Monday, October 13, 2008

Economic Crisis

"Mom, what does bankruptcy mean?"
"Mom, how does the stock market work? What makes it go up and down?"
"Mom, what does financial crisis mean?"
"Mom, can I get the Air Jordan basketball shoes?"

It means you are out of money, experts don't even know what makes the stock market act the way it does, and the financial crisis means we are going to turn off the news. And no, you can't have the $150 Air Jordan basketball shoes.

Yes, our family has been hit by the financial crisis, and it feels like a blow to the stomach that knocks the wind out of you. It means uncertainty and change and it's very stressful. And it's hard not to pass that stress on to the kids. Sure they can help out with some things: I've told them that we are trying to save money and they are surprisingly helpful on that front. Penny-pinching is admittedly something new to us. But pinching we are, pinching we have to do, and the kids mostly seem to see it as a challenge. We are eating out much less, buying only the necessities, forgoing the membership to the expensive gym, renting out our second home. We stay home and watch a Netflix instead of going on vacation. These things are really not huge sacrifices. We are not going as far as, for example, hanging our laundry to dry, or baking all our own bread at home, or living in our car. But I am making and drinking my coffee at home rather than at Starbucks now.

I know many people have much more serious problems due to the financial crisis. I hear it from friends, see it on the news. The instability is scary. But the kids understand less than I do about the whole thing, and there is no point in worrying so much about things beyond our control, so we have cut down media consumption to even lower levels than we normally do this close to an election. It's all bad news and nasty political ads anyway.

It's an extraordinary time and I look forward to talking to my kids about it. I look forward to talking to them about it in about ten years, telling them it was tough but everything turned out all right.

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