Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The sky is falling! Living through economic upheaval.

Stocks? What stocks?I guess it seems a little silly to be posting about mundane things like pumpkins, salmon spawning and dehydrating apples when the world's stock markets are tanking like crazy.

I would imagine that a lot of you readers out there are probably better mentally equipped to handle the bumps in the road simply because you have already chosen, to some extent, a more simple lifestyle. A lifestyle that is less damaging to the earth tends to also be one that is more self-sufficient and less consumeristic and prepares you for relying on yourself and your local community, if need be.

I'm hoping that the changes you have made in your lives have made some of the political and economic shenanigans going on seem less frightening than those out there who have been completely blind-sided by all of this. I suspect it must be harder for people who have been carrying on as if the money train would keep running forever.

I'm sure there are also people who are finding some sense of satisfaction in watching the come-uppance for all those folks out there who have been living rather recklessly in terms of consumption and spending and its resultant effect on the environment.

In spite of all that, this situation is extremely unnerving for even the most hardened of us since we all rely on economics to get by. So, unless you are living in a cave (one with Internet access), you are dependent on the stock market whether you think you are or not.

Have the last few weeks made you more determined to live a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle or are you just too scared shitless to even think about it? Do you fear losing your job or home during this or are you fairly immune because you have paid off your house and have low living costs?


knutty knitter said...

We do our best. I think it likely that we will be out of work fairly rapidly as bottom of the heapers but we always have been on short commons so no different really.

I just hope there's something left for the kids.

We are well versed in the art of making do - that's why I was at home with the no buy challenge - its easy when there is nothing to spend.

My only gripe is that I never got to spend anything anyhow. I'd have liked the 'choice' to not spend.

errr...I think pms struck - not usually so negative!

viv in nz

Katie @ said...

My husband and I moved to Germany several months ago. We read and read about the American economy. We're seeing some of it here, too... but geez.

I'm one of those people who subconsciously memorize how much things cost and have been warned by many people to "get it out of my system".

The smartest thing we're trying to do is be smart about our choices. Your blog always gives us something to talk about and work toward improving. Thank you! I was so worried when you had planned to take a break recently--and feel relieved that it was a brief break. :)

Robj98168 said...

I find I worry about no employment being on strike. So far I am handling the economic tide well, one factor being I have no control on what happens.

This economic downturn affects my future and my ability to retire in 2015-And I am not happy about it, But again I have no control on what happens.

I do however have one vote, and I plan to use it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little concerned. Mostly because of yesterday's market activity. We have a good chunk of retirement in it.
I definately worry about jobs - Our house will be paid for completely in 4 years. so Yeah, I bought a lotto ticket when getting gas yesterday. I buy about 3 a year - I think the first thing I'd do is pay off the house - jjust so that wouldn't hang over our heads.
we could pay all the other bills if I had to sub-teach and hubby was outa work.
We are pretty frugal otherwise. My boys don't really care about clothes as long as its clean - we are lucky like that.

Erika said...

Both my husband and I work in retail, and we are both keenly aware that our jobs are in jeopardy if/when consumer spending tanks (again). Yesterday, I was reminded that many Americans are either oblivious or have a very different idea of the difference between "want" and "need." I work at a certain international coffee shop, and my entire shift yesterday was spent talking to folks at the drive thru. There were folks who were cutting back - their drink was their once a week treat, but then there were folks whose order simply amazed me - for or five very large (read: expensive) drinks, and when I asked them how their day was - they'd just quit their job (and they happened to be a single parent of several children, with no other job prospects). Several customers asked me if I've noticed a significant decrease in the volume of business, given the state of the economy, but since August, I haven't noticed any significant trends. This leads me to believe one or more of the following: Folks just can't live without their "fru-fru" coffee, coffee is the last luxury to go, some folks are either unaffected by the economy, or don't care/play dumb when it comes to how the economy affects their life, or some other combination of money, unrealistic optimism, and lifestyle comfort.

As for DH and me, we're desperately attempting to owe nothing and have enough land to be very comfortable WSHTF. Our only debt is our mortgage and my student loan, which we will pay off when/if the market even starts to think about picking up (the money to pay it off would come from investments). We're holding on to our money even more tightly than before the bottom dropped out of the housing market (and we're thankful that our house was purchased way before the recent boom)... Oh, doom and gloom... it's really not so bad... (that's my eternal optimist voice telling me we're just on an adventure!)


