Ready for the ride
By Times staff writers
Financial gurus predicted the U.S. economy would be humming by now. But they were wrong. Now the pundits are scurrying to figure out what's ahead. A big factor is whether consumers will lose confidence and stop spending.
To gauge how consumers are coping with uncertain economic times, Times reporters surveyed Tampa Bay area residents about the economy's future. The questions:
-- What do you expect your financial situation to be a year from now?
-- Are you making or considering any changes in your own spending?
Here are excerpts from their answers.
Erma Griffin, 60
Works for a travel agency
"I seem to be spending more and not getting anywhere. It's like you're in a tunnel. I had worked for Bank of America, but they kept downsizing and downsizing. I took a job paying half of what I was making. I don't recall it being this bad."
"Groceries are costing more. I just got an electric bill for $291 in one month. It jumped $100 in one month. The only thing that doesn't change: I'm a Christian and the Lord only asks for that 10 percent."
No major purchases for her. "You learn a simple abundance is best."
Lauretta LaMin, '50 plus'
"I expect my financial situation to be better next year because of the investments I have."
"I'm not changing my spending at all. I always spend more and save less. You're only going to live once."
"Delaying purchases? Not a one. I'm buying a brand new Lincoln Continental, 2003. I buy jewelry like it's going out of style. And I believe in giving to charities."
Lyla Mock, 45
Owner of Chuck and Lyla Mock Landscape & Supplies
"I hope it gets better. I just started this (plant and landscaping) business, and I hope it gets better, because I have faith in the economy. People are buying plants, and plants are not a necessity."
"We've cut back on spending, because I quit my job and started a new business. We don't eat out as much as we used to or travel as much, because gas is expensive. And it's expensive to travel, in general."
"We delayed buying a new vehicle, mostly because we just opened a new business. Plus the price of cars is just ridiculous right now. We could use a nice car right now, but we get by with what we have."
Debbie Sweade, 43
Owns Debbie's Hair Gallery
"The clientele hasn't been highly impacted. We're a necessity to some; it's a tiny luxury that's not super expensive, so I would say I expect it to be the same or better next year, based on my trust in God to take care of me. And I don't waste my money on the stock market. I'll probably never get to retire anyway."
"I haven't cut back, really, because I don't spend a lot of money anyway. I don't make a lot of major purchases. I pretty much have everything I need. In October, I traded in a 1991 for a 2000, a Dodge Grand Caravan."
Marianne Fertig, 40
Works at Publix
"I expect it'll be the same as it is now. I haven't lost anything big with the economy the way it is. I still have my job, my husband still has his. I have lost money, some of the $35,000 that I put in my 401(k), but it will come back."
"I haven't cut back. I've actually taken our kids to Blizzard Beach (at Disney World). I lost some of my retirement, but I have 20 years to make that up. This," she says, wiggling her nails at the beauty salon, "is the only thing I do for myself. I'm not giving my nails up."
"I bought a washer and dryer a few months ago, but it's one of those necessities. I haven't put off any major purchases."
Patel Kirit, 39
Runs a Marathon gas station
"It'll be good. Some months are slow, and some months are good. Next year, it will hopefully be better. Things will change. I don't think the economy will go down in the long term."
"We just moved here to Brooksville from Tampa last month, because it's more expensive to live in Tampa and run a business there. But, I don't need to buy luxurious things. We can enjoy the small affordable things here right now."
"We've delayed buying a car or anything more than $20,000. One, two or three thousand, we can manage. But $10-, $15-, $20,000 is not easy to buy."
Tom Lotz, 61
New Port Richey
"Better. What do I base that on? Certainly not the economy. I base it on what I do with my current funds and being smarter than I used to be with my money. I don't have investments in dot-coms, and I don't have stock brokers."
"I'm not changing my spending. My wife (Karen) and I are possibly spending more."
"We're really not delaying purchases. We just bought a new house and a new mobile home."
Veronica Thornton, 23
"Hopefully my finances will be better. Why? Just hope, I guess."
"I'm not changing my spending. I'm concerned that we're in a regression though."
"For the time being, I'm delaying major purchases because I hope the economy gets better.
John Paschal IV, 19
Intern at Shumaker Loop & Kendrick in Tampa and political science major at Colgate University
"A year from now, I see the market rebounding, staying away from a recession as the war on terrorism continues. The confidence in the market will be restored -- maybe a little longer than a year."
"I'm cutting back a little . . . and putting money in savings. And waiting for the bottom."
"I've made a couple big-ticket (purchases) -- a new plasma TV. That's about $5,000."
Maurice Matalon, 25
Works in food service industry
"I think I'm going to be in worse shape because of what executives . . . are doing with layoffs. The only other problem I see is with energy and fuel (prices) going up. It's going to hurt the economy."
"I'm not saving any money."
"I'm actually trying to take advantage of (the situation) with the low interest rates. I'm looking at buying a home, maybe a car. One of the two is going to happen."
Larry Fulks, 47
"I hope the world will be a little better than it is now. I'm not going to let Sept. 11 affect me."
"If I see something I like, I'm going to get it."
Bennie Vuu, 37
Owner, Great Wall restaurant
"The economy is up and down. Good times should come back. I see a lot of new restaurants going up and a lot of interesting things happening."
"If I don't really need it, I don't buy it. I won't buy anything big until next year."
Nancy Meuse, 56
"Our business will be better if the economy improves, and I think it will. It's cyclical. We have 401(k)s and everything we own is down, but I do think it will come back. As bad as things were in 1929, the Fortune 400 companies, the blue chip companies, never went out of business."
"We're not spending extra money and are trying to live within our means. We did just take a trip to Ireland and England, but it was planned well in advance. I'm trying to keep overhead low on my business, although my insurance just went up 100 percent."
"I wouldn't buy a new car now."
Joe Vena, 75
"It's going to get worse. Interest rates are going down, but prices are going up. Labor is losing ground. Manufacturing is losing ground. It will be at least a year and a half before we see things get better. It doesn't happen overnight."
"I try to spend less. Period."
Rosemary Oliver, 64
"I'm hoping it will be better, but it depends on the stock market. I think it will swing back. You just have to support your country and hope things will go well."
"I just had a nice vacation in Naples, and I'm feeling good. We're pretty lucky to live in this country."
Salvatore Santoro, 87
"I don't know about the economy. It keeps going down, and I think it will be a good while more than a year before it gets better. We're in a depression but they don't know it."
"I've reduced what I'm buying. We need new furniture, but I'm waiting."
-- Times staff writers Jeff Harrington, Helen Huntley, Jennifer Liberto and Mary Spicuzza contributed to this report.
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