Today I found an abandoned, CURRENT edition of the New York Times during my post-work, pre-yoga stop at a coffee shop. After a week of slogging through names I’ll never properly pronounce and beginning a long pattern of begging as all non-profit employees do, this find was a real gem. The perfect thing to peruse as I sip tea and unwind.
And then I got to the headline.
‘Vast Bailout Plan Is Proposed In Bid To Stem Economic Crisis’
Talk about a T.G.I.F. buzz kill. Not that this headline is either new or shocking. The current financial situation, the origins of which I can neither speculate nor comprehend, has been front page material for months. What started as a mortgage crisis (far from affecting me in any way) morphed, some might say predictably, into a more generalized economic crisis.
Unless you live in complete financial and social isolation Ted Kacynski-style, in which case you are certainly not reading this blog, there is really no way the current economy isn’t having some effect on your life. Whether you feel a ripple or a tidal wave, we’re all in the same pond. Maybe the house next door was foreclosed on, maybe you can’t afford to fill-up your Hummer, maybe you’ve lost your job or lost money in the stock market. We notice it, too, and we shudder collectively with my countrymen and women when I hear ‘Great Depression’ comparisons. But the thing is…
We have no money! For the first time, it feels quite good to say that. Liberating even! It’s not that we’ve lost our money somehow, it’s just that we generally spend the dough we earn. Sure, we accrue savings each year and always talk about doing something with it. Like, for example, investing. But two things always seem to conspire to derail that plan.
First of all, we don’t know what the hell ‘investing’ even means. I get speeches from well-intentioned family members and friends about how simple it all really is. Stocks, CD’s, financial advisers, diversify your something or other, blah blah blah. Honestly, I try to listen and become more knowledgeable for my future financial security. But to me that’s like saying I should listen to parenting advice for my unborn, unconceived, inconceivable future children. In both instances I want to put my fingers in my ears and scream LA LA LA! Sometimes we get spurts of maturity and decide to research the basics of investing online. Then we get bored and/or confused and one of us says “Want to look up funny clips on YouTube?” Yes. Yes, I do.
Secondly, we avoid investing money because we want to use it. We don’t spend it on material things the way a stereotypical American should. But we’ve gone all through Europe, Canada and the U.S. on money that could/should have been invested. We spend it on concerts, picnics, dinners, boat rides, souvenirs and a sampling of the local alcohol of our destination. Then we spend the rest of the money ordering prints of the pictures we took during our adventures. And then with the leftover money we buy some bottles (ok, ok, a box) of wine and invite our friends over to share our stories of travel. And being with our friends makes us miss our friends who are far away, so we (under the nostalgic influence of that box of wine) book plane tickets to visit them and take more pictures. And so the pattern continues.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s probably some version of either a) Hell yes! Spend it while you can! Life life to the fullest! You can’t take the money with you when you go! or b) You better smarten up, little miss! Or you’ll end up living off cat food when you retire at age 87! Both of you are right, and so begins a new era in our lives. My job has some kind of employer matched 403-something-something blah blah in which I am enrolled and plan to investigate more at a later date. We’re on a plan of frugality that is even more frugal than our previous plan. I’ve discovered the virtue of buying in bulk. And I see what you meant all those years mom and dad, cereal is expensive! I’m interested in having a portfolio, if only for the reason of being able to say ‘I have to consult my portfolio.’ Fancy, right?
But, we still plan to continue in the kind of existence that includes spending money to help us enjoy life. If a meteor falls on my head tomorrow it would be incredibly lame if people could sit around saying “Well…she did have a rather impressive portfolio.” If that were the case death would be a sweet release! Lame! Instead people could sit around with all those picture albums and my preferred variety of box wine saying “Well, she was broke but it looks like she had a HELL-of-a-time!” Awesome! Also, I think some time would have to be devoted to discussing the nature of my passing. Pulverized by a falling meteor? How random!
So for now we’ll empathize with others who’ve lost so much and thank our stars for what we do have in terms of health and happiness and of what don’t have to lose…like money. As my mom used to tell me when I rather nosily tried to ascertain our socioeconomic status, “All you need to know is, we’re rich in love.” Sob.