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Your Take: What Are You Worried About Now?

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Recession Prices SignI think it’s safe to say that we’re knee deep into a Recession. In February, I had the great fortune of being on American Public Media’s Marketplace Money with Tess Vigeland, Lynnae of BeingFrugal.net and Steve at BripBlap.com. Back then, we didn’t know if we were going to be in a recession but everyone pretty much believed we were well on our way. Here’s what I said:

JIM: It’s been crazy. Way back in September and October and November, when the economy was slowing down, but people hadn’t really cemented the idea that we were in a recession. Everyone was focused on the stock market and how it was, you know, one day it would be down 300 points, then up. Then down. My readers were saying, what should I do with my 401(k)? But in the months that have been since, everyone’s now worried about what should I do because I’m afraid I might lose my job? You know, it’s a shift away from “Oh, my 401(k)s down,” to “I might lose my job and not even have a 401(k) to contribute to.” And I think that’s led to a lot of nervousness.

It’s been three months and with the stock market recovering from the doldrums, I’m curious to know what everyone is worried about now or what they’ve been focusing on.

For me, I’ve been focusing on keeping my financial house in order. I call it personal finance defense and the best offense is a good defense. :)

We’ve returned to a more frugal lifestyle, eating out less than we did before and deriving entertainment from cooking our meals (two birds with one stone!). We’ve focused on making sure our financial documents are well integrated and organized (hence the deluge of videos about the charts we make, like the cashflowchart and the financial network map). We have continued to regularly review our credit reports to catch any errors and to make sure our credit score is as high and as accurate as it can be.

What have you been focusing on or what has been worrying you, if anything?

(Photo: anders-vindegg)

{ 30 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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30 Responses to “Your Take: What Are You Worried About Now?”

  1. Greg says:

    Jim,

    Right now, as a commissioned salesperson in an industry that’s heavily influenced by the housing market, I’m worried about surviving until the market picks up.

    Sales coaches and trainers will tell you not to be part of the recession, but you can’t help it.

    I’m focusing on living barebones right now and taking any extra money I can and plowing it into my 401(k). I figure, I’m young, stocks are cheap, and they’ll recover. I’ve got a good 35-40 years before I retire, so I’m not worried about that.

    I’m worried short-term.

  2. I’m always worried about my job (I work in the defense industry, so no surprise there). I’m just one canceled appropriation away from unemployment. Luckily, we have a lot of backlog in my product line, and my division put up record numbers last year. With companies consolidating to cut costs, there’s always the threat of downsizing.

    • Jim says:

      I was in defense and while there was always the threat of not getting the follow on contract, it’s a recession-proof industry. Most of my friends work for defense contractors and not a single one has mentioned the threat of losing their job. (which is a great thing)

  3. CuriousAG says:

    Well so far so good, I started working in December and my employer is pretty stable (touch-wood) so far. I am not actually worried, but I keep finding ways of making some extra money.

  4. Suzanne says:

    I am not particularly worried for my job, as I work in healthcare for a specialty practice that is already at a bare bones staff.
    My husband is employed by the government at a local airport in security, so we feel his job is safe.
    We both are working to pay off credit cards and keep our bills down while managing our savings to remain stable. Right now we are not adding much to the savings account, but are mainitaining our allocations to our retirement accounts at maximum company reimbursement levels.
    We consider ourselves among the lucky to be where we are at this stage in our lives. As always we keep on giving to those in need both in goods, services, and dollars.

    • Jim says:

      That’s great that you’ve been able to continue to support the organizations you did when the broader economy was stronger, we’ve kept up our contributions as well. It’s certainly hard for everyone but especially hard for organizations with endowments (smacked -40% in the market) because they are forced to lock in those losses to fund current operations.

  5. Shirley says:

    Even though times look very dreary, I am finding that Jim’s advice (albeit taken before he gave it) is right on the money! (pun intended)

    We paid everything in full before we retired. My 401k is in very low-risk mutual funds so we have only lost about a quarter of it. Between a monthly distribution from that and our SS, we don’t have much left over, but we have everything we need.

