Poll: Reactions to recession vary; how are you coping?

Her son is urging her to learn to use digital media. Wise has looked into attending local schools' free computer-literacy classes, but her arthritis is keeping her from re-entering the workforce.

In the meantime, she's receiving help.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has been helping to pay her rent, and Louisville Metro Community Action Partnership is paying other bills, such as her utilities. The United Way and local churches have helped guide her toward other charities.

Wise's son, Bruce McPheeters, 31, an engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, is paying some of her medical expenses.

"My son, who is much better off, does not have the financial stability he once had," she says. "He's not going on vacation this year because he's paying for my medication."

In a word, Wise is uncertain.

"Sometimes you have enough to get by, and sometimes you don't."

In-Control Realists

•This group includes the largest percentage of any group (64%) who believe outside factors "don't have much" effect on their personal finances.

•They are the least likely of all groups (41%) to say they've been harmed by the economy in the past few months.

•They represent the smallest percentage (18%) who say they're worried about losing their jobs.

•They are the least likely (36%) to say this is the worst economic crisis of their lifetimes.

In-Control Realists aren't all the wealthiest Americans. They're not all the poorest. Their incomes range from rich to poor and in between. They're the least likely to have a college degree. And they're split pretty evenly on whether they're spenders (56%) or savers (44%).

But they're a pretty confident group.

Sixty-eight percent say their finances are in excellent or good shape, the second-highest of all the groups, and only 36% see this as the worst economic crisis of their lifetimes.

That might be because so many of them are young and full of hope.

In-Control Realists are the group with the largest percentage of people younger than 35 (31%), and the second-highest percentage of women (56%).

They're people such as Leslie Vnenchak, 30, of Jenkintown, Pa.

In October, around the time former president George W. Bush signed a $700 billion bailout for the troubled financial sector, Vnenchak and her husband, Matthew, signed a contract to buy their first home. A month later, she gave birth to her first child.

"We decided to do it all at once," Vnenchak said, chuckling. "I wouldn't recommend that."

Vnenchak, a part-time speech pathologist, and her husband, a physical therapist, feel their jobs are safer than those of most professionals because health care is a growing industry. "We haven't been affected too bad," she says.

Another reason Vnenchak is not too worried about her retirement is that she has decades left in the working world.

For now, retirement is not on her radar.

"If businesses decline, taxes will increase, so I might have to go to work more days," she says. For this mother of a 3-month-old, being away from her son, Kyle, is more grave a deprivation than any financial one.

No Need to Panic

•No one in this group thinks this is the worst economic crisis of their lifetime.

•A majority (56%) don't even think it's a crisis.

•This is the most optimistic of all groups; 66% say today's young people will have a better life than their parents.

•And everyone in this group (100%) believes an economic recovery will start in fewer than three years.

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