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Handling Economic Curveballs at Different Life Stages

If you have recently suffered an economic setback, you're not alone. With today's economy, people in all stages of life have to deal with financial turmoil. However, there are reasons to be optimistic. Here are some tips on how people in five different age groups can face economic curveballs and still come out on top.

1. Recent graduates

According to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), only about a quarter of college graduates who had applied for a job actually had one waiting for them upon graduation.

Many recent grads are finding that there are not enough jobs available in their chosen fields. This includes those who went to grad school, hoping to ride out the recession. (After getting an advanced degree, they may have more student loans, but fewer job prospects.)

Despite the current issues in the economy, experts say graduates still have reason for hope. For one thing, hiring numbers were better in 2010 than they were in 2009. According to the same NACE report, the percentage of graduates who have a job waiting went up approximately five percent over last year. This shows a trend that may continue to increase in the near future.

To improve your chances for finding a job, network with others regularly. Use the career resource center at your school as a starting point. Additionally, try to meet with professionals in your industry on a regular basis. Keep in contact with any former employers, especially if you worked in internships. For more job search ideas, read our article on The Art of Networking.

2. Young couples

Twenty- and thirty-something couples are just beginning to establish their financial future, but it can be difficult if one or both spouses has recently lost a job or had their work hours cut.

Because of the economy, many families are forced to make choices they hadn't planned on making. News articles report that some young couples are pulling their children out of daycare centers for the first time because they've lost their jobs.

Other young families who didn't intend to put their children in daycare are now scrambling for childcare spots, as stay-at-home moms return to work in order to help make up for a spouse's lost income. In fact, a recent New York Times article reports that educated women age 25 to 44 years old are looking for work in increasing numbers.

There is a silver lining in these reports, however. Analysts say it's surprising to see increasing job search numbers when the economy continues to experience recession-like conditions. Usually, percentages usually drop as discouraged job seekers stop looking for employment. But the fact that more women are looking for work shows that young couples have hope that they can still come out ahead financially.

Younger adults should continue to work to increase income, and they should also save money as much as possible. This includes clipping coupons and negotiating big-ticket items for the home. Our article on How to Get a Deal Bargain Shopping gives more cost-cutting ideas.

3. Parents of teens

At a time when their own careers may be suffering, moms and dads of high school students also have to think about saving for college. When it comes to planning for a higher education, however, help is available. Consult with your teen's high school counselors for advice on financial aid and college planning. They can assist with information on scholarships, grants, and low interest student loans.

If it looks like you won't be able to afford to send your teen to his or her first college choice, consider having your child apply to a junior college for the first two years of study. Then, the student can transfer to another school to finish and earn a degree.

If the family breadwinner loses his or her job in this economy, a stay-at-home spouse can seek work to temporarily help replace lost income until their financial situation has improved. This may seem difficult if the spouse hasn't been employed for several years, but help is available. If you're in this situation, join LinkedIn, tell your friends that you're looking for work, and read our 10 Strategies for Today's Job Seekers.

4. Empty nesters

There are numerous stories of people ages 55 to 65 who have had their savings wiped out because of the economy. You may be worried if you're in this situation, and you may even be wondering if you'll need to stay in the workforce longer than originally planned.

Despite the doom and gloom report, it's still possible to build up your savings and have a comfortable retirement. Empty nesters have usually paid for all or most of life's largest expenses already, such as mortgages and college tuition for children. They are also likely to be making more money than they've ever made throughout their careers, because workers' salaries and wages tend to increase over time.

If you've got the biggest expenses out of the way, and are earning an income, you're in a better position to save aggressively. If you have a 401(k) retirement plan, make "catch up" contributions you're eligible for in the years leading up to retirement.

According to a Los Angeles Times article quoting certified financial planner Michael Stein, empty nesters can conceivably save a major chunk of retirement funds-perhaps up to a third of their nest egg-in just five years.

5. Retirees

Many people who are at retirement age have lost a significant portion of their savings because of the economy. They may even find that they're unable to pay for healthcare and other expenses.

To help make ends meet, make sure you're receiving your proper Social Security benefits. It's likely to be an important part of your budget. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Social Security accounts for about 36 percent of income for men and 49 percent of income for women who are older than age 65. Another large portion comes from assets, including savings.

If you do have a savings nest egg, spend it sparingly. Financial experts recommend retirees spend only about four percent of their investments each year, according to a recent MSN article.

Some retirees may even go back to work if they are able. If you choose to return to the workforce, even for part-time employment, you may discover a new career interest that you enjoy. And you would be in good company. According to a recent US News article, the number of people at retirement age who have jobs is up more than seven percent from the previous year.

No matter where you are at your stage in life, you may have to deal with an economic curveball. Use these strategies, however, and you can still be financially secure.

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