Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
Depending on the analyst and the statistic, the Midwest economy is on the mend or still in trouble or somewhere in between.
Getting By, a year-end special from Changing Gears, went beyond the experts and numbers.
Senior editor Micki Maynard and WBEZ’s Steve Edwards gathered at a dining room table with eight Illinois residents from different places and different points of view to discuss the economy’s real world impact on their lives.
We talked about how the recession is affecting everyone, from veterans to business owners, single mothers to people struggling to find work.
Listen to Getting By here and see more photos of the people who took part.
Many of our participants came to us through our PIN network, and we’re always looking for people who can lend their insight. If you’d like to become a source for us, click here.
Ishtiaq Bercha, of Aurora, Colorado, writes with a common concern.
“What should I do with my savings? Should I keep cash in the banks, invest in stocks and bonds — or gold? What is the best prospect from a retirement perspective?
Ali and Christine respond,
“The answer, Ishtiaq, is easy. You want to be investing in all of these things! Cash in the bank, stocks, bonds, golds/metals (10 percent of your portfolio or a bit more if you have a higher risk tolerance), real estate and even businesses.
CHICAGO – The Midwest may have just 13 percent of the country’s population, but we still produces more than a third of the nation’s cars, steel and the lion’s share of heavy machinery. And, the rise in manufacturing meant good news for the Midwest economy last year. Here, a perspective on why things went so well for manufacturers last year – and what challenges lie ahead.
Here’s one way an economy can begin to turn around: a business person sees an opportunity. Maybe it’s a building that’s been sitting empty, or a block corner that’s looking run down. The business person gets together with investors, and maybe lands some government tax incentives. It becomes a public-private partnership.
But sometimes, an economic turnaround starts not with investors or public money. It starts with philanthropy. Dustin Dwyer recently reported for Changing Gears from Grand Rapids, Mich., on the role that philanthropy is playing there, and elsewhere in the Midwest.
To the east, up Monroe Avenue Northwest is what’s called Medical Mile. $1 billion dollars went into building the medical and bio-research facilities over there – much of that in the form of private donations.
Without these developments and without philanthropy, Grand Rapids’ downtown would seem pretty empty.
Our first question is from Anjana Kapoor of Sterling Heights, Mich. She writes:
I have a underwater mortgage that I am trying to get refinanced, but have been unable to so far. I have been punctual in my payments so far for 8 years, and I still have to pay PMI (personal mortgage insurance). Please let me know how I can get rid of it and refinance my house.
Ali and Christine respond:
Anjana, you are smart to try to tackle the biggest hurdle to growing your wealth — that underwater mortgage. It will take many hours of hard work and false starts to get it done. No one, and we repeat, no one, has told us this was an easy or fair process.