The Economic Crisis Hasn’t Affected Me. Should I Be Worried?

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

Bad things happen all the time, here in the U.S. and around the world. It seems like every day there’s a headline about a mudslide consuming a remote village, or a bus overturning, or a bomb exploding, or a plane crashing. Nobody likes hearing these things, but when they don’t impact you directly it’s a lot easier to put them out of your mind and go about your daily life. Right now, that’s the way I feel about the economic crisis. It’s not affecting me.

Look at some the things that have happened this year:

Gas prices have risen. I only drive my car a few times a week. Unless I’m going to Richmond to visit my family, the local trips I take are within a 10-mile radius of where I live.

Food costs more. I only buy food for myself, so I haven’t noticed a huge difference.

A lot of people have lost their jobs. I may not have the career of my dreams, but my job security doesn’t appear to be in danger.

Working multiple jobs to make ends meet. I do computer-based work in addition to my regular job, but I did that before the economic downturn and at this point it’s just extra money.

Home foreclosures. I don’t own my own home.

Retirement accounts hit. The downturn in the stock market means a lot of people have lost a lot of money and may have to work longer before they can retire. But I’m still in my 20s. I contribute to my retirement account, but it seems so far off that I don’t worry about what’s currently happening with it.

It’s not that I don’t feel bad for the people who have been affected by these things. Of course I feel bad. I realize these scenarios are hitting a lot of people harder than they’re hitting me.

I know I’m not the only one who’s taking a “wait and see” approach. When I talk to my friends, they’re not discussing these things. In the blogs I read, if someone does happen to mention the economy, or money being tight, it’s most likely a question of “I wonder if anything really bad is going to happen in the future?”

If I stop to think about it, I do wonder if what’s going on right now will have long-term consequences. The questions I have are the unanswerable ones. How bad will it get? Will my living standards change? If I ignore it, will it continue to not affect me?

Rather than looking for a new job, some people are staying with their current jobs because they have to do what seems safe. As Brett McKenzie says, I Worked My Butt off in School and all I Got was this Crappy Economy.

[T]hanks to a host of issues beyond our control, we are stuck. Because in this crap economy, you’d have to be flat out, shave-your-head-bald bonkers to walk away from a steady paycheck, health insurance, and the ability to afford a bottle of wine [...]

Can the generation that mastered the text message, Facebook, camera phones, and YouTube really be expected to stay in one place for longer than 19 months or else sacrifice our high standards of living? As far as this Millennial is concerned, I don’t have a choice. I mean, the day I got my first real paycheck, I climbed up on the milk crate that served as our kitchen table and declared to my roommates, “With God as my witness, I’ll never eat Ramen again!” That is a promise I intend to keep. Something about the shiny silver packet with the words “shrimp flavor” printed on it truly frightens me.

Christa in New York has good advice: don’t quit your job if you don’t have another one to go to.

If you’re quitting your job with nothing else to go to, you need to reconsider immediately. And change your mind — do no leave your job without another place to go. There will likely be nothing for you to go to. Now, I do think you should be networking and watching out for new employment opportunities that sound interesting. Actually, I think you should ALWAYS do this, even if you are 100% in love with your job. You need to cover your bases and in this day and age, getting a job interview (and probably getting your dream job or even just your next job) has much more to do with who you know rather than what you know.

Kat Wilder asks, Would you feel embarrassed if you took a job “beneath” your abilities?

[My friend's] career change? Waitressing at a “good” restaurant, where she could potentially make $10,000 to $20,000 more a year than she makes now … as a professional. (Go figure!)

The reaction she got? A horrified look: “Ugh, waiting on people?”

Heather Barmore is tired of hearing about economic woes and says (tongue-in-cheek) that she’s going shopping instead.

So many people cannot afford to shop right now so we should do what we can to boost the economy. And if it means that I own a hell of a lot of argyle then so be it.

Karen recently bought a Wii, but she’s feeling a little guilty about it.

[W]hen I look around me and see all this stuff (and really, we don’t have that much) it is making me feel about an inch tall. We have so much, and most of us tend to get it right away. When’s the last time I really saved up for something and got it through sacrifice? I think that’s something that many of us have forgotten and with the economy being what it is, something we might have to relearn. (Mind you it did not stop us from buying a Wii this week. Oops.)

When’s the last time that you really saved up for something? Did you “enjoy it extravagantly” when you reached your goal?

Econo-Girl asks us to imagine a “radical shift in the U.S. economy.”

Imagine a radical shift in the U.S. economy such that everything is paid for up front. That businesses have cash on hand for payroll, people have the money before they buy a car, and no one uses credit.

I understand the wails of the financial industry: our economy does run on credit. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we need to shift our mind sets to saving first.

Something I’ve noticed about saving for something before you buy it: you don’t want to pay as much. Even if you have the full amount that you might have borrowed.

We are in for a tough transition, folks.

Kim at Elastic Waist says she’s going to save money by using the food in the kitchen she already has.

[W]aste is a huge problem in this beautiful country of ours. The U.S. Agriculture Department reports that Americans on average waste about 96 billion pounds of food. I know that I am certainly guilty of waste. How many bags of salad have I not gotten to eat before they got a bit too brown around the edges? I’m pretty sure that lemon isn’t supposed to be hard as a rock. And that smell, the one coming from that chicken, that’s not normal. Let’s just say I am fully Americanized in my wasteful ways and this week (albeit not on purpose) my mission was to be mindful of the foods I already had.

