lazy winter days linklings


Winter continues.
We passed attorney review on our house so the clock is now ticking on making a move.  Yet at the same time the weather, the passing of time since I had a schedule imposed by a commute and the exhaustion of dealing with two young kids all day long make the days blur into each other to the point where not much gets accomplished some days.  It’s amazing how the lack of external forces pushing you along makes getting things done more difficult.  It’s also amazing how recognizing that it’s amazing doesn’t help you get off the couch and do anything about it.

A few links:

Should We Downsize?: Downsizing is probably going to be the hot new trend for the next few years – if it’s voluntary, cool. If not, ouch.

Find Investment Opportunities In Any Business Market Environment! Ride The Economic Recovery: I’ve said before that more (long-term, not just paper) millionaires will be made in these tough years than during the boom years, and I believe it.

Job Search – Find a Freelance Job: Some good sites to start with if you’re looking for freelance work.

Three Investing Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Investing has an ugly side to it, and in my experience the ugly side is ALWAYS learned the hard way.

The Frugal Dog – The Cost of Dog Ownership: For me – not a pet person – the cost of dog ownership is a lifetime of getting up at 6 am and going outside to pick up someone’s poop with a plastic bag. I don’t need much more to convince me the cost is too high for me to bear, frankly.

Backwoods Home: My New Favorite Magazine: An interesting magazine – that I hadn’t heard of before.

Consumer Reports 2009 Best New Car Picks: Interesting how only one of the best new cars was American…

COBRA Changes – Premium Reduction Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Good news for those of us who are struggling with COBRA payments.

What Have You Given Up During This Recession?: A good question; so far we haven’t given up that much, but I suspect that will change before too much longer.

Don’t Donate Money To Charity: Not an unconvincing argument, in many ways.

How to Start a Blog for Fun or Profit – Choosing a Web Host: Sounds like LunarPages is a good deal if you’re toying with the idea of starting a blog (and I’ve had good luck with godaddy as well).

How To Deal With A Job Loss: If you’re about to deal with a job loss, here are some helpful tips, although I’ll add one more: don’t worry too much; life will go on.

You, Me, And Citi Make Three – US Increases Stake In Citigroup: Ugh.

photo credit: glangille

the pursuit of wealth for the sake of others

I wanna hold your hand

There are a million books written on the subject of money-making – at least. Most people, if they are sensible, want to acquire wealth.  If you don’t want material goods for yourself or for your family, you probably would like to acquire wealth to benefit a charity or a cause.  If you don’t want to acquire wealth, you may be perfectly happy and content with your lot, but you’re probably not a typical person.  So be it.

I’ve often thought that one of the true benefits of being wealthy would not be just the ability to buy what I want, when I want it, but also to be charitable. I’ve struggled with charity throughout my life; I have given generously to some causes and withheld money for selfish reasons at other times.  One of the advantages to being wealthy – to me, at least – would be the ability to give without any concern for amounts or timing.

So I think about wealth as a means not to buy the latest Wii, but as something to improve lives. Mine, sure.  My family’s, of course.  My extended family’s, yep.  Friends, my neighborhood, uh-huh.  Even charities that benefit people who will barely register the fact that I helped.  Why not?  I won’t pretend that my first goal isn’t to make life as good as possible for me and mine, but I have hopes that someday I’ll be able to make a real impact on others – not just $25 a year to a charity’s administrative overhead spending.

Many people disparage the pursuit of the wealth as self-centered. “Greedy.”  “Materialistic.”  That may be.  But if you become truly wealthy, don’t you have a far greater ability to help those in need?  Shouldn’t every person who seeks to help others make their life’s pursuit the attainment of wealth?

How much wealth is necessary, or appropriate, or required is of course open for debate. I’ve often thought that no amount could be “too much.”  I can think of an almost endless list of charities I could give to after I’ve provided for myself and my family.  I would never think of getting rich as having been selfish; if you turn that wealth back around to the world at large, you could be far more effective than the preachiest poor guy on the planet.

I would never claim that I want money first for the benefit of others. I jealously want to provide for my family (and myself) first, and charity second.  But I would like to be wealthy; I would like to have the ability to give freely to worth causes.   Wealth is not just the route to the latest video game; it can also be the route to helping people who truly need that help.
photo credit: batega

produce the note

If you need to be amazed and bewildered by the complexity (and stupidity) of the lending business, look no further than the “produce the note” phenomenon. This post may seem different from my usual focus, but I thought it was worth mentioning:

from Action News 6 in Philadelphia (italics and bold fonts are mine – Steve):

“I filed the produce the note and I haven’t heard a word from anybody.”

