What was it like in the good ol days?

October 6, 2011 · 46 comments

I graduated college in May 2007. In November of that same year, I got my current job with Uncle Sam. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession began one month later, December 2007. This means that my entire adult life has taken place during a really crappy time to try and do things. Jobs are sparse, creditors are cracking down, people actually have to be able to afford a home before they qualify for a mortgage, and the stock market is, well you know, about as stable as Charlie Sheen is sober.

When the recession is all I’ve ever known, it’s hard for me to truly understand how things have changed. Were people having jobs thrown at them? Could people really buy a house that was twice what they could actually afford? Were people’s investment portfolios making insane returns year after year? Apparently, the answer to each of those questions is “YES!”

Personally, and I don’t mean to make this sound like I’m bragging ’cause I’m really not, the Ninja household has been fortunate to not only survive during the recession, but thrive in it. In 2007, I was an unemployed college graduate with a few thousand dollars in savings and $28,000 in student loan obligations. Over the last four years, I’ve been promoted a handful of times, started this blog (which brings in $10,000-ish a year), gotten married (to a working woman), and managed to stash some serious cash in both our retirement plans and savings accounts. A lot of hard work, and definitely some dumb luck, have helped us continue moving forward

That said, we know our story is not necessarily typical. I obviously have zero real world knowledge prior to 2007, and am aware not everyone is as fortunate as we have been.

I thought it would be interesting to hear from those of you who are 28 years or older. You all experienced the “boom” and the “bust”. I want to hear your perspective on how things have changed. What was it like in the good ol days (2003 to 2007)? Did you buy a home you shouldn’t have been approved for? Could you get a new job at the snap of a finger? Have you been directly impacted by the recession in any way? I’d love some insight from people who experienced this firsthand.

For my younger readers (let’s say 27 or less), what’s your experience been with the recession? Do you feel like life is more difficult than it should be? Or since this is all you’ve ever known have you learned to roll with the punches and make it work?

p.s. like my blog on facebook…NOW!

1 Kristin

I am 24, and graduated in May 2009. The whole, “the financial world is falling” thing was happening when I was trying to apply to jobs and graduate schools in the fall semester of my senior year. I wasn’t offered funding anywhere for graduate schools that I was accepted at (for a technical MS or PhD), so I felt more school wasn’t an option.

I accepted my only job offer from a company close to home, without negotiating a salary (yeah, I was a young Padawan, I know better now!). I lived with my parents for the first year, even though it was a 90 mile round trip commute in awful traffic. I made the most of my opportunities, and things worked out well, and the commute was so wearing on me that I moved out a year later to live with roommates in a rented place. But I think the recession has made me very risk-adverse, moreso than I would have been otherwise. I might have taken out loans for grad school, held out for more job offers from different places around the country, negotiated more for salary, been willing to move out on my own immediately, bought a new car, skibummed for a winter season, or find a really nice place to live closer to the city. My 401k and IRA portfolios are still very conservatively invested, because the volatility of the market makes me anxious. I’ve put off luxury purchases indefinitely in favor of saving for a large house down payment, retirement, and a safety net. I saw several rounds of layoffs at my company, and of people who were doing their jobs well but there was just no more available work to do. I feel like I have very little margin for error, even though I’ve made smart choices that have played out well, and in reality I’m fortunate to be in a good position.

I could rant about the effects of the economic conditions on my cohort, but as my fellow PDITF readers are quite well informed and knowledgeable, I’ll refrain. I just hope we can learn from the mistakes of our parents, older siblings and friends, and make smart decisions and carefully considered risks in the changing world we now face.

2 Ninja

Wow, super thoughtful post. Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you found a strategy (avoiding risk) that works for you and makes your comfortable. That’s what PF is all about, doing things that make sense for you. It’s an interesting time for sure and am excited to see what others have to say!

3 Rachael

I graduated from college in May of 2010. Going in to college I totally thought I would have my pick of jobs. I remember talking to the senior nursing students as a sophomore starting clinicals and most of them had their pick of jobs with sign on bonuses. Unfortunately, nursing is not as recession proof as many people would like to believe. I did end up finding a job about 6 months following graduation. Thankfully, my parents were more more than happy to allow me to move back for that time period and I went back to my summer job for a while.

Even though I definitely didn’t get my “dream” job right away, I think everything ended up for the best for me. I love where I am at and get to care for a variety of patients. Honestly, looking back to last summer/fall I am even glad I had that down time between college and finding a job. It gave me the freedom to do somethings that I won’t have otherwise.

