like these from themselves.

    Credit is a privilege – NOT a right. I can't imagine that this is the first instance where they have made these types of bad decisions. If the lenders keep making these bad decisions then they should have to deal with folks like this not the American tax payer.

    February 10, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  19. Guillen

    I know both of these people. They used to come into my diner every morning and sit at my counter. They treated me very nice and even joke when I slip up and put milk in his coffee. I feel bad that I don't get to see them anymore. Hopefully they will find jobs soon and I will see them again with baby.

    February 10, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  20. Meg - NY

    What the public doesn't know is that this couple works very hard for what they have. Nothing has ever been handed to them. I know everything will work out for them.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  21. Ron Taylor

    It's a sad story, certainly, but it's also a good example of exactly WHY we are in an economic disaster in the first place. They knew the economy was bad, they had already experienced it first hand with the first job loss. But instead of being frugal and saving? They moved, PURCHASED a home, PURCHASED 2 NEW cars.

    I just don't get it? They KNEW the unpredictable nature of our ecomony, they already experienced a layoff...but they still thought they could spend, spend, spend and be untouchable. I'd hate to assume, but I'd love to know how much credit spending they racked up too, I bet they paid movers to move their stuff instead of renting a UHaul, etc, etc, etc.

    Sad stories, but this one I certainly don't feel "bad" about. Stop your spending, get jobs that you may feel are "below your paygrade", find a nice apartment to rent, and ride the economy out like EVERYONE else is...or go buy another house, more cars, and put more on your credit cards.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  22. rev

    Spoiled rich people? 100k doesn't go far in Manhattan. I'm amazed at the assumptions people make in these comments, because you can know so much about people from a quick interview.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  23. Chi Town

    Well at least the Stim Plan passed... LOL...

    But of course that will do nothing for mid america...

    Wait and see...

    OH... and the DOW tanked upon the news... maybe the additional 800 Million now coming for the bank bailout will help...

    2 Trillion in a month... gotta be a record... half of what took Bush 8 years to do!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  24. Paul Bantz

    Anderson,

    The legislators still don't get it. Let's cancel the entire stimulus bill and let Geithner act more directly on the problem. This is not a back door plan and doesn't appear to have hidden agenda spending attached.

    A stimulus bill would plan to directly assist the industries and businesses and employees that have lost jobs because of the economy or the stock market. This is a direct approach and fixes what's broke.

    Any nationalized medicine or education aid should be directed to those who have lost jobs and not the entire low end of the economic scale. That's a different issue not related to stimulus.

    Paulo

    February 10, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  25. Cori

    When they were both working and making really good money, they could've been saving some of it, don't you think? Together, my boyfriend and I barely make $40k, yes, BOTH of us combined. We still manage to save a little here and a little there by not going out to eat, taking homemade lunches everyday, and cutting costs wherever we can.

    Spoiled rich people, just like these guys, finally get slapped in the face with reality. Now they can't find a way to save themselves. I guess the millions of people losing their jobs who used to make really good money, are thinking twice about their next job (if they can get one) and how important it is to be smart with your money.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  26. GF, Los Angeles

    I don't feel bad for these two. They both had similar jobs which meant both had six figure incomes yet they had zero savings to show for? I make 3 times less than just one of them yet I have 3 months of savings saved (I'd have more if I hadn't used it for a necessary house repair) in one of the most expenses places to live. It's too bad people have forgotten how to save for large purchases. I can't believe they went and bought two new cars at the same time.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  27. Vamp

    I think we all have the same questions for these two, why didn't they save all the money they could instead of buying two new cars and getting pregnant?

    I mean they obviously were aware the economy was going bad and yet they just refused to acknowledge it and go on their merry way as if it wouldn't happen to them?

    I truly believe this is the same scenerio for a lot of Americans simply because they are so used to spend spend spend even when faced with having to move and get new jobs the first they thing do is spend!
    They should have saved every extra penny made due with a second hand or paid off car and gotten rid of all the credit card debt!

    So I'm sorry I really can't feel sorry for stupid people, who obviously have good educations but no common sense!

    This is indeed the Era of relearning or for most just the first time learnging common sense and to save save save!

    February 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  28. mom2giqm

    Welcome to the USA under the Toddler-in-Chief. Every move in his socialistic agenda brings further down his road of economic crisis. The market tanked on Nov 5th. It tanked again on Jan 20th, and it again tanked today 2.10.09 with the Senate passage of his Pork Spending Bill. And it's only just begun. Watch and learn, people. Hopefully, you'll get a chance to vote smarter next time.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  29. Amy

    Bummer that they didn't live below their means when they had two excellent paying jobs. Could have easily saved up a few years worth just in case... when will America learn to quit spending needlessly?