Kathy learned of the delay tactic from a website called the Consumer Warning Network. On it, attorney Chris Hoyer explains the strategy.

“There was an original iou, an original promissory note that you signed make them produce the original. We’re hearing now that they’re having difficulty doing it,” Hoyer said.

And that goes to the heart of the foreclosure crisis. During the real estate boom, the original note signed by the homeowner may have been lost, trashed, or stored elsewhere, in part because it exchanged hands so many times.

“They would take your debt, package it up with other debt, sell it, resell it, resell it again, put it in a bundle and sell it to investors telling them it was really good stuff. Now the really good stuff is exploding,” Hoyer said.

A lender’s inability to produce the note may force it to modify a mortgage so it’s more affordable. It may also give homeowners time to find a job so they can make payments again. This out of work real estate agent hopes either way the “produce the note” strategy will be her saving grace, too.

“I am requesting the mortgage company give me a copy or provide me proof of the original note that I signed. If they can’t prove I owe them, why should I pay them?”

Talk about an ethical conundrum. I agree, first of all, that if you have a legal system that requires that the mortgage company be able to produce a copy of the note, and they can’t, then the homeowner doesn’t have any legal reason or obligation to pay.  We throw any concept of honor (i.e. paying one’s debts) out the window due to legalese, of course.  I sympathize, because if the situations were reversed I am sure the mortgage company would dot the i’s and cross the t’s without mercy.

This situation may in fact be an interesting fallout from the insanity of the “bundling” of mortgages into investment packages. As someone who’s spent a professional life focused on controls – signatures and countersignatures, authorizations and approvals – I chuckle a bit when I see this story.   I’ve been lectured again and again by business persons about how all of these durn controls were getting in the way of “Bidness” and how they could make a lot more money for the company if only the accountants and controllers and auditors would get out of the way.  Those controls are there for a reason.  Humans are fallible, and controls created by humans are fallible – but controls created by crowds are LESS fallible.  The accumulated wisdom of years and years of business knowledge (two signatures are better than one, making sure that paperwork is filed in duplicate) are there for a reason.  The reason?  People fail.

I doubt this woman will be able to withstand foreclosure for long with this tactic, unless positive media attention helps her. Even so, it should serve as a harsh warning for all of us:  make sure that you keep good documentation related to real estate dealings and business deals.  The tiniest omissions can destroy everything.  This time, it helped the little guy, but the truth is that most of the time, paperwork favors the corporate behemoths.

alea jacta est

A throw of the dice

“Alea jacta est (the die is cast)”

Julius Caesar, January 10, 49 BC as he led his army across the River Rubicon in northern Italy.

If I wasn’t pompous enough with that opening quote, forgive me, I tried. The events of one’s own life are monumental in the extreme.  We entered into a contract to sell our house this weekend, so I can truly say now that I will be putting into practice a lot of what I’ve written here:  we are changing our lives, uprooting ourselves and seeking to make our life conform to our desires rather than allowing the winds of fate to push us willy-nilly throughout our lives.

Selling a house also makes me think how strange it is that amounts like we have been discussing (in the halves-of-millions ranges) can be thrown about so casually and yet require such quick and firm decisions. It took me months to agree to buy a new dishwasher.  I had to decide on a selling price for our home in 24 hours (actually less).  As it was when we bought the house, it has been an interesting lesson in learning how to make large decisions and live with them.

I have thought for 30 years that life is unpredictable, and I have yet to be proven wrong. When I was 10, I could never have imagined living in Germany by the time I was 16.  When I was living in Germany, I could never have imagined that by the age of 27 I’d be living in Moscow.  While living in Moscow, I would have scoffed at the idea of living in New York, a city I detested the first time I visted it.  After living in Manhattan for years, I could not have imagined living in New Jersey; and after living in New Jersey, I had often dreamed of living in a warmer clime but never expected that to happen.  Life prods you forward and defies your expectations.

