In December 2008, my son was laid off from his job at a hedge fund, which had shut down operations and ceased functioning as an ongoing business. Three months later, his severance pay ended and he was still unemployed, with no job offers in sight.

My son is a homeowner, having bought a townhouse four years ago in Weehawken, N.J., just the other side of the Hudson River from Manhattan. When he walks out his front door, he can see the gleaming towers of the Big Apple in the distance. The good news for my son is that when he acquired his property, he bought at a very reasonable price with an adjustable-rate mortgage, which he refinanced a few years later with a 30-year-fixed-rate mortgage. The mortgage payments are not onerous.

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