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Some Arizona families struggling to stay afloat

PHOENIX — While the country’s unemployment rate ducked under 8 percent in September, Arizona’s jobless rate sat stagnant at 8.2 percent.

News/Talk 92.3 KTAR asked a dozen families visiting Grasshopper Park in the Moon Valley area of Phoenix were how they are holding up in this economy. Their answers were varied.

A couple in their early 40s changed their career in finance to construction after the housing market stabilized. “We’re managing,” said Paul, “but it’s tough.”

A newly single mother with four children under the age of 5, including a six-week-old, said she pays $30 for a box of diapers for each kid every week.

“I worked in the medical field for five years, until I decided to have my kids and wanted to be a stay-at-home mom,” she said, choking back tears. “And now that recession has hit so hard, I can’t find a job.”

The Department of Agriculture estimates couples with babies born in 2012 will pay $169,000 by the time those children are 18.

That figure does not include college tuition. Wayne Stutzer, with RBC Wealth Management, and KTAR’s “Smart Investor” program, said parents with kids today entering college are paying about $100,000 for a four-year degree at Arizona State, University of Arizona or Northern Arizona University.

“If you go out of state,” Stutzer said, “you can look to multiply that by two to three times, depending upon where and how far away you go.”

Students may want to stay closer to home than commute, knowing gas prices doubled in the past decade from $1.41 in November 2002 to $3.86 today. Stutzer said emerging global markets with China, India, and Russia are changing the dynamics for oil.

It’s another factor that convinced Suzanna of Phoenix to buy an economical car with cash to avoid a car payment. For a northern Arizona firefighter, no car is economical enough to drive for his twice weekly commute.

The town where he works is 110 miles away, and too expensive to live in, so he carpools with several other firefighters.

Stutzer said the sky is not falling, but rather the economy is settling back to its 2002 numbers and forcing families to live within their means.

“Where I see most of the stress,” he explained, “comes from where things might be good right now, it might not be good tomorrow. And, that stress and anxiety is what’s lending to the angst of the country.”

The key for Arizonans, he said, is for parents to be prepared to change with workforce demands and plan to pay, not only for offspring’s college, but for their own.

“You can never stop learning,” said Stutzer. “Change is inevitable. That’s what democracy is and it’s that fear of failure that sometimes stops us from having the freedom to succeed.”

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