    February 10, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  30. Doug

    Talk about over-confident and under-prepared. My first job out of college was so well-paying, I thought I'd hit the jackpot. But I continued to take the subway, continued to eat meager home-made lunches, and continued to save until I was sure I was "on my way." And so as much sympathy as I have for this yet-to-be-born child, I have no sympathy for the woe-is-me ways of America (and this couple) with its borrow-first, save-later attitude. "Cutting unnecessary expenses" is proof that they are REACTIVE, and NOT proactive. They shouldn't have had unnecessary expenses to begin with until either a rainy day fund or a solid footing of a future was established. C'mon, youngsters (30s is STILL young!), newlyweds, and expectant parents, you have not established your future yet if all you've done is borrowed-in your current lifestyle.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  31. Canadian Walter

    I feel for the couple, Anyone who is 40+ can remember the early 1980 slump. I do I graduated in 83 only to find hard times. That time left a permanent mark on how I manage my money. Spending and borrowing like a fool during good times is what caused a big part of the current mess so for those that are 40+ and carried on in this manner not a lot of sympathy. For their kids, poor folk,single moms etc. My prayers go out to you.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  32. Ken from Arkansas

    Being a small businessman I feel isolated. We seem to be the backbone of America, but we get no respect. Over regulation has affected our bottom line and now we are at our lowest point in 35 years. Mr. President, the banks are not our problem, but the lack of credit to small business owners that employ people and pay our taxes. It seems to me people that can withstand this recession are all government employees that want to regulate the way we do business. Wake up before our backs are broken.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  33. Jenifer

    I'm nonpartisan, so listen up folks.

    1. Enough with the party line focus, please. It isn't helping.

    2. Stop looking backwards. That isn't helping.

    3. Focus on the facts:

    Some people in our economy are really hurting and need governmental assistance; others do not.

    Government should work together (that is called a 50/50 split in case anyone needs help in knowing what bipartisan really means).

    Government should limit the bill to strictly address what needs to be done to help the poorest among us and let those of us who have jobs and sufficient incomes rethink our own frivilous spending and houses full of unnecessary luxuries.

    Government should not try to expand, create new programs or build new buildings or ports right now.

    Government should repair bad bridges and schools that absolutely need it.

    No new cars for government.

    Congress needs to stop fighting and start investigating and eliminating where all our previous monies are going and how they are being used. And start with that National Science foundation, since they are the ones who had employees watching porn online while on the job for 20 hrs a week.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  34. wkemah

    Economic Recovery Mode: Save Homeowners

    Federal Government must allocate $200 to $300 Billions Dollars, for States run and federally supervised community Banks. These Banks must strictly adhere to government mandated guidelines to include but not limited to; (a) FDIC up to $500,000 (five hundred thousand dollar) insured deposits, (b) Banks Presidents, Directors, and or CEO, make no more then 300% of the average income of bank employee. All loans meet FHA or new lending guidelines in consideration of new markets performances.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  35. Mercedes

    There situation is sad but so is mine too.

    Unlike my name, I don't drive or own one. In fact, I am as poor as a church mouse and wondering how this bill will actually help me. Maybe someone on here that thinks the bill is such a good idea can explain it to me.

    Here's my situation: I am a single female with no kids and now, no job. I get unemployment but the bill is only going to raise that meager amount by $25 a week according to Obama's town hall meeting I watched. That might help a little with paying rising heating and gasoline prices, but not for long. And how long can I keep drawing unemployment.

    I need a real job but I wasn't trained to be a construction worker, a car dealer, a school teacher or an engineer. That is the kind of jobs that are going to be created according to our president at the same town hall meeting. I'm glad the government employees are getting new and better efficient cars, but i don't understand why that is a necessity right now. That doesn't give me a job or grow the economy except to pay that car dealer for the cars already created.

    And repairing the schools is nice and I don't disagree some of them need it, but why does that need to be done right now when teachers are being laid off their jobs? Shouldn't the money be spent in creating a job and not repairing buildings or worse, building new ones?

    February 10, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  36. earle,florida

    Bravo, the "Amercan Spirit" lives on, hang-n-there baby! Hope is eternal,...

    February 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  37. Casey | Sebastopol, CA

    While I feel for them deeply, there are millions of Americans in the same boat - no job, no home and/or no food. At least she had the opportunity to sock away plenty with that 6-figure job, right?

    I just wish that we could take all those house and senate republicans, starting with John McCain and John Cornyn, and force them to live on "welfare" for 3 months... they'd be singing another tune on this economic recovery package if it were THEIR welfare affected.

    The economic recovery bill should focus on direct monies to cities, counties and states (with true accountability – no raises for gov't jobs, especially elected officials) and also to massive green energy projects spread over the United States (wind corridor in the central US, solar farms in SW and other sunny locations, wind farms on both coasts, non-food based bio-fuels in appropriate locations, building wind turbines and equipment for energy grid in the rust belts...).

    Maybe if more "6-figure" families find themselves in the same boat as us 4 and 5 figure families... they'd realize that this boat is sinking under the weight of the same tired old republican ideas.

    February 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  38. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    My ONLY question is with ALL the money, and the NEW cars...... did the Metzgers DO the right thing and SAVE SIX TO EIGHT MONTHS OF SALARY ??????

    That's the problem with Americans, we have been living "high-on-the-hog" and NOT SAVING for a rainy day!

    In his book, "The Total Money Makeover" Dave Ramsey says, "if you don't save for a rainy day, 'Murphy' will come." Meaning "Murphy" of Murphy's Law. When you are LEAST prepared ALL hell WILL break lose!

    People, PLEASE SAVE for a rainy day. Its pouring right now!

    February 10, 2009 at 1:29 pm |