Tara said...

We've decided we will be more comfortable living on the fringes no matter where the economy goes, so we are making plans to step up self-sufficiency in the coming years. More growing our own food and learning to preserve it is number one on the list. It seems like all we've done is cut back and then cut back some more during the last eight years. Guess we'll just keep on trimming...

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Saw it coming... all except our government's obsession with "rescuing" the economy; a plan I equate with idiocy. We have been living *poor* in anticipation of this crash, when we could buy a home with a reasonable price tag and without corrupt lending. Yesterday we saw our hopes crushed when Countrywide got their @sses bailed out. They have zero incentive to sell us a home at fair market value now that our taxes will pay the debts of the fat consumers and lenders. I know all of this is going to get much worse.
It's nice of you to ask. My head is reeling, and people so rarely ask to listen to other people's stories. Thank you.

Chile said...

The timing of the tanking economy definitely is affecting our long-term choices - by limiting them. My sweetie has a pretty secure job so we are not willing to risk his leaving it in hopes of finding one elsewhere, no matter how good he is or how skilled. So, we're stuck here trying to figure out a longterm living plan. ("Here" being a dry, hot desert that is predicted to get drier and hotter with climate change - not necessarily the best choice when hoping to grow your own food.)

Katie said...

It is concerning, but I think (and hope) that we will be ok. Being a stay at home mom, I'm not worried about losing my job and I now have another reason to be grateful that my husband is in the military. Besides all of the worries that come with being a military family, atleast he has job security. I can only imagine what is yet to come, but I do pray we all get through it.

Jena said...

My biggest concern is our mortgage. We have a farm mortgage so the payment is due once each year on Jan. 1st instead of monthly. This allows us to use the money from harvest to pay it. Right now we both work full time off the farm and our jobs are pretty safe compared to a lot of others. However, our off-the-farm salaries are barely enough to cover the farm inputs so if crop prices go down and/or we can't have access to an operating loan, there is no way we would make the mortgage payment. We're trying to cut back everywhere else we can (preserving food, heat, fuel, no shopping, etc.) to be a prepared as possible. It's not the best lately anyway.

Anonymous said...

Assuming our jobs hold out, we are working to pay off our mortgage as quickly as possible while maintaining a 10% 401k Contribution. It will still be sometime before we are house paymentless. In the meantime, I am canning and trimming the bills where possible as well as compacting.

Anonymous said...

We are pretty much hosed if income in our household tanks. We own a very small condo on which I put a large downpayment when I bought it (25%) but the mortgage bills are still very high. And to think this was one of the more reasonable places to live. I can't even imagine what our mortgage bills would be if I had of picked a more expensive neighbourhood. We bought a car a year ago because we had only one and jobs in two different parts of the city. We have been making extra payments to get rid of the loan but still owe about 2/3 of it. We then bought ANOTHER car this summer so we could give my old junker to his ex (she couldn't get a car loan and I didn't want to drive her back and forth to work (call me selfish) every day. So now we have two car payments *sigh* But all of his overtime goes to car payments so I hope to get one paid off in a year or less.

Now if I didn't invest in my 401k so heavily we could pay off the cars pretty quick but we put a LOT in there because I get a 50% match on EVERY DIME. So things are tight and I work two jobs and he works whatever overtime he can get so we can pay our bills and invest in our 401k.

I alternate between worrying and pretending everything is ok so I don't go completely nuts.

Maggie said...

It's scary, especially for those nearing retirement.

At least, perhaps, this is what the nation needs to cut down our energy use a little.

Anonymous said...

I hope you're right, Maggie.

But I'm really worried that what we're doing is pouring all our resources into propping up the consumerist system we have, and there won't be any left for mitigating climate change.

Gretchen said...

As a person who doesn't rely too much on self-sustaining principles, I would hope that those more "crunchy" individuals would not be "finding some sense of satisfaction in watching the come-uppance for all those folks out there who have been living rather recklessly in terms of consumption and spending and its resultant effect on the environment."

I have a mortgage - and I pay it every month. I don't carry debt. I recycle. I hang my clothes to dry. I'm not doing everything, but it's more than some others.

