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Our new economy: where has it left you?

About a month ago, I received a bleak email at 1am on an early Monday morning.  It was from the president of my organization.  I read the email on my smart-phone: they were announcing layoffs and paycuts for all remaning staff.  The announcement left me unable to get any more rest that night.  While my job was spared, I was still left a bit numb and sad. 

Layoffs are happening around us in our families and among our circles, left and right.  Unemployment benefits will dry up, and, when it does, will we find new jobs?  Our IRAs or 529s or other investments are half the size they used to be.  News reports constantly read "down with the dow".  And, now, businesses in our beloved Portland seem to be shuttering, one of which is an all time family-favorite, Sip 'n' Kranz (mentioned on neighborhood notes).  (Note: We stand corrected, Sip 'n' Kranz is still open! We still notice shuttering businesses, including Sal's Favorite Italian kitchen in NPDX and Mercato in NW PDX.)

Will it ever end?  How has the economic downturn hit your family?  Has your family's economic state been shaken or does it still feel a little status quo?

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I am so sad to hear of Sip n Kranz closing. That's awful.

I can't stress enough how important it is to frequent and support our local businesses!

I created Baby Portland to give a list of all the local business for mommy and baby in one place. Please shop local for your holiday gifts... these businesses NEED your support right now.

http://babyportland.com

Shop Local!
Lisa

I worried about the Oregon 529 even before all this happened - we bought into it and have been faithfully contributing, but as far as I can determine, it's never had good returns in its entire history. And now it's doing worse than ever.

We really don't know what to do - with ten years till college for our oldest, do we hope it will turn around or look for some other savings vehicle. After finally getting to a point where we are able to save (some) for college, it's very unsettling to feel as if you're throwing money into a void.

Hi everyone,

Sip and Kranz was locked down by its landlord on 11/5, but it reopened that very same afternoon. Apparently, there was some type of miscommunication with their landlord. We posted a follow up on the website. Here are links to both posts:

http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/nw/pearl_district/news/2008/11/landlord_lockdown_at_sip_and_kranz/

http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/nw/pearl_district/news/2008/11/sip_and_kranz_back_in_action/

So, head on over to S&K and show them some love!!!

lynnette
neighborhood notes

Shop? We aren't shopping at ALL for the holidays this year. We made homemade jam and i sewed some very simple little puppets as gifts. I have some things we purchased throughout the year for our own kids, namely a few books and some art supplies.

Before the economic downturn we were already living paycheck to paycheck. We have a good 30 yr mortgage and bought in a cheaper part of town because we couldn't afford to buy elsewhere. So our house wasn't overpriced to begin with, which is good.

Mainly we fear losing our jobs, especially my husband's since he works full time. I head off to my part-time job once he is home. His career (hospitality industry) is being negatively affected. At my job (healthcare) I see marked differences now - people are putting off their own medical care and when they do seek care they can't pay small copays.

Just for the record, Sip and Kranz is NOT CLOSED- if you scroll down on the neighborhood notes pages it says that they worked things out with their landlord and they are open. I called today and they confirmed this. Unfortunately b/c the writer of that blog did not post the updated information at the top of the page this falsehood is being repeated on many web sites.

Oops I just saw that someone else already reported on the Sip and Kranz situation.

Yes, I can honestly say the economic downturn has hurt our family. We have had to make some hard decisions lately and there will be big changes ahead. Shopping local is not an option for us...we don't shop at all. The good news for us is we have a strong family unit and have been very frank with family and close friends about our current economic sitution. I've been moved by the generosity by all and the willingness by so many to pitch in and offer childcare when needed for job interviews and such.

We're definitely feeling it. My husband has been self-employed for 6 years but now his business has completely dried up. No unemployment benefits when you are self-employed! I've been a SAHM for the past few years so we have no income at the moment. We've both started looking for jobs but nobody seem to be hiring (surprise!). We're so glad we had money stashed away "just in case..."

Molomatic, we are in the exact same position (see above)! We have gone through our stashed away money and we also have no incme and no unemployment benefits. I feel blessed that I have just started a part time job, but I am already seeing I really should be working full time. My husband been self employed for almost 12 years and I have been a SAHM for 5 years. It's daunting to be starting over at this stage. I hope things turn around your family.