As far as on the money side, I have always been a fairly frugal person. Money was always tight growing up plus I feel like I have always been a freakishly responsible person so recession or not I would probably have been the saver I am now.

4 Some Guy

I graduated college in the Fall of 2008 and was also applying for jobs during the “the sky is falling and Wall Street is going to explode” days. I would say my story is not a typical one but I ended up sending out 4 resumes, got 4 interviews, and 4 job offers. Two of the companies even started a bidding war with eachother which made me feel like two girls were fighting over me :-)

The one thing I’ve learned through the recession is to make sure you target employers that are looking for your specific skillset rather than using the shotgun approach for sending out resumes. I’ve had friends send out 100s to 1000s of resumes with no luck, but they seem to be sending them out blindly.

But I agree with Kristin about being more risk averse, but now I’m the most risk averse to home ownership. It’s a bit scary to think that 50-80% of some people’s net worth could be destroyed by a small fire. I think that could cross my ‘sleep at night’ threshold.

5 Krista

I am 28 and graduated in 2005. No one was worried about getting a job after graduation, and everyone I knew had an offer after graduation. I had 3 offers myself; that was just the norm. Two years later I moved and found a new job easily. I’ve been fortunate to keep my job since then, but I’ve seen friends and family laid off. The guy who replaced me at my first job after I left was laid off shortly after- that could have very well been me.
However, I am not risk averse at all. I am still invested very aggressively, and I know that my accounts will all recover.

6 JP

24 here, graduated in April 2009. I had an internship paying $16/hour through my senior year, which I kept for the first 6 months after school and lived on my own. Found a “real” job after about 6 months of searching. I’ve changed jobs twice since then, both were easy to find. I get at least a half dozen calls/emails from recruiters every week.

So yes, I can still get a new job at the drop of a hat, even in this “recession.” :-)

7 spork

28 here, graduated spring 2005. I got a job as a psychology major (a real one, with benefits and an adult paycheck) and even considered buying a house that would have been 3x my salary. It was fun to watch my 401k and investments consistently rise. I chose to go back to grad school in 07 and got to watch the economy crash. I watched my 401k crash to half of it’s value and was very glad I pulled most of my investments when I did to pay for grad school. Prior years, 100% of those graduating from my MBA program would have had job offers and most would have had multiple ones. Our year, most people were happy to have one and very few had multiple ones.

My sister graduated during the tech bust and had issues with getting a job then too.

8 Tiffany

Hmm…interesting post. I graduated with my first degree in 2003 and found a job in a major metropolitan city before I graduated. That didn’t work out so well (it was a good old boys financial atmosphere and I couldn’t stomach being asked to make everyone’s tea) so I left and had another job within two weeks. I took a few years to move around the country and had a good job within three weeks everywhere I went.

When I returned to nursing school in 2007 it was fairly easy to obtain federal loans. I know people in the years below me were struggling with this. I graduated in 2009, and jobs were VERY sparse. I found a job before graduation but had friends that were working as CNAs/nannys/waitresses for 6-12 months before they found a position.

I learned one month ago that I will be laid off on 10/31. I hit the job search hard and ended up with three great offers for jobs that I would really enjoy within four weeks of beginning my search.
I learned that the key to this recession is knowing your skills and your experience and targeting your job hunt to employers that will find you desirable. Otherwise you’ll just be another resume in the “delete” box.

The recession has made me very aware of my money and its management. We have capitalized (I hope) on the recession by buying a wonderful house on a great piece of property for a low price with a lot interest rate. We’re being very frugal and working to build our savings and retirement portfolios. Our next plan is to venture into the world of stocks while prices are so low.

Honestly, the layoff scared my socks off. It’s one of those things you think will never happen to you. It taught me that I am not immune from financial disaster, and we need to do everything we can, while we can, to cover our financial butts!

The recession has also taught me the importance of helping others. I am lucky. I was born into a good family that encouraged education and marketable skills. I had help paying for college. I have a financially stable husband. There are many people in this country who are really struggling, and the recession is hitting them VERY hard. When I look at our house and our savings and the unemployment rate, I know that we need to help others who aren’t as fortunate as us.

9 Mo D.

Geez, I’m feeling oooooold!! I’m 44 (born in ’67, graduated High School in ’85, and community college in ’89)… and yes, I wore a blue taffeta dress and fingerless white lace gloves to my HS prom!

