Interview: Elijah, Average Oklahoman

While on a recent trip in Rockport (Texas), I was able to sit down while fishing in the Aransas Bay with a friend and interview him on various economic questions and get a perspective from an Oklahoman (Oklahoma City to be exact).   With rising gas prices, home foreclosures still increasing, and an unstable outlook for at least the rest of the year, I think it’s interesting to note that people in all parts of the country are affected differently due to the economic conditions of their location and career.

The following is a simple twelve question interview with Elijah, salesman at US Cellular:

Haystackfarmer: Recently you just purchased a home I understand.  How much did it roughly cost and what were some of the details of the purchase?
Elijah: Two years ago, I purchased a $76k, 1150 square foot home made in 1965 with a backyard and outdoor shack in Oklahoma City.  I had to put down $500 deposit, and my monthly mortgage cost about $700-$800.  Although with two roommates who pay me monthly rent, my share of the mortgage is decreased at least 60%.  As part of the deal, I had the owner put in new carpets.

Haystackfarmer: What other options were you considering during your housing search and what were the primary reasons for your housing purchase?
Elijah: One of the primary reasons I chose to purchase this particular house was the close proximity to US Cellular, within one mile, and close proximity to my family, within three miles.  I also thought this location was in an area with low crime rate and is close to suburban school systems, both good reasons to attract home buyers in the future when I decide to sell it.  I also took into consideration the actual condition of the house: roof, foundation, heating units, insulation.  Being a corner lot with a front lawn was also very important to me.

Haystackfarmer: Any improvements you’ve made to the house since you’ve bought it?
Elijah: I’ve changed the tiles to new ceramic ones, painted the walls (with modern colors), installed modern light fixtures, added ceiling fans, and redid the old shower.

Haystackfarmer: With the $600 rebate check coming soon, what will you be doing with it?
Elijah: Buying a Dell computer and/or paying down my $900 credit card debt

Haystackfarmer: Does $120 oil or $3.50-$4.00/gallon gasoline change how you operate your daily routine?
Elijah: These high gasoline prices don’t affect my lifestyle because I’m planned my living situation and housing purchase such that I’m within five miles of everything I need to do.  I am so close to both work and family while haircuts, grocery shopping, the mall, and school (2 miles away) are all within five miles.  Even if oil really high, I could take public transporation, but I would rate our public transportation system a 4 on a scale from 1-10.

Haystackfarmer: At what price per gallon woudl it make you drastically change your lifestyle and driving habits?
Elijah: $6-$8 per gallon.  At that price, I’d look for a more fuel efficient car because it’d help the environment and reduce my cost of driving.

Haystackfarmer: What do you think you can do as an individual to reduce oil prices?  What can we do as a country?
Elijah: Research more alternative fuels, purchase more fuel efficient cars, and be more active in recycling.  As a country, I think educating ourselves would be the best thing we can do.  Including lessons in the school systems about our energy problem and what options we have will go a long way to educate the young to make them aware.

Haystackfarmer: Does technology make your life more enjoyable or do you think we’re getting too dependent on technology?  And what would be the three pieces of technology you could not live without?
Elijah: Technology is such an important tool for us but it is scary to realize how dependent we are on technology.  For us to have access to so much information at such ease is refreshing to know.  Any average American has the opportunity to be educated through the information resources provided to us compared to previous generations.   Three pieces of technology I couldn’t live without are cell phone, computer, and microwave (75% of my food consumption cooked with this).

Haystackfarmer: What presidential candidate are you leaning toward?  Why?
Elijah: Obama.  I like his views on Iraq, the earth, health care, and environment.  I also like the way he is reaching to the young generation.

Haystackfarmer: Why not McCain or Clinton?
Elijah: I do like Clinton but I believe Obama is more into the positive aspects of politics.  Clinton seems a little hard to trust.  McCain, I don’t agree with his view in Iraq and keeping the troops there.

Haystackfarmer:
Are you more concerned about a long US recession or inflationary problems?
Elijah: I’m probably going to say a recession though I don’t really have a good grasp of the true meaning of the two.

Haystackfarmer: You’ve mentioned that you want to travel and live in California for an extended amount of time (probably a month or so).  What are the reasons for doing that and what do you need to do beforehand in terms of finances?
Elijah: Eliminate 90% of my debt and savings of at least $3k before going.  Being able to rent out my room while I’m gone would be a nice factor as well.

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