We were one of the millions of families who found ourselves with an adjustable rate mortgage that was sold by our mortgage broker as a "good" option for us. We had terrible credit to begin with, but he assured us that we would be able to refinance when the rate started adjusting. We are grateful that we were able to sell our house in June before the market totally collapsed and did not lose much of the equity. Now we are renting which isn't perfect, but it allowed us to fix our monthly expenses. I am also grateful that my husband and I have jobs that (knock on wood) are secure.

I definintely feel anxious about work and finances. Have I made substantial changes - no I havent. Should I ? Probably. I have about 3 months income stashed away in case I lose my job or my car stops working. I have been trying to buy more organic and local and it feels like a hard decision right now. Generally what I am seeing is lots of anxiety. We are staying home for the holidays instead of playing airfare to visit relatives. We dont eat out much anyway but maybe I need to take a second look about how I am spending on groceries. And definitely I am thankful for what we have. I made a point to spend $1.88 at the grocery store to donate a meal for someone. Although I talk about anxiety I realize many more folks are going without. I am goign to try to do the $1.88 meal donation frequently in the next few months to try to think about the folks that are in a hard spot right now.

Molomatic, et al, you may want to check with the Oregon Employment Dept about unemployment benefits for self-employed workers.

My husband was recently laid off, and is receiving unemployment - we may start our own business together, so he's discussed self-employment benefits with his caseworker there. I don't know the details, but it's worth looking into.

So, yeah, he was just laid off, I'm a part time freelancer, and we don't have much of a savings cushion. It's really scary. We've cut back a lot on expenditures, and it's going to be a lean holiday season for sure.

Don't even get me started on having to buy our own health insurance for ourselves and our 3 kids!

Sending good thoughts to all who are struggling right now...

I think we are all either in the same boat or close to each other during this time. I have some friends and loved ones that are experiencing lay-offs, living off food storage, stressed and not able to pay bills, and applying for jobs that they are overqualified for, just to survive.

I feel blessed that we are doing okay right now, but I know that we must be even more frugal. We manage apartments and are both students, and that is what is keeping us afloat besides our small mostly online business. I have been thinking a lot about volunteering at Loaves and Fishes or a local soup kitchen in the area. Do not lose hope in your family, that is what I am learning because that is my most reliable source of joy and love. If anything, part with luxuries, but do not let financial stress and frustration tear you away from your loved ones. I realize those that are in greater need than me, need our donations, foods, and love and support right now.

My husband has been working on a hydrogen hybrid pod which is supposed to double your mpg. We did biodiesel before that on our previous jetta tdi. Once we get it working well, we will help friends and family run their cars mostly on water!

I've been calling the customer service lines to negotiate monthly bills that are not necessities. I've been able to get 3 months free from our alarm company. Our internet was cut from $53/month to $39/month for 7 months. Our satellite cable was lowered from $45/month to $29/month for a year. This helps balance our very tight budget.

We're living paycheck to paycheck, but at least we can keep our satellite TV. We can't afford to go out at all anymore. I felt like a queen after a trip to Goodwill where I scored a fancy $2 scarf.

And I'd love to support local businesses, but really I can't afford anything retail. I'm used or wholesale all the way.

I find it remarkable that people still have cable. That is the first thing I got rid of years ago when money was tight. It's amazing but we can really live without it!

Oh, the cable thing...Ugh. Every time I try to suggest that we nix the cable, my husband goes all wide-eyed and rigid.

I am a SAHM and freelancer with very little work (read:none), the jobs started drying up as soon as I was ready to go back to work after the birth of my second in April. My husband's job is secure(for now)things are very tight and our holiday for each other will be small to non existant, a couple dozen cookies for friends and some small hand made items for the kiddos we know. The in-laws are getting a couple homemade meals to stash in their freezer.

We bought our N.PDX home 7 years ago so we were quite lucky to buy before the boom and the shady mortgage practices.