I don't think having a "Ha ha you deserve it!" attitude is helping anyone, so if anyone is reading this who DOES feel that way, please look inside yourself and ask yourself, does feeling this way really make the situation any better?

EJ said...

@Texan mama No one here has expressed "some sense of satisfaction in watching the come-uppance for all those folks out there who have been living rather recklessly in terms of consumption and spending and its resultant effect on the environment."

We have no mortgage, only utilities so getting by with less would be okay. But I would like to keep my job for another 3-4 years so we can build a better house.

Kelsie said...

I'm in a position of feeling both safe and terrified. I feel safe because my parents just bought me a small home (and paid cash). I'll be paying them monthly, but there won't be any interest rates, of course. I feel safe, then, because I have a home that can't be taken away. I have a base. I'm terrified, though, because my first-year garden yielded a lot of immediate edibles, but really not much in the way of preservable food. I have three large pumpkins that can be canned, and I've made several herbal salves and tinctures for medicinal purposes, and I've got several gallons of good, strong blackberry cordial and some pints of blackberry jam, but that's about it. :/ Even my mother called me yesterday to suggest that I buy some bulk rice, beans, etc. I think I will. I've been buying dried and canned goods by the dozen, everytime they come on sale, but I know it's not enough. Now that I have a new home, I have to start the garden all over again, but hopefully I can get some better soil and get a higher yield.

I'm a teacher in a very poor community college, so I am worried about my job. Despite the fact that the students love me, the school sees me as entirely expendable, and they do things like cancel my classes a day before school is slated to start, or forget to pay me for a pay cycle because they were too busy paying the other faculty. That's just how they treat their adjuncts. I also do freelance writing, and work at a quilt shop. Hopefully there will be a continuing need for quilts and articles on dog training! :/

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit concerned about my job. I'm a paralegal for a corporate immigration law firm, and most of our clients are in the technology sector, so as that sector starts to lose jobs, my job gets a little less secure. However, I am still living with my parents, so my housing is secure.

Briel said...

I'm in college right now so my home base is really my parents. The only thing that really concerns me is if I'll be able to make it the 2000 miles back home.

My student loans don't seem to be a problem to me. If I'm working then I'll be happy to pay them off. If I'm not working they can feel free to garnish 15% of nothing.

As for money, well, I work two jobs but still don't seem to have any. Thankfully one of my jobs is at a servery so I get free food. Otherwise I think I'd be heading to food stamps.

I don't spend money. Which can get annoying. :)

Jennifer said...

My husband and I just radically reorganized our finances this weekend because of all of this. We are going to live on one income and save the other. It's going to be tight, but we should have LOTS of savings saved up for any crisis. It will be our first time ever with a joint checking account...DH has resisted for 4 years, but HE was the one who suggested this this weekend. Shows how scared he is! ANyway, it's good preparation in case one of us loses our job, and it will allow us to have anice bank of savings AND pay off more of the house.

We will continue to buy only used, etc. But, we may hold off on some of the decorative home improvements like restoring the porch columns for a while!

Anonymous said...

Im still in my mid 20s, abt to start work and second degree.. Where I am, we're not terribly affected yet(who knows when the trickle down effect will come). I have an expensive mortgage to pay off and start saving for a child in a couple years. DH has a good job.
Lifestyle wise.. I'm glad I've never been a window shopper. Im the get-what-i-need-and-get-out shopper. Food wise, DH and I like eating at home. It saves time and money. Way more healthy too. As far as day to day living, we're pretty good.

What I worry is that we spend a lot on things like house and car. Even though I dont decorate our house with expensive things, the house by itself costs a lot.We installed a dual flush toilet that uses less water and windows that reduces heating bills.. they are energy saving but they cost money to put in. Another expense would be the car. DH is a simple guy but he likes his car so Im trying to compromise here. I dont have a car - take the bus everywhere. I am not worried abt daily life stuff even as I get older. Im not impressed by fancy dinners (Im vegetarian)or clothes/stuff. Im quite easy to entertain - drop me off at the library and its all good!
Im going to start growing my own veges next year. I grew up not having much and got used to not getting everything I wanted. I was a teen when the asian financial crisis happened and we were fine. My family had a simple lifestyle. I remember my dad saying that it was those with middle-upper class lifestyles (not neccessarily the money!) who were going to get hit most. It was very true.

Laura said...

