Does the economy have you down?

recession plans

If you’ve turned on the TV, flipped through a magazine, or listened to the radio at any point in the last three years I’m sure you’ve noticed America is falling apart. Unemployment is up. The Stock Market is down. The world is coming to an end. But for the Ninja household, and I’m sure many others, we’ve escaped the doom and gloom unscathed.

In fact, we’ve kicked some major butt during this depressed economy. I managed to pay off $28,000 of student loan debt, put $20,000 in savings, and contribute over $30,000 to my retirement accounts all since I graduated college in May 2007. Yeah, 2007, you know, right when the markets took a turn for the worst.

While I wont argue that the last three years have been extremely difficult for some groups of people (eg auto workers in Detroit), I would like to remind the majority of Americans that they need not participate in (or at least be completely disabled by) the recession.

Yes unemployment is at 9%, one of the highest points in recent history, but guess what. That means there is an EMPLOYMENT rate of 91%. That means 9 out of 10 people that want to work, can. It’s all about perspective.

Click here to see my Stick Figure Blog cartoon that shows what 9% unemployment is really like

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are good/honest/hardworking people out there that can’t seem to catch a break. There’s always two sides to every story. That’s why I’ll end today’s post here and leave you with three simple questions…

How have you fared the last three years?

How have you prospered during this time?

How have you been hurt?


Update: Apparently this post has been perceived as arrogant by a few readers. The intention was not to brag and say I am better than anyone else, cause let’s face it, I’m not. It was simply to show that I have not been affected by the recession. Since I have been fortunate enough to survive the economic crisis, I wanted to see if others had as well. That was the primary purpose of the post; to see how people have fared through the recession.

I’m not dumb. I see the news. I know peopleย  are suffering. Some because they are lazy and use the recession as an excuse to wallow in self pity, and others that are working their tail off to try and find employment, but haven’t had any luck. If me sharing my personal success is considered arrogant, I don’t know why I don’t get the same angry comments on Net Worth updates when I have an increase.

92 thoughts on “Does the economy have you down?

  1. It’s all very well for you in your high-paying government (ie, pretty safe) job to go on about how the recession is not so bad. I have already commented on your stick figure, but it’s worth saying it here too – YOU are young and lucky. YOU need to learn some compassion. YOU need to learn to be less judgemental. Because you are judging people based on your lucky, white, middle-class, college-educated, fully-employed position. I don’t know many people who are in as good a position as you and I live in Australia, where there was NO recession! You really need to walk a mile in these people’s shoes before you post SO MUCH judgey stuff. Publicly.

    Heck, we all mouth off about the lazy unemployed once in a while, but you really ought to reconsider the tone of some of your posts.

    • I have compassion. Please provide any statement I made in that post that was “judgey”. Take a deep breath and re-read the post, you’ll realize there is no judging going on ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the term “judgey” and chosen instead “no life experience”. Seriously, you obviously have no idea at ALL about the kind of widescale suffering 9% unemployment represents. Has anyone in your family ever been unemployed for a long period of time, and despite applying for hundreds of jobs, failed to get one?

        I suggest you take a trip to Detroit, or any on of those cities where the unemployment level is higher than average, drive in the shittiest neighbourhoods and TALK to the people. Then you might be able to voice an informed opinion about how the recession is not so bad.

        • You are funny. I commented on my understanding that certain positions and certain geographical locations have taken a big hit. I explicitly refer to Detroit as being one of those areas in my post.

          I don’t know what else you want from me lady, but if you’re just trying to pick a fight, go do it elsewhere. I didn’t say the recession isn’t bad. Everyone else seems to have something constructive to say, you just have anger. Take your negative attitude elsewhere please ๐Ÿ™‚

          • You might be seen as coming off a bit flippant when making jokes about something as serious as this recession. And attitudes do exist that jobs exist and the unemployed are simply being lazy in not looking hard enough. (That was the rationale given by some Republicans for not extending unemployment benefits.)

            The one period I’ve ever been out of work was in the much milder recession of 1991, when I lost a job with a very large and notoriously brutal software corporation here in Long Island. It was a very painful period, but I distinctly remember that 4th-rate actor – turned Governor – turned President picking up a newspaper and saying something like, “I see plenty of jobs here; there should be no problem for anyone wanting to work.” At that time, unemployment benefits in NY lasted six months, and somehow I miraculously found a job almost six months to the day after losing my previous one.

          • I agree with Larry – making fun of something as serious as the recession is kind of silly! Was your post a little off colour? Yes. Are a lot of your other posts too? Yes. I don’t understand why people want to make a big fuss about it and bring on so much negativity.

            However, I think I won’t be reading anymore. Something is off on your blog as of late and I just don’t enjoy it anymore. Just a little feedback and thanks for the enjoyment while it did last!

            All the best!

          • If you had a true understanding of the suffering of others through this recession you would not have made such a flippant “the recession isn’t so bad” post.

            I’ve enjoyed your blog for quite a while now, but seriously you are not coming off with any compassion here and I really really don’t understand why it is that you cannot see it. You might as well have said “I’m not racist but “

          • The rest of that phrase was supposed to say “insert racist clichรฉ here”. Because while I’m not accusing you of racism, what you are saying is just as offensive.

      • Agreed. I judge him for his arrogant, self-involved perspective of this. It’s like saying Pol Pot wasn’t so bad because he didn’t hurt me.

  2. Laid off the BF, made me main earner whilst FT student and PT worker, resulted in spotty employment for him for a year and a half (lord, it feels like so much longer). Was a huge setback, but I try not to dwell on it.

  3. I’d say you’ve done pretty well during the recession!

    I wish I could say the same for myself. I’ve had trouble finding and keeping a full time job, but I’m not sure if that was the recession or my desire to move around and travel a lot. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. My husband and I work at the same company and I was convinced one or both of us would get laid off in December of 2008. I was in the hospital having our 2nd kid on the day of the layoffs. Our kitchen was also gutted.