The new year is just around the corner and I can only hope that things improve soon, at least enough to get a job.

Yes this has affected our lives. I have a great job & DH is a freelancer who can work from home - however we have noticed that each month we are tapped out quicker, paying utility bills late. Our son is 2 1/2 & we are not having another child - mainly due to my DH only wanting 1 child - he was an only & loved it. I would like another child for my son's sake but I can't even imagine another life to support in the long haul - and all the costs associated with a child - daycare, school, after school activities, the necessities... perhaps if we were doing better financially we would just have #2.

I am shocked to see how other families are having 2, 3, 4 kids - how? How come on the rare day I take off - I see SAHM with large shopping bags at the mall or pushing brand new bugaboos, while they get into their new honkin huge SUVs - seems like many Portland families are not struggling.

Take care...

pdx mama,
maybe those SAHM with large shopping bags are just in denial and running up their credit cards, all 12 of them!
I'm so glad I can check out craigslist and there are plenty of consignments in my neighborhood (n/ne)!! when I really NEED something.
I wish I had canned this summer, trying to knit a few things to give as gifts. Cookies and freezer meals are always appreciated by other mama friends. It's time to teach a few more caroling songs to the boy, that will be a fun surprise for our friends/neighbors too!!

Our family just dodged a layoff by the skin of our teeth. Very sobering.

Maybe its crazy but we prepaid for a Sauvie Island CSA with the thought that regardless of what happens, as long as the weather cooperates, we'll have food. Also we are building a chicken house and concentrating on our garden.

Can't do the cable thing but Netflix is nice. It helps with the staying in part. Also cribbage. And cooking delicious things out basic ingredients. I love the puppet idea for chrismas. The goodwill is great but please remember our local resale businesses like piccolina in se.

It is very sobering. I will say, though, that re: the families with big cars, expensive strollers, shopping, etc--it hasn't hit everyone (yet?). I keep hearing about layoffs and hearing about the struggles--but our household/job situation has remained fairly stable, and it has for many of our friends and family too. I think we are all trying to cut back now (while we have the option) in hopes that if we are forced to, it will be easier. But I think it can be hard to change habits that have been ingrained for years (even back to our parents generation), and sometimes it does take a shock, like a layoff, to make people change. And, that being said, it can be really difficult to get out of that lifestyle--we looked at selling our house recently, and it's nearly impossible in this market (70% of homes in PDX are NOT selling). I imagine if we owned and wanted to sell a large vehicle, that would be even more difficult. And selling off big ticket items is usually a huge loss. I am trying to scale back our life regardless, appreciate our blessings, and keep those who are now having a difficult time(and may be in the future) in our thoughts.

I think a couple years ago I would have had high anxiety about the economy. To this day it does not faze my husband and I. I feel the media has a huge part in scaring the masses. This is why we have sold our TV, don't read the newspaper, and stay away from the daily conversations of scarcity. I feel bad for the thousands a month that are being laid off. I personally believe that recession is a mindset and what is focused on is what will be attracted. During recessions are when the most millionaires are made because they do not follow the pact but take risk and create what they know they deserve instead of what the masses are telling them they have. Not everyone wants to be rich and no one wants to be strapped to pay their bills, feed their family and enjoy their lives. A great book to read is "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. Published in 1937. Enjoy and good luck!

we're really feeling it around here, too. my husband (who works for merrill lynch) just lost his overtime hours at work, which means we are barely scraping by on his base salary. we used his overtime to pay for part-time childcare so i could try to freelance/look for work (i've been trying to find a full time job for a year), but now that'll be out the window pretty soon (we make too much money to get childcare vouchers from DHS, but not enough to afford it on our own -- our savings is nonexistent).

i ration our food obsessively to keep our grocery budget in check, and we're not getting holiday gifts for anyone except my daughter this year. the only reason we're going out of town is to see my ailing mother-in-law, who's buying the tickets. my family lives across the country and i honestly have no idea when i'll be able to see them again.

this season, i'm just thankful our rent only increased $50 a month and that we can keep the lights on and the basic bills paid. i try to do small things to help people who are in more dire straits than we are, even if it's just donating a can of beans for the food pantry or putting a set of mittens on the winter clothing tree at the church. i did those things before, of course, but the crucial difference this year is that i know we're one paycheck away from being those very people we're now helping.

