Dateline NBC Recap: The Sadowskis’ Financial Woes From Economic Recession

Dateline NBC departs from its usual crime stories as it exposes a particular family’s travails following the recession that hit America pre-2009. For four years, Dateline followed the Sadowskis from Orange Country, California: parents Tim and Krichelle and their two boys.

In a gist, this episode illustrates how a couple fought to overcome the financial woes that came with the latest economic downturn. In dire times, couples who are used to a bountiful lifestyle scramble to keep things together, including personal relationships. Tim and Krichelle’s fight to keep their house strained their relationship, much of which was from the woman’s end. I do not know the couple at all but judging from what was shown, it appeared that Krichelle equated love and happiness with financial high while Tim reacted with more logic (e.g. keep family intact even through troubled times). Their children have a more practical sense of their parents’ approach to their problems, one which can be considered very mature for their age after growing up in lavishness.

Tim and Krichelle do not have college degrees, nor do they come from affluent families but their perseverance shored them up financially. Prior to the recession, Tim’s construction flourished and brought him about $160,000 a year in income. The couple bought their upscale house in 1998 and lived the classic American dream. The center of their life was their house which was refinanced several times to improve its state, increase its value (tripled in 2004), purchase expensive items (e.g. cars, toys) and allow their family to support their  expensive way of life. On top of this is the couple’s $80,000 savings.

Tim’s business took a direct hit from the recession; as such, the couple had to sell their expensive assets. Without college degrees, jobs eluded the couple. Along with their piled-up bills, impending house foreclosure, living on welfare and Tim spending  more time at home, Krichelle’s irritation at her husband increased and forced her to entertain the idea of a divorce. Tim’s unfortunate motorcycle accident re-ignited their romance throughout their ordeal but went awry after Krichelle found out that Tim kept the motorcycle at the height of their financial problems and after the couple decided to short sale their property.

Today, the Sadowskis live in a one-bedroom apartment despite the couple being divorced. Krichelle claims that things don’t buy happiness but it is a big question why she gave up on her own marriage given the circumstances. Then and again, there are a lot of things that a one-hour episode cannot reveal.

A political science analyst explains that a family’s house is a major asset; when faced with foreclosure, families are usually hopeful that something good would happen to save such. The Sadowskis’ plight is a realization that jobs are difficult to come by to the first victims of a recession since companies question why they have been stagnant for a long time (really ironic). The Sadowskis’ short sale of their property is a better option but will still impact on their credit rating.

That’s our recap of Dateline NBC today, 8/30/13. We’ll have another recap next week. Until then, please check our Dateline NBC archives HERE. 

Image Credit: Dateline NBC


  1. Mare Horton says

    What happened to the yellow lab? The small dog made the move with them to the one bedroom apartment, but did they dump the other dog?

  2. so cal Debbie says

    Tim, do you still have that custom Chevelle you’ve spent $60,000 on so far?
    You know, the one you spent money on INSTEAD of making house payments?

    Yes, of course you still have it. Couldn’t let go of that, it’s way more important than a house.

  3. Steve Mund says

    I worked for Tim in the 90’s. Dateline should have checked out this guys reputation. Tim was horrible about paying his employees. Owed money all over town, couldn’t get credit at any of the supply houses. Lost his contractor’s license, now he’s using another license to conduct business, totally illegal. People like Tim never learn a lesson, just keep on exploiting the system.

  4. Priscilla says

    I wish I would have known about this at the time of there house being sold I would have helped. I’m sure most of America would have too. Life is a challenge any way you look at it …god bless this family.

  5. L McMahan says

    My husband is 61 years old, had hip replacement last year and was on disability for 6 months. He was hurt at work but did not apply for workman’s comp. He worked at a major grocery store chain. At first we didn’t think the grocery chain would allow him to come back to work, after working with HR he was allowed to return .Since returning; He was always having to prove himself by the store manager. He was set up to fail.. The manager would look for things that wasn’t done and write him up. He was put in a position of not enough help and inexperience workers so that the job could not be done. He was mistreated, harassed, made to work 3 to 4 nights a week, when other managers only worked, none, one or two, asked to stay late, then be at work by 4am. He has worked in the grocery business for 40 years and was always a hard worker. He lost his job in June. We took care of my mother for 10 years which took a financial toll. I am 60 now without health insurance. If I get health insurance we would be in more financial need, deductible would be $5000 with us paying $350 a month just for me. You don’t think about these things unless they happen to you. There are so many families that are struggling.. .

