Here’s How Millennials’ Lives Were Changed By Recession 10 Years Ago

If the Great Recession was 10 years ago, why does it feel like it was yesterday? Millennials share their stories of how their lives are still affected by last decade's financial crisis.

A decade has passed since the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008. The resulting crisis — a period of staggering unemployment that peaked at 10%, a distressed housing market, and woeful economic decline — is commonly referred to as the Great Recession. It was a defining moment for many millennials who were coming of age as uncertainty mushroomed and opportunity shrunk. Today, millennials are full-fledged adults, with the oldest approaching 40 years old. And although unemployment is at a 49-year low, many millennials find themselves on the edge of poverty in low-wage jobs as the cost of living keeps rising. While many have recovered from the immediate traumas of the recession, they also live with the consequences of a lost decade.

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to share their personal stories of how they continue to experience the impacts of the financial crisis. The response was overwhelming. Many survived the foreclosure of homes, parents losing jobs, and years of fruitless job hunting after graduating school. A common misfortune across posts was unexpectedly taking out big loans for school and maxing out credit cards to stay afloat, especially when savings ran out after parents became unemployed. And many respondents said they were only able to secure poorly paid work as their debt grew. On top of this, some adult millennials live with enduring fears and insecurities that dissuade them from making big life changes, such as getting married or having children. What’s clear is that this generation is far more resilient than it often gets credit for.

1. I can’t afford to have children and it breaks my heart.

The economic crisis aftermath has affected my ability to have children. With my salary and student loan debt I can’t afford to have children, and it breaks my heart. I may potentially never get the chance to be a mom — my ultimate desire.


2. I don't know if I can ever feel fully secure.

My mother signed an adjustable rate mortgage on a condo in 2006 during the housing boom and almost immediately regretted it. By 2009 she had lost her condo to foreclosure and were packing up to move back in with my grandparents on my 20th birthday.

Within months my father was laid off from his job and would be unemployed for the next 18 months. Simultaneously, the major chain bookstore my sister worked at went under, and she would be unemployed for the next 10 months.

By 2011, I was graduating college and moving back home with little expectations of finding a job in my field. I moved in with my sister and dad in a one-bedroom apartment. By this time my dad had found a job but was only slowly climbing out of his financial hole. My job search was demoralizing and a harsh reality to face. I decided to take on an unpaid internship that advertised "the possibility of full-time employment." I quickly learned that this was grossly exaggerated, but with no place else to go, I stayed for six months hoping the experience would give me an advantage in the job market. SPOILER ALERT: It didn't. I eventually got a part-time job at a craft store where I stayed for three years, underpaid and incredibly unhappy.

Fast forward to 2018, and I'm working successfully in merchandising. I'm doing well but still have anxiety about my and my family's financial situations. I don't know if I can ever feel fully secure in that regard. I learned a lot from that time and try not to look back with resentment of the idea that people a little older than me and people a little younger than me had a vastly different experience. I've only slowly recognized the effect that period had on me and my entire future, but I learned you can only move forward.


3. My husband stayed home for almost two years after our youngest was born.

I was finishing my master's in zoology in 2008. I'd say it's impacted our lives in two ways: One, no matter how many times I took jobs that were outwardly vertical moves or increases in responsibility, my salary stayed pretty stagnant. That made it hard to afford child care, which leads to point #2: None of our immediate family in the area can afford to retire and help with child care, even though they want to. My husband stayed home for almost two years after our youngest was born and we've struggled financially.


4. All entry-level positions were cut and now I've been out of the industry too long.

I worked retail for nine years before I found a job doing something that's totally not what I went to school for. I had to give up on my dream job because all entry-level positions were cut, and now I've been out of the industry too long to get a job.


5. Mortgaged at $249K, sold for $89K.

My husband and I bought our first home in 2004. By 2007 it was mortgaged at about three times what it really should have been. We refinanced three times between 2004–2007 — I think we thought, wow free money so we’d rack up our credit cards, refinance, pay them off, and start the vicious cycle all over again. Our house was mortgaged at $249,000 and we knew we were severely upside down. We attempted to work with the mortgage company to keep our home. l resolved to short sell it [for $89K] and eventually just walked away.