Adeah, you may be comfortable ignoring what is going on around you, but it is hardly helpful or kind in this climate where so many are struggling to assert that those people basically brought their troubles on themselves. I very much doubt that the people who have lost jobs or the mamas in this conversation who have shared their difficult situations "focused" on these troubles and therefore "attracted" them. The recession is a whole lot more than a "mindset" to most of us.

I agree with Zinemama - Adeah that was far to harsh. There are a lot of people having a really rough time right now. We are in a good spot - my partner got a promotion and nice raise 10 months ago. Even so, I notice everything at the store costs around 20% more. We are lucky - we have a bigger income to spend which makes up for it. A lot of people are living off the same income or worse a smaller income because of a job not being there anymore. If we are feeling the pinch I have to guess a lot of other people are feeling it a lot more.

Yes, the media can be horrible about promoting panic but we can't deny the facts many are facing.

I don't think that Adeah was intending to say that families' financial hardships are all in their minds, but rather that mass panic fueled by media hype, compounds the issue on a larger scale; creating the market issues that then impact individuals and families through high prices at the pump and grocery stores, lay-offs, plummeting market values and a shell-shocked credit industry. We can't make it go away by ignoring that it is going on, but we can do our part by living sensibly and within our means, helping out each other where we can, and making lifestyle adjustments that reflect what we want our country and our planet to be like in twenty years instead of how we want our house or car to look now. Let's face it, this credit crisis is not just about predatory lending and questionable business practices. A whole lot of people made poor choices and took out bad loans so that they could have a house, a car, or a television that was outside of their means. We can all go around pointing fingers at AIG or OPEC for messing up our monthly budgets, but what good does that do? The point that Adeah seems to be making (to me, anyway) is that we can choose to agonize over our tightened budgets, or we can tighten our belts and count our blessings because there is always, always someone who is having a tougher time than we are. Since everyone chiming in here has access to a computer, I'm going to assume we all still have roofs over our heads and food on the table, which is more than many have as we head into the winter months.

One of the coolest things about this community (of which I've been a long time lurker) is that everyone is always so ready to help and protect each other. If a post inadvertantly (or -- in rare cases, I think-- pursposefully) offends, the offended speak up. Then others chime in to help explain, elaborate, mediate. Everyone is just trying to make sense of things their own way. And everyone has a different way of coping.

The situation in the economy is scary. We are a one income family (mine) and although my job looks okay today, I don't believe anything is safe right now. The roller coaster is still rocketing downward and who knows how much dough is gonna fall out of our pockets before the ride stops. We've always been a thrifting, low buying family but at some point there is only so much you can cut back...

Good news: 1. Maybe people will start to care less about who Paris Hilton is dating. 2. Obama is heading in to office and I do believe he is a moral, intelligent and good person who will have an amazing staff of problem solvers. The country is gonna be in good hands. 3. We have our neighbors, online and in person. Community ties will strengthen, I really believe that. People will help their neighbors.

Febmot, thanks so much for the info about the possibility of unemployment for the self-employed! I'm going to check into it some more. For those of you in the same boat, here is the info on the OR Employment Dept site:

If you worked for other employers during your base year, or your business was incorporated, you may have enough hours of work and wages for a claim. If you were not incorporated while self-employed, you may not be eligible. Call your Unemployment Insurance Center (Toll free 877-877-1781) and ask to speak to a tax auditor. You may also call the Employment Department Employer Tax Status Unit in Salem at (503) 947-1488, if you have questions.

You may be eligible for benefits if you are self-employed. Your eligibility will depend on several things, such as Your prior jobs,
The type and size of your business, How much time you spend on your business, Whether you are willing and able to drop self-employment for full-time work, and Other factors.

