Voices of Economic Survival

Lessons learned from the Great Depression

When it comes to spending, we’ve never been a family that goes out to dinner every weekend. But my wife and I are being even more conservative with our spending now. If you just watch CNN — watch the news — you’re going to spend less because the news is all bad.

I’m hopeful, but the economic situation causes me a lot of concern for my children. My oldest daughter is 24 [and moved back home 18 months ago]. I read somewhere that this is the first generation that is not living better than the generation before them. And she is an example of that. She’s starting off with a teacher’s salary. But can she afford to live in the Washington metropolitan area? Not really. Her car’s a 1994 Honda. If she had a car note and an apartment, plus had to pay for laundry and eating, how could she do it? I am very concerned for what will be there for them.

mark-anthony-bensonMark Anthony Benson, 39, Los Angeles California

I’ve been out of work since October. I’m a filmmaker, but I was employed in the food industry in the corporate office, in charge of wholesale.

My rent is not as bad as a lot of other people’s. My car note is not as bad as a lot of other people’s. Unemployment has been able to cover that. It’s just the extras I’m used to having. Each year, I go home to Philadelphia in March. This year, I didn’t want to put that on my credit card. So it has affected my spring and summer plans so far. I’m used to seeing my family by now.

I’m a little more cautious now when I spend. Before, if I was going out to dinner, there wouldn’t be a second thought. Now I’m thinking,  ‘I’m not going to go to this restaurant now. Maybe I’ll go to the one that’s a little less expensive.’ I’m going to Costco and more wholesale places to get stuff that’s going to last me a lot longer.

You would always hear that this could happen, but I didn’t believe it with so many people investing and all my friends who were in the real estate industry making money hand over fist. They would go on vacation for a month, and now those same people are like, ‘I wish I had that money back.’ I always knew there would be recessions, but I didn’t know they would affect this many people.

In California, the unemployment rate is [high]. I feel like this is a wake-up call for a lot of people on how they live their lives. I’ve never been a big saver, but when I get back on my feet, I’m going to make sure that I have that six months of expenses that people talk about having saved.

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