On a more down-to-earth tone, we have a massive amount of personal finance to organize, and I’ll be concentrating on that work as we do it. My search for contract work and alternative income will continue, and thanks to the internet and location independent living I’ll have some options to move my work along with me – like this blog.   I have made my first tentative steps towards a total career change, too.  I hope that reading about it will be as interesting as living it will be!

photo credit: Thunderchild tm

our family has an opportunity for startling change – and links

hazy, hot, and humid

The last week has brought about a sudden and startling change for our family. Prompted by the general state of the union, the specific situation in New York City and my own changing career path, we decided to list our house.  Our neighborhood is suffering from the strain of the Wall Street meltdown.  With almost everyone I know employed or associated with the financial services sector, you can imagine what’s going on.  I’ve made reference to it in past posts, but homes are going on the market and people are moving away.

So we had an offer made on our house, and we counteroffered. That may or may not result in a sale, but we went a step further in our thinking:  if we do sell, since neither of us are employed and our two kids are still (about) 3 and 1, we are prime candidates to be location independent.  We are planning to flee the northeast altogether and move to Florida, to readjust our lifestyles to a warmer climate and a lower cost of living.  What that means for my career (or Bubelah’s) is unclear – I may also take this time to make a career shift, or just give up on traditional employment altogether if I can make that work for a while.  Who knows?  But interesting times are ahead.  I will write about the process as it goes on…

On to a few links:

The Paradox of Thrift:  Saving money, ironically, will hurt the economy and reduce the value of saving money – or will it?

Riches — Or Just a Competence?:  JD reprints an article that demonstrates how the secret to getting rich hasn’t changed that much since – well – ever.

More Adult Children Moving Back Home:  I know people who have adult kids (30s) living at home – and these are kids with good, professional, white collar jobs.  In the NYC area it’s simply becoming a dreadful proposition to buy a starter home, even with the crisis raging.  That may change, but prices ran a loooong way up before they started falling.  (See “Florida, considering move to” above!)

Our Buy vs. Rent Situation:  And speaking of moving, we’ll definitely be renters for the time being – at least until we see how the year goes.  I suspect that the stock market, the real estate market and the job market still have some room to go down.

Take a Free Economics Course From Yale on Financial Markets by Robert Shiller:  I wonder how much longer a diploma’s going to matter for real technical competence to be proven.  College will always be useful for networking and learning to work in groups, but for many liberal arts (economics, math, literature, etc.) surely knowledge will be easy and free to acquire from the best minds without attending the school.

What Will the Recession Mean for My Kids?:   The last 29 years of successive blows to our national debt (supply-side economics, the Cold War arms race, the Iraq war and Bush’s spend-and-taxcut regime) will certainly narrow choices for our children and their children.  Then again, the dot-com boom came out of nowhere to revitalize the US in the late 90s, so who knows?  Maybe we should start speculating in tulips.

Yours, Mine, and Ours – Deciding Who Pays the Bills:  I can’t imagine not pooling money and paying bills from the pooled money.  I just don’t see how it works in a marriage if you don’t share income and bills – especially once the kids come.  You’d go crazy otherwise.

Make Money with Multi-Level Marketing:  I haven’t tried it, but hey – I guess it works for some people if you have the skills for it.

Stress at Work Getting You Down? How To Manage Job Burnout:  At least this is one thing I don’t have to deal with anymore; my ‘work’ these days isn’t that stressful.  It doesn’t pay that well, but the perks (short commute, doing something I enjoy) have reduced stress to nearly zero.

The Ultimate Tax Resource Guide:  Stop reminding me!  Seriously – a comprehensive list of resources for preparing your contribution to Uncle Sam.

Job Site Allows Seekers To Bid On Low Pay:  The internet was supposed to help people find the perfect job.  Well, no it will help you find it by being the lower bidder on salary or hourly rate.  I suppose this is just an extension of the type of process you see if you’re a contractor (bidding down your rate) but it would be a grim thing to know that you were the one who bid the lowest and “won” the job. Name Your Price and Get Repair Jobs Done:  And on a similar note, here’s an interesting new site for getting repair services done.  I’ve had some sucess with other sites, but this one is slightly different and might be worth a try.

5 Emerging trends from the recession:  Cost-conciousness will be a new ‘hot thing’ for obvious reasons.  I think, however, that it’s going to be more that people will go “cheap” rather than “frugal” – i.e. they’ll buy the cheapest they can get rather than thinking long term about buying durable and needed goods.

photo credit: joiseyshowaa

the appearance of competence


Throughout my career I’ve met competent people, and I’ve met incompetent people.
Sad to say, but the ratio’s been tipped largely towards incompetent people.  Competence isn’t necessarily a measure of success, and vice versa.  I knew a CEO who couldn’t figure out email; his secretary printed out emails for him and he hand-wrote replies for her to type up.  He was very successful, though.  I also knew a coworker who was technically brilliant in my field (accounting and auditing) – he was exceptionally intelligent, good with computers, skilled in languages and a tremendous team-builder.  He hit a dead end in his career about ten years ago and can’t find a job today to save his life.