  6. Chester says

    This couple bought a house for around $300K. The value grew to nearly $800k. They refinanced 3 times to extract the equity so they could live above their means. When the home value “plummeted” back to $500k or so they were bankrupt. This is a result of their own greed and stupidity. If a contractor in a cyclical business has to manage 15 to 17 jobs at a time to clear $160 k it is clear that this is about as much as he can ever make in that business model. To then live the lifestyle of someone making at least twice that much is pure greed and stupidity. This says nothing about society or policy or fairness. It’s simply a story of a guy that somehow knew his wife would leave him if the toys stopped flowing. He financed it the only way he could and in the end she leaves anyway. Pathetic! The kids deserve sympathy but the so called adults do not.

  7. Zebhead says

    I was somewhat torn by this story and felt NBC could have done a much better job using it as a teaching opportunity for what not to do. While there were some positives from this family, they fit what has become the American model…buy stuff and embrace debt.
    Trying to calculate the background of what really went on here, it seemed they originally purchased their house for somewhere between $250-300M, which would not be an extravagent house for CA. They had seen the value run up and apparently re-leveraged the house up to about $600M (and about $100M than it was worth when values returned to more realistic levels), which would produce a pretty significant mortgage payment. Then we bought RV’s, motorcycles, pools, collector automobiles and of course the requisite Mercedes SUV. While the business was providing $160,000 that was hardly enough to support the type of lifestyle created with any breathing room. Having put back $80,000 in savings was more than most families would have, but it was way too little for the debt load amassed.
    This was a mistake many families made…letting the increased value of home equate to worth that could be leveraged to buy “stuff” rather than it merely being a place to live. Increasing housing values got treated like “free” money for many owners. Even the mother was lamenting her plight of living in her home 27 years and looking to loose it to foreclosure. At 27 years, one should be looking to have a house debt free not leveraged to a value greater than its worth.
    We do way too little educating people about how to manage their finances. At the same time we have various entities advertising how easy it is to get more debt. NBC could have used this unfortunate situation to improve on both, but chose to create a “pitty piece” instead…a wasted opportunity that may have benefitted someone.

  8. Jo Jo says

    Ahh, this story really touched my heart. It is so hard today to raise a family, take care of a house, pay bills, and live the American dream. So what they over extended themselves, they certainly learned a very hard lesson. And I am glad they took advantage of government aid! At least they are not hurting anyone, and using drugs. these are the productive people who should ask for government help. moat people on welfare and food stamps live in a ghetto, will never work, and just keep having kids out of wedlock to get more money. And then those kids end up in jail. I really admire this family for sharing their story. And yes keeping up with the Jones sucks, but most people do try

  9. says

    This family needs a basic course in Needs and Wants. Come on ,going out to dinner at the close of the story. Even taco bell is out of budget. How about buying some beans , rice and tortillas and cooking at home. A meal at taco bell for 4 people will cost a minimum of 3 dollars per person. Thats 12 bucks you could use for at least 3 meals for the whole family at home. Is this family beneath shopping at a dollar store. Even in a 1 room apartment this family is spending money they don, t have. Stop being lazy. Eat at home .get a job at taco bell rather then spending money there.. Give up the cable tv ,name brand clothes cell phones , internet.separTe basic needs from wants and see how fast things can turn around. This family is typical of most american families. Spoiled and lazy

  10. Trish says

    I disagree with the posts that are cruely critical of the Sadowski Family. Both the children demonstrated maturity and were greatful for the little things in life vs the lavish lifestyle they were accustomed to. The 1950’s comment from John is an example of what this family is up against-people who judge but don’t offer help and have “shameful joy” at their change in circumstances. I’m sure those 2 children would sweep, shovel, cut, and do any menial job to help save their parents marriage and home-but the problem is too big for $20 a day. I feel sorry that Tim and Krishelle’s marriage didn’t survive -they both appear quite depressed and as a nurse I feel nothing but compassion. I’ve seen my own Mom loose everything and I lacked knowledge or money to help because I was too inexperienced and young. My own life worked out but my Mom suffered terribly. Krishelle look for work in health care as you did a great job for Tim and Tim you may have to change careers due to your injury or relocate where there is work. Stay strong for your most treasured assets-your beautiful boys. Life still has good things in store for you if you don’t give up.