I hear ya, Billie, I take little sanity vacations too just so I don't completely fall off my rocker. :)

I feel like I am in kindergarten when I need to be in college. We have started growing things in our yard, but nothing that would come close to feeding us. It's fun and I aim to keep it that way. I do have the nagging feeling that I should step up production though. :D

I was laid off in Feb this year. I have a relatively secure job now but who knows. On the money front, I have credit debt, student loans, and rent an apartment with my boyfriend. I haven't owned a car for almost 2, though so that saves a bunch of dough.

Mmm, speaking of dough. I used the breadmaker to make dough for cinnamon rolls the other day. So warm and goey!

Anonymous said...

Working in finance I am immersed in the economic news daily. Saturated in it for 8-10 hours a day. I tell you, it is stressful. Since I'm in a position where I see hundreds of people's portfolios I have always been one (and our advisors teach) to save and pay off debt. My house is paid for, I keep the heat down, etc etc. I was a member of Sharon's 90% reduction group for some time, and I learned an awful lot there on how to cut costs. I did my own private "buy nothing in September" and was far more successful than I thought I'd be.

People are afraid -- I hear it daily -- and frankly I personally think it's going to get worse before it gets better. I don't think things are going to settle out in the world markets until the US election. Then everyone will know what the next administration is going to do, and things will calm down a bit. But we will already be in a hole. Mind you, that's my own personal opinion, but I think it is more important than ever that people in the US get out and make an informed vote. Once the next administration is voted it, I think it will take 18 to 24 months to turn this ship around.

Living in the NW my growing season was shortened this year with the rains already starting. I'm bummed at how little my garden produced. So for me, Crunch, I appreciate you discussing gardening because it will help me figure out if there's anything I can grow this fall to help out with the grocery bill!

PsychMamma said...

We have our house and cars paid off, but still have huge grad school debt that we're working on. On top of that, we can't believe how high the cost of living is in general. Grocery bills almost always give me heart failure (a garden would have been a good idea this past summer. We would have put up much of it for the winter), gas prices are horrible, our daughter's med bills are outrageous and all the other "incidentals" (clothes, shoes, dentist, etc.) just seem to keep piling up.

I would guess that there aren't too many people out there (even crunchy ones) who aren't, in some way, feeling the pinch.

Anonymous said...

I have known this was coming for over a year. And we have been trying to be as frugal as possible in preparation. Our state has been in a recession for many, many months.

Financially, my husband and I have taken drastic steps (i.e. Dave Ramsey TMM) to be debt free i9n the past 18 months. We cashed out our all investments. We sold our home and currently rent 2 miles from Dh work, we sold our 2 car leases and paid cash for 1 used car. He bikes most days, or takes the car (I am a SAHM). We paid off all student loans & other debt, we canceled all credit -- and ONLY use cash. We have emergency kits in the car and in our house (like Red Cross recommends). I have been building our pantry up.

We buy used and reuse as much as possible. Very little disposables here -- I have a Diva Cup, Luna Pads, cloth wipes, cloth napkins, etc., etc.

Things are not going to get any better with the next year, and I am prepared. No debt, stockpile of the essentials, full pantry, and cash on hand. We have sold many things and live much simpler than most of our peers, but we feel much more secure with the economy tanking than others do.

Michael Horvath said...

I was just discussing this with a co-worker today and so many of us have it really awful. My gosh, could I have lived with watching my 19" TV instead of buying that
52" flatscreen? Yup. Sure I am afraid of losing my job, many of us are. But living in fear isn't the way to live. Live for today, but plan for your future. To the best of your ability. God, grant me the serenity...

Anonymous said...

I am newly married and am lucky that my wife is onboard the simplicity train with me. So if TSHTF, at least we made a voluntary decision to simplify before it becomes madatory.

We had a dry run of living on less last fall when my wife quit her stressful human services job to work at the locally owned natural foods store where we first met. She took a 60% salary cut, but regained her happiness and sanity which was well worth the reduction. We didn't put a lot into savings or pay down much debt for the 8 months she worked there, but we were still able to live comfortably on much less.

We are now committed to paying off our remaining debt, sans mortgage by February, hopefully sooner. We'll then start paying down the mortgage and putting more into savings and investments.

Lisa said...