Up until my early 30’s, I got just about every single job I applied for, be it waitressing, retail, even office jobs where I didn’t meet all the criteria (never worked in Accounting, but landed an A/P A/R clerk job because my then-supervisor got a good vibe from me). I’ve been fortunate, and because I’m fluently bilingual in English and French & a hard worker (most jobs were landed because of my language skills, so I had a bit of an edge over the competition). I’ve been with the same company for over 7 yrs as a Senior Cust. Serv. Rep. (one of two bilingual ppl on the phones), but if something were to happen and I lost my job, I think it would be REALLY difficult to find a similar position, making similar pay + all the benefits (RSP contributions, Pension, Health Benefits, etc). There’d be ALOT of competition out there, and I feel the chance of someone younger getting the job because they would start at a lower salary would be a definite possibility.

10 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

I graduated college in 2008. At that time, I knew the job market was kinda tough because some of my classmates weren’t getting jobs… the ones that weren’t trying very hard or were holding out for something perfect or majored in something stupid.

This world is no harder than I expected it to be. It’s the people who thought it was going to be easy as a store bought pie that are struggling.

11 Diana

I graduated in April 2008 with FIVE job offers. Diana > Recession.

12 Rachel

I graduated college in 2009 and it took two weeks of full-time job searching to land the position I still have today (I am 24). It is a tough economy right now, but I still feel like as long as you give it your all, there are jobs out there to be had and there are always opportunities to improve your financial situation, regardless of a recession.

13 Daisy

Im still in college working toward my Business degree. I have 10 months left. I’m Canadian, so we haven’t had even close to the recession that the US has had, but jobs have been a little more sparse.

I got my diploma last year and before, I knew of many students that were able to get decent jobs with thier diploma and work toward their degrees while getting some work experience. It’s not that way anymore. Now, I hear people say “A degree is just expected – it’s equivalent to a high school diploma”. The job market is tough even for the educated people.I’ve heard of many people not getting a job for 2 years of active searching when they graduate, depending on their degree.

So I’ve never known anything but this, but I’ve heard a lot about before.

14 Jeff @ Sustainable life blog

I graduated undergrad at the same time as you from undergrad ninja, and had gotten a handful of interviews, but I decided to go to grad school. I finished in 09, when the markets were in freefall. I had to work MUCH Harder in 09 to get interviews than I did in 07, even with a higher degree that had a terminus job (much like accounting degree=accountant).
After about 2 months of unemployment and finishing up my grad school job, I finally found a job, then was able to switch about 18 months later to a better paying position. I’ve worked hard, but been fortunate as well.
I started paying down debt at 35k, added another 20k when my car shot craps, for a top level of 55k. I’m down below 30k now, less than 2 years later. I’ve also got about 10k in savings.

15 tom

Graduated in 2005, engineering degree, with a couple offers.

I took one and have been with that company ever since. I’ve moved around within the company holding 4 different jobs. Each time I’ve received generous raises and promotions, however I’ve been working my ass off and lobbying for them as well. I’m a strong believer in marketing yourself to your management chain and always asking how can I improve and what can I help with. Not trying to be boastful, just stating facts.

The biggest contributor to my success thus far is my choice of degree. Engineering has and will continue to have many job prospects. If you can graduate from a top engineering school, with good internships, and a good GPA, you are guaranteed interviews. It’s up to you to ace the interviews, but you will get them.

As for my retirement. That is the one place that I’ve been hit in the recession. I’m not too worried about it, I have 40 years, and if i lose it all, I’ll just take social security!

16 Larry

Are you the same “tom” who called SS “an unsustainable and antiquated system” over at Kevin’s blog?

17 Jen

I too graduated in May 2008 (with an engineering degree). I started looking for jobs in February. We moved across the country in August with no jobs lined up, and after dozens of applications or cover letters + resumes, I had two interviews about a week after Lehman Brothers took a dump on the economy. They both hired me immediately (part time). Eventually one of them wanted me to come on full time, so I quit the other (and convinced the full-time company to give me a raise), and have been happily employed with that company ever since! I was very fortunate – that small company merged with a large company and since then I’ve transferred back across the country so we can be closer to family. Benefits, nice salary, lots of great projects.

So perhaps finding a job in the recession has made me more risk averse, in that I like to have a large financial cushion even if I also have debt. But it hasn’t made me so risk averse that I avoid all risk, like owning stocks, or moving across the country on one income (or none!). Part of that comes from my husband’s experiences – he’s not as career-focused as I am, instead he’s been doing miscellaneous jobs. He never has any trouble finding work – taxi driver, delivery driver, banquet server, working in an office, maintaining foreclosed homes, janitor, groundskeeper – you name it, he’s done it. It serves as proof that there are definitely jobs out there, whether you choose to make money doing something many people think is “beneath them” is a different story.