We found a rental condo in a MUCH better community for $700 less per month. Three years later (with the help of a VA loan) we bought our forever home in that same community. Predatory lending and our naïveté led to this disaster, but it was the best thing that could have happened. And we will NEVER refinance to take money out against our home.


6. There is no work where I live without the insane credentials.

I never went to college, so I'm lucky enough to not have student loan debt. But I have plenty of other debt because I've had nothing but part-time job after part-time job. There is no work where I live without the insane credentials. "Entry level" around here (Midwest) requires at minimum an associate's degree and a couple years of experience — and that's for jobs that literally anyone can do: office jobs, school support staffing, etc. Nothing offers insurance, nothing offers dental or vision or vacation time, not that I could afford a vacation if I wanted to. Life is overall garbage, has been since 2008. There is no getting out of this hole; there is no moving up in the world. This is it.


7. I packed up and moved to Shanghai.

I graduated with a liberal arts degree in 2014 (I'm 26 now) and knew there was about zero chance of me getting a full-time job in my field. Instead I packed up and moved to Shanghai, where I've been teaching ESL for over three years. Every job I've had here has offered a month's vacation (at least), health insurance, and a housing allowance on top of my salary. I want to go back home, but every time I visit I see how my friends and family are struggling just to make ends meet, let alone having money left over to enjoy their lives. Now I feel trapped in China (the culture shock is REAL) because I don't want to choose between the lifestyle I have now or going home where people my age can't make enough to buy homes or start families.


8. We graduated and went home and kept doing the same retail/restaurant jobs we’d been doing.

What’s interesting is that as a member of the class of 2007, I feel like we were the canaries in the mines when it came to the impending recession. The class of 2006 got the "college graduate" jobs we’d been raised to believe in when we went to school. But with my graduating class, quite a few more of us didn’t. We graduated and went home and kept doing the same retail/restaurant jobs we’d been doing. And a lot of my friends, including me, still are. I work a service job I hate that pays $15 an hour, and that still isn’t actually a living wage, despite falling in the middle income range for where I live. I owe $38,000 in student loan debt for a degree I’m not using, and which I will likely never pay off, because thanks to income based repayment and my low income, I don’t make enough to even pay all the interest my loans accrue each year. I do have a house and a car, but only because my parents supplement my income each month.


9. I am realizing just how far behind that initial delay put me as far as income potential and saving for retirement.

I graduated law school at peak recession in the legal industry — 2009. My law firm laid off a bunch of lawyers and rescinded its offer to all its incoming lawyers. It took me 14 months to find another legal job, and even then, it was very low-paying because I felt like I needed to take any job. In the meantime, I had to start paying back law school loans. While I finally was able to find a higher paying job, that took four years. It’s now been another four years, and I am realizing just how far behind that initial delay put me as far as income potential and saving for retirement.


10. I am on my way to that $80,000 a year.

When the Great Recession hit 10 years ago, my clients were losing their jobs, homes, cars, etc., so they couldn’t afford a pricy haircut. I moved to a salon where we charged $5 for kids cuts and $7 for adult cuts... and my clients still could barely afford to keep up their appearance. Charging such low prices and seeing less and less clients had me in a place where I was excited if my check for a week was over $300! I was told that out of beauty school I should be making $80,000 in five years, and I wasn’t even making $20,000! Thankfully, 10 years later at the age of 36, I have gotten to a place where I don’t feel bad about charging $60 for a hair cut and am on my way to that $80,000 a year.


11. Before I even started, my position was cut.

I graduated from college in the fall of 2007 and had a job lined up prior to graduating. Before I even started, my position was cut, and soon the corporate office I was supposed to work at permanently closed. I had been working retail while in school, and that's where I stayed 10 years after because my position was safe there and I could occasionally pick up overtime. I made constant efforts to get out, but there was nothing… unless I wanted to move, of course, with little money, to somewhere with an even higher cost of living. I have a better job now that I really enjoy, but I’m not using any of my degrees. At this point, constantly working is all I know, and I’m terrified to spend my time doing anything but. I was and am very much single. I don't foresee myself ever getting married, but if I wanted to, I wouldn't have the time or the energy for it. I'm envious of those that are, for the bit of financial benefit it affords.