    Thankfully we both retained jobs. I did not go back to the same job after maternity leave, so my salary and benefits did get impacted for a little over a year. I went from a job that had a car, phone, home office expenses paid, and a 20% bonus to just a job. It was a noticable drop in savings, all of a sudden having to pay for all those things and a 20% pay cut to boot. Now I’m back to the job I was previously in so all is good.

    My retirement majorly suffered. Due to the type of company stock we owned in our 401K, we lost over 70% of our savings. Because our life was so hectic and I didn’t have the tiime myself, I actually hired a guy to diversify my savings right before the crash. He did a lousy job of it. Not only did I lose 3/4 of my savings, but I was paying someone 1% to do it. Never again.

    The plus side is it scared the be-Jesus out of me and I didn’t feel as well off anymore. I made the decision that I wanted to reduce our fixed expenses and to do that.our 2 mortgages had to go away. I paid off over $50K in mortgage debt last year. This year we paid another big chunk down, but not as aggressively. I hope to be totally 100% debt free by Jan 2011, with 2 paid for houses to show for it. (my mom lives in 1). I’ve always paid extra, so we had a big head start, but I just kicked it into overdrive.

    I think I’m a better person for having gone through the downturn. It made me diversify my net worth into more stable assets (like equity in my home) and it brought me back to my ultra frugal roots. Lifestyle inflation definitely creeped in when time was scarce.

    • Wow, sorry about your 70% drop. That is pretty severe and pay cut in addition to that.

      My 401k lost about 30% at the worst point, but has recovered nicely. You can see the detail in my post from last Friday – retirebyforty’s 401k. I’m really glad it has been diversified for the last 4-5 years.

      The downturn was ok for me, we kept our job and maxed out 401k in both accounts. The dollar cost average saving was nice during the dip and as the stock market recovered so did our accounts.

  5. I’ve been unemployed since last December. I can’t wait to have a job again. I have Master’s degree in engineering from a great school which apparently gets me absolutely nowhere. I’ve applied to hundreds of jobs in about 15 different states with no luck. Even worse, I know once I take a job it will be a 40% paycut. But it beats this menial data entry job I’ve had to pick up over the last few months. At least it helps us break even every month with all my loans on default. But it put a huge setback in our loan repayment which has been stagnant now for a year. I just keep telling myself we will make it through but unemployment is dragging on way too long.

    • Frustrating for sure. Thanks for sharing. The other side of the spectrum is always appreciated. Something great will come for you, hopefully sooner rather than later.

  6. 1) Hubby lost his job in Oct./09, but found FT employment in Feb/10, though we pulled through with my FT income, his PT job (lots of hrs. at Christmas), and only had to touch the buy-out $ from the lay-off about 3 weeks before he started his FT job… all in all, we didn’t do too bad. Hubby just left the job he started in Feb. to take a better paying/more benefits/better hours job; we’ll get back on track pretty quick!

    2) Benefited from the recession – Learned the importance in having an Emergency Fund and as little debt as possible… that’s our goal… to have enough for 6 months living expenses should one of us lose our FT income.

    3) Even with hubby’s job loss, we did way better than I thought we would… we lucked out big time! My heart goes out to ppl that really want to work, spent loads of $ on education, and can’t get jobs their qualified for.

  7. I’ve gone from about $30,000 in student loan debt after graduating in May 2008 to having a net worth of over $10,000. I still have student loans, but the interest rate is tiny so I don’t mind keeping them.

    I think the recession has helped because I’ve been buying stocks cheap. I’ve also had some luck in the market. My 401k is up over 20% this year.

  8. I graduated the same time you did ninja (may 07) but decided to go to grad school instead of find a job. I was looking and got quite a few interviews and 1 offer, but I declined and went back to school, figuring it would better my employment prospects even more. Fast forward through a market crash and when I got out of grad school, I probably sent out upwards of 100 applications across the country and had almost 0 employer interest. It was astounding how much things changed. After accepting an offer and having that fall through, I was scrambling for a month or two, but was able to find a job, then get another one. Now i’ve got two jobs and have been working in the recession for a year. I’ve paid down 18k+ in debt since jan.

  9. Our family did well over the last 3 yrs, hubby graduated from law school & passed the bar, paid off our cars, (only left with student loan & mortgage debt) and increased savings/investment/retirement accounts.

    Ditto Thousandaire, cheap stock prices was the biggest benefitโ€ฆ.and maybe low interest rates, thinking about re-financing the mortgage (anyone have suggestions…).

    Hurt because husband hasnโ€™t had many job options, but this could turn into a benefit because itโ€™s motivated him to go out on his own. Only time will tell what category this move falls under.

  10. “Is 9% unemployment really that bad?” Yes, it is when you consider that figure is based on US Labor Dept. statistics and already represents about 25 million people who can’t pay their bills and who aren’t contributing to the tax base. That 9% is again only a national average and depending on your area of the country, the percentage could be worse. And it’s worse still if you consider the larger number who are underemployed or have just given up, which means the actual rate could be closer to 17%:.
    http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/learn-how-to-invest/The-real-unemployment-rate.aspx

    As for my own situation:
    Good: I have kept a full-time job and can meet all my expenses will continuing to save. My investments took less of a hit in 10/08 because I was well diversified, and the market is coming back strong in the past 18 months.
    Bad: Raises have been fewer and smaller than in my previous years with this company. There was once the chance my hours might be cut, but I’m pretty sure that’s been resolved.

    But the overall mood of the country is angry and nervous as I’ve never seen it.

    • Thanks for that Article Larry. Glad to hear things are working out okay for you, minor setbacks, but nothing you haven’t been able to push through. Okay, gotta go read that article now…

  11. I’ve been pretty fortunate to do well during the recession. My job at a state university in Florida is stable, I even got a 4% raise two months ago! Freelance work – sports industry- has picked up a lot for me.

