SUMMARY: Elizabeth White has been on the edge of the financial cliff for years, but you'd never know it from outside appearances. "Everybody is pretending," she says. In her self-published book Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal she painfully chronicles the crash of a flourishing career and upper-middle class lifestyle -- and she's not alone. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.
ELIZABETH WHITE, Author, “Fifty-Five, Unemployed and Faking Normal”: Everybody is pretending.
PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour): And that's why you call the book Faking Normal?
ELIZABETH WHITE: Right, because there's a lot of pressure to seem like you are doing well.
PAUL SOLMAN: Elizabeth White is not doing terribly well, as she painfully chronicles in the book she's just self-published, Fifty-Five Unemployed and Faking Normal.
White's been on the edge of the financial cliff for years, even though you would never know it from how she looks or the Washington, D.C. townhouse she bought years ago, one she couldn't even dream of renting today.
But you haven't been in a situation where you literally couldn't afford whatever it is, the condo fee, or?
ELIZABETH WHITE: Oh, absolutely, I have. I right now have to park outside because I'm in arrears on the condo fee, right now.
PAUL SOLMAN: And she's refinanced to the hilt, taken in a boarder.
Well, you haven't used food stamps.
ELIZABETH WHITE: But I have. I have had to.
PAUL SOLMAN: It's been quite a comeuppance for someone with her background.
ELIZABETH WHITE: I have a bachelor's from Oberlin. I have a master's in international studies from Johns Hopkins. I have a Harvard MBA, worked at the World Bank, came in through a program where they recruited 5,000 people. They took two Americans out of that 25. I was one of the Americans.
PAUL SOLMAN: But, ultimately, White decided to leave the bank to start her own business.
ELIZABETH WHITE: I had a chain of stores, of decorative home stores.
PAUL SOLMAN: Really?
ELIZABETH WHITE: Yes.
I sold some of the things you see here, African-inspired products. I realized that there was an African-American market that wanted things in their home that reflected heritage and culture. If you wanted to give your little girl a black Raggedy Ann doll, you couldn't easily find it.
So I just curated that from all over. So, I then bet the ranch that I could get this going. So, I took a lot of my — not all of it, but I took a big chunk of my World Bank money to sort of fund this.