12. We had to work so hard to get back on our feet with two kids after going from six figures to food stamps.

My husband was at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street in 2008 when it crashed... we lost everything and filed for bankruptcy. He left finance and went into education, but landed back in finance recently. We had to work so hard to get back on our feet with two kids, after going from six figures to food stamps and WIC [a federally funded nutrition assistance program]. We finally left NYC because we felt the city didn’t love us back, and we settled in the Bay Area, not realizing it would turn into the most expensive housing market in the country.


13. The worst part was the degree was bullshit.

I’m 31 years old. My mom lost her home during the recession. I remember the day after I graduated from high school, I landed a job as a waitress. I was trying to help pay the mortgage and feed our family and my mom was a full-time manager at [a big box store] at the time. My boss would let me buy food from work and just take it from my check whenever I needed to feed my little brothers cause we were so broke. Then I made the BIGGEST mistake of my life. I’m still in crippling debt from all the loans I got from [college]. The worst part was the degree was bullshit. I graduated with a bullshit Associates of Applied Science degree for Medical Billing and Insurance Coding. When I tried to get a car for the first time when I was 25, I didn’t qualify because of my student loans. I had to buy from a used car place and the transmission went out four months after I bought it. I went to college to better myself and try to have a better life and not have to worry about ever having my home taken away like my mom did. But to this day I can’t even buy a home if I wanted. I also am afraid to even get married because I don’t want to burden my future husband with any debt I still have.


14. I count my blessings every day.

Compared to most people, my husband and I consider ourselves very lucky. We both got hired right out of college, and my husband’s offer actually came in the fall of 2008, right when the market crashed. It was a bit lower than what he should have received, but his company has been generous with promotions and has more than made up that initial difference. We were both privileged enough to graduate with no student loans. We’ve paid off our cars, have decent savings including a very healthy 401(k), a good amount of education funds for our child, and enough money set aside for medical emergencies in our HSA account. We also have an affordable mortgage on a new construction, single-family home in a decent school district. It's affordable enough that we’ve been able to make it work on just one income while I stay home with our child (because I wanted to). I count my blessings every day. I know many of our peers have not had an easy time.


15. I chose a very difficult, stressful career field that I’m not sure is truly my passion.

My husband and I were both in college during the Great Recession. I remember sitting in the business school building watching the news on TV about the stock market crashing. I don’t think I can understate the impact this had on both of us in terms of how we spend and save our money, as well as just plan our lives in general. Thankfully we are financially stable, but this is mostly because I am a very practical person and chose a career in nursing. I knew it was a stable career where I could earn a decent wage, but I didn’t necessarily love it. My husband (who got a business degree in marketing) had a very difficult time finding a job out of college and worked internships and low-paying seasonal positions for years. Finally he refused to go back to his seasonal job, and ended up unemployed for a year. The hardships we went through that year still weigh on our minds when we make any financial decision. It was the most stressful time in our marriage, and I’ve never seen my husband so low. We are doing okay now, and thankfully don’t have much debt, but this is mostly due to the fact that I chose a very difficult, stressful career field that I’m not sure is truly my passion.


16. The poor kids, still pretty fucking poor. They all have jobs, though.

Around 12 years ago my family (my mom, brother, and myself) lost our home during the burst. I sold everything in my room — my synthesizer, half my posters, a ton of CDs, combat boots. Whatever I had, I sold it and gave the money to my mom. We moved into a trailer park. We went to college (all of us) but the growing debt made me drop out and look for work. After a while gas prices had risen so high that my mom couldn't afford to commute to her job, about 100 miles a day. So we ended up having to leave a trailer with no heat, sometimes no water, huge holes in the floor, rats, because we were that fucking broke. We all three moved back in with my grandmother and great-grandmother.

Now I teach those with intellectual disabilities how to live more independently. My mom is also doing the same kind of work. We still live together to keep the lights on.

The decade of instability, anxiety, mixed with inherited family mental disorders like depression and ADHD, led me and my entire family down the traditional path of our family: lots of drinking. We all had our ups and downs.

I see my peers. They're still here in the same town. They're all pretty much where they were 10 years ago. Some got married and moved a few states away. They're all still in the same class set they were in the beginning, though. The poor kids, still pretty fucking poor. They all have jobs though.


