Families learn new ways to cope with recession

When my cousin found out her husband was laid off, she was hysterical and she had reason to be. Their household income of $85,000, most of which went toward paying a massive debt and sky-rocketing New York City rent was cut in half. And she was three-months pregnant.

Coping With the Economy

But after six hours of fatalistic talk and four boxes of tissues later, my cousin saw this event as an opportunity to strengthen her relationship with her husband and learn the ropes of being a savvy consumer and an exemplary mother. (Thank goodness for the unemployment checks.)

Her situation isn't a shocker. Many U.S. families have suffered from the heavy weight of the recession. In fact, the fraction that hasn't experienced layoffs and reduced income mentally prepares itself for sudden unemployment, says Catherine Williams, vice president of financial literacy for Money Management International, a non-profit, Houston-based credit-counseling organization. "People are seriously planning on losing their jobs. 'I'm going to lose my job sooner or later,' they say. They're getting ready for it," she notes. Pessimism? No -- practicality. Had my cousin been prepared for a possible financial "slap in the face," she might have handled the news differently.