    I got lucky & paid off my car + add to my cash savings thanks to the 8k first time homebuyer credit.
    I took a risk and bought Miami Heat season tickets before the big 3 signed on and I immediately sold them for 3.5x the price.
    My family though- parents specifically, have felt the recession but I’ve been blessed enough during it that I’ve been able to help them out.

  12. I’ve been fortunate to do very well over the past few years. I have a steady job with the Feds, got my CPA license, paid off my car, saved up an emergency fund of 6 months expenses and purchased a condo. Overall, I’ve felt insulated from what’s been going on around me.

  13. This is my first time commenting, even though I love your blog. Thought I’d share an interesting infographic from mint.com with some survey results about how Americans feel about the recession:
    http://www.mint.com/blog/trends/recession-10262010/?display=wide

    It seems to me that thinking unemployment isn’t a big deal is a luxury that generally only people who are employed (yourself, and thankfully myself!) can have. Looking at those numbers, only about 10% (of the 10% who are unemployed) are happy to be unemployed and made a conscious decision to do so. ~90% really want to work, and 71% think it’s really freaking hard to get a job even if you want to.

    I’m two years out of college and grateful that I was able to find a good-paying job right away, but most of my friends aren’t so lucky. They’re still living with their parents, and paying off their student loans working at Starbucks – or have a deferment while they job search. At this point, they don’t feel like it’s “below them” to work with a temp agency, become a cashier or waiter, or sell their kidneys to science. They simply can’t even find those opportunities because the other 10% of unemployed Americans are looking for the same thing.

    Sorry to get on a soapbox. I think this is an incredibly intelligent blog and I hate to read generalized statements about how people aren’t working hard enough being made from the privileged majority of us who have jobs – even when you caveat it with “don’t get me wrong…”

    • When did I say people aren’t working hard? I just don’t want people to let unemployment doom and gloom become a crutch. I’m all about positive psychology and self confidence. Dwelling on a 9% unemployment rate instead of remembering that implies a 91% employment rate is not very productive.

      Really appreciate your comment, especially the infographic. Sorry if my post came off in a way that wasn’t intended. Its hard trying to communicate thoughts sometimes.

    • What was arrogant about this post. I stated facts of my situation and facts about the unemployment rate. I didnt state I was better than anyone else or that people that don’t work are lazy. Heck I even acknowledged there are people that can’t catch a break no matter how hard they try. I’m giving everyone an opportunity to share how they’ve fared through the recession. I shared my story now I’m asking for others to do the same. Where was the arrogance?

  14. Despite graduating in the midst of it all June 2008, I managed to find a job, well two jobs i.e Lab Technician and Bartender, the only bad thing about it is that my primary job is in a career field that I don’t exactly care for. However, because of loan payments I decided the best thing is to build my resume, pay loans and save. I only recently became proactive in changing my spending habits and in the last two in a half years, I’ve managed to pay $3,500 in loans. And in the last year alone, I’ve managed to pay nearly half of my car and still save a fair amount of emergency money. So far, I’ve been okay and I thank god for that!

  15. We live in Ontario, Canada and we have done better than ever the past few years while most friends and family have hit rock bottom. I am not trying to brag here, (we are very fortunate that my husband has a good paying job that he landed just before the recession). The main reason why we are where we are right now comes down to good money management. In the past year it has slowed down a bit, loss of year-end bonus for hubby and reduction in Christmas gift card from his boss but we’ve still managed fine without these perks because we’ve planned around them. We are grateful for our good fortune and try to pay it forward to our friends, family & others (donating, etc.) whenever it is possible. Sadly, some people we know refuse to change their money mismanagement and I fear that when the economy ever picks up they will find themselves right back where they were again. Good for you Ninja and all your success.

  16. I love this blog. I generally think you are spot-on, more honest than most, and manage to keep a good perspective despite your awesome financial position. I don’t even mind this post, really – a lot of people do use the recession as an excuse for all kinds of things. But! I’d say most people don’t, and out of respect for those people, let’s just give them all the benefit of the doubt.

    My big issue though is this “9 out of 10 people can work if they want” business – the economist in me just can’t stomach it. The unemployment rate isn’t that simple, and even if it were, all it would mean is that 91% of people have managed to keep their jobs; it’s not as if that’s the percentage finding new ones. The problem is that unemployemt is still growing (or at least staying put? I’m not totally up to date) which means more people are still being fired than hired. Which DOES, in fact, mean it’s really, really hard to find a job. Competition is intense and companies are strapped. Find me some info about how things look for that 9%, and I’m happy to get on board with your positive-thinking; I just don’t think there’s much to get excited about just yet.

    • Hey Laura, thanks for being reasonable and at least giving me the benefit of the doubt instead of vilifying me. I guess I’m overly optimistic. I know people that have been laid off and found employment rather quickly. In fact, I don’t know anyone that is actively seeking employment, but unable to find anything. Maybe I hang out with a poor representation of society. I just want people to be optimistic, work hard, and not dwell on a down economy. I’m glad today’s post is giving people from both sides of the spectrum an opportunity to share their struggles or achievements!

      p.s. I think you’re neat ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Gonna say I’m a little confused, how can you say in the post that you love it when people tell you they can’t find work because of the economy but in the reply to Laura’s comment you say you don’t know anyone actively looking for work. So which is it?

    I get the impression that you happen to be surrounded by a disproportionate number of rather wealthy people. While wealth is not a predictor whether the recession will affect you, I do think it is a predictor of how depressed and negative you will feel about it. As others above have said, having a cushion makes unemployment easier to handle.

    As for me, in the past 3.5 years, I have been out of work for 16 months. First, for 9 months when we moved east to pursue my husband’s “glamorous, well-paying” career as a pilot and I had to leave my job. I got hired for a job that was a bad fit, then got laid off 6 months later. It took another 7 months to find the position I’m in now. I’m lucky that this looks to be a job that I can keep until we leave the area when my husband eventually switches airlines again.

