Vicki Robin

How are you adapting to the Long Recession?

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 3:21 PM

In February the NYTimes began a series about how strapped Americans are addressing the Long Recession.  “Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.” Thus begins the first article in the series.

I’m very interested in two things:

1. How ARE you adapting, adjusting, rethinking, retooling, reschooling, etc.? And to what? Foreclosure? Job loss? Moving to follow the money? Please post comments below so we all can learn from your stories, no matter where you are in the process.

2. If you’ve heeded Your Money or Your Life in some way, has it made a difference in these hard times?  I has for me…I do have enough income, though one income stream disappeared and I needed to replace it (which i have two times over). Thank you FI program, not only for the sacred nest egg but for FI thinking that allows me to think outside the box and find income where others would find none. I’m also a super-saver and no matter how much income I have, I am always under that in terms of spending. It’s become so natural to me that it’s like surfing. I feel under my feet where the slop is in my system and simply postpone purchases or substitute pleasures and somehow stay on the board.  This, too, is FI habits, deeply ingrained over 30+ years of practice. Third, I’ve invested in community these last five years which provides entertainment, shared resources and a deep sense of security. I highly recommend such an investment program – keeping an eye out for how you can invest life energy in other people and establish networks of mutuality.

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  1. Last week we bought ourselves one-way tickets to Asia. I’ve got to admit, I feel a little guilty about it. Well, not guilty. Just a little…strange… that we were able to save enough over the last three years of an imploding economy to buy ourselves the freedom to travel for a few years in Asia. We leave on my birthday, October 13th.

    Back in the early 1990s when we were recent college-graduates and newlyweds we picked up a copy of Your Money or Your Life. Calculating the true cost of our jobs was an eye-popping experience. Since then we’ve used the same logic to figure the true cost of everything – from housing to healthcare, transportation to education. We would run the numbers before making a commitment and frequently decided to forgo the traditional approach to the problem while searching free or near-free alternatives.

    For instance, the last three years we’ve been working (if you can call it that) as the managers of our small apartment complex. The nearly free two-bedroom apartment with free utilities, internet, computer and storage sheds have allowed us to survive – and thrive – while operating an ebay based business. It’s amazing how well you can save when you earn a less-than-average income but have no expenses.

    We Americans are doers. It is one of our greatest strengths. When we are faced with a problem we naturally search for solutions that require action. Trouble is, many of the problems we face today – obesity, addiction, violence, overindulgence, and yes…. indebtedness – require the exact opposite. To solve those problems we must refrain from doing something. That’s where we fail. We are great at taking action. We suck at stopping ourselves from taking action.

    And that’s the long and short of how we are adjusting to the new economic reality. While we earn considerably less than when we were in the corporate world, we have – with your help – bought ourselves freedom and figured out how to be blissfully happy while practicing self-restraint.

  2. I thought I was somewhat safe from the recession as a teacher in NYS but as with everything, everything can change. I may lose my job as population goes down, the economy doesn’t seem to want to turn around anytime soon so I will just keep doing what I’m doing; saving and taking the simple joys out of life. My motto had definitely become More Fun, Less stuff. It works.

  3. My partner and I have just finished renovating a 100-year-old house into a model of urban sustainability. (Check out the JP Green House at our website!) We have 3 kids, a couple of wobbly income streams, a big garden producing food, and an almost zero-energy house. We devote ourselves to climate activism and modeling sustainable living. Though things seem precarious at times, we feel a new sort of abundance is in our future, and we give thanks for community and the opportunity to have this adventure.

  4. Thanks to YMOYL, we have not been hit by the recession. Yes, there are fewer client calls, but we had already simplified and so the lesser income has been manageable. Also, as we had already scaled down our housing expense(s), we were not carrying a large mortgage which would have been difficult /scary to sustain. I would like to bring up my income stream somewhat, but am not “having” to do it, at least not yet. I am grateful we did the course when we did, about 8 years ago, and so it has served us well.

  5. Thank you everyone for your comments. They are very inspiring and heartening as I do believe we are not through the “worst/most challenging/most transformative” part of the downturn. Many will want and need your wisdom

  6. I have lived a frugal lifestyle since childhood. I was born into a farming family where money was always tight. Still, I managed to pick up bad spending habits over the years.

    Then, about the time I went full-time in my tax practice, I discovered “Your Money or Your Life.” The philosophy fit my analytical mind. I love keeping track of income/expenses and charting my progress.

    But the learning never ends. I still find ways to live a better, more sustainable life. I live on less than $1,000 every month but December when I pay my property tax bill.

    The most important thing I tell my clients is to always keep your eyes open for opportunities. You never know when a rummage sale deal will show up or someone you know is disposing of something you could use. I trade garden produce; mend clothes; and drive a 1992 Olds Cutlass Supreme I picked up as a credit union repo. I think I am a good example to my children.

    If you invested in Treasury bonds you did not feel the sting of the stock market. If you saved for years and have no debt, this economic slowdown is no big deal. In fact, it means nothing to the saver. My lifestyle has not changed.

    It is never too late to commit to a happier life. I love my work. I love helping people. When I became an FIer I found out if I really wanted to work in the tax field. I do.

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