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Americans Have Recession Fatigue And It’s Impacting Their Money

When Pasha Grozdov found out his friend’s Manhattan landlord was raising the rent on her one-bedroom apartment from $4,100 to a crushing $6,000 a month, there was only one way he could think to react: with a joke.

“Let’s cancel the economy,” he responded.

Iced coffees in hand, Grozdov and his friend were on an early morning stroll through Central Park. They had just finished taking a 6 a.m. SoulCycle class when she opened up to him about how the hottest rental market in decades was costing her, a side effect of the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

He’d later convert conversations like these into a series of TikToks detailing how Generation Z feels about the possibility of living through another recession. The videos clearly resonated, capturing a combined six million impressions, 600,000 likes, 3,400 comments and another 37,000 shares as of mid-September. “Another Great Depression? Try me, I’m already depressed,” he joked in one of his most popular videos.

They’re all jokes, but he isn’t kidding.

“I feel a little frustrated and sad about everything,” says Grozdov, 25, also a resident of New York City. “First, the pandemic — we were so young, so full of life and the world was our oyster. And then now what, an economic recession? We’ve already lost two years from 2020. We are not here for this.”

Nearly a third of Americans who aren’t ready for a recession say they’re not doing anything to prepare

Experts are calling it “recession fatigue,” and it might be why nearly a third of Americans who say they’re not prepared for a recession (31 percent) aren’t taking any steps to get their finances ready for one, a Bankrate poll from August found. Even worse, that number jumps to 42 percent for the Americans who say they’re not at all prepared for a recession.

But it’s especially afflicting younger generations, Bankrate’s poll found. Two in 5 Gen Zers (40 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 25) who say they aren’t prepared for a recession aren’t taking any steps to get their finances in order. That compares with 31 percent of unprepared millennials (ages 26-41), 30 percent of Gen X (ages 42-57) and 27 percent of baby boomers (ages 58-76).

“From the Great Recession that may have caused financial stress for their parents to the chaos in health, safety and stability that occurred with the pandemic, these formative events have fundamentally impacted the way Gen Z views the world,” says Megan Gerhardt, professor of leadership and management at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University who specializes in studying generational differences.

People are growing used to catastrophic recessions, making it harder for them to know how to prepare

A Bankrate economists’ poll put the odds of a recession between now and the end of 2023 at 52 percent, nearly a toss up. If it happens, only 44 months at most could separate the next recession from the end of the coronavirus-induced downturn in April 2020. Not since the early 1980s would two downturns have occurred back-to-back in such a short span, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Business Cycle Dating Committee, which tracks and dates recessions. Only a year stood between the first and second recession of the 1980s.

Older generations have certainly lived through more total downturns, considering 12 recessions have occurred between now and 1945, when the first baby boomers were born. But by pure economic data, the two most recent recessions — the Great Recession from December 2007 until June 2009 and the coronavirus crisis from February 2020 through April 2020 — were exceptionally severe, no doubt also contributing to the fatigue.

“Motivation is very difficult to sustain,” says Mariel Beasley, co-founder of the Common Cents Lab, a behavioral science financial health lab at Duke University. She compares it to the difficulty of starting a diet and staying on it for longer than a month. “It just feels like it’s been going on forever, and it’s hard to sustain the long-term chronic stress that a long recession or the pandemic caused. People look for ways to alleviate that, and a lot of it is through consumption.”

Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders to control the virus’ spread are also central to the story. Consumers felt deprived of meals out, vacations and time spent in the company of others during the outbreak.

“Opportunities to spend came back, travel came back, eating out came back,” Beasley adds. “There’s some element of licensing to it. I did a great job not doing this for the last year and a half, and I can go ahead and treat myself.”

A World Health Organization brief from March 2022 also found the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent during the…

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