18 Emily

My life in a nutshell:
Graduated in 1999. Had approx. 10K on credit card (put all of my expenses for my last quarter on Visa – other sources of revenue were exhausted. Zero student loans). I had a job waiting for me at graduation, but when I got there I realized it was not the path I wanted to follow. After a couple months of searching, I started as a dishwasher in a rather nice restaurant (minimum wage). Worked there for about 3 months before I found a better job in social work (slightly better than minimum wage). Work there for about two years before I was hired to my current position (double minimum wage) where I have been for 10 years. I was fortunate enough to rent from my parents until 2004 during which time I paid off the credit card and saved about 20K for home purchase. In 2004 I purchased my home on my income only (approx. 4x my annual salary) for zero out of pocket costs. The loans were an 80/20 split. I immediately took on two tenants (my younger brother and fiance) which allowed me to maintain my lifestyle at the time. Since then my brother has moved out, I was married and have refinanced the loans to one loan (again, no out of pocket costs). The refinance was in 2009. I wouldn’t say I was flourishing but I have been holding.

19 Kathy

Guess I’m one of the old farts! I’m 41, got engineering degree in 1994 in Canada. Took 2 years to find work in my field in my home town — hubby found work (not in his “degree” field, so we decided not to move…..it was cheap to live in the prairies back then on one salary). Worked until kiddo came along….then back to (and still on) 1 family income. We could have moved to Alberta or BC to find work in our fields (like the 95% of the other engineers we graduated with), but we made to decision to stay put (SK is a great place to raise a family….although now getting more expensive…).

I remember my older brother and sister looking for work in the late 1980’s…..years of looking. My brother moved trying to find work….took 5? years before he landed his first engineering job. (He’s now in the US, actually became a US citizen, and has fielded calls from head-hunters for the last 10 years offering him work — I’m amazed by that, given the economy). My sister has education degree…..was always the second choice in interviews….went to Quebec emersion course to pick up French then finally got work…..that was 4 years after her degree.

So for me, seeing the frustration of trying and failing to find work isn’t new. ‘Cause I’m old!!

20 Mo D.

(((HIGH FIVE KATHY)))… from one old Canadian fart to another… got you beat by 3 years! ;-)

21 Ninja

I seriously have no idea why I have so many Canadian readers? I guess people up north just have a better sense of humor than my fellow Americans :)

22 MW

I’m 24 and I graduated in 2010, so the recession is all I’ve ever known. I don’t know if this has really changed, but I find that young people, the people who came into the working world in the recession, are consistently being asked to do more, but their work is being severely undervalued. In a lot of industries, the unpaid internship is the norm, or a “starting salary” of barely more than minimum wage, but there’s almost this idea that we should be grateful for even that, because we’re young, and it’s a tough job market. Like the skills we have don’t even matter, and companies pay us way less, because they know we’re saddled with student loans and thus, they can get away with it. I always hear about how lazy the youth of today are, but every twentysomething I know is a complete workaholic and makes less money than a waiter.

23 StackingCash

Whoa! This applies to all of the working class, age regardless. When you have a big supply of workers, the demand for higher salaries is diminished. I totally know where you are comming from, the CEO’s demand more productivity from their workers which justifies layoffs and a big bonus for saving the company money :/ Generic summary, I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying.

24 Lizzie

I graduated college in 2004. I remember that while jobs weren’t falling into my lap, it was a lot easier then than it is now. I managed to find one within two months of graduating and fairly easily found another one with the state government in 2006, where I’ve been ever since. I recently earned my MS degree and I’m having difficulty finding full-time work in my field. I’ve been lucky enough to land a part-time/on-call position in my dream career in addition to my full time job though, so I’m hoping it leads to better prospects in the future.

I’m not a home owner, but when I graduated college, my available credit line was over $20,000. Keep in mind, my yearly income from being a student assistant at the university was probably around $6,000. Offers for new cards came in the mail almost every. single. day. It’s been years since I’ve had an offer in the mail and I’m struggling now because of financial mistakes I made in my early post-college years (all my own fault, of course. Nobody made me spend money I didn’t have.)