    In addition to that, I’ve watched my dad get laid off again. The 4th or 5th time in his life. He finally just gave up and claimed SS early. I’ve watched my friend get laid off and unable to find work while her husband was serving in Iraq, and I’ve watched friends with master’s degrees struggle to find employment here in DC. Even if I didn’t have my own struggles, it would be hard for me not to feel impacted by the recession.

    How have I benefited from the recession? Well, if I wasn’t laid off from the first job, I never would have found my current job that I love. We were also able to buy a beautiful new car for $16,000 under MSRP. While expensive, it is a car that we will keep for a lifetime, seriously. (we had to buy a car, because we couldn’t be a 1 car family once I became employed again.)

    How have I suffered? Well, in order to stay afloat during the first bout of unemployment, we had to use the $10,000 gifted to us for student loan repayment to live, we had to defer our loans, accumulate credit card debt, and we are stuck with a house 4 states away that we can’t sell because it is underwater and I refuse to have it foreclosed on. Every day, I have to focus on not letting my finances overwhelm me.

    • No one in my immediate circle of friends (a bunch of 23-25 year old people) is unemployed. Everyone I know, on an intimate level, that has sought employment, found it. Maybe I hang out with uber lucky people?

      That said, I have heard from people (extended family, and friends of friends) that it is impossible to get a job.

      Totally understand where your confusion comes from, but hopefully this makes it more clear. I know people that say they can’t get a job (some which probably really can’t), but no one that I am close with has been unable to find work.

      • You do have lucky friends. A large chunk of my close friends (23-30) are unemployed or have low paying or part time jobs. My sister graduated early this spring and just got her first paying job since graduation,seasonal in retail, her boyfriend took a year to get hired, but he did get a good paying job. Before my husband started grad school he worked contract off and on and could lose his job at anytime and i was the only one of my close friends to have a well paying stable job. When my husband and I moved for his grad school I was unable to get a new job with the same company (or get any fulltime job) and have had to resort to part time to supplement his loan money. Because i have had heath problems this past year that has cost us a lot and we have used most of the loan money i just took a second part time job to help keep us afloat and we are planning on moving in with my in laws after my husband graduates and looks for a job to save money. Its been very hard and the next two months are going to be a struggle, but I look forward to whats to come. I know i can at lest get part time work while my husband looks for a job and because of his degree, school and field (video game design) I know he should have a job within 6 months. i’m a little worried about being able to get a full time job so we can start paying back his loans quicker (over $80,000) but I know we will make it work.

  18. I’ve been lucky – quit my job in Chicago and moved back home to San Diego, only to get a new job within 3 months, which I now also just quit for an even better job. I work in academia, we’re still hiring because of turnover, so I haven’t exactly noticed much of an issue in my field. Some people were furloughed, of course, and some were indeed laid off, but I work on research that is fully funded so I dodged a bullet on that one.

  19. I’m in Seattle. Both of my parents’ jobs have been affected strongly (furloughs, pay cuts) and I’ve had trouble finding work. I’m employed now, but as a contract employee, meaning no benefits. I’ve found there are jobs out there, but in this area the work available for most educated 20-somethings is contract. I have several educated, charming, hard-working friends who are unemployed or who were unemployed (laid off) and spent years looking for another position. It’s rough out there. Remember that unemployment tends to disproportionately affect older workers who can’t easily take pay cuts or who have highly specialized areas of expertise, and it sounds like you’re not necessarily hanging out with that demographic.

  20. I think the field you’re in really determines how much the recession affected you. As a teacher in the DC area, I wasn’t affected too much. But many, many others were. I think people are reacting badly to this post because the overall tone is “look on the bright side!” when, for so many people, there really is no bright side. You seem to be trivializing the struggles that so many of your fellow Americans are facing. Which is weird because you just wrote a post (maybe a week ago?) about how the people in your new Bible study group seem to be facing real stresses about their money and jobs.

    Also, the unemployment rate doesn’t account for people who are under-employed, i.e., people who have been cut back to part time or are having to accept jobs that are not in their field of study – and probably pay less – because they can’t find full time work. So looking at the unemployment rate alone isn’t really a fair measure of how deeply the recession has affected so many families.

  21. Ninja, For what it’s worth, I think the country will come out of the recession stronger than before. It’s an unpleasant process, but I think we’ll end up being more competitive globally in the long run.

    BTW, I pissed off a few folks here with my guest post too :).

  22. This post has really made me think, so kudos on that.

    I think watching the recession in the US has really given me food for thought and made me appreciate the cultural aspects of economics far more than I ever did before. I hope that makes me a better and more compassionate policy maker than before the recession, and that our dinner table conversations have made my husband, an economist, a more accurate forecaster.

    A few examples;

    1) The collective tolerance for risk-taking. Higher risks can equal higher rewards, but also deeper consequences. Even now, as people are suffering through those consequences, the push is towards entrepreneurship, arguably assuming more risk on the individual level.

    2) A change in attitudes towards mobility. The USA was once seen as this nation of movers- people willing to pick up and move across a huge land for more opportunities- and most economists will tell you that structural unemployment requires people to either change lines of work or change the location of that work. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. In the absence of a public sector safety net, people need to rely on family and friends, strengthening their ties to particular communities, even once the jobs are gone from that community. And the deductability of mortgage interest helped ignite the ideal of home ownership for all- that you need to own a house to be settled, responsible, and a contributing member of society.

    3) The deeply ingrained notion of egalitarianism. Every American should be able to own a home, regardless of income. Or the flip side, seeing the recession as a battle between the fat-cats (alternately, bankers, CEOs, the government, depending on the day and the source) versus Joe on Main Street with a factory job, despite that fact that the vast majority of Americans fit into neither.