What’s the difference? Is it ass-kissing?  Is it being in the right place at the right time?  Is it simply showing up first and leaving last?  What’s the magic formula in the world of employees to be known as a success, and not merely competent?  I think it can be summed up as “appearance.”

“Appearances” doesn’t mean physical appearances. Being physically attractive might help a bit, but I’ve seen plenty of beautiful women and handsome men get canned, and plenty of less-attractive people get promoted.  Being clean and neat doesn’t hurt, but being sloppy and dirty won’t kill you, despite what you may hear from “how to get that dream job” articles.  Showing up in a suit and tie is enough.  It doesn’t matter if the suit’s a bit wrinkled.

“Appearances” mean demonstrating competence at the right time. If you labor away for months at a huge project and turn it over to your manager when it’s time to pitch it to the boss, you will earn nothing.  The boss will think your manager did the right thing and your manager will resent you and fear the possibility that you’ll expose the fact that you did all the work.  Appearances means that you’re not the guy sauntering out of the office with a spring in your step on the busiest day of the quarter.  Look the part – or slip out the back door.

That’s not to say you can get away with being incompetent (unless you’re a politician). The CEO I mentioned was brilliant at marketing and promotion for the company, so his lack of technical expertise didn’t mean much.  He had probably learned at an early age that he didn’t have much skill with computers, and said “oh well.”  He demonstrated overwhelming competence in other areas, that made him appear competent overall.

I’m a jack of all trades, and master of few (or none). I tinker with web coding, I know international accounting rules, I learned four foreign languages and speak two well.  The only area that I have the appearance of competence in (if you ask me) is that I can run a project well, be it a two-hour meeting or a six-month audit.  I could step into a board of directors’ meeting and run it like I owned the place, and that one skill propelled me up the food chain in the corporate environment faster than many of my colleagues who could recite chapter and verse of accounting regulations.  The appearance of competence – speaking clearly, making eye contact, remembering people’s names – meant more than actual competence.  I wasn’t bad with accounting, or the technical details of my trade – but I knew which skills paid the bills.

As I look at the current financial crisis I can’t help but think I’m seeing some of that “jack of all trades” characteristic in the CEOs of some of these failing companies. They were the guys who led.  They projected competence.  They might not have curled up with a technical treatise on derivatives at night, but by God they had a team including guys who did and they were managing them!  They made the quick and firm decisions and they didn’t worry about the details.  They were big picture guys.  They probably assumed that the guys bringing them the numbers knew their stuff.  They were wrong.

So in the end we’ll all pay the price for being a country that values the firm handshake and the leadership qualities over the nerd in the corner with the numbers and the arcane skill set. It’s an oversimplification, I know.  But this mindset controlled our economy for years:  the idea that creative finance could lift the economy up, that mundane “building stuff” was better suited to developing countries.   We’ll pay the price for a long time for assuming that the appearance of competence actually MEANT competence.   Let’s just hope that it’s time for the revenge of the nerds, and that people who understand the details are finally taking over.

photo credit: chuckp

the empty house

Ranch house swimming upstream

Recently I’ve noticed a trend – people who buy a huge house for three people (father, mother, child).
The house is huge and empty and grand and beautiful, with echoes.  A huge house substitutes for a sense of home.

I don’t know what the dividing line is between cozy and empty. I like to think of my home as cozy, but I guess it could be argued that it’s empty.  If you take a small gathering of people – friends, family – and pack them into your house, does it feel cozy?  Or does it feel like an empty auditorium space with a few people huddled in the corner?

Most of my life I’ve felt at home in the kitchen. The warmth and pure simple fun of a kitchen make it the heart of a home, and every party inevitably gravitates towards the kitchen.  Many of the large, empty homes I’ve seen don’t have a kitchen that encourages people to move towards it; even mine is part of the family room thanks to an open design.