Our family is not feeling the crunch like is sounds like a lot of others are. We sort of saw this coming awhile ago, and started stashing money like crazy. We made sure to pay off credit card debt, and maintain a STRICT budget... which was painful, but worth it. We are living within our means. We own our home (rather, the bank owns it) but have a stable, fixed mortgage... and the birth of our second has been mostly covered by insurance. We are making things for Xmas (coooool things) and as a result, feeling more creative, and bonding as a family unit. I bought a bike to commute with, and with the gas prices - basically paid it off with the gas I wasn't spending within 8 months! Cross our fingers, but I'm feeling like we are going to weather this storm. On the other hand, I haven't looked at the demise of our deferred comp - or 401K - in months, and won't. There's nothing I can do to change it anyway.

Molomatic, I'm glad you were able to flesh out the details. Keep us posted!

Thank you for the comments. I appreciate all of you and feel for your circumstances. I do believe in the law of attraction. I enjoy the movie the Secret and hope that anyone reading this that has not seen the movie and are interested to watch it. It suggest that when we think about things like not having enough then we don't have enough. If we think that we are taken care or have everything we need than that's what we attract. No matter if it is money, relationships,opportunities, disease or what ever. No different than tithing at church. The more a person gives the more he/she will receive. We are all energy and energy flows. If the energy of the people is of scarcity than that energy flows like the wind. For those that choose to feel and think otherwise will be in that energy field of abundance and having, which will separate the two. I believe there is opportunity out there for anyone to be above their means and to live life without having to cut back, save food, and lower their standard of living. I chose to not live my life this way nor teach my children to think this way. I saw a post for unemployment. I would like to make a suggestion to look at an opportunity that could create another stream of income for you and your family or friends without adding into your already busy schedules. I will give all of you a link to look at that was given to me of a documentary that was recently aired on court TV and hosted by Former Att. General Mike Moore won the biggest Lawsuit in the history of the US against the tobacco companies and won. It has the Former President of the US Bar. Pres. of US Chamber of Commerce, The US Black Chamber of Commerce and several Att. Generals all saying great things about this company and what they are doing for the people in this country specially in tough economic times. No one is wrong here but if all of us could live our lives dreaming again of having and doing the things we enjoy instead of cutting back than our conversations might be a little different. www.ppllive.biz/go I am grateful to be able to have a discussion and not be judged but be open to learn and grow from each other even if we disagree.

You and Oprah, man. When I read your original post I thought it sounded a little "Secret" - ish. Here's a pretty good take on the blame the victim flipside of the Secret philosophy:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/06/AR2007040601819.html

and

http://www.webtvhub.com/oprah-parody-video-saturday-night-live-slams-the-secret/

I'm so astounded by the turn in this thread that I can hardly bring myself to post-but, in the name of at least not remaining silent, I'll stuff down my anger & disgust and try: Yes, my family is hurt by the greater economic struggle, in some sad and scary ways, but not in all aspects of our life. What has been affected: My husband's beloved one-man business is in jeopardy; he hasn't had income all year. Conservative guess: 60% of his struggle is directly related to the downturn. Our three-months'-worth of emergency savings is, as of today, down to 2 weeks' worth, because it was in moderate risk mutual funds because we are young (under 50). I was laid off in July. Every job I apply for is so swamped by applicants that, even though I'm a clever job seeker & a "good catch," I have yet to have a nibble. Unemployment pays me $113/week, so I charge all utilities, food, and medical expenses to a credit card (blech). What has not been affected: We have a small child and childcare costs that we choose to continue to pay (so I can search for paid work). By choice, we have happily lived frugally for years. We are not homeless, we have 2 cars, one grandparent pays for 2/3 of our medical insurance, and we are mostly able-bodied (between us, we struggle with three chronic but only episodically debilitating conditions). Sorry to break it to those of you who believe that we just must not be "trying" enough or thinking "the right way" enough or "believing in our hearts" or "putting it out there" enough: we're positive people; do in fact believe in the intrinsic power and magic of our thoughts; are still plodding ahead, still hoping, still working hard, still laughing, and still trying hard to find creative solutions: and are still very close to going under (by which I mean, bankruptcy and homelessness not from "personal failure" or overconsumption but wretched, wretched luck, even if we sold our cars and sold or leased the house and lost the insurance and bagged the daycare and perhaps lost one or both parents). Please don't use this forum or any other where people are brave enough to express fear and worry (for isn't it healthy to air fear in the hopes of ridding it?) to suggest that simply educating oneself about a philosophy that has been packaged & re-marketed 100s of ways in the past 40 years is the sole, one, and perfect answer.

