Financial meltdown: Where are we now?

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

It’s been a year since we got slammed by the financial crisis, marked by the fall of Lehman Brothers, the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, the bailout of AIG and the Reserve Primary Money Fund’s broken buck. These events triggered drastic moves by the government to save the financial sector. Wall Street was declared dead, though it still had a pulse. Big bonus payouts to the very people who created the financial crisis caused an uproar in Washington and across the country.

In the ensuing months the news was dominated by mounting foreclosures, negative equity in people’s homes, job layoffs, the stock market swoon, 401(k) losses and the Great Recession. Some 7.4 million jobs were lost since the recession began in December of 2007. Nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed, according to the Department of Labor. Millions lost their homes. Main Street suffered greatly.

What mistakes did consumers make in the midst of this turmoil? What, if anything, have we learned? Bankrate’s reporters talked to experts to get their thoughts about what went wrong and how we should move forward, albeit with the benefit of hindsight.

Biggest mistakes, and what to do now about …
Mortgages College 529 savings plans
Home equity Emergency funds
Credit cards The financial meltdown: Rates then and now
Investing in 401(k) plans