Russell "Rusty" Zander, 57, of Lawrenceville, Ga., went through six months of unemployment after he was laid off from his full-time job as a transportation manager for a local nonprofit. First, unemployment became scary for him, then depressing. "It was tough," says Zander. "I didn't have any money coming in, except for unemployment. My wife and I get along really well, but I was driving her crazy by being around the house all day. I'm the kind of person who has to work. I'm a lot happier when I do, and it's easier to stay out of trouble, too."
He got a temporary job for Stone Mountain amusement park, making snow for its Snow Mountain attraction. The pay $9 an hour, which was a big step down in pay. To swallow that bitter pill, he says, "I kind of had to play a little mind game with myself. I told myself I was retired, and this was just part-time retirement job." The real fact, he admits, is that he can't afford not to work, let alone to be retired. "I adjusted to it," he says. "It's easy when you don't have any alternative."
He received what he calls a valuable lesson, earlier in life, about survival: "When I was working my way through college, I went down to Louisiana to try to get a job offshore, on the oil platforms. There was a month there when I was unemployed and had to live in a swamp. I realized then how quickly hunger will make you do whatever becomes available. I try to maintain that perspective now: If you get hungry enough, you'll do just about anything -- anything that's legal, of course."