This has been an equal-opportunity recession. Its prolonged nature has impacted us in many ways. We’ll take a look back at lessons learned.

1. Jobs aren’t always secure.

Gone are the days when we can expect to retire from the same company where we began our career. It’s likely we won’t have the same job forever.

We’ve seen a higher jobless rate. The U.S. unemployment rate was the highest since the Depression, reaching a post-war high, according to The Economist. “Facing a collapse in global trade and consumer demand, firms slashed production and cut their payrolls to match. Employers are still cautious and weak demand will continue to limit new hiring,” the newspaper states.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 14 million Americans remain out of work. A contributing factor is that the U.S. now has more economic competition than it did in the 50’s and 60’s.

Along with job layoffs, employers are resorting to other cost-cutting measures. They are limiting work hours and cutting pay. An increasing number of employers are hiring temporary workers. This makes it a lot harder for families to pay their bills. Still, it’s been said, “The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.”

Economists say that the two most important indicators of economic health are GDP growth, over and above inflation, and strong employment.

2. Homes aren’t investments.

Homeowners bought into the quip that “home values only go up.” And it wasn’t just the homeowners who held this bullish sentiment. Investors, real estate agents, and mortgage brokers were in on the real estate boom. The House Price Index grew at the fastest pace in 25 years (Source: Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight).

What factors led to this boom? There were three contributing forces, according to Martin Weiss’ Safe Money Report.

First, after 2001, the Federal Reserve began aggressively dropping short-term interest rates. Homebuyers jumped on the home-buying train while it went in their direction.

Second, many mortgage lenders became lax on previously prudent lending rules. Poor payment and credit history was overlooked. Down payments of 5% to 1% were allowed. Homebuyers got interest-only loans, where you don’t pay any principal for up to five years. Many interest-only loans had adjustable rates, or ARMs. Then, when faced with rising rates and bigger monthly payments, homeowners couldn’t cope.

Third, there was an influx of speculators and investors buying condos and other properties, with fewer primary homeowners. The housing boom was not supported by a sustainable demand. Then in 2008, the real-estate bubble burst. Since then, forced home sales to repay home loans are triggering lower home values and prices.

An economist for the National Association of Home Builders, S. Melman, said the housing industry is changing. “Value and need are driving the home purchase decisions, not potential investment value,” he said.

4. Debt comes with a price.

People with the “borrow now, pay later” philosophy learned that borrowing is costly. The borrow-and-spend cycle is unsustainable.

In the 2000s the answer to many of life’s problems seemed to be spending borrowed money. Want new clothes or a vacation? Use money borrowed on credit cards. Want better returns for your company or investment accounts? Use borrowed money.

The Economist states,  “Debt increased at every level, from consumers to companies to banks to whole countries. A survey by the McKinsey Global Institute showed that “average total debt (private and public sector combined) in ten mature economies…rose…to 300% [of GDP] in 2008.” A very large amount of leverage was amassed.