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Eagle with flag in background.

Inspiring little guy, isn't he? Makes you feel all "home of the brave." Image via Wikipedia

I was reading a post today entitled “What if the Recession Never Happened?” In this post, this person was expressing how the recession forced her to face the debt she was in and get serious about how she viewed money. I think it’s commendable that she saw the error of her ways and got on track financially. The thing is, though, as some preacher’s say, “that ain’t my testimony.”

I started out with a very definite plan when I was in my senior year of college. Since I’d had a taste of paying on loans durning my year off from college working, I knew I had to have one as loan repayment was real, and my debt to income ratio would become a factor in everything from owning a home to getting a job in the future. My credit score would be an important factor in determining what kind of interest rate I could get on a car loan or line of credit. I had been reading up on finance post college, and I knew that the best plan was to keep my expenses low and pay off debt first before acquiring a new car or house, even if I did get the kind of job I should be able to get with my ink-isn’t-dry-on-the-paper-yet degree. I would pay more than I was required to each month on student loans, which was working well for my car loan, shortening my repayment period (and potentially saving thousands in interest).

Here’s the thing, though; the recession took my job opportunities and shoved them into some drawer out of my reach. It robbed an entire generation of workers of the start promised to them if they went to college, got good grades, applied early, followed the get rid of student loan debt plan, and stayed the course. Now, older employees were scared to retire or couldn’t because their savings were decimated. Many jobs down sized. Companies and whole industries went bust. Hiring freezes hit. It became an employers market where your silly bachelor’s degree and small amount of experience meant nothing alongside an MBA with ten years experience–unless you were will to do it for tens of thousands of dollars less, then maybe you had a shot. Benefits were cut down. People hunkered down in dead end jobs or jobs with no growth potential because they were scared to go anywhere else. It crippled young workers.

The quarter life crisis has reached plague proportions. Everytime I open my wordpress or google reader, I am bombarded by blog entries of mid twenty somethings saying “this isn’t how my life is supposed to be.” Young men and women who feel their financial situation has made them unmarriageable, or has left them unable to support the child/children they want. People who feel they have to cohabitate to get by. People who are so rundown and tired from worrying about money that they push away everyone who loves them. People so tired of getting advice from people who haven’t been through  a recession or who haven’t been solely responsible for paying the bills since the 1960s that they refuse to talk about the dire straits they’re in. Young men and women killing themselves working full-time with part time jobs and side hustles, or incurring more debt in the hopes an advanced degree will help them advance sooner rather than later.

Sitting in this rubble, with my best laid plans in ruins around me, it would be easy to become bitter. Time honored things that worked for generations before us have been pillaged and utterly destroyed. But the advantage of having so many lemons is the chance to make lemonade.

If you’re tired of lemonade, like me, it’s simply time to learn some new lemon-utilizing recipes: perhaps something that calls for a lemon sauce or glaze. 😀 Seriously, how do you make the most of this less than stellar life experience?

  • Turn a hobby into a moneymaking opportunity: this is the side hustle, startup company, or part time job of your dreams. Many of the people I know earn extra money through being a notary or a celebrant, selling items in an etsy shop online, or becoming masters of eBay and Craig’s list. Monetizing your blog might be an option for you. Happy Black Woman has many side hustle and blogging workshops that you can take advantage of.
  • Develop good money habits: The best time to learn how to budget money is when you don’t have any. It makes it easier for you to stay within your means when you have more means. It also frees up that “extra” money you’ll be making to go towards things like retirement funds, emergency funds, savings, trips, and experiences, rather than being sucked into the vacuum of debt you’ve created by poor spending habits when you were broke. It will help ensure you won’t be broke forever.
  • Learn to prioritize: Right now, I’m reading a very informative book on the wedding industry. What I’m learning, among other things that I’ll share in a formal setting, is that people have begun to capitalize on our emotions and try to give things more importance than they really deserve so that we’ll pay more for them. I hope to marry someday, yet being in this financial low tide impresses the importance of not going into debt over the wedding or being ill-prepared for marriage. The wedding is not the most important part. Besides, knowing how stressful  not having money is on me, I see very clearly how money can be such a big factor in divorce.
  • Recession-proof your happiness: There are some things money can’t buy; for everything else, there’s mastercard your ability to be content should be one of them. If being so shaken up by the recession has taught me anything, it’s that my faith affords me a joy that is recession proof. I know that God will provide for me, even if I don’t see how. Blessed assurance. Yes, I also know now that an emergency fund needs to be in place to prevent some of the struggles I’m experiencing now from being repeated. But it’s not the money, it’s the peace of mind, that I seek.

What has the recession meant to you? What have you suffered? What have you learned?

My next Money on my Mind posts will be Weddings With/Without Wealth, The Great Debate: building savings vs. paying down debt, home buying, retirement investing, budgetting, and net worth.