17. My parents fed us over themselves when we had little food.

My dad was one of the 200 people laid off at his work because the Great Recession. We struggled for three years to find a job that could feed us and lived off unemployment checks. We got evicted from our house and had to live at my dad's friend's house, then my older brother's house, and lastly my oldest sister's. Once my dad had found a suitable job, it took us four years to get where we are today. And sometimes we still struggle with money. It was such a struggle to even eat. My parents fed us over themselves when we had little food. It still has its lasting effects on me. Whenever we eat, I always think how thankful I am that we have food and we don't have to go to bed hungry.


18. I’m nowhere near where I thought I would be at 35.

I opened a store right before the recession: great first year then terrible. I managed to survive five years before being calling it quits. That same year, I almost died from a wisdom tooth extraction gone wrong (no health insurance), and my family lost our home of 30 years in a total BS move by [our bank]. It’s taken me five years to slowly rebuild my life. I’m nowhere near where I thought I would be at 35. But last year my boyfriend and I left Chicago because we wanted to own a home and not live paycheck to paycheck. We bought a house in Detroit (Detroit proper, not metro) and it was the best decision ever. The economy is not great, wages have not caught up with inflation, and again this is not where I thought I would be, but I hope it’s gonna get better.


19. It sucked, but I’m so thankful for everything I have now. And that makes me so proud.

In the decade since the crash, some of the most striking things are closely related to how much decay has hit the rust belt in the Midwest. I dropped out of college when my dad lost his job at the plant and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. By 2010 we all couldn’t afford to live in a dying city, so we moved. My parents filed bankruptcy, the house I grew up in was foreclosed on, and we all, with basically the clothes on our back, fled to Tennessee where my mother's family is from. We got on food stamps, started gardening, and fishing, and really worked as hard as we could and leaned on each other for support.

At the time I couldn’t help but feel like it was unfair. I just wanted to be a normal kid, getting drunk at a frat party or have the luxury of complaining about how hard a college class was. Instead I was working 50 hours a week so we could afford my mum's medicine. I look back now and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I’m so close to not only my family, but my aunt and cousins as well. At 28, I’ve finally gone back to school. It sucked, but I’m so thankful for everything I have now. And that makes me so proud.


20. Losing our twenties to layoffs and poor employment opportunities meant that other things were put off.

Due to the recession and lack of opportunity, my husband and I moved. It took me almost four years to find a position that offered benefits and retirement options. We are in a better place financially, but losing our twenties to layoffs and poor employment opportunities meant that other things were put off. I still have crippling student loan debt (with a degree I have never used); we both filed for bankruptcy; we put off children (and now are struggling to conceive); and buying a house feels like a pipe dream.


21. I honestly don’t see a point in my life where I’m not going to be paying off some sort of debt caused by what we lost in the recession.

My family lost nearly all of our savings during the recession and lost all of our investments, which meant that my brother's and my college funds no longer existed. Not only did the recession happen, but my parents got divorced while it was happening. Once I realized how bad things were for the family (I was 15), I started working 60-hour weeks as a lifeguard every summer and teaching private swim lessons during the school year so that I could pay for everything I needed and lessen the burden on my parents (food, gas and car insurance, clothes, etc). I learned later in life that the recession didn’t affect just my brother’s and my education fund, but it cost both of my parents their retirement too. Even though I’m doing ok 10 years later and on my own, I’m still thousands of dollars in debt and also help both of my parents with their bills when they need it. I honestly don’t see a point in my life where I’m not going to be paying off some sort of debt caused by what we lost in the recession.


22. I was helping clients who were at risk of losing their homes as a result of the recession.

I was a 21-year old Jr. Executive at a branch of CitiGroup. The business began experiencing symptoms of the inevitable early in the year when our mortgage refinance business came to a halt as a result of declining property values in our area and credit scores of our clients. My branch was forced to shut down the day after Thanksgiving and I was laid off.

I was able to land a permanent position with a bank almost a year later in 2009. In that role, I was helping clients who were at risk of losing their homes as a result of the recession. I worked tirelessly to reestablish myself. By 2012, things started to stabilize. Once the economy started taking an upward swing I found myself laid off again in 2014. Since credit and property values were viable once again, there was no need for my services.

I made the decision to exit the financial industry that year to pursue another field and also return to school. It was a difficult transition, but in these past four years I have experienced great financial and professional growth. I had the opportunity to see and experience effects of the recession from multiple angles. It taught me to get up, push through, and persevere.


