Money Money Money

I read last week that, best case scenario, the current economic crisis will start to get better in three years.

I don’t know if I can stand three years of feeling this anxious.

Nothing has changed, for my little family. On paper, we are no better or worse off than we were last July. We have a fixed-rate mortgage with a payment well within our means. We have our jobs and both are relatively secure (although one never knows). Nothing has changed, really, except that, like everyone else in America, we’re afraid that suddenly everything will change, and we’ll be screwed.

We get by. We have enough for bills and groceries and a meal out now and then. But if one of our cars breaks down – we’re screwed. If the heat pump goes kerflooey – we’re screwed. If gas goes back up to $4 a gallon – we’re a little screwed there, too. If, heaven forbid, one of us loses our jobs, we’re really, really screwed.

And I get so, so angry with myself now, every month when I send off my minimum monthly payment for my credit card bills. I wish I wish I wish I could keep that money, instead of pouring down a big old funnel of debt. And debt for what – for things I bought years ago that I’ve already forgotten about or thrown out or outgrown. I have made poor financial choices and unfortunately, realizing that I made those choices and swearing to reform doesn’t do much good – I still have to pay it all back. In a few years, if nothing else changes and I keep plugging away at the payments, it will all go away – but that’s a lot of wasted money in the meantime. Money that could go to ballet lessons for my daughters, or (a novel concept!) into my savings account.

I don’t pretend to know anything about how the Recession started, or about the right way to go about fixing everything. I don’t know if Obama is doing the right thing or not. I do know that I am seeing, for the first time, how interconnected everything is, how a slight adjustment here makes everything fall apart over there. What if I want to cancel our extermination service, to save $30 a month? What if my lousy account was the one account the (local, environmentally-friendly) exterminators needed to stay in business? It’s great that I’m spending less money at Target, but not if that means that one or two cashiers lose their jobs do to decreased sales. How will anything ever get back on track if people are too afraid to spend, to invest, to do anything, for fear of going under?

One thing I’m grateful for – that my kids are young enough to not have to worry about this stuff. I’m glad they’re not about to graduate from college and face the dismal job market. I hear things about the great recession of the late 1970s and think, “Huh? What? There was a recession back then?” I was seven, eight years old – it didn’t matter to me. We didn’t have a lot of extras growing up; we didn’t go on vacation often, we didn’t have shiny cars or designer clothes. We were still happy; we had enough; we got by.

That’s all I want, for now. That’s enough for me – to continue to be able to get by.


aimee said...

Yeah, the recession in the 80s was lost on me. I had no idea. Thanks mom and dad. :)

I think about that the interconnectedness of things too. But I also think that it is so isolating also. Everyone is so afraid of spending money right now (and rightfully so) that even if it does make one small company go under, no one thinks they can do something about it. Even though everyone is on the same sinking ship, everyone feels like they are on their own. That is my feeling anywyay.

Anonymous said...

One thing about teaching is that during recessions, teachers are rarely laid off. If one retires or quits or moves to another place, that teacher may not be replaced, but if one is doing a good job, she doesn't lose it. So, the point of those rather rambling sentences, is that we probably weren't too worried about the recessions of the 70s and 80s because I was teaching and felt that I would have my job no matter what. Yeah, we were probably concerned about it, but we didn't sit around bemoaning the fact that we were suffering through a recession and were broke, etc. Like Krista said, we had enough, we were comfortable and that is really a pretty good place to be