- THE MAGAZINE
It’s my birthday, too! But seriously, today really is my birthday. Every year, I try to take stock and ponder if I’m better off now than at this time last year. On the surface, everything is going pretty well. Truth be told, though, I’ve actually been kind of terrified lately, especially for the last week or two.
Like most of you, I’m one of the vast majority of Americans who pays their mortgage, and on time at that. I’m not a spendthrift, though honesty does compel me to admit that I splurge from time to time, typically on flowers, books, and yes-shoes. (When I say splurge, I’m talking about $50-$100 or so. I’m too cheap to really splurge properly.) So I can truthfully say that, for the most part, I’m fiscally responsible.
Now, the current financial crisis reminds me very much of my kindergarten or first grade class (I can’t remember which). We had these fantastic, maybe 2-3 ft tall, balloon Letter People to help us learn our ABCs and how to read. They each had their own big letter and then some personal trait that exemplified their particular letter. I loved the Letter People.
Unfortunately, there was a rather sizable contingent of unruly children in my class. A number of these kids always talked out of turn, pulled other people’s hair and generally ran amuck. (They never did really get in line, actually, all through the sixth grade.) In any event, after a multitude of warnings, our teacher declared that no one could play with the Letter People anymore. Whether we’d been good or bad didn’t matter in the slightest; we were all to be punished.
I’m sure you’ve all seen my point coming from a mile away. We play nice, we follow the rules-and yet our home values are on a swift downward spiral. The economy is now so out of whack that everything is more expensive, and yet high un- and underemployment mean that we’re not earning what we should. I want to stomp my foot and yell, “It’s not fair!”
I say I’m kind of terrified because, unless I actually let myself think about these aspects of the current situation, everything really is going quite well. If I can ignore the fact that I most likely owe more on my house than it’s now worth, and if I can keep my promise to myself not to open my 401(k) statements for the next quarter (OK, maybe six months), I’m relatively confident that I can keep the heart palpitations mostly in check.
I think I’ll take a cue from Marie Antoinette and go have some cake. It is my birthday, after all.