Thursday, April 09, 2009

Are You Anxious About the Recession?

A lot of people out there are feeling pretty stressed out about the economy these days: Recession Anxiety Seeps Into Everyday Lives, from today's New York Times:

Anne Hubbard has not lost her job, house or savings, and she and her husband have always been conservative with money.

But a few months ago, Ms. Hubbard, a graphic designer in Cambridge, Mass., began having panic attacks over the economy, struggling to breathe and seeing vivid visions of “losing everything,” she said.

She “could not stop reading every single economic report,” was so “sick to my stomach I lost 12 pounds” and “was unable to function,” said Ms. Hubbard, 52, who began, for the first time, taking psychiatric medication and getting therapy.

That might seem pretty extreme, but the article goes on to detail various other cases of people having nervous breakdowns and turning to drugs, therapy, meditation and other methods to reduce their levels of stress about the economy, despite still being employed and having savings.

Ms. Hubbard, knowing “financially we were fine,” said she believed “I shouldn’t feel like this, I’m lucky.” She cried visiting her primary doctor, who recommended therapy and medication, hard to accept, she said, because her Depression-era parents believed “you pull yourself up.”

“I felt like a neurotic middle-class, middle-aged woman too weak to deal with life on my own,” she said. “I should be stronger, it was simply money, and why do I have to take pills to not worry about money.”

But treatment and further organizing family finances helped. She said the weakening economy made her “fear that even if you do everything right, something bad can happen to you.”

Do you feel this way, or know anyone who does? I find myself worrying about money in a way that I didn't a couple of years ago. Back then, I knew I was saving money at a good rate, and my investments were doing well enough that I seemed to be right on track to reach my retirement goals. Hopefully I'll still end up fine, but I may not be able to have quite as much fun along the way!

Meanwhile, I'm worried about my friend Mortimer, who's only had one interview since losing his job. I recommended him for a job at my company, for which he would have been very qualified, and they did call him to discuss it, but it turned out that the position paid about $25,000 less than he'd been making. Mortimer, to his credit, made a very good case about why he'd still be interested, but they seem to fear he's overqualified, or would be likely to move on at the first opportunity. To me, Mortimer admitted he wasn't thrilled about the idea of making so much less, but he was already trying to figure out how he could make ends meet on a lower income, knowing that he has to get a job, any job. But there aren't many out there in his field, unfortunately, and I know he doesn't have a lot of savings to fall back on. I haven't heard whether he's been able to start collecting unemployment benefits yet, and I'm worried he'll get into debt very quickly.

Fortunately, my worries are mild at this point. I'm not losing sleep or pulling out my hair, though I've probably been more stressed out at work because we're all under a lot of pressure to perform. But I'm trying to take it all in stride and save any real anxiety for an actual crisis, which hopefully won't happen!

How about you?


Anonymous said...

I'm quite alright with our financial situation, but I am very, very stressed because we have to move to Michigan. (Coast Guard)
Everything I read about Michigan has me hyperventilating about the area. I'm so afraid we are going to be living in a barren wasteland with suicidal neighbors. We are too far away to take trips to get to know different areas, so we are doing all research online.
So, the economy is definitely causing me anxiety- just not about our bank account!

Optioned Unarmed said...

I think there are two issues at interplay here.
One the one hand, there is the desire to control one's fate, and to achieve this we (hopefully) make good choices. In the case of finances, we all (hopefully) do our best to save and invest money responsibly. This makes good sense within the context of what we have experienced in the past, what we have been taught, and what we are used to.

But beyond that, there are always forces out of our control... A meteor, earthquake, an attacker on the street, a failing government. There are certain things we can do to mitigate some of these risks, but not all of them.

I think that when faced with something that rocks the very foundation of what one counts on as being real and constant, a different kind of stress can arise. When there is a problem that is (or seems to be) outside of one's control, one doesn't always know what to do, and in the place of action arises anxiety.

It can be devastating to realize that no matter how hard we try to control our fate, how well we plan, life is at its core full of uncertainty.

dawn said...

I've only been affected through my retirement savings, but i do share the generalized anxiety and worry.
I have certainly ramped up my savings in a very big way.

Since i work as a personal finance writer, it's hard to break my addiction to reading economic news.

Caleb said...

I lived in MI from ages 2-6 and I have fond memories of the place. Granted I wasn't in Detroit. We lived in Bay City/Midland area and it was a nice place. MI has a good number of state parks and such if you're into the outdoorsy stuff. There's also some really big sand dunes somewhere that are neat. Sorry, that being 15 years ago it's all a little fuzzy

Tiffany In Houston said...

I am very worried. I got laid off in February and my severance ends next month. I have about 2 months of savings and unemployment but after that I'd have to go into my 401K. And after that I really don't know. I'm not married so I don't have help.

I would never be homeless as I have great family and friends but..I don't even think that far ahead.

Horlic said...

There is nothing to worry about. If you plan you money properly and you wouldn’t facing any issue.

Michelle said...

My therapist told me that he's had a resurgence in former patients making appointments - that the economy's uncertainties are causing persons already prone to depression and anxiety more likely to slip into old, pattern behaviors. Even folks without specific reasons to fear the economy (i.e., have steady jobs, have emergency funds, etc) can have non-specific dread and fall prey to the what ifs. And when you get into the cycle of depressive thinking/acting, it is incredibly hard to break out. So I am glad that folks are talking about this and that these former patients are now seeing someone again. Luckily my therapist reserves my appt's and I haven't had to worry about these worrywarts taking MY time (yet) (kidding)...

loyal reader said...

Tell Mortimer to take that job!!! Lots of people who lost their jobs have found that their next jobs paid less. It's better than nothing. Maybe when the economy is better they'll give him a raise, or maybe he can moonlight, economize, sell stuff on eBay, etc.

My (very large) company laid off 4% of its employees several months ago. Fortunately I was not one of them, but I feel for those who were.

Suze Orman refers to this as "bag lady syndrome"--when successful women fear that they will end up as bag ladies. I suppose it can happen to men, too, but the term "bag man" means something very different! Hobo syndrome, maybe?