23. I still get panic attacks and nightmares about losing it all over again.

I lost my job at the beginning of the recession. I had been at the company for five years. I ended up taking an entry level position within a company where there was plenty of opportunity to advance. On day one I told my boss what my qualifications were and what role I wanted and we mapped out a plan to get me there. During that time I worked on my certification, used the company’s relationship with a local university to get an advanced degree, and worked 80-hour weeks at three jobs to surpass where I had been at the other company.

It took two years to bounce back from the loss of my job, and three more to get my trajectory back. I still get panic attacks and nightmares about losing it all over again.


24. We both feel resentment toward the adults who set us up to pursue our dreams — only to be told by those same people that there’s nothing for you.

I had to move back home and transfer to a community college because my parents were adamant I leave college with no debt. (It’s been the greatest gift they’ve ever given me.) I graduated with a degree in history and couldn’t find a job that would pay me more than what I was making as a waitress. I ended up working my way up in the restaurant industry, and felt trapped for so long because I hated my job but had no experience elsewhere and could not take a pay cut. Upon my husband's graduation, he couldn’t find a job except at a exotic car dealership. He found a minimum-wage job, worked his way up, and actually does well. Although we're fine now, we both feel resentment toward the adults who set us up to pursue our dreams/work hard/do the right thing — only to be told by those same people that there’s nothing for you because they squandered it. Living through the recession just showed me how hard my husband was willing to work, and it’s probably one of the biggest reasons our marriage is solid now. We know how much we’re willing to do when times are tough.


25. I graduated in 2009 with a BFA in graphic design.

I graduated in 2009 with a BFA in graphic design only to be told that most of us may not be able to find jobs. The only job in my field that paid was my summer internship right after graduation; after that, all the internships I encountered didn't offer pay. I moved into my parent's basement, and what was supposed to be a temporary job at Best Buy ended up lasting a little over four years. Around age 25, I was physically/mentally exhausted by doing freelance jobs, internships that paid in experience, and an unreliable check from working part-time in retail. So gave up and got a job doing menial work in a warehouse. Six months in, I worked my way into getting an administrative position which I worked for six years. Three years into the position I managed to scrimp and save enough buy a house. My field has changed so much in the past 10 years that I would have to re-learn a lot of it. I have now settled for a job outside my field since it suits my needs and I can continue my life, but I still have to explain to older generations why I don't have a job in my field.


26. I became a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar.

I graduated from college in 2008. Expecting there were no jobs and wanting to get international experience in my field, I became a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. It was a good decision personally, professionally, and financially. Even though I didn’t make a lot of money, I also didn’t get into any more debt! I got a Peace Corps fellowship for a master’s program and then went overseas to teach again. Now I’m finishing up my PhD. Thanks to the Peace Corps, I was able to avoid serious consequences from the recession and also advance my career.


27. I grew from a sheltered, privileged girl, to a woman who is grateful for each opportunity.

My husband and I were both young college students when the recession hit. Suddenly, we found ourselves struggling to find work. Despite our college degrees (I have two), the only options we found required a college education, offered no benefits, were part-time, and paid minimum wage. We were stuck. My husband was laid off suddenly, and couldn’t find anything other than part-time temp work. We took the jobs we could, went to the food bank, and dreamed for our future. As soon as I graduated college, we moved to Seattle and started our new lives. Life after the move was hard at first. We worked manual labor jobs and lived very frugally. While it was frustrating, we choose to be optimistic and hardworking. I will always remember that time as a season where I grew from a sheltered, privileged girl, to a woman who is grateful for each opportunity. I won’t forget that time when I went without, and that keeps me grounded now.


28. University isn’t for everyone. and there are so many jobs that require trade skills that make good money.

Recession hit my family hard. Dad got laid off after working for a great company for 17 years in 2008. He said it was one of the saddest times of his life. He used part of his 401(k) to help pay the mortgage, found full- and part-time work here and there, but being in the manufacturing field during the recession, he would get laid off again and again. He eventually had to retire early due to disability at 61 years old and used the rest of his 401(k) to pay off the mortgage. Thank god my mom works in the health care field, and we were never really in danger when the recession hit.

