College, high school students experienced their own financial downturn

Growing up in Connecticut helped shield Emilie Hoogewerff, 24, from the crash. “I don’t think I knew how bad it was,” she said.

Hoogewerff describes her hometown as a bubble for “rich, white people who don’t have much connection to what’s going on in the world.”

But Hoogewerff was not rich. At 14, after her parents divorced, she was living with her mother. Money was tight, and they cut back on movies and vacations, among other expenses. And unlike many in Glastonbury, where people cross the globe for vacations, Hoogewerff and her mother had a modest week away in Cape Cod, which she says was really special.

Now a second-grade teacher, Hoogewerff is now finding her financial footing. She participates in an online forum for people in their 20s, and she cautiously invests about $100 each month in an IRA. Eight percent is deducted from her pay for the Teacher Retirement Benefits pension

Her reluctance to invest in the school’s 403(b) plan stems from student debt and a relatively modest teacher’s salary of $50,000.

And, she says, she didn’t fully understand the investment representative’s explanation.

“It was shelling out money in good faith,” she said. “He’d know what to do with it, but isn’t that what caused the crash? Is it really benefiting me?”

Putting money into a system that she sees benefiting some people more than others makes her uncomfortable. She wonders if investing her money in Amazon will support only the company’s growth and Jeff Bezos’ wealth.

Hoogewerff worked throughout her teens, but the goal was having money to spend. “Now I’m working to save,” she said.

She is building up an emergency fund for car repairs. “I can’t just go to movies, and shopping, and coffee dates” on a teacher’s salary. “This summer has been a wakeup call,” she said.

More in Back from the brink: 10 years on:
Post-financial crisis retirees still struggle to find reliable retirement income
Nearly 6 in 10 workers are still recovering after the Great Recession

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