What the meltdown means to me, a Gen X parent in NYC

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It's been scary reading the headlines. It's been scarier reading my family's investment reports from Fidelity. A nice little nest egg that my husband's parents diligently built up through the course of his lifetime has lost 20% of its value in 2008 alone. Thankfully, we own our apartment and are mortgage-free so we are, in some ways, better off than most these days. Just two years ago, we too had an adjustable mortgage but luckily paid that off before the seven-year deadline. I also paid off my college loans before I married, and we try to live within our means. I still wear my pregnancy jeans three years after my daughter's birth because they're in good shape.

But that doesn't mean we don't worry about the future. My husband and I both work in print journalism, which, if you read the stories, is a dying industry. I haven't had a cost of living raise in six years. We are also raising our daughter in Manhattan, one of the most expensive cities in the world. With more and more families staying in the Big Apple, competition for spots at good public schools is tough and will only get tougher when she reaches kindergarten age. And the idea of private school is frankly nightmare-inducing. We're talking some $30,000 a year.

So what to do? My brother's friend, a financial adviser in New York State, says people like us, those in their late 30s with two modest incomes and little debt, should sit tight and ride things out. In fact, he says that now is the time to invest in mutual funds and bond funds that provide quarterly dividends. These dividends can be used to buy more shares at today's basement prices. When the market rebounds and share prices go up, we will have made money. He also recommends participating in our employers' 401K plans, opening or putting money into our IRAs and setting up an education fund for our daughter. "Buy low, sell high, those are the basics," he adds. "Pulling your money out now means you'll suffer losses. And too often, people wait too long to get back into the market and lose out on the gains when the market does come back."To ease the pain, he recommends investing systematically. Set aside $50 a month for investing, and treat it like a bill. That way, we're slowly building up our retirement fund and don't feel the loss of income as much.

Still, who are we kidding? I wake up worried about our jobs and whether we'll have enough for retirement. I'm anxious about my parents, who in their 70s rely on their children for part of their income. I worry that this bailout plan that President Bush just signed into law will cripple our generation and those younger than us Gen Xers. I fear we will not be able to financially help our daughter when she is older.
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