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Family Finances

How One Family Navigated the Rocky U.S. Economy

Things were looking grim before this family made a business move that actually helped them benefit from the recession.

Thayer Allyson Gowdy/Tom Zikas

THEN:

In 2004, Lisa and Marcus Marchegger thought they had finally achieved their goal of allowing Lisa to stay home with the kids, Elaina (then 5) and Jared (then 4), while Marcus supported the family. Getting there had taken some juggling. After Elaina was born, Lisa had quit her job as vice president of a credit union, and Marcus had continued working as manager of an auto shop. Jared’s arrival put pressure on their finances, so Lisa returned to her higher-paying job and Marcus took over kid duty. Later, they both worked while Marcus trained to become a mortgage loan officer. When they appeared in our October 2004 story on raising a family on one income, Marcus was doing well in his new career and had again taken over the breadwinning role.

NOW:

The Marcheggers’ plan for a one-income family didn’t last long. In 2005, Marcus had a life-threatening accident on his mountain bike that put him out of commission for six weeks, wreaking havoc on the family’s finances. To bolster their income, Lisa went back to work full-time as a financial analyst at BSM Consulting, in Incline Village, Nev., near their home in Carson City.

See Also: 11 Sources of Funding for Your Small Business

She eventually arranged with her employer to work from home and also took a part-time job at the kids’ school. In the meantime, home prices in the area were declining and foreclosures were going up. Although the Great Recession was still two years off, “the writing was on the wall,” says Marcus. In late 2007, Marcus’s company told him the loans he was using would no longer be offered, and the deals he was working on were dead. That night, he says, “I went to one of the casinos and got a job as a waiter.”

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Over the next months, Marcus worked nights at the casino and put together mortgages during the day, but the job had become a dispiriting slog. Lisa persuaded him to consider buying a run-down auto repair shop that was up for sale. They bought the shop in December 2008—and Lisa returned to full-time work at the job in Incline Village while he started over.

This time, the Marcheggers’ timing was perfect. In 2009, rather than buying new cars, “people were keeping their cars and getting them repaired,” Lisa says. The repair shop is now thriving.

So are the kids. Elaina, a senior in high school, and Jared, a sophomore, are strong students, and each is a state champion in cross-country running. Busy with school and sports, they are rarely home when Lisa, who still works full-time, walks in the door. Now, “they’re so independent that they wouldn’t even know I had a job,” she says.