Survive in '09: A family's story of struggle during the recession

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Quality time with his wife Teresa and son Brandon make up the moments 55-year-old Fred Volking enjoys most.

Ironically, it's time Fred has a lot of these days after he was dealt a bad hand.

"I don't know what we're gonna do," he said.

A couple of months ago things were great. Fred was working as a computer analyst, pulling down more than $80,000 a year and even earned a big bonus. But all of that changed on a dime when he went in for what he thought would be another regular day at work.

"By 10 a.m. I didn't have a job; by 11 a.m. I had my desk packed up and was gone; by about 2 in the afternoon I realized my medical was shut off, my dental was shut off, just everything was gone, done," he said. "The check I had in my hand was my last check."

Surprisingly, Fred didn't panic, but his wife did.

"It usually takes me about a week to get a job offer, maybe two weeks," he said.

"I think that he in his heart, he's proud," Teresa commented. "He's got a lot of pride there and doesn't understand or doesn't want to accept everything that's fixing to happen to him."

Fred was counting on unemployment, but because he worked in two states last year, the process got complicated. He's been waiting six weeks and no check.

"For the first time in 25 years I've had to do without the good stuff and it ain't like I want somebody to give it to me," he said. "I've worked for it. I've worked for it, I've spent 30 years working for it and it's not there, it's gone."

Including his life savings.

"I guess I can just be up front, when the dot com bubble burst I lost everything," Fred noted. "I lost about $250,000 so we don't have any savings. My 401k I cashed in to pay off credit cards a long time ago."

So with no money coming in, where does that leave the Volkings?

"We're probably gonna be out of here, I don't know, March 31, April 1," Fred said. "April Fool's and we're out on the street."

All Teresa can think about is Brandon.

"I think that's the main thing that scares me," she said. "I can do without all this stuff, but you know you just hate to strip everything your son has from him and just say we don't have anywhere to stay right now."

How do you say that to a 10-year-old, and can he possibly understand?

"He understands, is he willing to accept? No. Come on, he's 10 years old," Teresa said.

Fred's on his computer every day, all day, hoping to connect with a new job. His 30 years of computer experience landed him two interviews so far, but because of the economy both companies decided to hold off on new hires.

"I mean 25, 30 years being able to just go get what you want when you want it and suddenly it's gone," he said. "And you think, 'Wow, I can always go get a job.' But that ain't the case right now."

Fred promises Teresa they won't be out on the street.

"Honey, don't cry, we'll be there," he said. "It ain't gonna happen, it ain't gonna get that bad. It ain't gonna get that bad, we'll make it somehow or another."

It's a promise he hopes to keep: "Oh my goodness, we'll make it somehow. I don't know how."

©2009 WIS News 10. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.