i, for one, am glad, if only for myself. now my husband and i stand a chance at buying the house we want in the neighborhood we want. when the housing market skyrocketed, we were priced out of anything decent in the city we grew up in. though the neighborhood has changed by all the-out-of-towners who moved up here because portland was so affordable! contributing to the astronomical rise in real estate, we still want to reclaim a piece of our lives that feels like it was stolen. but we knew with that rise, there would be a hard fall, and we are in a position to strike. to those who were in la la land and weren't prepared for a fall, i'm sorry. truly. losing a job, your house, your way of life, it all sucks. it really does, and i've been there. however, as the boyscouts say, always be prepared. we have jobs that pay a decent living, they're secure, but would look paultry to all the ad execs and techies and what not that bought up our beloved city, and we should be able to afford to live there. i only say this because before we left the city, when we conceded defeat, we were out bid on SEVENTEEN houses, that we were first to put an offer in on. and we had seven people living together (extended family included) and we needed a house at least 1500sf. not huge, just decent, liveable, something that could fit everyone. so that's who i'm angry at. those who drove up the price because it was affordable, making it not so much. we were forced to live within our means, to cut back till we can cut no more (internet excluded!!) and don't feel the squeeze so much anymore.

My husband, our family's sole breadwinner for the last six years, lost his job in September. We saw it coming and were somewhat prepared, but we are having a hard time of it nevertheless. I was denied health insurance coverage because of some pre-existing conditions...that's probably the worst of it, really. There is very little work in his field (technical writing) and before our kids were born, I was doing the same thing. So, we're innovating. I'm starting a new business, teaching cooking classes at my home and around town, fulfilling a long-held dream, actually. He's looking outside his field and I'm sure he will find a good job in the new year--it's never easy to find a new job at the end of the year, anyway.

In the meantime, we're keeping our fingers crossed that I stay well and remaining optimistic that the work and students will come our way. We do not watch or listen to the news much and I think that helps us keep some perspective. There are still companies here in Portland, across the US, and around the world that are thriving, despite the downturn. I believe that Obama's inauguration will help settle some people's jitters and that new worthwhile jobs will be created thanks to his policies. Despite all that my family has going on, I feel the future is bright.

Adeah, I am glad that you have found something that works for you. I find it surprising that you put in your post "I am grateful to be able to have a discussion and not be judged" because I feel like you are judging me. It honestly might just be that I'm being sensitive because I am going through a hard time. However, you do not know how much I have been giving to my community, how my husband and I have in fact been trying to "create another stream of income," etc.

I do think that attitude can impact what happens in your life, but please don't assume what someone's attitude is and what they are trying to do about their situation. Some times life throws you a curve ball and you do the best you can with it.

Its hard for everyone. In our case as scary as it is, we found its been more fun for the kids. We have been trying to do more projects together (I have no talent for art projects!), they have been helping me with cooking and I think in our case its made our lives less complicated. We have been going through the house and rearranging things, we look at things differently that it turns out we didn't need to buy anything to make our home more comfortable and functional. We no longer look at bookcases as just bookcases or the weird old night stand the same. Our goal is to make this an adventure. We figure we will learn what's truly important to us and will come out of this stronger.

You know mindset DOES have a role in what is happening!

There were a number of individuals and institutions that were selfish enough and greedy enough to actively manipulate financial and commodity markets by exploiting the various regulatory loopholes created by the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000. Thanks Phil Gramm! Way to put that economics PhD to work!

Anyhoo, I am CERTAIN that these guilty individuals are now paying the price for their negative motivations and self-serving mindsets...

Or maybe they used the power of attraction to take ALL THE MONEY!?

...but if that is the case, I’m not clear on what they GAVE in return...I mean, if you don't count their souls...