    4) At the same time as the egalitarianism, the Puritanical model that good things will come to those who work hard (and its flip side, bad things come to those who don’t). It’s vilifying the CEO, the hot-shot banker, or (evidenced in this post) the government worker, at the same time as wanting to be them. It’s standing back and consoling ourselves that people who lost their homes, or were bankrupted by medical bills, etc. should have done something else and thus somehow deserve it.

    5) The general fear of the unknown. The rise of xenophobia. The acknowledgment that while the health care system is outright failing tens of millions of Americans, and not doing such a great job with another batch of of tens of millions of Americans, the status quo is less terrifying than the prospect of setting up a brand-new system, with all the unknowns that that entails. A general sense of unease towards the future- one that will include the rise of other nations and is unlikely to feature the USA as the sole world power.

    These all feed into one another, and each of them has both pros and cons. What they do mean, though, is that no study of economics or design of economic systems is going to be complete if it doesn’t incorporate these aspects of behaviour and culture.

  23. I’m pretty sure the 9% rate (based on some of the other commenters) is based on the number of people on unemployment/actively looking for jobs, right? So I’m going to agree that the idea that 91% of eligible workers are employed is flawed.

    That said – I’ve been one of the lucky ones. The only way I’ll lose my job is if I completely screw up or if my boss stops producing…so far so good. My husband is looking at a possible promotion shortly which will also cut his commute time (which would be awesome, save that he might end up working nights/Saturdays), and he can’t move toward management without the promotion. I finished grad school, and I’ll probably start actively looking for a new job next year. Right now, we’re paying down debt and putting together a down payment for a house.

    So yeah, we’re definitely lucky.

  24. Overall things have been good. My job has been steady and continued to offer pay increases. Benefits have changes slightly with a increase with out of pocket costs. I really believe the recession forced me to take a harder look at my finances and prompted me to close me credit cards. I’m now paying down debt and spending less.

  25. In the last three years, I’ve graduated from college, gotten an awesome job, been laid of from said job because of the recession, and then found an even awesome-er job. So I think I’ve managed pretty well so far. However, I know a ton of friends that have been struggling since graduation. And I know a lot of family friends who have been struggling as well.

    More people are willing to listen to younger people it seems (just because we are cheaper…)

    Loosing my job was pretty upsetting on a personal level. However, I was unemployed for only a month so it wasn’t too terrible.

  26. I can honestly say that I have benefited due to the recession, and that our situation has greatly improved over the last 2-3 years. Despite the fact that my wife has had over $250,000 in medical care (paid for by insurance – plan ahead people!), we’ve had a baby and been reduced to a one income family, we are still making $30-40,000 more per year than we were before the recession. The reason? I worked hard, started a couple of side businesses, and i’ve had focus to create new income streams. It probably helps that my side businesses are blogs that help people to get their finances in order – which is extremely important during tough times.

    I really think that while some people have been unfortunate and lost jobs or had other tough things happening in their lives – if they try hard they’ll find something new. If not, it may be time to consider pulling up roots and moving, or accepting a position you may have thought was below you before.

    I also think it doesn’t help sometimes when there is an unsure environment in an economy where no one knows what might happen the next year – it creates disincentive for businesses to create new jobs, and when unemployment insurance gets extended to almost 2 years – people don’t feel as rushed to find new work.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head in that last paragraph. I agree “not knowing” what will come is probably the most stressful part. How long will it take to receover, 2 years, 10years, never? And I agree, I’m generally not a fan of super extended unemployment benefits.

  27. I haven’t read any of the comments yet (51 by 11am-nice!) …but I did see your update. No, my first thought was not that this was arrogant, I thought it was another great perspective piece. I loved Humble Pie last week too. Maybe I am an eternal optimist but I like the idea of sharing what is going well during this bleak economic time. Yes, I understand the last several years have been crushing for many, many people…but at the same time, this is where we are and complaining about it or feeling jealous or not letting people feel proud of their successes (either large or small) is not going to help.
    My answers are
    1. In my opinion, we have “fared” great since 2007. We have had 3 amazing kids, my husband is rocking it as the sole bread winner, and we are all healthy.
    2. Bennefitted sounds odd…but we track our spending more closely, are focusing on beefing up the 401, roths, 529s and savings accounts. We also paid off a lingering school loan and my car. Our newfound loathing of loans also helped us focus on funding an account to save up to pay for hubby’s MBA in full (3 more quarters to go!).
    3. How has it hurt? It took over two years to sell our home…as a short sale for half of what we paid. We had both of our credit cards cancelled and are now on a cash only system…which, in the long run I actually think is a blessing:)
    We are very grateful for all that we have and wish everyone the best as America gets back on her feet…hopefully soon!

  28. Congratulations on your success, especially during a recession! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and so i know that you genuinely feel fortunate and blessed. You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments, but it could have very easily gone the other way. I was once you, on top of the world and in control of my life.

    The 9% national unemployment average you speak of, is 19.6% in the county i live in and very similar in surrounding counties. I cannot count on both hands and feet the number of families i have tearfully said good-bye to when they moved out of state either to find work or stay with family while they tried to find work. I have many (hard-working and intelligent) friends and family who are unemployed. Some families are currently living apart as one spouse is working outside the state or country.

    I graduated top of my high school class, graduated college with honors with a bachelor’s degree in 2006. I had a management job with decent pay and decent benefits. Then one day the owner of the business i worked for called and announced he was closing the company – that afternoon. Loooong story short, emergency savings (heck, all of our savings) eventually dried up. I was fortunate to find a job – after 9 long months. It was the only call-back i ever received during my search; I stopped keeping track of how many resume’s i sent out after about 300, it was just too depressing. I accepted the job at 40% of my previous salary and no benefits just so i could bring home a paycheck. I never stopped looking for a better job. I have only had 1 phone and 1 face to face interview in the past 14 months. Neither resulted in an offer. I recently applied for a position in a company where an old friend is the human resources manager. I was too late. The position filled within hours. They received over 1,200 applicants.