Vered considers herself to be a careful, long-term investor, but her strategy in these fluctuating times is to ignore it.

To me, the only way to calmly accept a bear market is to IGNORE my portfolio. In a bull market, I check my portfolio every day. It’s fun and thrilling. In a bear market, I check it once a week, if that. It’s kind of like checking your blog stats too often: NOT a good idea.

So what do you guys think? Will we be all right? Have your daily habits changed at all?

Related Reading:

MSN: 6 financial milestones before 30.

Brianne says, “I can’t help but think ‘When is this financial crisis going to catch up with ME?’ [...] How worried should I be? How much ‘oh crap!’ planning should I be doing? Should I wait for problems and then react? Or take steps that may prove unnecessary in the long run?”

Jane at Dear Author asked if this current economic downturn will affect our book spending habits. A majority of respondents answered, “I will maintain the same buying pattern because I think we’ll be all right.”

FruGal shares five tips for “frugal lovin’.” In other words, she says she’s “bringing frugal sexy back.”

Fat Fighter TV: Are you eating comfort foods in these tough economic times?

Shreveport Times: Retirement concerns weigh heavy for women

MSNBC: Retirement account losses near $2 trillion


  1. I dont worry.

    at all.

    I DO what I can (a little belt tightening up in herre. ok a lot) and then I just let it go.

    I do fret about things when worrying helps but Ive surrendered with this one.

    GREAT POST and links, Z.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 8:33 am #
  2. Well, I’ve been affected more than you have it seems (hellooooo grocery bill for 3 growing boys!) but I agree about the general attitude of people our age. I think it is because we haven’t really ever experienced anything significantly different in our lifetimes. We’ve never lived through food rationing or victory gardens or gas shortages. And we don’t fear what we don’t know. It also doesn’t help that the government is feeding us very mixed messages.

    I personally love Econogirl’s take on it. I agree totally!

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 8:39 am #
  3. Thanks for the link, Zandria.

    I just found out one of my best friend’s dad lost his job. How awful is that? That’s the closest this crisis has hit so far. But I’m worried it’ll hit closer. In the meantime, I’ve gotta keep exercising to relieve the stress. Scary times.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 9:18 am #
  4. I try to kick the worry butt by only giving it energy when I say so! :)

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 9:32 am #
  5. I definitely have been worried about the economic crisis. Job loss has affected my immediate family and I personally have made cuts due to higher gas prices, working less hours while in school, and other factors. I try not to get too stressed, but it’s hard.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 9:55 am #
  6. I’ve been trying to tighten up the belt, but overall I haven’t made any huge changes. I feel like I should though.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 11:54 am #
  7. I’ll repeat what I said on BlogHer – you are young enough that you should not worry about losses in the market. But since we don’t know how bad it will get, it’s definitely a good idea to take advantage of low interest rates to pay down debt (if you have any), to make sure savings are FDIC insured, and to be as frugal as you can.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 11:57 am #
  8. I worry about my parents. I make more than them yet they are the ones on the cusp of retirement.
    At the same time, being in school while working full time, I wonder if this is the best time to try and attempt a career change. I had family help the first time around in school, but as a returning student I’m all alone on the cost. It’s not exactly the best time to think about a loan, but it’s hard to accept that a rough economy would stand in the way of pursuing a goal. It’s definitely causing more careful consideration of financial choices even if I am young and without commitments – except to my dog. (priorities.)

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 12:09 pm #
  9. I just put it all in perspective… even in a major recession we’ll (most Americans reading this) still be better off than the majority of the world. We may not like the relative reduction in quality of life, but it will still be better than the way the majority of the world lives.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 12:34 pm #
  10. Worrying will do no good. I agree. But I kinda disagree that you don’t have to plan ahead when you are in your 20s. I don’t think someone in their 20s should be worried about the current state of the stock market per say, but in your 20s you can gain skills that can make you or break you for in your 30s/40s and on. Work hard, play hard, or something like that. Just my 2 cents.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 1:19 pm #
  11. I am exactly where you are. My only concern is, if I want to change jobs, there will be less options as companies might be recruiting less in the next months. But I guess I can live with that!

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 1:46 pm #
  12. I really don’t worry either.

    It’s mostly given the fact that I used to drive sixty miles to and from work a day. Now I only live about two miles away thus only filling up once or twice in a month.

    It’s heavenly.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 9:31 pm #
  13. I’m with you. We just bought a house (small, cute, and far below what we qualified for and very much within our means) and thanks to the failing economy, got a very nice FIXED interest rate. I don’t drive much, only to the train station, so no pains at the pump, and even with hubby driving, it’s still within our budget. Hubby’s a teacher and I’m a tax accountant, so no worries there. We’re actually spending less on groceries now than before. Of course it helps that we live in a state that’s, for the most part, immune to the country’s economic woes. We have very low forclosure rates, no income tax, and a thriving economy. But we’re preparing for tough times. We’re on a mission to pay off our student loans, so that if we’re ever affected, we’ll manage.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 9:53 pm #
  14. A good chunk of money did disappear from my 401k, but most of my investments are cash right now. Since I’m not a homeowner, I want the housing market to crash as hard as possible because that ultimately benefits me as a near term home buyer. So no, I’m not stressing it.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm #
  15. Money is everyone’s concern, and I try to cut corners where I can, but thank goodness, my exercise routine (which is mostly walking and weight training at home), is free…………….:)

    Posted October 14, 2008 at 12:48 am #