My husband is a school teacher so not worried about his job, kids still have to go to school. But we are living with my in-laws so we don't have to rent and saving for a home. But about half of what we have saved is in the stock market. We have lots a lot of the money and we want to use it in a year or two so not sure what to do at this point. We are watching for one good day to sale it all and put it in something saver but that day seems to not be coming.

We thought the bailout would raise it for a day but nope. So we will have a place to live but it may be longer than we want before we can have our own home. But I count our blessings because we have an income that we can count on and a place to live.

Unknown said...

I have only worked one week since early March. This drought is the longest in my life and I am scared when I'm not keeping my mind and body busy with classes, the garden, friends, and the pool. I work in educational publishing, and, repeatedly, clients are buying each other out and sending work to India and Russia. We were supposed to have two projects in September, and they both, at the last minute, went to India.

Thus, I'm taking classes to pick up another career in horticulture and sustainable agriculture.

My husband is a linguist in Iraq. He's been gone for a year, and I miss him terribly. Initially, he was just going to do the one-year contract and then put in for a stateside transfer or quit and look for similar work here. With my lack of work, our mortgage, and the support we give to both our families, we've decided for him to enlist in another year contract.

No matter how frugal and self-sufficient I am, I find that I cannot play with the other lives that are relying on us, or the mortgage for the condo that we love so much (and has the garden I've worked so hard on). The fact that we haven't saved enough to weather this storm saddens me, but we just have to keep doing better on that.

maryann said...

I was nervous before the recent crash and trying to reduce all the monthly bills so the current state of affairs hasn't thrown me much. Earlier this year we found out I was quite unexpectantly pregnant and decided that I will most likely not be returning to work but will be staying home for a time with the new baby, which means living off of one paycheck. Therefore I've spent most of the summer trying to figure out how to reduce or completely get rid of the household bills. It will be tight no doubt but if we're careful on spending we're comfortable we can make it work. It helps that two years ago I left corporate and a nice salary for a hefty paycut and less stress. We managed to make ends meet on a lot less and don't really miss anything, I just think a lot more before buying anything.

I am worried however about our savings and investments. We had some money put away in IRAs and 401Ks and saving and have lost a good chunk of it over the last month. Losing a good portion of the money you hope to be able to retire on someday isn't too promising, at this rate I'll be working until I'm 80 something.

Anonymous said...

My two roommates (who own the mortgage on the house) are both employed; I'm a full-time student. The student loans are the only non-mortgage debt, and they won't be due until 6 mos after graduation. Right now, I'm seriously doubting being able to find a job to pay the loans, so they'll have nothing to garnish. Ironic.

My roommates are playing goldfish - yes, the economy is terrible and a... hey look, a castle! They don't seem concerned about potential job losses.

We have virtually no savings. All expenses are put on Discover and paid off monthly. I don't think they realize just HOW MUCH goes on the Discover each month (it's my job to pay the bills, and when I warn them, hey look, a castle!) Then I use the Discover rewards to buy my textbooks [g].

I've given up on them. I've been storing food and water in the basement root cellar they never go in. I've been hiding cash in the house that I have vaguely mentioned to them (calling it bail money). I've been talking about keeping the heat down to only some grumbling. I "failed" to get central AC installation quotes this summer. I have utterly failed to get them to turn OFF computers when not using them.

My parents are currently full-timing RVing. If my house evaporates, I'll have to track them down (with my own tent)... [wry grin] They took a hit when they sold their house, but damn, I'm glad they managed to sell that oversized suburban evil-HOA beast.

Yeah, I'm just a WEE bit stressed. Thank you Crunchy, for providing a place to vent and also get other perspectives. (and sorry for the long babble)

Please keep posting about gardening and food storage and whatever - it's a refreshing breath of sanity in this current mess!

TheNormalMiddle said...

My job is pretty secure (teacher) but hubby's job isn't (he builds school buses). Problem is, for the last 10 years we relied only on his income and it was more than enough. Now, he makes less than I do, and my measly teacher's salary isn't enough to do it all without him working too. So, we are very narrowly getting by right now. All non-necessities are gone. No more driving out in the country or to the mall "just because." We save and scrimp our gas $$$ like it is gold.

But in some ways, this hasn't been all bad. We're having more fun being a FAMILY together. Playing board games, reading books, taking walks outside, finding rocks in our woods to border our gardens, etc. We've gotten quite creative.

