But like many members of the middle class, the busy professional -- who declined to give his name for this article -- suffered a major financial blow as the economy faltered. Over a year ago, an import-export firm for which he subcontracted failed to pay him a $65,000 commission.
Suddenly, his financial security evaporated, and he quickly fell behind in his children's tuition payments. His marriage grew strained. Nights were sometimes sleepless.