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America: Better off and worse off

It's been seven years since the last recession. Times are tough once again, and people are telling us how they're doing.

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Janet Welch - A thousand times better
Janet Welch - A thousand times better
Janet and John Welch
Project manager, 33
Norwalk, Conn.

Seven years ago I barely knew there was an economic downturn. This time is very different. Am I better or worse? A thousand times better. I am now married with a mortgage, two car payments, a stepson rapidly approaching college and a 13-month old son.

On paper, those facts would lead you to believe I am in a more difficult financial situation that I was 7 years ago - no house, no kids, just myself to support. Couldn't be further from the truth.

I am better off today because I am aware of my financial situation and the impact of decisions I make daily. I am budget-conscious, I recognize the importance of having a financial plan. I have a monthly budget and a plan to erase credit card and car balances within 15 months

My family has adjusted quite well. We don't eat out as much, but we are having more quality time together at home. We set a budget for the summer vacations and drove to North Carolina instead of flying, with all the additional fees.

But the most important reason why I am better off today versus seven years ago, is that I am cognizant of the fact that the changes I make today to become more financially responsible (paying down debt, paying off the cars, saving for the boys' college, saving for our retirement) are going to allow our sons to start their lives without the burden of student loans. It's all the motivation I need to remain on track.

NEXT: Lori Brown - How long can I hold on?

Last updated August 28 2008: 4:39 PM ET
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