I am not a newshound. I do not get the daily paper. When I travel I “treat” myself to a “real” paper, like the Post, the Herald, the Times or the Tribune. Sadly, I get my current event from the Yahoo blurb when I sign onto my email and Morning Edition with NPR when I wake. So, the extent of my current events this week revolved around the Wall Street shenanigans. Wall Street is to money like fashion week is to the emperor’s new clothes. Seriously. So we, the tax payer, bails out the big banks. Goldman Sachs announces a multibillion dollar profit at the same time we learn about this “investment vehicle” called Abacus 2007-A1. It made me realize that we no longer have simple savings accounts. Rather, our savings is with the equivalent of the neighborhood bookie and loan shark. And it is so elegant and trump up to look so appetizing and easy that most employers offer pre-fab gambling in the form of 401K and IRA plans. When did we forget that Wall Street is a racket, odds makers happy to collect our money and play the numbers. If they win on our money, we get to keep (some) the profit. Mind you, the financial gurus we funnel our pre-tax dollars make a tidy profit too. But….when the guy placing the bet loses he still expects to make his profit, he is a bookmaker none the less. We all bought into the notion that we could take our dollars and turn them into thousands. Over time, if we left all of our money there for the bookies to play with, we would have millions. All goes as planned until Bernie Madoff and other scalawags convince everyone to place their bets on some gimpy nag with a million-to-one long shot. Then…..we’re all screwed. We gave Bernie our ten spot to place on the No. 3 horse. Meanwhile, Bernie and his buddies have bigger and grander ideas. They collects ten-spots from even Joe, Jane and Granny on the block, putting all our money on horse No. 9 called sub-prime lending. And the horse doesn’t even finish the race.
I like a little risk taking. And when it is my money and my wallet, I have that freedom. But, I can’t put all my chips on one number. I need to be mindful that I got bills and obligations.
My mother calls it “Mad money”. She and her sister take their “mad Money” and go to the Boats in Biloxi. They don’t empty their retirement accounts. Some gambling is fun, thrilling and even profitable. But it is not the place you depend on regular income. For that, you have to work. Punch a clock and make a widget. And you have to live within the parameters of the time clock wages. If we were to all live by the rules we are demanding of our government – pay as you go – then that means in our own households we never use credit. We use only cash. We save up to make a big purchase and we sacrifice. We go without small luxuries so as to have that thing we want. As we live smaller and buy less, we consume less and we finally realize how abundantly we can live with less. And the past excesses seem offensive and beyond extravagant.
Small is the new big.