I’m aiming to be 100% debt free (student loans that total nearly 50k, car loan and credit cards) in four years and have a healthy e-fund and retirement savings in 5 or 6. It’s been a tough lesson to learn, but I suppose I’m glad that I’m learing the hard way at an early age (well, 29 isn’t young, but better now than in my 40s or 50s.) The economy is different now than it was then, but I’m pretty sure my former spending habits would have caught up to me regardless.

25 Julie

Lotta young readers here! I’m slightly older–graduated college in 2002. We forget about it, but there was a recession then too, although it was a much smaller one. I got long-term temp job doing clerical work at the headquarters of a grocery chain. Many of the temps go on to get hired full-time, but they company had a hiring freeze because of the recession, so I just had to stick it out in a crap job with no bennies. After two years the economy improved and I went to grad school to study counseling. Graduated from grad school in 2008 and my career and income have been improving steadily, albeit modestly, in the face of the recession. Luckily for me health care and specifically counseling are stable and growing industries so I have good job security, even though I was just doing it to follow my heart. I feel bad for all the college grads that entered the workforce in the middle of this huge recession though…but it seems most of the readership here has been doing fairly well. (Then again you may not be interested in punching debt in the face if you don’t have a job.)

26 Larry

As a high school graduate in 1966, I was absolutely convinced that I was destined to become a major composer, and I was accepted to study at two of the major conservatories (Oberlin and Eastman). A semester at Oberlin was enough to convince me I had made a disastrously wrong choice, and I returned closer to home to get a B.A. and M.A. in English from the State University at Stony Brook. Not having the vaguest idea how to earn a living at that point, I stayed in school and eventually earned my Ph.D. in English from Rutgers in 1977. By this time I had worked only at a few summer jobs and as a teaching assistant for a few sections of freshman English at Rutgers – which was just enough to meet expenses, as my very generous parents had paid for most of my schooling, and I paid off my small student loans within just a couple of years.

Like most pitifully naive grad students in my department, I assumed I could just walk into a nice college teaching post after graduation and my financial future would be assured. I was actually surprised at the few friends of mine who had even contemplated working outside the university. But the job market for Ph.D.’s in English was highly saturated at that time, and it took me a couple of years to finally land a full-time teaching job at a small college I’d rather not name. Unfortunately, my department was a highly fractious one where if one group liked you, another would assuredly not, and I eventually lost a closely split tenure decision in 1985.

At that point I was 36 and had to choose whether to stay in academia or try for my first job in the real world. Fortunately my ability to write and knowledge of computers led me fairly easily to my first job as a technical writer for a company specializing in accounting software. I stayed there for close to three years, after which we were acquired by a large corporation where I stayed for two years before being (I think unjustly) fired in 1991. This was the only time in my life I’ve ever been out of work, and though I don’t wish that experience on anyone, it’s possibly something anyone should go through (you know who you are) who’s inclined to sneer at the unemployed for being lazy or unable to hold a job. Almost six months to the day after losing my job, I was hired by the AICPA in New York to design training courses for CPA’s.

But after two years I was getting tired of the commute and I found a tech writing job much closer to home. I have been with this company since 1993, earn a decent living, and am relatively content. I’ve considered leaving from time to time, but by age 63 there’s no chance I could ever find a comparable position elsewhere, and here’s where I plan to stay until I retire in 2-3 years.

Since I got a late start in business (and since I’m still a latent academic with a temperamental aversion to much about the business world), I have been financially less successful than some of the young people here. Even so, I have very little debt, a mortgage that’s nearly paid off, and a decent if not humongous retirement balance. Other than some heatlh issues, I have no real complaints.

27 StackingCash

Awesome Larry, thanks for sharing that with us. Hopefully you will be one of those guest posters Ninja was looking for. I feel like I’m on a similar track moneywise, I’ve struggled with mediocre income for most of my life but can finally say that I’m on track to be able to retire at 67 even though it’s 28 years from now. Even with our ultra-conservative investment, a savings account, we are lucky to finally spend much less than we earn being DINKS. Although one kid might be nice to have :)

28 cashflowmantra

There are lots of young readers here and only a few more experienced who could comment on the old days. I am 43, went through school and have been working same place ever since.

I notice a big difference in the amount of hope. I remember the tech bubble when it felt like investing in the stock market would lead to early retirement for everyone. I remember the E*Trade commercial with the guy having money coming out his wazoo. I remember IPOs that popped 100-300% in the first day of trading and the Pets.com sock puppet. That is what it felt like. Now it is all about frugality and debt payment. I sense a general despair in the population at large. I am doing OK myself, but am looking to pay off some debt, too.