    I am VERY blessed to have a wonderful husband. He is self-employed. As expected, sales dropped off and we adjusted as needed. Eventually, however, customers payments started coming in slower and some have stopped paying altogether. A drier than average summer season and trickling payments are spelling disaster. We are late with all of our creditors at the moment and 1 missed payment away from foreclosure.

    Over the past 3 years i have had my share of humble pie as we’ve tumbled from comfortably middle class to searching couch cushions for milk money. We are grateful for our health and love for each other and family and friends. Although we have been at what seems like “rock bottom” for much longer than anticipated, we know it won’t last forever. (hopefully).

    From the other side of the coin, let me share with you that it’s a struggle to think positively when all you think about is money. All day, all night you’re crunching numbers and dates. You try to stay upbeat while you continue to network and submit resume after oft-ignored resume. But when you come home day after day and open the mailbox to a wave of late fees and disconnect notices and walk in the house to an answering machine full of creditor messages, it’s hard to shake that heavy weight off your back. As much as you try to ignore the black cloud following you, it’s still there.

    I’m sharing this story because your story is very similar to mine when i first got married. We were very fortunate to have great families, good jobs, no debt and healthy savings. We were “prepared” in the event of a job loss. It’s very easy to be optimistic when you are sitting on piles of cash.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. Even though I’m in a good position like Ninja, I know so many others are not. The unemployment rate is a joke because it does not tell the whole story of this recession. Many companies are using this recession to slash pay and benefits telling you to be grateful you even have a job. To me this is despicable, however I expect no less from a CEO who’s bonuses tie in to how much money he can “save” the company. As far as government jobs go, it gets even worse. The more I learn about the salaries and benefits of government employees, the more cynical I become. Ignorance is bliss.

      • I feel like a lot of people are pissed at me for being a federal employee. I don’t make the federal employee benefit plans and pay schedules. I’m not who people should vent to about this. It would be like me getting pissed at a bank teller for all the shady stuff the big banks have done.

        • So true, you didn’t set the benefit plans and pay schedules. Didn’t mean to rant. I’m just a tad envious. Heck, I know there are probably people out there who would be jealous of my job. Thank goodness I don’t have a blog. I’ve been a tad bitter about this recession, government, and Wall Street. I feel like all this corruption has hurt our country. Like I said before, ignorance is bliss.

          BTW I know how you hate pessimism but as you get older you will become an “experienced optimist” like myself. I think even Larry commented about how this country has become “angry and nervous.” The TEA party makes me nervous. I heard someone say that the TEA party is just a bunch of Timothy McVeigh’s. Just a lot going on in this country these days…

          • You’re right. It’s a very interesting time politically, economically, and globally. Our country is polarized. Only time will tell if this “season” is short lived or a permanent change.

      • That is exactly what happened to me, and what i see all over my region of the country. There are so many people out of work and desperatley seeking work, that employers are taking advantage of the situation. The starting salaries are ridiculous and benefits greatly reduced, if they are offered at all. And they know they will have a line of people begging for that job.

        Ninja – I don’t think anybody hates you for being a federal employee. Those of us who have not been as fortunate are just slightly envious. We all strive for good paying jobs with good benefits that we enjoy going to everyday. We all strive for an e-fund and healthy 401K. But for those of us in the “9%”? It sucks beyond words scraping yourself up off the bed morning after morning to put on an optimistic, enthusiastic game face and set off for the day looking for work, only to get rejected hundreds of times over. All the while hoping when you get home your car is still in the driveway and the power is still on. Have a little compassion dude. Your fans are hatin on the game, not the player…

  29. Very thought-provoking post! As I read the comments, I remember a saying from a math class from long ago: Statistics apply to everyone in general, but no one in particular.

    My family has done pretty well in the past 3 years. All my kids are in their 20’s and have finished up undergraduate degrees, found fairly decent jobs (with health insurance & benefits), are out on their own, have no debt, etc. While I wouldn’t say they were raised in affluent circumstances, the kids all had everything they needed as they grew up and maybe up to half of what they wanted, which seems to have been a good balance. They were all able to get an excellent education through high school and develop (mostly) good work habits to get scholarships, good grades, on campus jobs, internships, etc. that served them well in college. It sounds like my kids fit more along the lines of Ninja’s & his friends’ experience. I do see examples of other young people their age (including some of my nieces/nephews) who are having a rough time finding career-track jobs.

    The hubs and I, as empty nesters, are in excellent shape, with very solid savings & property, good health, etc. I have a nice little job that I like a lot, and the hubs retired this past January. He will probably find another job or contract back with his old job, but for now, he is having a great year.

    I especially liked Kate’s reflections on various shifting attitudes that are affecting people’s personal economies – attitudes toward risk and debt, attitudes about what is personal responsibility and what is social responsibility, etc. I would also add that technology has caused a huge shift in the world economy, especially cheap computation and instant communication. And just look at how low tech cargo containers have made it a better financial deal to ship items like clothing and shoes from (extremely) cheap labor sites thousands of miles away rather than make those items here.

    I’m basically optimistic that more companies in the US will expand and want to hire more employees in the next year or so. I doubt, however, that it will be spread equally around the country. Education, self-control, and ability to adapt are going to be more important than ever to latching on to a financially secure life.

  30. Wow. Hell of a reaction to your post.

    I personally found nothing objectionable to it, though I can understand how some who are struggling or know people who are struggling might have been upset about it. I’m just not one of them. I can be glad for everyone who has a stable income and whose finances are in good shape. I know and work with plenty of people who aren’t. I have observed that people either stay positive or they don’t. I have also observed that things tend to work out faster for those who stay positive despite all the reasons they might have not to.