I graduated in 2011 with BSN in nursing, and thankfully with nursing, work is easier to find and the pay is decent. I graduated with $25K in loans, but I'll pay it all off three years from now. Working in health care isn't for everyone, but it is one of the few fields where work is much easier to find.

My husband was in a completely different boat. Majored in the wrong field and ended up $60K in student loan debt for nothing — he didn't even get a degree. Now he has his associate's and is working in a good field in manufacturing where he got his associate degree for free. University isn't for everyone, and there are so many jobs that require trade skills that make good money.

Now we bought a house last year and trying to start a family.


29. I maintain that going to college and starting my own business were the two worst decisions of my life.

I was 25 in 2008. I had two years of experience in my field and couldn’t find a job, so I went to grad school. I still couldn’t find a job... any job. I ended up starting my own business, which had been really hard since my industry tanked and all the mom and pop stores are shutting down. I’m still struggling with lots of debt and now my family is depending on my business to not fail. It sucks. I maintain going to college and starting my own business were the two worst decisions of my life. I am so frustrated. I did everything “right” according to my family to start a career and live comfortably... and now I basically need to work my full-time business plus two side jobs to make ends meet. I don't know what to do honestly. It’s scary.


30. I may have a permanent case of “what ifs.”

In 2008 I was 24 and graduating from dental hygiene school. I would spend the next two years struggling to get jobs. Even a one-day-per-week position would have dozens of applicants. THANK YOU, STARBUCKS, for keeping me afloat!

I still worry about having enough work to get by. [My husband and I] basically operate in fear of losing work and income. We do our best to make wise and judicious financial decisions. We have had roommates for the last four and a half years. We may not have children. The recession was nuts, and it still is always in the back of my mind. I may have a permanent case of “what if’s” for the rest of my life when it comes to paying bills, finding jobs, and not going into debt.


31. The impact that the recession had on ME personally was life-changing in a positive way.

I was working for a very successful structural steel company, making excellent money, and enjoying lots of perks, (despite not having finished college ) when the recession hit. The commodities market tanked and most construction and engineering building projects ground to a halt. I was laid off, single, female, 31. I allowed myself a weekend of drinking and crying and then decided to really think about what I was interested in since I suddenly found myself forced to reinvent myself. Thanks to Oregon unemployment training (ability to receive unemployment while attending school full time) I became a medical assistant while also becoming an x-ray tech. I found a great job for far less money than I was used to making, but I was really invested in that job. After four years I decided to go to nursing school while working, and I'm now a nurse manager. I can honestly say that the impact that the recession had on ME personally was life-changing in a positive way. It forced me to pull myself up by the bootstraps, really look in the mirror and ask myself, "what do you REALLY want; what are you capable of?" And I found my answer.


32. I was hella ambitious, life had other plans.

I moved home to live with my parents and as I searched for work, collected unemployment, worked part-time gigs, and continued to just “wait it out." I had to endure consistent speeches from them about “being lazy” and “not wanting to work.” They love me, but they made sure to let me know I was a burden, which had a detrimental effect on how I presented myself to the world. I didn’t date for three years and I still view not being financially stable all on my own as a reason to keep my tail between my legs in that arena. In 2013, I went back to teaching. In 2014, I finally moved out. And In 2016, I finally made it to LA. I’m proud that I never gave up, and I am slowly making good on that degree I earned. But, the recession definitely “recessed” me. I feel 25, not 34, and I don’t have nearly what I thought I would by now. It is a process to forgive myself for letting myself down. I was hella ambitious, life had other plans.


33. It wasn’t until about age 30 that we even started feeling like adults.

I’m 33. My husband and I both graduated college in 2007. We have spent years working really low-wage jobs, sometimes multiple jobs. It wasn’t until about age 30 that we even started feeling like adults. We bought a house and both moved into jobs that used our skill sets. I have student loan debt. I have credit card debt from my twenties that I still can’t pay off. It’s the biggest roadblock to having kids right now.


34. Since the labor market was so tight, there was no room to move up or negotiate for a higher salary.

I graduated college in 2008. I was bartending at a popular restaurant at the time, but could not find a job that related to my major at all. I finally found a job that turned out to be really crappy, but since the labor market was so tight, there was no room to move up or negotiate for a higher salary. I stayed there for a long time for fear of not being able to find something better. I really feel it put me behind in terms of building my worth financially and developing skills.


