Economists say the recession officially ended years ago. But people across the U.S. are still feeling its effects. What a lot of people had been saving and working toward for their whole lives disappeared.
During all this, a generation became adults. They were taking out their own loans to pay for college. They were saving money and trying to find jobs.
As part of our ongoing coverage of the middle class and the economy, we talked to three millennials about how the recession impacts the way they manage their money.
Austin Prater grew up on a 100-acre family farm — small, by farm standards — in Akron, Ind. The town didn't even have a traffic light, he says.
Prater says watching his parents go through the recession really changed how he thinks about money. He took out life insurance policies so his family wouldn't have to pay off his $85,000 in loans if something happened to him.
"My parents had a pretty steady working life, but when the crisis hit my mom took a second full-time job," he says. "My dad, who was injured at the time, [was] getting notices through the mail reporting the losses each month ... on all of his investments. And just watching money go out."
Amanda Jones, 27, works in the technology sector for the local government in Melbourne, Fla. She's not making a lot of money — about $27,000 a year. She took out more than $30,000 in loans.
Being in debt is "just a way of life," she says. "Of course I would like to be debt free, but as it stands my life right now I'm just in debt and that's how it's gonna be for the foreseeable future."
Kaylie Burns Gahagan of Minneapolis is in a different situation, as the self-described "kind of kid that saved all my birthday money." The 28-year-old has a good job in the public school system, but she and her husband just sank their savings into a house.
Still, her money situation hasn't been easy, she says.
"It's been a roller coaster, and I've had no one to help me with it," she says. "Had there been someone to give me advice — you know, maybe I shouldn't consolidate my loans. Had there been someone to give me advice, it would have been a lot less bumpy of a road until now."
All of them have questions about their money. So we brought in someone who could answer them. Jude Boudreaux is financial planner at Upperline Financial Planning in New Orleans who advises young professionals on cash flow, retirement and savings.
"You've got to invest for who you are, not what rationally might make sense," Boudreaux says. Conventional wisdom says that younger people should take more risk with their investments, because they are less dependent on savings and more risk could mean more returns down the line. But Boudreaux thinks it's more important to be comfortable with your investments — and not nervous about them.
"Just because there's more potential return, if I'm going to get so much anxiety [that] I'm not going to be able to sleep at night ... that's a bad investment for me."
Boudreaux had more answers to questions about Roth IRAs, the gig economy, paying off debt versus investing, and achieving financial goals. Listen to the audio link above to hear the full conversation.