Ah sweet, sweet snarkiness! So unbecoming but such a hard habit to break...

Someone please remind me of this post when Lent begins....

It cracks me up to hear the media getting blamed for the global recession. So where were you all when the media couldn't get enough of the 'real estate never goes down, buy now or be priced out forever' BS on the news. Or all the ads for tapping into home equity for remodels, vacations, debt consolidation, and new vehicles....such a 'great' tax write-off, you know.

I saw this coming ~5 years ago. How can Portland wages buy Portland homes without all this creative financing that sooner or later was gonna come back to bite us. And bite us, it sure did. I never thought it would be so far reaching, though.

Two years ago I was mocked for wanting to sell in preparation for a possible relocation and likely RE bust. Now we look like smartie pants for selling at the peak!

Sorry folks, but it was not sustainable and now we are in for a major correction and you can thank not only the folks in the banking/lending industry but also the fools who fell into the trap of RE being a great investment that never goes down and therefore got in over their heads.

Let's all start living within our means, folks, our kids and their futures rely on it.

By the way, you can effect you 401K. Do not ignore it. 15 months ago I shifted everything over to conservative yield funds despite my 'young' age of 36. I have watched many of the fund options in my 401K lose as much as 45% year to date while the funds I have chosen haven't lost any but yet have only gained around 3%.

There are tools on your 401K website. You can look at fund performance over the past week, months, year, etc. The funds are rated as low, moderate and high yields which coincidently translates to low, moderate and high risk of losing the shirt off your retirement back! What the site or anyone for that matter canNOT tell you is where the bottom of this mess is.

Do not put your heads in the sand folks!!!

God, I hope I didn't sound like I was blaming the victim. I can't imagine being in the position some of you folks are in. My frustration lies in all the innocent folks like yourselves who have done everything right by working hard and living within in their means but are now screwed because of the greed of few (great post by Tony of Milagros). The trickle down effect is sickening.

Amen, StrugglingMom, amen. I feel you on the difficulty of paying for childcare to look for work and the nightmare that is the PDX job search, lemme tell ya.

I'm always amazed (and disappointed) by the tidy assumptions that, without fail, crop up when discussing economic issues. The hazy dictates to just change your attitude and all will be well, the smug assertion that if you just lived within your means and never had an emergency and did everything just right, you'd be fine right now.

Hey, I had the opportunity to buy a house in '05, when I was pregnant and my husband and I were BOTH unemployed and living off my IRA (back when it had something in it, haha). I chose not to, out of fear of the very thing that's happening to folks now with their mortgages. For the last three years, we've bounced between apartment after apartment, moving to circumvent rent increases, and ya know what? We're still living on the edge. There's no one magic decision you can or should waggle your finger at a stranger for, and I refuse to do it to other human beings who are struggling.

This is a hard thread to read. I've been lurking here for a couple of years now, living in the Bay Area and wondering about a life in Portland. Why do I wonder about life in OR vs. here where I grew up? For the exact reasons some of you have posted here, we cannot buy a house where we grew up on the wages we can earn here. It's a vicious cycle everywhere I guess. I don't want to leave all my family and friends but I also don't want to be at the mercy of landlords and uncontrollable rent increases anymore. I moved so many times as a kid and I vowed I wouldn't do that to my son. But here he is at age 5 and we are doing our 4th move on Sunday. I hate it. There is no way on earth we can buy a house here. If we come to Portland, I know it causes problems there too. Then what?

CA or OR or wherever, I think we want similar things. I want a house with a fixed mortgage that's not too big, not too small and doesn't require any one of us to commute so that we have 12-hour days and no family time during the week. The mortgage isn't such a huge percentage that we can't save for rainy days, college or retirement.

We are moving in with my MIL because we were slammed with a 15% rent increase. We got 60-days notice by law here, during which I lost my PT job and my dh's company became very unstable. He has a job for now but we're not confident for the company's future. So I really feel for everyone who has posted and is struggling.

Thanks for listening to this outsider.

Re "media hype:" It's hard to hype something when no one is listening.
http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4668

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