35. I taught myself the skills I needed to succeed, and I’m pretty damn proud of that.

I had to drop out of college because we couldn’t afford it and start working full time. I started as a filing clerk in a doctors office and slowly moved my way up through various jobs and positions. It took a lot of hard work and teaching myself the skills to build a successful career. Currently, approaching my 30th birthday, I am the operations director for a marketing and advertising company. In a way I am one of the lucky ones — yes, I had to work incredibly hard, but I didn’t incur thousands of dollars in student debt. I taught myself the skills I needed to succeed, and I’m pretty damn proud of that. This is for all the baby boomers that say millennials are lazy.


36. My condo dropped almost $100K in value.

My condo dropped almost $100K in value almost overnight, and then the hospital I worked for decided to cut costs, and my position was part of the cost-cutting. Because I didn't have any kids or anything tying me down, I was able to move to New Jersey to take a job, which actually catapulted my career. Then I relocated to the Bay Area to start a position with a lofty title but shitty pay at a startup biotechnology company. That company was sold and my stock netted me a few hundred thousand, which enabled me to go back to school for my masters and pay off all of my student loan debt. I eventually took what was left and moved back to Chicago to live my dream of starting my own restaurant.


37. I’m scared and tired and I don’t want to keep working so hard for so little.

I believe that due to the crash, no matter how much I work or go to school, I can’t live the life that I’ve worked so hard for. Throughout college, I worked two to three jobs at a time to make ends meet, and I still graduated with $60K in student loan debt. I couldn’t seem to get a job that paid more than $15 an hour. So I decided to go back to school for my Master’s, hoping to open more career opportunities. After years of trying to get into higher education, I am now going back for a second MA, this time in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Again, I’m told over and over I don’t need the degree, but in order to be competitive in the job market, I’m doing it. I always thought by now I would be settled in my career and working my way up, but I’m terrified I’m going to have to get an entry-level job that I’m overqualified for and makes only $2K a month. And then there’s the dream of buying a house...that’s not even an option. With houses ranging from $600K to over a million dollars, a 20% down payment in itself is six figures. How can we as a generation save up enough when we can’t get jobs that pay enough to even put money into savings? I want to start a family, but I’m still fighting an uphill battle, and I refuse to have kids until I make enough to fully support my kids. I’m scared and tired and I don’t want to keep working so hard for so little.


38. I have a complex now.

I have a complex now. I don’t completely trust banks or the stock market. I can’t. I’m too afraid it will happen again, and with everyone’s money in banks, I don’t know if we will survive. What if I buy a house and it becomes worthless? Too many variables. We didn’t ever truly bounce back enough for me to feel comfortable.


39. I can’t say this is where I expected to be at this age.

I attended law school from 2006 to 2009. In 2006, attending law school was a lucrative, sound career move. By the time I graduated, the bubble had burst and getting a job was essentially impossible. Job offers were rescinded and many of my classmates started working for free just to get their foot in the door somewhere.

I was forced to move back home with my mom for well over a year before I finally landed a job as an attorney with the federal government. I ate a ton of rice and frozen broccoli because I was broke and it was cheap. I lived out of two suitcases on the floor since pretty much everything I had at the time was up in Boston and I couldn't afford to go up and get it. I took the bus to/from work and slept on an air mattress for about six months before I could actually afford to buy a mattress and car because my credit went to hell after being unemployed so long.

I also graduated with an insane amount of student loans. Massive. I'm basically the poster child for student debt problems. They were about $225K at graduation but locked at about 8% interest, so they just recently hit about $300K.

I'm about to be 37 years old, and, thanks to a couple of family emergencies, my savings are nonexistent. I'm currently renting a room in someone else's house in an attempt to be financially responsible. While I now have a car, bed, and don't have to eat rice and broccoli, I can't say this is where I expected to be at this age... It's certainly been a struggle!