The pendulum has swung too far in both directions now. It will be nice when it gets back to a middle ground.

29 Mary M

Funny thing. I graduated in 1990 ( another old fart) and there was a recession then too. Last yr I took a severance pkg when my job of 10 yrs closed my physical office and I didn’t want to work from home. I got another job in a different field within 2 weeks and I’m making more now than I did at my previous job.

30 K

I dont normally post, but this is a really interesting topic! Ninja, Im with you, I graduated (grad school) in 2009. I was super lucky to get a job in govt contracting based off connections I had made as a (paid) intern. At the time, it all felt normal, and strangely enough I got rejected from NUMEROUS unpaid internships before I found one that paid me incredibly well. Of course, as an intern I worked 12 hour days and that continued once I found a job for the first 2 years, and now Im at a slightly more normal 8-10 hour work day. Love what I do, and feel I’m super lucky, though I know many of my peers have not had it so easy.

But when it comes to paying off items and investments, I feel like i’m light years apart from my co workers. They laugh at me because I don’t have cable, only have a basic phone that calls and texts, and plan on driving my poor 2003 honda civic till it dies. I think spending habits are really what differences the “recession” era from the previous, but Im with the crowd that thinks an e fund and a 401k are sexier than a Mercedes!

31 Jamie

Yay, I’m so excited that I get to fall into the “older” crowd! I graduated from college in 2003, and at that time there was a phenomenon of depression in the first year post-college amongst nearly all college graduates. The depression came from the fact that after four years of living the good life and studying hard to get that awesome job fresh out of college, graduates instead found themselves getting unwanted freelance jobs, working in coffee shops, moving back in with mom and dad.

One amazingly awesome revolution that was happening at that time was the sudden ability to move abroad and teach English. I love that young people are still taking advantage of this, because prior to 2000 is was an incredible challenge to just up and go to Europe for a year, unless you wanted to sleep on benches and hitchhike. When I graduated college, the rest of the world was hungry for young, educated, English-speaking individuals to travel to exotic places, be put up in a nice flat and paid a decent salary (ok, not that decent… but worth it for the experience!).

Immediately after graduating college, I took off for Prague and taught English for a while, then returned to the US expecting that teaching jobs would be lined up and waiting for me (not that I’d applied to any). Instead, I found myself couch-surfing for six months while picking up odd jobs in my home town, and drinking a considerable amount while watching late-night reruns of Felicity. Eventually I moved back to my college town and started working in my favorite coffee shop. Then I started working as a tutor. Then I started working in a cookie kitchen. Jobs were everywhere, and my biggest problem was finding enough time for them all!

I think the biggest difference between then and now is that then it was hard to find a job that matched your skill-set. My best friend, a certified EMT, was working in a wine bar. Another friend had a degree in Psychology and worked at the coffee shop with me. Now, however, it’s hard to find a job, period. Back then you could get something crappy while you looked for something less crappy, and continue to upgrade until you found a job that you enjoyed. Now, it can take months just to find the first crappy job, and upgrading takes much longer…

32 Lola

I am 40 but did not get my B.A. until 2002. Never was able to find a job in my field but fell into a state government job with good pay and benefits. The recession really woke me up to my financial situation (too much debt, no savings, and a real possiblility of layoffs). It all came to a head the day I went to the credit union on my lunch hour to sign the papers for a car loan and then came back to work to an email that said my salary would be reduced 6%. Since then it has been several years of pay-cuts, reduced benefits which I pay twice as much for, and mandatory furloughs. I now take home the amount I made 5 years (and two promotions) ago. The unemployment rate in my area has hovered around 13% for the past few years and so although I would like a different job, I have not had any luck finding one. I have had one interview in the 2 years I have been seriously looking for a different job. I used to change jobs frequently and was always able to land something within a few weeks. Still, I count mysef lucky because at least I have a job (albeit with reduced income) and because I have gotten my financial act together and for the first time am living within my means.

33 krantcents

As someone who is much older (turning 65 next month) and in the twilight of my 7th career, I feel things are nearly wonderful. I have 5+ years until retirement (2nd time) and love my career. I achieved financial freedom when I was 38 years old and have done everything I ever wanted to do. I am not done though, I started my 8th career blogging last year and we’ll see where that takes me. There is alot I still want to accomplish and probably will because of good health and genes.