    My worry now is for our kids and grandkids. I’m passing along as much of Jim’s advice as I can.

  6. My wife and I are moving to a new city and we’re worried about selling our place. We have an interested buyer right now so hopefully it works out!

  7. jerosen says:

    I’m a bit worried about losing my job but its not too likely. My company has been gradually reducing staff for a few years. I’ve dodged multiple layoffs over the years. My management has assured me I’m safe this year but thats no guarantee.

    I’ve got a large emergency fund and we’ve got other sources of income. So if I were to get laid off then we should be able to handle our expenses for a long while.

  8. Daniel says:

    My concern is 100%, my job. I work in publishing, and it’s taken a beating as of late. My way of alleviating this stress, is to load up my emergency fund to a level that is above and beyond the standard 6-month mark. I’m aiming for 1yr plus. Since I have friends in publishing who have been laid off and unable to get new positions for 5-6 months now – I see that my EF is more important than ever.

    My hundred boxes need filing in!

  9. Paige says:

    I am worried about my husband’s job, as he is the only worker in our family. He is in retail management. So far, though, his company has not let anyone go. I guess that is one of the benefits to working for the largest retailer in the world. Other than that, I am worried that we aren’t funding our emergency fund quick enough. Right now we only have 2 months worth of living expenses saved. :-(

    • CuriousAG says:

      Times are tough Paige and Life is the greatest teacher ever!

      I am young enough to give any advice but couldn’t stop myself from jotting my thoughts here. Have you or your husband considered doing something in addition to his full-time job? I mean to say something like a blog, paid surveys, selling any of ur hobbies, etc. ?

      • Paige says:

        I am actually considering training for medical transcription, so I can work from home. If I decide against that, I know I will be going back to work next year once our daughter starts going to school. I never considered blogging, I don’t think I am an expert at anything, so I wouldn’t know what to blog about. :-) I do participate in several online survey companies, but I am not making much at all doing that. I think I made $30 last year total. Thank you for the ideas, though. I am always open to new ideas. :-)

  10. Rayle Shonie says:

    I don’t think anything should be taken for granted. Whether your job seems to be secure or not, have a plan for the worst case scenario. Who had expected things to be where they are today?

    Right now, folks should save, if possible, while spending wisely. There are plenty of areas to look for savings. I know people who have cut down on eating out. But everyone has other regular expenditures that can be re-evaluated – For instance, change your cell phone plan or shop for lower car insurance rates.

  11. Jason H says:

    I am concerned that the response to the crisis will further exaserbate it, or at least make recovery harder. An example that hit me today. The GSEs (Freddie and Fannie) have imposed a new “condo fee” if you try to buy a condo with less than 25% down. Because condos were bought by investors and thereby deemed riskier, those of us trying to buy our first place are smacked with a 3/4 point fee at closing for the “privilage” of buying a condo. You can’t tell me that this kind of reaction won’t cause issues during and after recovery.

  12. Michael says:

    I am tired of being scared. I have a decent job with a good income but nothing is permanent. I only have about 10 grand in the bank and 70 grand in student loans (better than the $300,000 that many of my colleagues have). I have been stressing for the last 6 months about building a security fund and can’t seem to get ahead with lot’s of extra expenses. But my 55 year old mother-in-law was just diagnosed with terminal cancer. And it hit my wife and I like a ton of bricks. Life is short and we never know what tomorrow will bring. It’s important to try and plan for the future, but I have spent most of my life ONLY planning for the future. It’s time to enjoy life. What ever tomorrow brings, I will deal with it at that time. Today I am going to enjoy this beautiful spring day with my wife and thank god that I have this day to be alive.