I have to wonder what the extra cost paid towards these mega-mortgages is worth. The vast empty spaces and cold hallways aren’t going to create a child-friendly space that generates fond childhood memories.  I know that many people look at American homes and wish for more and more space, but I’ve seen the extreme, and it’s not a destination I hope for.  I want a space to be comfortable in, and a space for my children; if I didn’t have a vast cathedral-ceilinged family room to complete their lives, I’ll live.

photo credit: Allan Ferguson

i saw what you spent last summer

Sphere VI (Sphere Within a Sphere)

Rich people talk about ideas.  Poor people talk about other people.
I doubt it would come as a surprise to anyone that successful people – and by successful I mean happy, or rich, or respected – concentrate on ideas and the future.  Unsuccessful people – poor, unhappy, dissed – concentrate on what others have or don’t have.

I fall far more often than I’d care to admit into the “poor people talk about people” category, but I’m going to do it now. It’s easy, now that times are bad.  Wondering how this family manages or that family doesn’t is an easy pastime, and it serves a purpose – in examining others’ failures and successes I’d like to get an idea of how I can achieve those successes and avoid those failures.  People who looked like they were living the high life are reduced to desperation – after a layoff they seize the first available job with a massive paycut.  Others who seemed to be struggling are calm, patiently waiting for the right opportunity.

During The Crisis (we can all-caps it now, right?) the distinction between the narrowly rich and the stable middle class is on display in stark black-and-white – with few shades of gray. I know much better today which of my neighbors are TRULY rich and which of them were just spending themselves into appearing rich.  The lifting of the curtain surprised me.  An old saying says that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and you can’t.  I’m sure that many of our neighbors thought we were struggling before The Crisis.  My old Pontiac sat in the driveway in the midst of Mercedes and SUVs.  We have a punky little 21″ TV we bought with American Express Membership Rewards points.

But now I am nervous, but confident that everything will turn out alright, while neighbors seem to be panicking. I don’t think I’m gloating, although I’m human and probably am, a bit.  I am no poster boy for frugality, for sure, but I make (well, made) six figures, didn’t buy things I didn’t need, and did my best to manage my money.  I don’t have the latest phone.  I took public transportation instead of driving and paying tolls and parking.  I didn’t go into debt for anything other than my home.

I still lost work due to The Crisis, just like all of my neighbors. We will all suffer as the money dwindles – some sooner, some later, but we’ll all have things we’d like to buy that we can’t.  It sucks, because we were all middle managers in the Wall Street world – finance managers, audit managers, salesmen, IT guys.  None of us deserved to be beaten down because of the idiocy of our executives, but so be it – we lived and died by the sword.  And in tough times, your financial weaknesses – which could be kept hidden in good times – are laid bare for the world to see.

photo credit: kimberlyfaye

10 ways to stop worrying so much about money

Man of concern

With a recession underway and a constant bombardment of bad news, everyone is worried about one thing:  money.
You don’t need money to be happy, but having money and watching it disappear doesn’t help your mood one bit.

I am a worrier. I have found that there are a few simple things that allow me to sleep a lot easier at night, though.  Most of them are simple, and none of them require a tremendous amount of work – just a change in attitude or habits.

1.  Set up an emergency fund.

Everyone should have an emergency fund.  Even if you don’t think you need one, make sure you have at least a month or two of cash on hand at the bank.  I recommend using HSBC or ING high-yield savings accounts for an emergency fund, because it takes a couple of days to withdraw money from each.  Having money that’s easy to get to – but not TOO easy – will relieve a lot of short term stress.  Don’t have an emergency fund?  Even if you can only add another $10 to your fund, do it.

2.  Pay down your debt.

I’ve seen a lot of complicated ways to go about this, but Robert Kiyosaki (of all people) has the best tip I’ve seen.  If you have consumer debt, pick out an amount you can afford each month and apply it to your highest-rate debt using some sort of autopay if you have it.  Repeat every month until it’s gone, but this way you can forget about it and get about the business of your career or your business.

3.  Put as many bills on autopay as possible.

Almost every bank has an online presence now.  Mine lets you “pull” your credit card information straight into your bank account, so you can see all the bills lined up in one place.  Paying them can be as easy as setting the autopay up to be a certain amount each month – and then forgetting about it!  If you’re still writing checks and mailing them in, you’re creating a lot of worry that you don’t need!

4.  Consolidate your accounts.

I wrote a guest post about this a long time ago, but it’s still true.  I used to have a dozen credit cards, checking accounts at multiple banks and IRAs and other investment accounts scattered everywhere.  Don’t use an account more than once a month?  Consolidate!  Most banks and brokerages will be happy to help you consolidate your accounts, so pick the ones that offer the most benefits to you and get started consolidating.

