Carmen Lee Pun-yin, who has been married 10 years, has just welcomed her second child into the family. The 35-year-old's first child is now five. Ms Lee and her husband had wanted a baby as soon as they married in 1997. But they had to put their plans on hold when the Asian financial crisis sparked a collapse in the Hong Kong property market. The couple, who had bought a flat at the peak of the pre-handover property boom, saw its value plunge by more than 50 per cent. The term 'negative asset value' became commonplace in Hong Kong. Many in the middle class became burdened with assets worth far less than they had paid for them. 'The pattern of my life changed after that economic crisis,' Ms Lee said. 'I was full of hope at that time. I was about to marry, about to buy my first flat, and we were planning on having our first child straight after the marriage.' The property she bought was under construction in early 1997 and cost HK$3.9 million. The couple paid a deposit of more than HK$1 million - their entire savings. By the time it was ready, the city was swamped by the financial crisis. The price of their property fell and the bank was not willing to lend them money to finance the mortgage. Ms Lee had no choice but to forfeit her HK$1 million deposit. She was not the only one who suffered. 'Some of them wanted to commit suicide. That was a horrible time in my life,' she said. 'If the economy had not been that bad, it would not have happened this way.' Rather than focus on children, she spent the first five years of her marriage rebuilding her finances. 'I had no flat and no money. I had to rebuild my finances from nothing again,' she said. She said she was lucky she was not badly affected when the economy was battered again in 2003, during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. 'I know the market slumped, but I had no money invested at that time. So I had nothing to lose,' she said. 'But we did manage to acquire some investments at that time, buying shops and taxis.' The stock market has now slumped again. But Carmen Lee is so far keeping her cool and not worrying. 'I have not bought any stock,' she said. However, she admitted that her employer, who is in the entertainment business, was downsizing. 'Three offices were cut into one office,' she said. 'But I have already gone through the worst. I have become stronger.' And after being asked by the property developer to pay compensation for not taking the flat and after losing all her savings with the down payment, she is certainly qualified to say so.