Newsletter and Subscription Sign Up

BNH Book Review: 55, Underemployed, and Fake Normal

Published Friday Oct 9, 2020

Author Terri Schlichenmeyer of The Bookworm Sez

“55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life”
by Elizabeth White
2020 in paperback/
Simon & Schuster
$17/272 pages

Your last regular paycheck has come and gone. That was a while ago, back before you were downsized/laid off/reassigned right out of a job, and you’re not sure what to do. Your savings are nearly gone, your retirement funds are next and you’re too young to get Social Security. In “55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal” by Elizabeth White, you’ll see how to make this new life work.

At 35 years old, White had a solid job at the World Bank, she owned a house and she was heading to Harvard to get a PhD.

There, she caught the entrepreneurial bug and, in partnership with her mother, she became a business owner. When the business failed, she was resilient and landed some consulting gigs that put her finances back to where they were before.

And then the Great Recession hit. Suddenly, White was exactly where the title of this book indicates: too young, too old and suddenly “totally out of the loop.” Shortly afterward, when an essay she penned went viral, she learned that she wasn’t alone.

There are things you can do. First, know that “the cavalry ain’t coming” and you’re more-or-less on your own. Learn to “small up” in your housing and your possessions by knowing exactly what’s important to you. Re-think your priorities. Ignore your pride and take the food stamps. Take care of your home. Take care of your relationships. Take care of yourself.

For anyone who’s facing a retirement that’s not necessarily on their terms, White’s advice helps make the situation less scary, more attackable and more survivable. For them, reading this might pay off.

All Stories