34 SP

I graduated in May 2006. I had a job offer (that I was really happy with) the previous august, a full 9 months in advance. Instead of interviewing, I spent my last semester on study abroad, knowing my job was waiting for me the whole time. Everyone I knew got jobs. There was a lull in my industry in the early 2000s, but it was boom time. Everyone was hiring like mad, and new grads were being offered salaries that were sometimes slightly more than people who had been there a year or 2. Lots of my friends bought homes right away out of college. This was more a midwest thing though – homes are much cheaper there.

I moved to Cali in early 2008 – just as the recession was starting, but before anyone really knew what we were facing. I was lucky – had I tried to move even 6 months later it would have been much harder. I got two job offers, both paying moving expenses for me to come out. Once hired, I joined a recruiting team and we had a goal of hiring some large number of new grads for our department. 60? 100? Not sure. Suddenly, the recruiting team was shut down and the goal was zero. There were layoffs within my first 6 months, then again the following year, and a smaller number again the following year.

Benefits have been cut, promotions have been stalled, and we’ve all been asked to step up and work with a smaller team. I could probably get another job in my field if I tried, but it is not for sure.

35 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

I graduate in 2008, gone were the days of signing bonus and job security. I worked hard and lucked out. But some of my friends are still struggling to find jobs they love and pay bills, move out from their parent’s houses, and pay off student loads. Definitely count myself as blessed.

36 Kyle

Browsing through these comments I see that I’m in a minority. I dropped out of college after 1 year and started working in a factory. I’ll be 28 in December. The recession has had an obvious effect on the industry I work in. Sales are down and the workload is lower. However the company I work for hasn’t had any lay offs in over 12 years. We’ve lucked out there. I’m as confident about my job as I ever have been.

37 eemusings

I’m 23. For us, the recession was a bitch. My fiance’s hours were cut back and eventually he was laid off. That was in my final year of university – it was an extremely stressful time.

I was lucky in that I had a part time job in the industry which turned into a full time one, and I’m now in my second job, which came about through contacts. I initially was approached about it nearly a year ago, but it didn’t pan out until very recently…thanks of course to the GFC. For many grads, I think securing that first position is the hardest step.

In my time in the workforce I’ve already seen more layoffs than I’d ever like to, but I suppose that’s how the world works.

38 StackingCash

Wish I could write a good post right now but I’m exhausted right now. But being a Gen Xer I would like to answer some of your questions. Experienced two booms and busts, no-money-making-dot-com’s and fraudulent loans. Got hosed really bad in the dot com bust. Then the housing boom came, EVERYONE was buying multiple mansions in Las Vegas and flipping them, I almost got into the game, but alot of fear and a little common sense kept me out. Graduated HS in 1990 and went to college off and on for a few years but in Las Vegas, you really had to know someone to get a decent job. Education is a joke here. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

This recession had an odd effect on my job. Thankfully I have seniority and layoffs went by that. It thinned out my then overstaffed department which meant that I got a bigger piece of the tip pool. Granted I work harder but not having to share the tips with so many others helps alot.

39 ryanoguy

I’ve enjoyed reading all the different perspectives across the age spectrum here in the comments!

Ninja, I graduated the same year as you. I remember freaking out the months before graduation because I had this crazy sense that I wouldn’t be able to find a job! I planned to do an internship/volunteer work overseas 6 months after graduation as a result to see if international community development was something I could do or not. In the inbetween time, I took a job doing security which wasn’t ideal but I had no lapse between graduating and having work. I worked my butt off all through college and so paid off my $10,000+ in loans before graduation (I was extremely bothered by seeing them rapidly increase as I wasn’t blessed enough to get subsidized loans). This freed me up to do the volunteer work without having to worry about paying bills.

When I returned to the US, I found myself in the same dilemma, there is no work out there. I returned to my old job because I was freaked out. So, I wasn’t making much money at all but I was living real frugally and they actually matched my retirement contributions which was nice. I did that for a year and found a job in the social work field which was a pay upgrade, but still made very little money! Did that for 2 years and now I am in graduate school, set to be done in 2013, who knows what the world will be like then??

I think as I reflect on this, the recession caused me to take the first job I could find every time I found myself in the midst of transition. It made me afraid of risk. I was only willing to do things if I could find a job first. I wish I could have been more selective but am thankful that I haven’t had a time of unemployment yet as I have seen so many searching for jobs to no success.

