Dickens had several important life lessons throughout his books, but one of the best is in David Copperfield and comes out of the lovable but feckless Mr. Micawber. I'll paraphrase and update the sums to something more like today's currency. "A thousand bucks a week and nine hundred in bills, happiness. A thousand bucks a week and eleven hundred in bills, despair." Maybe it was "happiness" and "ruin". I think the original amounts were "twenty pounds", "Nineteen pounds and something", and "twenty pounds and something". The sentiments are all the same. If you spend less than you earn, you can achieve financial stability. If you spend more than you earn, it eventually catches up with you.
Is there any better way to sum up America's current predicament? Houses that cost too much because banks were willing to overpay if it meant eventually more interest would come? Credit cards used to buy christmas gifts? School loans for the hope of a better career? Small business loans because you have an awesome idea for a shop? Insurance payoffs just in case some evil emergency room visit comes our way? Even our exercise and dieting, our self-improvement, is put off for better days, as though we are "charging" the life we want to live to some future account. We'll pay it then.
I know just about no one who does not outspend their earnings. Friends and family members I know without credit cards get anywhere from a little to a lot of help from their family or through other means. Or, they withdraw from a continuously dimming savings account. There are a couple who seem to take care of their own, but they are usually single engineers, the kind of guy bringing in sixty-thou on a slow year and with few to take care of outside of themselves. When it comes to those I know with complicated lives, the only person whom I know who earns more than she spends is my mom, but my mom has her own house, her own garden, has few hobbies outside of reading, hanging with family, and short car trips. When the children lived at home, and there was more to spend, her and my dad had several economic crunches.
And isn't that the rub? Luck? Our current spend high and save low lifestyle works just fine, just as long as everything is fine. We make our economic situation precarious, all the better to represent the country as a whole, it would seem.
Just a musing because I found out today that my account at UA has some glitches, or a glitch, as it would, and Sarah and I might have to scramble for money next week. It's just a bit nerve-shredding to think that all of the "go to school" tasks are done (outside of getting text books, which is next week) and then to learn there may be a showstopper coming right at the last second before the curtain rises. Had Sarah and I saved up money, had we waited to spend for even just a week or two, had we double checked this or that, it would have been fine. Well, I'll say, had I done these things, since they were my responsibility. It might still turn out ok, but I had a thousand dollars and I spent eleven hundred, so to speak. I imbalanced myself, since I was sure it would be easy to recoup. Now I find out that I banked on everything going smoothly, and I know better.
The sad thing, I, and probably nearly everyone I know, would do the same thing again, if we just had the chance.
Si Vales, Valeo
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Written by Doug Bolden
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