When tax time rolled around in April, my partner and I had zero income and were facing homelessness, so asking for an extension was a no-brainer. We were hoping we’d be in a better financial position in October. What else could we do?
We are indeed both working now. In fact, we work so many hours a week we almost never see each other and rarely have time for anything beyond working, sleeping and eating. Which is also why I haven’t been blogging. No time. It’s a pretty miserable existence. It’s also a precarious existence.
Since we’re both classified as independent contractors, we don’t qualify for the minimum wage, overtime, workers comp, health insurance, or unemployment benefits. And we can lose what little we have at the drop of a hat.
Despite this, we are doing better now than we have been in a while. As long as my partner puts in at least 72 hours a week and I work 30-40 on top of the uncompensated work I do around the house and taking care of the dogs, we can usually cover our rent, food, and bills. Unfortunately there’s nothing left over to see a dentist or buy a winter coat, and the only reason our beloved Balou is still hanging in there is that some kind, compassionate people are paying for his meds.
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My partner and I are poor. Really poor. We live in a small rental and we can’t afford many of the things most people take for granted: a car, TV, high speed Internet, health care, furniture. I was about to say we can’t afford anything that isn’t an absolute necessity, but then I thought of all the things we can’t afford although they are necessities, such as the aforementioned health care or even a winter coat. We’re part of a growing number of Americans who work hard, pay taxes–and barely scrape by. And there is almost no chance that our situation will improve.
From the government’s perspective, we’re doing fine. We don’t contribute to the unemployment statistics or the welfare rolls, so where’s the problem? It doesn’t matter to the powers that be that our lives are a daily grind of all work and no play. It doesn’t matter that we sleep on the floor and sometimes freeze in the winter because we can’t afford to run the heater. It doesn’t matter that we’re forced to ignore symptoms of ill health and suffer in agony because seeing a doctor or dentist isn’t financially feasible. It doesn’t matter that we own nothing, have no savings, and struggle to survive, although we’re working full time and paying taxes.
Speaking of taxes, last month we were forced to borrow money to pay our tax bill, and we’ll be paying back that loan for the rest of the year. Not because we owed such a huge amount, but because any amount is a hardship when you often don’t make enough to cover your bills and eat. What? You thought the working poor get a nice fat refund come tax time? Some do, but we’re self-employed. Self-employment taxes ate up our entire refund and left us owing Uncle Sam more money than we had. Hence the loan.
As companies increasingly hire independent contractors rather than take on new employees, more people will find themselves in our position. Although we’re technically freelancers, close to 90% of our income comes from four companies that hire us year round. We’re grateful for the work, but would we prefer steady employment with benefits? You bet!
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