Early voting starts Monday, Oct. 22, at a location in every ward, plus downtown at the Board of Elections, 69 W. Washington. Although I’m not enthusiastic about either candidate, I will vote because someone will be president for the next four years and I know that my vote matters. I am going to vote early. And to make sure that everyone in my family votes, when I go to vote, I am going to take them with me.

I am not financially better off than I was four years ago when we elected President Obama. In hindsight, I was on the road to financial disaster at the time. But because everything looked rosy, I didn’t see the hard times coming even though others were already experiencing it. I had just gotten laid off from my job of over 33 years and, truthfully, I was exhausted from the grind of that day-to-day work routine. I will never regret the time I spent being laid off simply because it gave me the opportunity to get to know myself better than ever.

When I finally did get serious about finding a new job, the new reality is that good jobs were few and far between. To survive in this economy as any kind of worker (older, just graduated, long-term unemployed, no skills, etc.), one must truly have multiple sources of income. I can remember hearing that term and wondering how one does it. Then I found myself in the unemployment/under-employment lines and quickly discovered you need to have lots of ingenuity to come up with the various legal ways of making money.

I learned to bartend and got my BASSET (Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training) certification. That led me to a job with a catering company that is flexible in their scheduling, so I can work for them whenever our schedules are compatible. I also got my CDL license, which led me from driving a school bus part time to my current full-time position. I write for this newspaper and also had my first book published, with a second and third on the way. Each job on its own isn’t enough to make up for what I used to earn, but the various smaller sums do help to supplement my current income.

Everyone who is working is on a “fixed” income. Most of us learn to adjust our living styles either up or down to go along with the level of money we’re currently earning. We learn to cut back excess spending and live within our means. As I write this column, I am seeing various small signs of an economy that is teetering on the verge of coming back. Businesses that used to mail me all the time are finally again sending me solicitations via the mail. My current job has some overtime, which helps to increase my bottom line. Christmas is coming and I am seeing “Help Wanted” signs beginning to pop up in store windows.

The importance of who will run this country over the next four years cannot be overstated. The direction that leader takes us in will affect every fiber of our lives. The job market, housing market and especially the food market will all depend on who sits in the White House. So everyone needs to get off their duff and vote. And no matter which one of the two wins, we need to be very vocal about the directions and decisions that person takes and makes.

We need to speak out and let our voices be heard. Our lives do truly depend on it.