Participants in an exclusive Money magazine survey reveal how they feel about their finances. Although the Great Recession may be over, they're not all that confident about their prospects for the long run.
Focusing on what matters most
Who: Janel Butera, Corona, Calif.
Profession: Speech pathologist
How she's faring: Over the past five years, Butera, a divorced mom, has focused on spending less, saving more, and teaching her sons, Shane and Seth, how to be responsible and resilient when it comes to managing money.
"It hasn't hurt to cut back on the things we were spending on. We figured out what really mattered to us with the recession."
We're not prepared
Who: Jennifer and Edward Martinez, Tyler, Texas
Professions: Professor, technical specialist
How they're faring: Edward Martinez, who provides about $250 a month in support to his 22-year-old, says the family feels too squeezed to save as much as they should. So he's changing careers -- he's in pharmacy school now -- to bring in more income.
"If we have a bad accident or a health emergency, we're not prepared," says Edward. "We don't even have three months of income saved."
Buried in student loan debt
Who: Courtney Clemons, Atlanta
Profession: Travel agent
How she's faring: Struggling under the weight of $90,000 in student loans, the 2011 Georgia State graduate relies on her parents to help pay her insurance and cellphone bills and provide a little spending money.
"You pay all this money to get a degree, then can't find a job that pays well enough to really live on your own. It's tough."
Worried about the future
Who: Richard and Kelley Brough, Dallas
Professions: Project manager and homemaker
How they're faring: Despite working throughout the financial crisis -- and landing a new job that paid $45,000 more than his old one -- sole-earner Richard feels anything but confident about his finances looking forward. He's very worried about his family's future economic security.
"If something were to happen to me," says Richard, "I would have to raid my 401(k) to carry my family through a six- or nine-month loss of income. I could be back at square one, the same as an 18-year-old just starting out."
Finally secure enough to retire
Who: Ralph Schmitt, Fortson, Ga.
How they're faring: Schmitt saw his savings drop by a third in the crash, but didn't sell any of his and his wife Kathleen's investments, believing in the economy's resiliency. His faith was rewarded: Today, the couple's portfolio is above where it was in 2007 and they feel secure enough to fulfill their retirement dream of traveling extensively.
"When the financial crisis hit, I continued working longer than I had planned, and we cut back on fine dining, theater, and travel," says Ralph. "But once I felt the recovery was underway, I retired, and we began to kick up our spending to do the things we always wanted to do in our retirement."
Watching every dollar
Who: Jim and Deborah Durkis, Albuquerque, N.M.
Professions: Government lawyer and elementary-school teacher
How they're faring: Jim and Deborah were looking to buy a bigger house near where they now live in Albuquerque but decided against the move when housing values in the area declined. Since the recession, they have have switched insurance companies, delayed vacations, and made other cost-cutting moves.
"Before the economy started turning down, I felt like I had enough," says Jim. "Now I watch every dollar and where it goes. I always try to save something just in case."