40 Erica

I guess I was lucky in the sense that the recession did not really affect me in being able to obtain a job. After I graduated from my Post Secondary Education I was able to land a summer job (not in my career field) making some pretty good cash. While I was working the summer job I was able to land a full time job (within my field) for September making ever more cash. I stuck that job out for a few months and when the commute started to be to much of a pain in the butt I looked for a job closer to home and pretty much nailed the perfect job for me. It’s in my field, close to home and I love the people I work with. Then again, I’m in Canada, and I don’t think I know anyone that the recession really affected.

41 LaTisha

I graduated into the recession on May 2010. I didn’t get my first full time job until April 2011. So yes, I felt the recession pretty badly. But I’ve always found a way to make more money. And that’ sone of the reasons I started my blog. I kinda gave up on getting a job in the financial industry and decided to start my own business instead, one with low overhead and me as the boss.
I’m still a boss (like Rick Ross), but now I have another boss :)

42 Anonymous

I am 35 and graduated college in 1998. Within just a few months I had 3 offers, each one better than the last (and I was an English major, for goodness’ sake). In January 2001 I took a great-paying job in another city, and then September 11 happened (did this affect anyone else, career-wise, of age?). Lots of companies tanked, including mine, and although I made it through the first few rounds of layoffs, in October 2002, the axe fell on me. Most terrifying few months of my life but I did find another job (albeit at 5K less salary than before). I’m still here, unwillingly, 9 years later. I feel that being laid off, honestly, took away a lot of my youthful, anything-can-happen ambition and drive. I think I learned at too young of an age that if you work for a corporation, you are nothing but a number. I still have dreams I want to fulfill but it killed my innocence, that’s for sure. Maybe the younger folks won’t go through the period of job naivete that I did and will be the better for it.

43 Angela

The recession has been an absolutely life altering, eye opening event for me… and it has been the best thing to ever happen to me. In 2007, I decided to leave my job and go back to school full time to earn my MBA. I entered the program in 2008 after the crash and graduated one year later in 2009 at the age of 29. Because of the timing, I knew I was going to have a terribly difficult time finding a job when I graduated. The fear and anxiety that this caused led me to completely reevaluate my relationship with money.

I had never allowed myself to rack up consumer debt, but I had never really saved anything either. With the exception of my 401(k) contributions, I spent everything I earned. I was quite materialistic and bought way too many shoes and clothes. While in grad school, the seriousness of the economic situation forced me to realize that this was not a sustainable or satisfying way to live. I also realized that I was having a wonderful time with my new friends even though we hardly spent any money. As it turns out, shoes are NOT the source of true happiness. Rather, it is great experiences with great people that provide true happiness.

Fortunately, my old company wanted me to come back to work for them on a year-long project after I graduated. It was disappointing not to have a pile of lucrative job offers that graduating MBAs have had in better economic times, but I was much luckier than many of my peers. I rented a room from a friend for very little money the first year after I graduated. I aggressively paid off the loan that had sustained me while in school. I also built up a respectable emergency fund and started saving for large future purchases like a house and a new car.

If it hadn’t been for the recession, I’m sure I would have continued spending money like water. I would have been giddy about a big pay bump upon graduation, and I would have let the additional income slip away without investing in my future. Because the recession has dragged on for so long and I’ve never felt 100% secure in my employment, I’ve continued to practice my new good habits. My hope is that I’ve been “reformed” long enough now that I’ve experienced a permanent shift in how I think about and manage my money.

44 Briana @ 20 and Engaged

I’ll be 21 tomorrow and this is all I know too. I mean “back in the good ol’ days” when I was in elementary school – high school, we didn’t have a care in the world, and my family was doing great financially. But as an adult this is all I know. I think it’s building character though and will teach me to make better decisions when things get back on track, because nothing bad lasts forever.

45 Azra

As a 28 year old with a 24 year old brother, I’ve definitely witnessed both ends of the spectrum and have actually been a victim of the recession, myself (my last company shut down due to lack of funds). I went to grad school straight after college (big mistake, but at least it was fully funded) but I remember it being incredibly easy for my good friends who didn’t choose that route to get good, well paying jobs straight out of college. Such is not the case these days, and I saw my brother and his friends struggle to find the most entry level jobs out of college and many have been laid off several times. Stilll..one thing’s for sure, these times are allowing people to get creative and get out of their comfort zones as they get laid off from jobs they never liked or develop side hustles to make ends meet. The 90s were definitely the ‘good old days’ and things just haven’t been the same since the 2001 crash but I’m thankful for everything that I do have and am very well aware of how lucky I am as well!

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