First Person: I’m Glad I Graduated in a Recession

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I graduated in an economic recession and so did my sons. We just graduated during two completely separate recessions. For me, getting a full-time job was nearly impossible in 1993 due to the "jobless recovery" after the early '90s recession. Looking back, graduating in a recession was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I could totally relate to a recent Yahoo Finance article about why people are better off graduating in a recession. According to the article, people who graduate during recessions are happier with their careers. Recession graduates remain satisfied with their jobs for decades, according to a study by Emory University. I think I am less materialistic than people I know who graduated during boom times. I thought back on how the recession of the early '90s affected my personal finances. Although my sons might end up just as happy with their careers, they will have a different set of challenges compared to Gen-X'ers who graduated during the "other" recession.

Qualifying for low rates

My sons are able to take out car loans with interest rates as low as 1.9 percent through our credit union. When I purchased a car in the early '90s, the average cost was about $12,000. However, with higher interest rates I ended up paying $300 a month or the same as my son pays today for a similar vehicle. In order to get the lowest rates, my sons have to build up their credit scores. According to Edmunds.com, the lowest auto rates are reserved for people with credit scores of 720 or higher, while Tier 4 (630-669) pay as much as 6.49 percent. In the '90s, the rates were twice as high at about 10 to 12 percent.

Securing a full-time job

I didn't secure a full-time job until I was 30, which meant I couldn't secure a mortgage. In my 20s, I worked a freelancer because of the tight job market. Working at home gave me the flexibility I wanted in order to start a family while I was still young. With the more recent recession, graduates are facing a job market that relies on part-time workers. It's just as difficult to secure a mortgage for part-time workers as it is for freelancers or independent contractors. A lot of the Millennials are waiting to start families because of their massive student loan debt. My sons avoided student loans, but are waiting to start families because of the high cost of housing.

Getting out of credit-card debt

New rules make it more difficult for young people to get credit cards on their own until they are 21 and have a job. When I was in college, I received credit-card offers almost every day in the mail. I fell into the debt trap before I even graduated. By the time I was 25, I had more than $10,000 worth of credit-card debt. My sons have credit limits of just $600, which prevents them from making the same mistake I made.

Moving out but not moving up

Another way the recession of the '90s was different than the global recession of 2009 related to housing. I didn't move back in with my parents, but was able to find apartments in my 20s that ranged from $165 to $500 a month for rent. My sons would have to pay $900 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment because of the escalating rental costs. It's also challenging for Millennials to buy homes after the recession because of tighter lending rules.

I am glad I graduated during a recession because it gave me a greater appreciation for the things I have. I don't need to make a lot of money to be happy. I am grateful for the work I have, while a lot of the older people complain about pay cuts and furloughs. My sons don't have an "entitled" attitude when it comes to jobs or material possessions. Landing jobs during hard times evidently builds character, which may have been lost on the baby boomer generation that had everything given to them.

More from this contributor:

The Un-Baby Boom Means Less Social Security Later

I'm Happy in our Smaller Home

Overcoming my Retirement Savings Burnout

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