Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Thin Net

A friend I haven't talked to in years got me thinking today, with his email message to the masses who read his occasional diatribe.

Unlike him and others like him who have enormous sums of money to worry about in this tanking economy, I haven't reviewed my portfolio in months. I don't plan to, either. I just know it's ugly and it's getting uglier.

But ugly is a relative term. Ugly isn't so catastrophic to someone whose market losses amount to a few thousand dollars. Ugly is cataclysmic to others, who have lost or stand to lose many hundreds of thousands of dollars. My losses are painful and ugly but not catastrophic. If every penny I have in retirement (except for Social Security) were to disappear, I'd probably be able to eke out a life of desperate poverty, but I would not be likely to be homeless. I hope. I'd be uncomfortable and unhappy and bitter, but not homeless.

Not so my richer friend, I'm afraid. He may not be destitute, but he'd be in trouble. He'd have to worry about how to pay off his and his wfe's BMWs. He'd have to be concerned about the mortgages on their homes. He's semi-retired, but he lives like he's not. And that's the key. I live beyond my means, too. But my irrational spending could be stopped instantly without so much as a whisper; no more restaurant meals and cable TV and high-speed Internet access, and I'd have a zero balance on my credit card bills each month. Well, almost. Bothersome, but not ruinous. I hope.

So, I'm living a less "full" life than my friend, but he has a mighty price to pay for fullness. On the other hand, he has more to say, and that's not pretty.

He says, essentially: "It's not what you have and how much it hurts to lose it, it's what you keep that makes the loss so completely bearable. Because all the acquisitions are just moonshine. Your friends and family are what's important. Your bankers and brokers won't be by your side during the bad times; your friends and family will."

For me, the string of friends and family is very thin. And we're scattered everywhere. And there's no one close. So while the bad times, if they come, probably won't be disabling, they will be disheartening, because we've created such a thin net of family and friends to catch us if we fall.

My advice to myself in my youth: make and keep fast friends.

1 comment:

YourFireAnt said...

Think of this: who would YOU be able to catch (or help catch)if they fell?