5.  Consolidate your financial information in one place.

With free services like Quicken Online, Mint, Geezeo and others all over the internet these days you can easily set up an account that gives you a quick “snapshot” of your financial health without logging in to 15 different sites.  My bank uses Yodlee, which pulls in everything from my home’s value in Zillow to my retirement accounts to my credit cards.  I don’t worry too much about net worth, but it’s still nice to be able to see it when I want to see it.

6.  Get insurance for everything that needs insurance, and don’t for anything else.

I had rental car insurance built into my auto insurance for a couple of years after I bought a second car.  The chance I would need insurance for a rental was minimal.  Money down the drain!  Review your insurance policies and make sure you aren’t paying for things you don’t need.

7.  Stop checking your retirement plan information.

If you have a reasonable plan set up, and you’re confident about the long-term prospects of your plan then there’s no reason – none at all – to check the value of your retirement plan more than 3-4 times per year.  The money in an IRA or 401(k) is meant to be used when you’ll be in your 60s or later.

8.  Set up targeted accounts.

Even though I advocated consolidating accounts above, having separate-purpose or targeted “sub-accounts” within a single account can be helpful.  Many of the high-yield savings accounts are good for this purpose.  For example, we have a separate “vacation account” that we put a small amount into each month, simply so we can forget about that money.

9.  Overwithhold on taxes.

This strategy’s been debated for years – is it better to give the government a loan or not have the shock of an additional payment at the end of the year?  Good tax planning can probably get you closer to zero, but overwithholding a bit can help you avoid nasty surprises.

10.  Consider alternatives, but after considering – forget.

Study alternatives, investigate, consider, but then decide and once you’ve decided, forget about the alternatives you didn’t choose.  Once you’ve chosen one path, sitting around worrying about what might have been is pointless and unproductive.  Don’t fight yesterday’s battles – move forward to the next challenge!

photo credit: Lisa Brewster

third marketplace appearance


Once again Tess Vigeland kindly invited me, along with Lynnae of being frugal and Jim of Bargaineering, back for another “bloggers’ roundtable.” I always enjoy talking with Tess, Lynnae and Jim and I hope you enjoy the show. You can listen here.  Feel free to chime in here or at the Marketplace site if you liked it – we’re getting close to being a regular segment on the show, which I’d love to keep doing.

Previous appearances of the “bloggers’ roundtable” can be found here:

photo credit: ChazWags

trickle down


Numerous articles in the media are now portraying “Wall Street” – that lusus naturae of our contemporary culture – as the evil that lurks beneath us all. I know that it’s easy to assume that the demons who inhabited human bodies on that twisting alley in lower Manhattan somehow destroyed the US economy.  I agree, for the most part.  Formerly respectable but now laughable luminaries like Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg have claimed that Wall Street is being unfairly attacked.  The idea that the downfall of the Thains and Fulds was somehow a blow to all of us doesn’t fly very far.

Yet in my own neighborhood – populated almost completely by Wall Street middle-management types – will be the epicenter of a trickle-down effect in the New York City area. Whether this is unfortunate, or a case of “the pigeons coming home to roost,” is debatable.  Every day I hear stories of cutbacks – Little Gym memberships unrenewed, cleaning services abandoned, restaurants avoided.  My family has cut back.  I don’t expect tears.  For many Americans, the idea of a life with a nanny and a cleaning service and Little Gyms and music classes and whatnot probably seems excessive and emblamatic of the problems arising from Wall Street.

But in my community, maids and nannies are losing work even more rapidly than the Wall Streeters. Local restaurants are deserted.  Local stores are closing.  Walking with Little Buddy to the local diner yesterday I noticed – for the first time – a foreclosure notice plastered across a neighbor’s townhouse.  Each layoff and foreclosure echoes across our community as another laid off nanny, another cleaning service with no more work.

So the middle management types will suffer. The families won’t go to Applebees.  The husbands won’t cart the kids off to classes; the wives won’t supervise cleaning services.  Things will fall apart without notice or regret.  And no doubt in the years to come times will be better.  But in the short term, the people being laid off from Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and a host of other bad guys will also draw their limited resources close, and the economy as a whole will suffer.  It’s a chain reaction that will recur throughout the economy, and it will be hard to bear.  I hope, for all our sakes, that the economy recovers sooner rather than later.   The sooner we can stop the trickle down of the money drought, the better – for everyone.

Photo by IRRI Images