I am the first to admit, I have been relatively lucky in weathering the effects of the recession of the last three years. By having no mortgage, I have no fear of foreclosure. By having no credit card debt, I have no fear of bankruptcy (unless a major medical problem crops up). By being almost eleven years into my satisfying retirement lifestyle, I'm not worried about losing a job. Because I never worked for a company that provided health insurance or a pension I don't have to worry that my source of income will be cut or terminated because of some corporate problem.
So, a legitimate conclusion might be: "Mr. Lowry, you aren't affected at all. Your life is no different before or after the economic mess that started in 2008. You can't relate to our issues."
I strongly disagree. Because I don't live in a bubble my life has been directly affected. Let me count the ways:
Because of a massive falloff in business travel and conventions my youngest daughter lost a job she loved in a city she adored, San Diego. After trying all sorts of options for over a year, she landed a job in Phoenix. It paid well and was close to family. After eight months, that job was eliminated and she was forced to move in with mom and dad. In a household set up for two people, adding a third made some major changes in our lifestyle. Now, four months later, she has begun to resurrect her career and is seeing promising progress in stabilizing her income. I would anticipate her moving out of our house and into her own apartment sometime in the next three to five months.
A little over 10 years ago we downsized from a 3,200-square-foot home to just over 1,700 square feet. Our original plan was to move from our current two-story home to a single-story condo or town home a few years ago. We were both getting tired of the maintenance and repair issues that come with an older home. The work to maintain the backyard had gotten to the point where I had to hire a yard service. The quality of repair people is so marginal every fix became a major hassle.
The plans came to a screaming halt: the house lost 50 percent of it's value between 2007 and 2009. Since we didn't have to move I wasn't prepared to leave a few hundred thousand dollars on the table. So, the repairs continue while the housing market slowly begins to stabilize. I now hope we can move within the next five to seven years. I don't expect to ever see the peak value of early 2007, but we will be happy to cut that drop in half.
Even though my investments tend to be conservative, that doesn't mean I didn't suffer loses. I have stayed away from any type of risky or single stock strategy since I began saving in my late 20s. Even so, my retirement fund had a 40 percent paper loss in less than a year. That induces some serious stress, no matter how well your life is going!
Since then, the account totals have built back up to just a bit higher than where they were when things went in the toilet. Of course, that isn't really true. I have lost almost three years of growth from the original level so I am really almost 3 years behind where I thought I would be. That means considering starting Social Security checks when I am 64 instead of my full retirement age of 66. That means vacation cutbacks. That means cutbacks in lifestyle, though a more simplified retirement lifestyle have meshed well with our changing desires.
As I detailed in the profile of our family's effort to life well on less in last October's Money Magazine, our budget has been cut by close to 30 percent. Earlier posts have detailed the elimination of cable and newspaper subscriptions, a tightening of our food and entertainment expenses, the delaying of a new car by several years, and a more significant reliance on free entertainment and the library (sorry Amazon!).
So, yes, the Great Recession has been a pain in the butt for us, not nearly as bad for many, but no walk in the park. However, I will quickly add that Betty and I see the experience as an actual positive. It has allowed us to:
- Define what is really important to us
- Eliminate things that weren't adding to the quality of our life
- Become closer as we shared the problems and fears
- Reinforced our earlier financial decisions and approach
- Given me the chance to discover the world of blogging!
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