  13. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Michael,
    Loved that response. I was out for a small walk near my home. The Red Winged Blackbirds are singing their heads off at the marsh attempting to court their drab little wives, the Canada geese are stalking around looking grumpy, the chickadees are eating sunflowers provided by generous folks, the Least squirrel youngsters (this year’s crop) are hyperactive, a bundle of new batch Snowshoe hare are in mortal danger of being eaten by the local coyote. The sun is shining in Edmonton, Alberta.

    Life is short. It has a habit of ending in like a dragonfly frozen in midflight. No amount of money, assets or insurance is going to make you safe from any damn life accident: it is just going to make it sort of more manageable.

    I really feel for your family. Take care.

    • Jim says:

      That’s the honest truth. My grandfather once said, you’re lucky if all of your problems can be solved with just money.

  14. StephaniePTY says:

    I graduated in February, so my focus is still on trying to find a job.

  15. Being self-employed in an industry that isn’t terribly affected by a recession (taxation), I haven’t been hit too hard.

    My worry is for my friends. We’re only a few years out of school, and many of them have only recently found jobs in their fields. I hope they get to keep them!

    Secondary worry: I worry that our generation will “learn” that the stock market is too risky.

  16. Katie says:

    I do worry about my husband’s job as he’s the single earner right now but he gets a lot of kudos emails so I doubt he’d be on the chopping block if they made cuts. They did cut a division entirely unrelated to his.

    Anyway, my big focus is our 17,300 second mortgage. I want it gone. So I move anything over 10k from our liquid funds to paying it off. That way it feels like we don’t have any money. I’m thinking that by this winter we can have it paid off and start building a sizeable e-fund, at least 17k. I’m also about to have our second baby so while it’s not as expensive as the first, there are still a few things I want to splurge on- namely a nice new breastpump ($280) and a new baby monitor ($30).

    I did look around at garage sales and couldn’t find a monitor that I liked for cheap, plus you wouldn’t believe the ppl that sell broken stuff w/o warning. I guess at this point in time I’m not willing to do “whatever it takes” to clear the debt when I’m pretty sure in six months it’ll be gone anyway.

  17. barry says:

    my company has laid off 5,000+ people since February. to say that “worried me” would be a giant understatement.

    but…it has also driven me to get my financial house in order, “gazelle style” to borrow from Ramsey.

    so, while it wouldn’t be AS catastrophic as it would have last fall, loss of my job and/or the ability to replace my income ranks as my Top Worry.

  18. Chewbakka says:

    I have been laid off since January and I am doing everything I can to find work at my level and below. I stay motivated by joining a Job Search Accountability Team so we can push and encourage each other. I am also networking like crazy and am on many on-line networking groups, so I get e-mails of job openings. My top worry is how long will this downturn last 2010 or beyond? Even before this recession, we have always been frugal and lived that way for years. Let’s say one day, we do recover, our culture will never be the same. I’m wondering what will be different and how will the world change, both here and abroad.

  19. Chewbakka says:

    Other thoughts:
    The stock market IMO, is propped up by positive talk and government. Look out for the next drop IMO, not to me negative, but our banking infrastructure is very weak. Think we have pains in the residential RE market? The next shoe to drop is commercial real estate. There is more to come. I second Michael’s thoughts in that we all need to have faith daily and be thankful for what we do have. Jim, your topics are very good and they do get to the heart of the changes we need to make in order to come through this downturn (Kudos to you). We need new ideas to feed to our leadership so we can all improve one step at a time.

  20. Splendor says:

    I worry about friends and family, but my job has not been hurt by the economy. My employer has doubled the size of our business this year and I got a nice raise.

  21. ALAN says:

    Our main biz is down by a large chuck, so to help fill in teh blamk we took what had been a hobby and are making it into a money maker. We have done this for years, but never made any money off of it.
    We host Conventions for Adults, but we do these in B and C Markets really cheap. People still want to get out and have fun, but are watching the cost a lot more, so we are filling that gap and bringing it all closer and cheaper to home for them. In the downturn we have found bargains on hotel rooms and meeting space and have used that to our positive side. We are working on 8 events right now and may add more.


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