Lots of people are worried about how the economic crisis will affect youth in the future. But young people are already living out the effects of the downturn, right now. In this story, three young women describe how the shrinking economy is reshaping their personal and professional identities. You’ll hear first from Genai Powers.
There was a time in my life I described myself as spoiled. Now that the economy has taken a turn for the worse, I don’t feel way that anymore.
I was the first person at my school with a cell phone, and my closet was filled with designer brands-- gifts from my older sister and grandmother. But recently my sister was laid off, and now she counts on me to help put gas in her tank.
My grandmother was once the financial foundation of the family, but now I see her struggling too. Previously, if family members needed a loan, she would give it to them. When they ask now, she says, “I can’t, I’m broke,” or “I’m not made out of money.” She doesn’t take me shopping anymore, and sometimes I have to pitch in for groceries.
Helping my sister and grandmother forces me to save any money I earn to make sure we all get through this financial hardship, but I don’t mind helping out because it allows me to repay them for how they used to spoil me.
That’s Youth Radio’s Genai Powers. Next is 19-year-old Blanca Cabrera, who, like many young people, is living at home with her parents, trying to finish up school, and squeezing in 24 hours of work on the weekends. She works in her uncle’s ice cream shop.
The economic crisis is affecting me everywhere. Our sales at the shop are definitely down, and last week my friends and I were charged 25 cents extra for each little packet of ketchup and barbeque sauce at McDonalds. So much for cheap fast food!
Practically all my friends are facing these kinds of money stresses. But my situation’s different. Most of the money I earn goes straight to medical expenses. When I was 10, I found out I had diabetes, and then when I was about to turn 14, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease called lupus, which can make me feel really weak, with no energy for anything.
I take like seven prescription pills a day. Even with Medicaid, they cost me between one and three dollars per bottle. And then there’s the over-the-counter stuff, which I pay for myself. For example, I have to take baby aspirin everyday. Recently, the prices went up. Sometimes I’m tempted not to take my medications. But if I don’t, I’ll have a flare-up right away. That can mean a blood transfusion and trip to the hospital, which costs 40 bucks for gas— plus paying for lunch while I’m there.
With all the economic mess going on, a normal teenager is probably worrying about the clothes, the food, or whether they can go to the movies. But from my point of view, with a medical condition, I’m concerned about more serious stuff, like my personal survival.
That’s Blanca Cabrera. Our final story comes from Denise Tejada. She might be what Blanca calls a “normal” young adult—Denise turned twenty this year—but she says her responsibilities leave little time for fun, even if she did have the cash to pay for it.
For many immigrants, this financial crisis is the enemy of accomplishing the American Dream. My family’s story is a little bit different than other immigrants struggling to make ends meet. We’ve been in America 13 years, and we’re in a more comfortable position than most. But there is one thing we have in common with newer immigrants. The land of opportunity has suddenly become workaholic-landia.
These days my parents are depending on their kids’ contributions to the household bills. I’m a college student balancing three jobs. There are times I come home from work angry because I haven’t slept and I’m too tired to sit down and talk.
But I know this struggle is part of my dad’s dream of seeing his kids be successful in the long run. When we were younger, he forced us to sit in a broker’s office and listen to him yell about not getting the deal he wanted.
During the current crisis, while many people have lost their homes, my dad is thinking this is the perfect time to buy another house at a much lower value. And my brother is following the theory. He’s the first American born family member to buy his own home.
I know my dad’s tough love is what’s getting us through these hectic times and through the bumpy roads of workaholic-landia.