    It is a choice. I’ve had the experience of being “down and out” and I chose to remain positive and focus on what I could do to improve my situation. It worked for me and it has worked for many others I know. Things are really bad in some areas of the country. People are really struggling and have to take extreme measures to survive. That does not mean that we shouldn’t celebrate the good fortunes of those who are doing ok. It does not mean we have to bemoan our fates, become pessimistic, or worse get jealous and angry when someone else has it better. Experience has shown me that such attitudes do not help you change the conditions of your life.

  31. I almost got laid off in January 2009. It made me very careful about my spending and i started budgeting and keeping track of money more diligently. This phase has surely made me more watchful.
    Plus for people who could – this has been a good time to buy stocks, get good deals on stuff from electronics to cars to furniture(basically stuff they would still buy anyway and had been saving up for).
    It also helped keep the rent increases manageable in our area ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. I graduated in 2009 and was lucky as hell to find a job; however, I commute an hour to work, and I’m in constant fear that I’m going to be cut (I teach public school) or that I’ll have to wait ten years before I can find a job in a ten minute radius. I don’t want to drive two hours everyday. It gets old. Many of the people I graduated with are STILL looking for employment or they are working minimum wage jobs waiting for things to get better. I have a smart group of friends (and I wrote about my luck finding a job on my blog).

    My husband works in manufacturing. He likes to work with his hands. He has no college degree. The factory where he worked for six years closed down. His brother, mother, and aunt all worked at the same place. Hubs and his brother found employment very quickly after being unemployed at a new factory, and I think it was largely based on their age. My husband’s mother is still unemployed. She’s going to college to learn a trade, but it’s been very difficult for her because she’s been out of school for twenty odd years. Husband’ss aunt is also still unemployed.

    So yes, the recession has hurt my family although my husband and I have remained relatively unscatched. We have had to make sacrifices though.

  33. The recession has barely affected the Midwest/Kansas City. I don’t really know of anyone that lost their jobs. The only thing I’ve noticed is the fact that rent is going down and there aren’t as many job openings (I’m always on the prowl and the postings have been a bit sparse). But other than that, things are good here. I seriously love the Midwest.

  34. I think I understand the thought process behind this post…more of a pep-talk or encouragement for people who are under/unemployed. However I think the delivery (which I understand is hard when writing) came across as a bit much for people who are not in the same position you’re in. Being a young Fed can make you feel on top of the world…been there!

    As for your questions…since 2007 I’ve made over $30K more a year, I’ve been able to do consulting (my own business) when I was not a W2 employee, and we have been able to make a great life for ourselves. However I’ve also been unemployed, rift from a federal job, and laid off from a corporate position during those same 3 years. All this while hubby’s biz became unprofitable and then closed due to the lull in the economy. We’ve also been homeless with 2 small children. Our landlord had to take occupancy of our rental due to his layoff with only 30 days notice to us right after I lost my job . So I’ve been on both sides of this. Very painful but also very blessed.

    I have to say the biggest assumption a lot of people (I don’t think you personally made this assumption but I feel I need to mention for those who have this flawed thinking) make is that unemployed people are loving the benefits they are getting. They are pennies and I can tell you, that was the biggest motivator for me (and many other unemployed people I know) to find employment. However, when you have a family the choice becomes, take the benefits and look for work full time or work at Walmart (if they hire you) making even less working full time. So most people take the benefits and need them to continue until they secure employment.

    It is easy when you are young (and I am only a few years older than you) and without children to take things in stride. My first ever lay off I was not much older than you are now…it was stressful (ego blow more than anything) but it was just me so I moved in with a friend and delt with it.

    Now, as a Mom it means a lot more. Having been homeless with children we had to do a lot of praying to stay motivated. I can fully understand how people fall into a slump and can’t get focused to find another job. We were fortunate that we had savings and could stay in a decent hotel until a new job came along. Not everyone is so fortunate.

  35. I haven’t been able to read all the comments, so forgive me if this was stated earlier, but of the 91% of people employed, the percentage of those jobs that are part-time versus full-time has increased. So the unemployment rate may not seem that bad, but many people who are employed have taken a huge hit in their hours and obviously their salary to boot. So the true impact can’t be shown by just the unemployment rate.

    On another note re: arrogance… I think if some people are taking this post to be arrogant, a large part of this attitude is stemming from jealousy. It’s hard to swallow that a younger guy can accomplish so much (and kudos to you for it!) while others are either barely surviving, living pay cheque to pay cheque, deep in debt or just not as lucky/capable as you to be able to save so much. I think the reason why people don’t get uptight about the net worth posts is because it’s not laid out in a post that is talking about unemployment/the recession, which intentionally or not, compares you to people suffering. I don’t think you had any ill intentions myself although I too am jealous! ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. A day late due to statutory day off with pay yesterday but here’s my responses:
    1. We have fared well in the last 3 years because we started following Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s money mangement plan. If we had not gotten our family’s economy in order we would have been in trouble no matter what the country’s economy looked like.
    2. We prospered by buying our first home (at the age of 49 and 50) in Vancouver, BC, one of the highest priced housing markets in North America.
    3. My husband has had his salary frozen due to cutbacks since 2007. ( I now make more money than he does even though he has 15 years of seniority and I have 2 years of seniority). We are both provincial (think state in the US) employees but my husband is in the union and I’m not.

    I’m amazed at the flurry of negative comments on your post. I only wanted to comment on your Recession To Do LIst. #4 Planning to learn Chinese is like saying you are planning to learn Canadian or American. There are two main languages in all of our countries and in China it’s Mandarin and Cantonese. I would plan to learn Mandarin since it is generally known as the business language, if I were you. Good Luck!

    Cheers from another Canadian.

    • you’re right. I can’t believe I pulled a “learn chinese” move. I always make fun of people when they say they can’t speak mexican too. Ninja FAIL!

  37. I see they got pissed off at you too. when I wrote a post about my friend who supposedly couldn’t find a job and I said that it was her fault I got major backlash. The fact is, not everyone that’s unemployed is out there looking.

