Neighbors Cope With Recession Differently

Jen Singer is a freelance writer. Her husband still brings home a steady paycheck, but they're playing it safe by spending less and saving more, she said on the Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, broadcast of the "CBS Evening News."
Jen Singer is a freelance writer. Her husband still brings home a steady paycheck, but they're playing it safe by spending less and saving more, she said on the Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, broadcast of the "CBS Evening News."
CBS

Jen Singer lives on an upper middle-class block in central New Jersey. But these days six of her 15 neighbors are out of work, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor.

"I haven't seen fear like this about money in my entire lifetime," Singer told Glor. "We don't feel like the recession is over here on my street."

Singer is a freelance writer. Her husband still brings home a steady paycheck, but they're playing it safe by spending less and saving more.

"The other day I got a package," Singer told Glor. "It had some tissue paper in it, and I took it out and put it upstairs and thought, My God! I'm turning into my grandmother."

A few doors down, the Davins are down to one salary. Brian Davin lost his job last spring. Grace Davin works for IBM from home, but with four college-bound kids and a hefty mortgage, money's tight.

"How much of this do the kids understand?" Glor asked the Davins.

"I think the older ones really get it," Brian Davin said.

Without extra money for entertainment, they're spending more time together at home, chipping in on little chores like painting signs for Cub Scouts or enjoying movies at home.

"It's turned into something fun that the kids have enjoyed," Brian Davin told Glor. "We've got family movie night now, and the kids love it. They're like, 'This is great! Can we do this again next week?'"

But the grinding reality is the job hunt is tough, and a near miss can really sting.

"It's hard to watch when you see your husband getting excited, and he gets a phone call that it wasn't, you know, he wasn't chosen," Grace Davin told Glor. "It's got to be disappointing for him and you feel for him."

Next-door neighbor Bob Schrot saw his job loss as an opportunity. After 28 years in corporate America, he dug into his savings and bought a toy store.

It was a bold move especially since the layoff, he says, felt like a seismic event.

"There was a moment of a lot of disbelief on my part when it did happen," Schrot told Glor. "It's hard to believe, and it really rips your soul out and it takes your identity for a period of time."

For Schrot's wife Janet, previously a full-time mother, the decision has changed her life completely. She's still in charge of the house and kids, but she is now a partner in the business.

"I have zero down time," Janet Schrot told Glor. "I have no time for myself anymore. Any free time I have, if my kids are awake, I try to spend time with them because I have mom guilt now."

Across the street, Eisha and Anthony Loscascio are both working, but it's been a year of constant anxiety.

"Sometimes I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, and [think] Wow, what if this happens, and that's when I have to just calm down and just focus one day at a time," Anthony Loscascio told Glor.

"I think back to my grandmother," Eisha Locascio told Glor. "When I was younger, I used to look at how she would pinch every penny. She'd dilute the soaps, and I'm starting to think in those ways now."

"Parenting will be less competitive," Singer told Glor. "If you can't afford to put your kid on the $5,000 ice hockey team that sends them to Canada every other weekend, maybe that's a good thing."

"Our parents did this with twice as many children as we did or more, and they made it happen," Brian Davin told Glor. "When you hear stories of other families that are in much more difficult situations than you are, you can't help but say, 'You know what? We can get through this.'"

The current unemployment rate is 10 percent. Most economists believe it will take five years before the economy returns to a normal unemployment rate of 5 percent.