40. I gave up and went to grad school. I have my current job because of that degree.

I graduated with a BA in English in December 2008 and couldn’t get a teaching job because the school system instituted a hiring freeze right when the economy started taking a nosedive. I tried unsuccessfully, for almost three years, to get a permanent position somewhere — ANYWHERE — and then just gave up and went to grad school, hoping I’d be able to get a job with an MA. I was right, as it turns out — I have my current job, which I’ve held for six years now as a public school teacher in Miami, Florida, because of that degree. But I have a little under $30,000 of debt that has been difficult to chip away at, even living at home with my mom, because, well, I’m a public school teacher.


41. I got a job at a foreclosure law firm ... they ended up getting shut down for fraud.

I graduated in 2008, right as the recession happened. I tried for over a year to get a job as a paralegal but kept getting hit with needing obscene levels of experience for entry-level positions that paid $10 an hour. Plus, I was competing against experienced paralegals and even attorneys that were laid off. I worked two customer service jobs, daytime and night, plus lived off the assistance of my parents.

Finally, I got a job at a foreclosure law firm, which I only worked at for a few months because I hated working on the side of the banks to take people’s homes away from them. They ended up getting shut down for fraud not long after I left.

I moved to a different state to go to grad school in a completely unrelated field. I have over $100K in debt due to school, but I’m finally independent and have a decent-paying job. Income-based loan repayment is the only way I’m able to afford to pay my loans and I’m working toward the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I didn’t have it as bad as others, but the recession fucked me up and continues to impact my life today.


42. I have had to find other things that keep me fulfilled outside of work.

I graduated from college in August of 2008, and that was the absolute worst time to graduate from college. I had a part-time job in my degree field thanks to an internship. However, the reality caught up to me and I needed a full-time job with benefits. So I took a call center job just so I could have a steady income and benefits. I found other, more tolerable jobs within that company until I found something else. I still am not working in my degree field, but I have had to find other things that keep me fulfilled outside of work.


43. A banker told us to use credit cards to bring our credit scores up.

So my husband and I met right before the bubble popped. He was going into grad school and we moved in together. It popped right when he got out, and he could not land a paying job. We had to move to my parents' farm for four years until the market picked up. He finally got a paying job, and we got married, but he lost his job when I was three months pregnant, and I had to work two jobs: one was my usual job as an aide in a school, and then I would clean the school after the kids left. I quit when he got a job, but because of years of money instability, we got into a lot of credit card debt. A banker had told us to use [cards] to bring our credit scores up, but we were not smart and maxed them out to pay for heating and food and outings. We were not smart at all. We have an end in sight to the end of our debt and have vowed to only have one credit card ever again and to not trust the banks. Our devotion to each other is what kept us going through it all.


44. I was able to stay afloat in my own apartment because of my bartending job.

I'm 32 now and graduated undergrad in 2008, master's in 2010. I immediately went into bartending to pay my rent and loans and put myself through graduate school. Many of my classmates were forced to move back in with their parents, as there were simply no jobs. Many of my friends also saw jobs like retail and service "beneath them." I was able to stay afloat in my own apartment because of my bartending job. That job helped me get into alcohol sales, which I am still doing today. I'm still paying on student loans, but I bought my very first house last year.


45. I’ll be paying for college for damn near the rest of my life.

I was in high school when the Great Recession hit. At the time, my father had just had a major heart attack, and my mother, who had never had to work before, picked up a job as a bus driver to cover the expenses. It was rough for everyone. I remember other kids saying their parents lost their jobs too. My father wasn't able to get his job back after he recovered from his quadruple bypass surgery, so he started limo driving. We were fortunate enough to have a family savings account to draw from when money was tight. However, my parents did not end up having enough money to send me to college, so I had to take a year off school to save up for tuition. I'll be paying for college for damn near the rest of my life. Even after completing a BA, I'm finding it hard to find a job with benefits that can also pay the bills.


46. This is a stone I’ll never get out from under.

In June 2008 I lost my job (as a bank teller) and decided to go back to school for my bachelor's, at 26. I couldn't depend on family for financial support, so it was tough and hasn't gotten better. Since graduating, I've moved across the country three times looking for work. I've never been able to have fewer than two jobs at once. I wasn't able to use my degree to get more than an entry-level job, so I finally decided to go to grad school in order to change my career and try to support myself with one job and have some work/life balance. I'd like a creative, fulfilling career, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm in crushing debt from being laid off, from moving for a career, from supporting myself in school, and having to take out student loans. This is a stone I'll never get out from under.


Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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