You can learn more by asking people if they are better or worse off one short year ago rather than four years ago. The nation's general economic situation was in a free-fall four years ago. Gauging progress over a single year may be a better indication of what's to come.

Ten East Contra Costans interviewed at random is no accurate survey indicating the broad picture. But it's interesting to see how a handful of people view their own personal situation in relation to what's happening across America. Half of those interviewed said they are better off. Only one said she's worse off. Four claimed to be more or less running in place.

Oakley's Cindy Rodriguez is better off. "I'm getting out of debt and I'm definitely optimistic. I see good signs everywhere," she said.

Paula May of Bethel Island really is enthusiastic. "One year ago I had to sell my home in a short sale. Since then I've gotten all my debts cleaned up. My job is secure and two weeks ago I got a promotion," she said.

Dan Richter of Brentwood also cited a job promotion with pay increase. "A year ago I sold my house and moved into a rental unit. I've gotten my finances under control. It was a conscious decision to live within my means," he said. "I'm optimistic about the future."

Julie Lee of Brentwood also said, "I'm better off and I'm optimistic about the future. I survived foreclosure and managed to buy another home. My finances surely have improved."


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Oakley's Mike Shaw just retired. "I'm better off now. My income is adequate and I'm debt-free," he said. "More importantly, the nation's economy is improving."

The only negative response came from Jean Thomas of Oakley. "I'm worse off," she said. "They cut back my hours at work which affected my income. My ex's financial problems put him behind on child support. The result for me is deeper debt. I have optimism based only on religious faith."

There are those who say they're running in place. "Things are the same for me," said Sharon McLemore of Brentwood. "In spite of improvement in debts and an increase in savings, I'm a pessimist. There are bad days ahead as the economy gets worse."

Antioch's Courtney Chavez said, "Things are pretty much the same for me as they were a year ago. It's OK. My head still is above water and I have no problems with debt. I remain generally optimistic."

Teresa Price of Discovery Bay is on the fence. "There hasn't been much change for us. Our debt load hasn't changed. I go from being pessimistic one day to being optimistic the next," she said.

Roy Pearson of Discovery Bay said his situation is unchanged. "I'm personally optimistic about the coming 12 months. But I worry about those who are younger, in their 30s. Buying a house is almost impossible for them."

Contact Ed Arnow at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.