Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Surprising Surprise

Well, that title is a mouthful, but I really did surprise myself by being surprised the other day.

Remember the days of the old economy? You know, when houses were selling so fast that some of them only stayed on the market for minutes. When the only requirement to get a mortgage was to have a pulse, and even that was waived a few times. When we could have powered a small city just by burning all of the credit card offers that were mailed every day. It really wasn’t that long ago, but I’m already forgetting what it was like.

I don’t know much about economics. It’s a very complex science, and I did very little research on the topic growing up because it never seemed important. I used to listen to my grandparents tell stories from the Great Depression and while their experiences made sense to me, none of the economic analysis I encountered about it really seemed useful. I’m not comfortable with risk, so I’ve always leaned a little more toward sticking money in a mattress than risking it all in the market. It’s just a little too complex for me to feel comfortable with.

It’s interesting. The things that have happened, like losing 35% of my 401K and Michael’s college fund, have had surprisingly little effect on our current situation. Assuming that the market eventually recovers, this will just be a negative blip on my financial statements.*

It’s the things that haven’t happened that seem to be having a larger effect on us. Andy’s company announced their planned layoffs before Thanksgiving, and we got to sweat it out for several weeks before Christmas. He made it through the cut, but it was a tense few weeks. My company has announced that there will be some layoffs. I don’t think my program or site is targeted, but I just can’t help but worry about it. So, even though there has been no change to our employment, we have definitely cut back on our spending.

Some of the changes we are experiencing are pretty drastic. People are losing their jobs and their homes. The stock market has tanked. Even the high growth economies in some developing nations are suffering from the shock waves of what is going on here in the USA.

But some of them are so subtle, you don’t even realize that it’s happening.

The other day, I got an American Express credit card offer in the mail. It was offering me an introductory rate of 0% for 18 months. I was completely surprised. I actually opened it up to read some of it. In fact, I was so surprised I even showed it off to Andy. “Look what I got!” I left it on the counter for several days and glanced at it every time I walked into the kitchen.

Andy finally asked me if he could throw it out, and I was surprised to realize that I was really attached to this stupid package off paper. It wasn’t because I was interested in the offer. There was no way I was taking them up on the offer. I have one credit card and that’s all that my stick-money-in-mattresses tendencies can handle. So why was I so interested in it?

Well, because it reminds me of the days of the old economy. The days when I received credit card offers in the mail every day. Some days, I’d get more than one. Heck, I’d even get them from my existing credit card company. They drove me crazy. I’d do a little rant as I shredded them. I never even opened them. So much wasted paper, so much irresponsible lending. It made me sick.

But now, after not seeing on of these offers for months, it was a little reassuring to get one. Hey, maybe there is someone out there who's willing to lend a little money. Maybe it's a sign that things are getting a little better. Maybe there is a little hope. And, how shocking is it that the offers that used to drive me crazy are the very thing that I now find comfort in?

*Please be true


LauraC said...

I was LITERALLY just writing a post on my other blog about how people are so worked up over the stimulus bill. NPR's Planet Money does an amazing podcast (twice a week, 30 minutes) about the economy. I've learned so much from listening to that podcast.

Jon and I have been the opposite. We have been taking advantage of the good sales to buy things we've been planning to buy for a long time. But because we've been frugal, we have the money and it's been allocated a long time.

It is very scary though. I have two real life friends who've lost jobs. And my sister lost her house a few months ago.

Who knew living within your means could be so cool?

Mama Mia said...

Good "make me thing" post...

Joanna said...

Don't worry, I have taken advantage of a few sales. I'm not that responsible.

Karen said...

We have been cutting back on some extras and paying for most everything with cash. We are very fortunate to have our jobs. I hadn't given much thought to the credit card offers but now that I think about it, my mailbox hasn't been as full!