  11. Rene says

    I found this story heart wrenching ….. I see two people who worked hard, were successful
    and saved. One year savings was responsible. I felt like they
    were paralyzed by the contined downhill trajectory.

    I was saddened that they couldn’t make their marriage work.


    • R Schier says

      “Two people who worked hard” ???? She balked at the “embarrassing prospect” of having to work even part time. Not sure which is more hilarious; a family that wonders how they find themselves in this situation after such egregious financial behavior, or those who are shedding tears for them. I only have a heart for the kids here, who seem to be the only true adults in this situation.

  12. John Held says

    This whole story is B. S. these people do not know what real problems are. They should of spent some of there money to pay off their house . years ago instead of buying all their toys I see this with so many people, I do not feel sorry a bit for them. They did not know how to manage there money at all. Instead of the kids laying around , get out and cut lawns and wash and wax cars in the neighbor hood like we did in the 50s This whole story discusses me. Look at the house they are still living in. these people have had to much money and didn’t know what to do with it ,but live the hi life. This couple has really messed up their kids. They deserve everything they get. Hate to be this way, but 99 percent of the people of my generation would agree. Good luck, but get real. They do not know what real life is all about. Bad Bad

  13. Leslie Nielsen says

    This story about the Sadowski’s make me sick! WAAAA!Please tell a story about people that really need help. The government is just wrong to help them with food and pay his medical bills when they had a home and a lot of expensive things to sell. This hurts my heart because so many that REALLY NEED THIS ASSISTANCE have gone without because of the help they took for themselves. I hope in the future they will give back

    • Tracy Giddens says

      Did you two listen to this story? John Held and Leslie Nielson? I agree that they should have payed more towards their mortgage instead of just buying toys for the family. Then they could have bought those toys, one at a time, without borrowing money for them. After all those years of making so much money, there should have been more than 80,000 in savings also. No one is perfect, maybe their parents didn’t teach them what you were taught, back in the time when money management was a responsibility that parents were happy to pass to their children.

      As for the hateful remarks about the welfare and medicaid; By the time they began to receive these helps they deserved them and greatly needed them. When they were pulling in the money, they paid their taxes ,and, I assume, as faith based Christians, they payed their tithes also. They did everything right, they are exactly who the government was thinking of when they created these programs. They will use them while they need to, then stop when it is no longer needed. THIS family REALLY NEEDS THIS ASSISTANCE! They have already payed in enough to,at the very least, come really close to paying for the help they need, and are getting now.. My husband and I are having to use food stamps and our youngest son is on medicaid, all because my husband lost his job on Feb 14, 2010. That’s a long time without a job. Give them a break. It is very embarrassing to have to pull out that food stamp card, in front of your wealthy friends in your neighborhood. We hate it, as much as you hate giving it to us. Take a breath and be grateful that you have not been forced into one of these programs, due to circumstances beyond your control. Thank You.

    • R Schier says

      Couldn’t agree with you more. The decision to profile this family was definitely to generate controversy and increase ratings. The kids were the only adults here, and my heart goes out to them. When I think of all the hurting people out there that are at the other end of the universe in terms of how they serviced financial obligations responsibly, this story makes me vomit in the mouth. You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg through this story; to wind up in the position they found themselves in, took MASSIVE amounts of financial irresponsibility. The final insult was motorcycle mishap, as one who knows he has no insurance, certainly has no business even riding one. We all work hard; doesn’t mean that we should feel entitled to endless consumption. The fact she was gone when the money ran out was very telling as well. I hope Dateline exercises better judgement in future.