Sharon Wilson and her husband, Don, have lived frugally and are now reaping the rewards.
Location: Tallahassee, Fla.
Tip: Focus on how much you save, not how much you earn.
I am optimistic because: "All my life, I've just done what I've felt is right for me and my family. I was raised to realize that even when we are at our lowest, nothing is impossible. And without those lows, we wouldn't appreciate the highs as much.
People brought on this recession by living a $1.25 lifestyle on a $1 income for way too long. It's irritating to see people getting bailed out when they're the ones who made the bad choices. It would be nice to see a few more people living for the future, not just for the here and now.
My husband, Don, and I made horrible sacrifices for 10 years, and it paid off. When we were first married, we bought a trailer. Even though people told us to get a house, we wanted a bigger reserve. We had one TV channel that played The X-Files all the time. After just a year we saved a ton.
For a couple like us, who have lived well within our means - some might say frugally - all along, an economy like this shows opportunities. All of a sudden there are great deals for those of us who stashed our money. I drove the same car for 13 years, but we found such a good deal on a new car that I bought one - something I thought I'd never do.
We've lost money in our retirement accounts, but it will not scare us away from continuing to contribute. We still plan to max out the IRA contributions this year, as we did after the market fell in 2001. We're hoping it will bounce back and we'll earn a nice return on the contributions. When the market recovered in 2003, we earned a 21% return on our portfolio in one year.
I once worked the graveyard shift at a convenience store to put myself through college. I got to know our regular newspaper deliveryman. When he bought a brand-new, very nice RV, I jokingly said, 'Man, newspaper delivery must pay well!' He replied, 'It's not about how much you make. It's about how much you save.'
What he said has always stuck with me."
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