What worries me most is food and health care. We have a family of 5 and one of my children has serious special needs. I can't cut back on medicines or doctors appointments for her. We will have to pay those costs no matter what, and if hubby loses his job, my insurance will kick in but it is MUCH more expensive.

We take it day by day. It's all you can do.

Frisky said...

just trucking along, hoping someone will offer me a job sometime soon. gulp.

i really feel the worst for my parents, whose retirement was already set back by a certain entity known as enron. they don't deserve to lose any more hard-earning savings due to the greed and incompetence of ceos.

nava said...

My husband and I are both undergrads, and have a one year old. When we graduate we are moving to a much cheaper area, but he is going directly into med school because #1 his current job will not support us, even though it's one of the best in our area, and #2 we've already invested so much into his education that stopping now simply isn't something we can afford, since if he doesn't continue those student loans are due now instead of one he has a job. At least he'll have a job when he graduates, but the 4 more years of getting there are going to be really REALLY hard. We don't own anything besides our furniture and our car, so while we dream of having a place where we can grow our own food there isn't a bank in the country that will help us do that right now, so we are stuck renting; there's money down the drain. We do our best, but I am scared that it simply isn't enough, and it's not like we can fall back on family either; they have it just as bad or worse, since they aren't living off of financial aid right now to cushion the economic blows.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

About feeling: "some sense of satisfaction in watching the come-uppance for all those folks out there who have been living rather recklessly in terms of consumption and spending and its resultant effect on the environment."

How could we feel that way when the culprits have bailed, sorry, "rescued" themselves with our $$?!

MamaWestWind said...

I'm a little afraid because we're stretched to the max as it is. But, we rent, so we're not involved in the housing crisis. It makes me more determined to live simply. I want to add a garden and learn to alter and re purpose my own clothes and my sons.

Anonymous said...

Please be aware that renting does not exempt you from the mortgage crisis. Odds are, your landlord has a mortgage.

"Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said today his office plans to stop serving eviction notices on people who have fallen behind on mortgage payments as well as renters unaware their buildings have fallen in arrears."

Anonymous said...

It was a relief to see that the word "tent" only appeared once or twice in the whole comment section.
I wish everyone well and hope that you have also found a way to preserve your sense of humor for the duration of the latest crisis. That costs nothing and pays handsome benefits. Later, when the money life has resuscitated, we can all laugh all the way to the bank. Meanwhile, be of good cheer.

Jen said...

It's been really interesting to read this, I hope everyone manages well. We're living very frugally, even more than normal, but there's no way my husband will get fired or get a pay cut since he's in the military. That also means that our healthcare is guaranteed. Other than that, we have definitely had to cut back. The only things I buy new are groceries and the occasional sundry like pens or a new toy for the kiddo. I make our laundry detergent, cleaners, and dishwasher detergent, cook everything we eat, buy clothes used and repurpose stuff to make blankets or diapers or napkins.

We think it's going to get tighter for us, though, because of those who rely on us. We own my in-laws' house and he just lost his job. What can we do, kick them out? Other than that, not much has changed for us.

Kathleen McDade said...

We are pretty good at living without a lot of money -- been doing it for quite a while now. However, we are still dealing with a mountain of debt, and that worries me.

Finding Pam said...

Wow, Cruchy Chicken! What a wonderful blog. I just found your blog and love it. So many interesting ideas.

Like you, we have been conserving and I love the challenge of living with less and the creativity that makes me really think about functioning with less.

One thing, eventually, we may all have to barter and trade, so learn something that will help you to survive. And with everything tied to the computer and the era of technology from banking, to health care,communication,investing and even blogging, what will you do when that is gone?

Anonymous said...

I just graduated from college and I go between looking for a full time job and being a NEET. My fiancĂ©’s salary is enough to pay our expenses, including our 2x mortgage we got just before the housing market crashed. Our home's worth has dropped 25% in 2 years, which I am most definitely concerned about. I mean, financially, we are fine, but I feel completely unprepared to make a difference with my own actions.

Overall, I suppose I'm just feeling cheated. My whole life I've been poor and gone without. I was told that if you went to college, you could get a good job and then you just had to invest in the stock market and in a house. After that, you're set. But all of that has been a lie. This plan no longer applies, so now what?