What the financial crisis means to me, a single 44-year-old NYC apartment owner

The U.S. economy is in meltdown mode. Or maybe it's more like a lockdown, since the credit markets are essentially frozen. Job losses are on the rise. The real estate bubble has burst. Home foreclosures continue to mount. Gas prices remain high. People are feeling wary and uncertain. About the only thing I am sure of is more uncertainty.

Teetering at the tail end of the Baby Boom generation and thrown in with the GenXers, a group that has little, if any reasonant identity, I feel a bit strange. Born in 1964, I don't identify with either generation and never had any expectations that Social Security, pensions or 401ks would be there for me anyway. I lived through the long gas lines of the mid-1970s, the Reagan years, the recession of the 1990s and the tech bubble. When the market softened post-9/11, many of my friends were laid off from their jobs in publishing, finance, public relations and other fields. At the time, I felt incredibly lucky to have been spared. I still feel lucky.

Here's why: Somehow, I managed to buy my first home less than two years ago in New York City. I secured a mortgage fairly easily when loans were much easier to come by. I bought a tiny sliver of the American dream. I had a full-time job that enabled me to do this, I'd saved money for years and had a little pixie dust to help me out.

Things have changed a bit: I'm a freelancer, i.e., I am self-employed. That means I pay for my own health insurance, pay quarterly taxes to the federal government and to the state where I reside and finance my own retirement account. Most of my career, I was fortunate to have full-time staff jobs where benefits were offered, but the last job I had was at a startup that offered no health insurance. The one before that offered health insurance but the employer didn't contribute to it and there was no 401 k or pension plan. I still felt fortunate.I have grown more accustomed to life on the edge. I often don't expect much. I support myself with my own pluck and drive. I am constantly reminded by my Depression-era parents that I ought to have been a civil servant or a teacher or something that offers a pension. What pension? Young people entering the workforce today don't even know what it is. Employer-provided health insurance and benefits may one day become relics. As taxpayers, we'll all be picking up the tab for the $700 billion bailout.

What does the economic crisis mean to me? It means I'll have to be even more creative in marketing myself, aggressive about saving and continue being cautious.

Oh, and another thing: I'll probably be working well past the age of 70 one way or another. You betcha.

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