  38. Wow @ some of these comments. I understand where you’re coming from, Ninja. I really do. I’ve actually fared A LOT better during the recession. Five years ago, I was newly divorced with a three-year-old and I had to move back home and eat humble pie. Since then, I finished my bachelors’ degree, got a job (not in what I majored in, though), saved some pennies, got another job (so now I’m working two jobs), and I’m saving more pennies. It helps that I have a really awesome family support system that helped me get through my divorce and saved my ass from not being homeless. My jobs aren’t high paying, but they pay the bills and keep me off government assistance.

  39. We’ve done very well…husband went to grad school last year while still teaching, graduated this summer, got a job as a school librarian, and got a 10% pay raise. He’s also way happier.

    Our portfolio took a 36% hit in 2008-2009 but has bounced all the way back since we funnelled in cash after every crash, so we are now up 8% overall.

    I’ve been on a 2 year salary freeze and have just been informed of what amounts to a $500 pay cut, but I know I’m still lucky since I’ve given myself my own 10-15% raise through blogging.

    So, yeah, we have been very lucky during the recession as well. I also feel for everybody who didn’t make it through unscathed. ๐Ÿ™

  40. PD, it’s all perspective. People love an underdog, and that’s just the way it is. I don’t get nasty comments on my Net Worth figures either, but people react in other passive-aggressive ways. *shrug* What can you do? All I’ve done is just limit talking about my money for just one post a month. To me, that’s all I need.. I’m not in debt any more, so I’m not inspirational in that regard.

    How have you fared the last three years?
    Rocky. Up and down. 2008 was good, 2009 was not. 2010 is even better than 2008. Hard to say what 2011 will be like. I’m hoping good.

    How have you prospered during this time?
    At the end of 2010, I should have $140,000 banked in net cash, which makes up for the $30,000 I spent in 2009 living without a contract and gives me some breathing room for my EF and future plans to leave and find a job in the States.

    How have you been hurt?
    Not working in 2009 was particularly nasty. Lots of free, bored time, I went on a vacation but kept worrying about each penny, and if I would get another contract before 2011.

    Was very lucky in that regard. Things bounced back quicker than I had expected. Very grateful.

  41. I just started reading this blog and will probably not return. This seems to be aimed mostly towards a younger audience and as anyone who has 50+ years will tell…I was where you were once. It is easier to see things as simplistic when you are young but with age comes wisdom and experience. You start needing medications and have chronic helath concerns, it is not easy to find a job, loyalty is not a valuable commodity in the work force and you understand how to be humble.

    There are 5 of us that are friends. Of those 5 households at least one of us has lost our jobs. We are in our early 50’s to early 60’s with vast experience and can not find jobs. We all had high hopes and were sure that out connections and networks would bouy us to equal or better positions. We had years of dollar cost averaging into retirement accounts, we had high equity in our homes, we had nice furnishings, we had great emergency savings, we had educations. You notice I say had! Of the 5 households only 1 person of the 7 that lost jobs was able to collect unemployment. There is such a thing as owning your own business and there is no unemployment for that. There is such a thing as being forced to resign which negates your ability to collect unemplyment, there is such a thing as still losing 50% or more of decades of savings in the stock market, there is loss of equity in a house, selling furnishings and treasures for pennies on the dollar (a new $1000 sofa brings about $100 at a yard sale), medical conditions that eat up savings in weeks and more situations that I haven’t even mentioned.

    9+% is not the real number. It is more like 17% counting the people who are not eligible for unemployment because they were self employed, forced to resign or their unemployment ran out and they have not found a job. Thousands have found work making only a fraction of what they previously made and will never be able to get back to the same level again. Retirement is looming with little time to recover our losses. The needs of a person 50+ years or more are different then someone younger. We have lived on Ramen noodles in the past and can in the future if need be but, do you want your father or mother eating a high sodium diet when they have high blood pressure and only have enough money for pills 15 days of the week? In a couple of decades I hope you copy this post and look back to see if you still have the same attitude. You will see that between you, your family and friends some of you will all face these same issues and I wonder if you would make the same comments to them or have grown a little in wisdom and experience to know that some comments no matter how truthful they seem are not really helpful or true.

  42. I just found this quote and thought of this post and thought I’d share –
    “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.โ€ Harry S. Truman
    How very true!

  43. Hey Ninja – this was a good post; it got everyone thinking. BTW I love your blog – its funny, has good information and is semi-educational at the same time.

    For me the past few years have been all over the place. I got my first FT job summer of 2007, a pay raise and promotion in 2008 and more responsibility in 2009. Things were going great for me. I started thinking about my finances and decided to move to a cheaper apartment, learned how to cook to stop eating out and started to budget my entertainment. I started to save and I was invested in my jobs 401k plan.

    I’m very glad I did so because 2010 has been a rocky year for me. I started taking evening classes to continue my education. Things were not going so well at my job by that point (I suck at office politics and I don’t kiss a** very well) and I lost my job at the beginning of the month.

    To be honest losing the job hurt but I’ll be able to make it especially since I’m eligible for unemployment. I’m not looking for anything FT right now and I’m focusing on my school work and side hustles for extra $$$. Luckily, its just me so I’m comfortable with that choice.

  44. When I graduated from high school, the unemployment rates were double digits (thanks so much NERB) and my province really didn’t recover for 10 YEARS from that “recession”.

    A bumper sticker came out afterwards and read:

    “Please lord, send us another boom, we promise not to piss it away next time.”

    That’s been my motto all these years. I don’t take good times for granted. I’m just happy it happened to me at 17 and not today. It’s easy to live with a ton of friends and eat crap every day when you’re 18 years old and go to the bar with $5 and come home with $2. Not so much when you’re older. And it’s definitely not easy to do when you can’t find a job and live off of $150 bucks a month with a kid to raise. Although it’s a great way to lose weight.

    Perhaps some can take solace in the fact that you don’t make a heck of a lot and never will being in the public sector.

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