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February 18th, 2009
11:19 AM ET

How growing up in a recession can shape a child's future

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Sue Shellenbarger
The Wall Street Journal

K. Esther Szabo was a small child when the recession of the early 1970s sent her family's fortunes into a tailspin. Her father, an economist, struggled to find work, and her mother worried about paying the bills. The family eventually filed bankruptcy.

The tensions at home put a permanent mark on Ms. Szabo. To help her family, she started working at age 8, doing chores for neighbors, and has been working ever since. When a personal-finance class in college introduced her to the idea that calamities like the one that crippled her family could be avoided with careful planning, she found the idea "mind-blowing," she says. She now co-owns a Los Altos, Calif., financial-planning firm.

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Filed under: 360º Follow • Economy
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Cori

    I feel so sorry for the kids of the future, not only here, but this crisis has circulated the globe. We're talking billions of young people now, and those yet to be born, trying to fix our mess when they're all grown up.

    It's just amazing how much money can be borrowed and spent, and we'll be long gone by the time China wants to start collecting. I see a very bleak future, and the kids having to live in that future are going to be furious!

    February 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  2. Charlotte

    I don't have any credit card debt either, although I have a mortgage (25% of monthly gross, well within my means). If the wealthier segment (including oil companies) were taxed fairly – i.e., like the rest of us – we wouldn't be running at a deficit. We need to spend on infrastructure if we don't want more bridges collapsing and killing motorists. We need to switch to alternative fuels, which requires research and development, which costs money. We need to have enough revenue to do these important things. Whether we need to use it to bail out auto companies stuck in their SUV la-la-land, or home buyers who haven't learned how to calculate their own allowable debt load, is another matter.

    February 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  3. earle,florida

    Wow,I must be getting old? I can remember as if it were yesterday, when as a grammar school child in the 50's! We were given "Savings Bank Books (passes) to learn how to save,and appreciate the value of compound interest. My mother gave me a dime to deposit every week,until I was old enough,and responsible to have my own paper route. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I had a solid piggy-bank,for various resons,... Thanks (:

    February 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  4. Larry L.

    Do you think Obama realizes his daughters children are going to be paying for this??And if he does know ,and doesn't care what kind of a father and grandfather he is,I don't think the rest of us want to pass this debt on to our children ,let alone our grandchildren.

    President Obama STOP this madness,PLEASE !!

    February 18, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  5. k_m

    our children were raised in a "recession" that we created for them. When we began our family 27 years ago we made the determination that we would have enough in savings so that if we were out of work we would be able to live for a year with BOTH of us out of work. My husband worked in a volatile industry and we thought that this would best protect us from having to make any changes in lifestyle that the kids would notice. It was not easy and all the belt tightening grated, there were no vacation homes, extra cars, tv in every room, multiple computers or any of the other bells and whistles that disappear in that are lost in a "financial tailspin".
    We have 3 kids who grew up to be fiscally responsible, sensitive to the needs of others, and even though they are all in their 20's none have any credit card debt. They are not afraid to work and work hard. They defer the instant gratification of cars, trips, clothes, and fancy digs of their social circle. Yet they want for very little and give back with regular volunteerism. Were they "damaged" or in someway hurt by this upbringing? I don't think so. But what is happening they are finding the reality now of struggling, in their first jobs or job/career searches (after college) to meet the costs of health care, rent, and saving. A recession may be the best thing for the generation of consumers we, as a society, have created. it is a societal problem and a mind set we have chosen to accept in our marketing and advertising. It is "affluenza" and perhaps a recession will provide something of a cure.

    February 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  6. k_michael

    It sounds to me like Ms. Szabo learned that money does not grow on trees, and therefore learned how to become a resonsible, self-sustaining adult.

    Compare this with people who are so incapable of delaying even teh smallest gratigfication, that they end up accruing thousands upon thousands of dollars' worth of debt.

    Having grown up quite far form the proverbial lap of luxury, and therefore having, like Ms. Szabo, learned hwo to be fiscally responsible, I find myself, as do other responsible Americans, footign the bill for, in large part, the many poeple, including the Madoffs and Stanfords of the nation and world, who never learned how to be responsible, or at least ethical.

    It makes one think...

    February 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm |