Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tough Times

Even though the weather is getting warmer, the stock market has inched up over consecutive weeks, and analysts are saying we may have already hit the bottom, there's still some tough times out there.

Even this week I heard about a family that lives near us where both parents lost their jobs. And for those still looking for positions, there seems to be slim pickings.

I, of course, have been pining to lose my job. Without a pay raise or bonus this year, I calculated I would make more money by getting laid off, taking a nice severance and then working at Home Depot for the rest of the year.

But that is not going to happen. My shaky financial institution is now safely propped up by government money, the division I work in is considered the shining star of the organization so they need to keep all their staff in place, and I got promoted instead. I can't even buy my way out of this place.

All in all, in these extraordinary times I should take solace that I'm still on the inside of the building instead of the outside. I should take solace, but I don't.

I've never been let go from a job but I think if I were it may serve as that swift kick in the ass to go out and be resourceful that much faster. Slowly, I'm realizing resourcefulness may not even be enough in this economy. So I come to the sad resolution that I am probably better off where I am now. At least, that's what I try to rationalize. To be honest, I feel like the guy who keeps getting denied his parole at Shawshank. But in the meantime, I'm still looking for ways to tunnel out.

I'm also using these times to teach the kids some lessons about economics. While daddy's income has stagnated, and the costs of goods has increased some belt tightening has to occur if we want to keep the working capital working.

We cook a lot more meals at home instead of eating out. We're starting a "Recession Garden" where we grow our own vegetables to save on buying them at the local store. So far, we're off to a slow start. The only vegetable that was taking root was Squash, and if I calculated correctly we should have 4-5 pieces to feast on in about 3-4 months. All the other vegetables were eaten by the deer and rabbits, which leads to the consideration of eating the wild game we could trap in our backyard. But after thinking about for a while, the dollar meals at McDonald's are a more economical choice.

I've also asked the kids to dig deep and think about recycling their existing material goods for cash. While eBay is a perfect medium to transact these things on, it could take weeks to conduct a sale and then you have to trust that the winning bidder actually pays. We need to conduct transactions mano-a-mano where greenbacks flow instantly.

Combining history with economics, I pulled out some old textbooks and showed the kids what life was like back in the other recession or as it was referred to then - The Great Depression.

I told them how perfectly respectable parents dressed their kids in ragged clothing to look pathetic and put them out on street corners to sell their wares. Apples were a popular commodity back then, and the streets were filled with little urchins hawking this fruit of the Garden.

I encouraged them to read Oliver Twist for any insights there and then Grapes of Wrath just to learn a bit more on the "American Experience".

I have to say I'm quite proud of my older son.

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