Saturday, October 4, 2008

thoughts about the crash

"I chose a career and life very far from anything a fat cat experiences. Let me repeat the first part of that sentence - `I chose.' How can I be resentful to people making a lot of money when I never chose that. That’s not what I wanted to do.

Measuring yourself against others is a prescription for unhappiness. How is you life any better if the fat cats are doing well or doing poorly. Feeling good about their tough times is fool’s gold. There will always be people who earn ridiculous amounts of money. There will always be fat cats. Chose the life that makes you happy regardless of others lives."----TONY

"By great good fortune, I had parents who believed that only two things are really important, education and the character to use it. When a 25 year marriage ended, I worked 85 hours a week doing whatever honest work I could find to take care of myself and my children while their father drove a Lincoln convertible and bought his new wife diamonds.

Why did I not feel like a loser? Because I had been taught that the core of our being should depend on the virtues we strive for, which no one can take away, not material goods which can vanish overnight.

I have long felt sorry for Americans who believe that a car, a house (or houses) designer clothes, etc., etc. make them any different from who they really are.

They should have had my father, who told me when at age ten I learned that people could be jealous, the following: “There will always be girls prettier than you, more talented, smarter and with more money. There will always be girls not as pretty, not as talented, not as smart, with less money. Now do we ever have to have this conversation again?” We never did."--ELIZABETH

"Comparing my insides to someone else’s outsides is a losing proposition; I will always come up short. 

...if I truly am a sensitive and compassionate person, how can I say,`… Many of us who’d proudly decided, in our twenties, to pursue edifying or creative, or `helping' professions woke up to realize, once we had families, that we’d perhaps been irresponsible.'

Is being poor, if I may use that word- an indication of irresponsibility? If I chose to follow a path that was not, from the beginning, a road to wealth, am I somehow “a loser?” It’s our perspective that helps us determine who and of what value we are.

If we can see and accept that, in the eyes of God, all of us are loved and cared for, and that the gain or loss of wealth is in no way indicative of the quality of ourselves, life is a lot easier. As the vernacular expression goes, lighten up."---MARK

"This article is just another example of the shallow, narcisstic values that have corrupted America since Reagan became president. Why should you care what other people think of you? Shouldn’t you focus more on your own inner happiness and doing what makes you truly happy?

Why has the pursuit of wealth become so virtuous in the first place? Why have people been overpaying for houses for the past 20 years? Let’s keep it real folks–this correction in the housing market has been long overdue. I frankly don’t care if people are paying more on their home then it’s worth.

...The key to inner happiness is not wealth, but pursuing a life, and a career, that fulfill your potential. I’m a writer, I am not wealthy, but I am truly happy because I get paid for doing what I love to do.

Of course I wouldn’t mind making more money, but my values are solid. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned American virtue of sacrifice? I rent now, but the money I save allows me to support my son as he pursues his college education and pursuit of a career in the high tech field.

My sacrifice will allow him to get a good job in the near future, and he’ll be able to buy his own home at a reasonable price within the next two years.

In short, we need a correction in our value system as much as we need this current correction in the housing and financial sectors, if not more so."---TANGO

"I am not defending the people in finance that caused this mess (the people that sacrificed lending standards and shoved complex mortgages down people’s throats and then sold them off to other people for a profit), but I do want to defend the salaries of the majority of people on wall street: try working 130 hours a week for the first 15-20 years of your life and then try and make the argument that a banker or trader’s salary and bonus isn’t justified.

i’m 2 years out of college. i make $70k a year and will most likely get a $50k bonus (unless i get goose egged which isn’t out of the question). i work from 9am till 12pm 5 days a week and 5-10 hours on weekends. do the math and see if my per hour wage is any different than yours.

people in finance are not paid unfair amounts. we just work harder, longer, and do more important and complex task, so we are more sought after. if you choose to do a job that anyone can do, don’t btch when you’re paid accordingly."----PAUL

"I have always held the philosophy that happiness is the best revenge. My husband and I have worked in New York City in good-paying jobs in companies where some people had phenomenal paying jobs.

The difference I always felt was that my husband and I were actually enjoying what we did, while the higher paid colleagues around us enjoyed talking about how much they had. We’d always go home and tell each other that as easy as it would be to be jealous of them, it’s just wasn’t healthy.

So we counted our blessings and learned to just be thankful for the good things and precious people in our lives. Now that some of these high flyers are surely going to come crashing to the ground, I feel sorry for them that they really will be at a loss for finding joie de vivre in their lives. Never had it and never cared enough to learn to appreciate the small things. Now, they’ll have nothing. It makes me profoundly sad for them."---BETH

"A lot of the sadness, anger and frustration flying around seem to have a basis in an axiom from anthropology: outsiders often confuse the status-markers for the status. Say you’re dealing street drugs, and you want respect. You notice that doctors and lawyers get respect, and they drive Mercedes automobiles. The tendency is to think that if you acquire the status-marker, the status will come with it. In reality, all you’ll be is a drug dealer with a Mercedes.

The truly wealthy have more money than they can spend, and anyone who’s just acting wealthy is an outsider, in this example. 

New York is a financial center—a financial center. Money-spinning is almost its only industry, on which the service providers (including Mr. Trump, who’s providing groovy living space for the money spinners) depend. There’s a whole big world out there for New Yorkers who don’t want to work in the thrall of the financial sector—all you have to do is leave your high-cost-of-living environment.

It seems to a non-New Yorker that many of you have bought into the status and prestige of plying your lives and interests only in New York. You start your problem-solving with the assumption that you have to stay there, because the status loss for any alternative would be unbearable.

Tom Wolfe wrote about this long ago—that New Yorkers consider everything they do to be “the Big League” of whatever-it-is. If you drive cab in New York, you have bragging rights over any cabbie anywhere, and so on.

Greed is the byword that everyone’s blaming, but the lust for status, and a lack of education and awareness about what status is and how it works (ie, you really went to med school / vet school / law school; you graduated; you earn your living practicing your profession—you’re really a doctor / lawyer, versus you like to hang out with doctors / lawyers, feel you need to drive a similar car, etc.) seems to be a huge hidden variable that’s worsening the already-bad financial decisions of lots of people."---GERONIMO

"Around three years ago I bumped into an old acquaintance from high school, someone I hadn’t spoken to in over 20 years, in line at a fast food restaurant. As we ate lunch together I learned that this former football player who I had though kind of a doofus was now a VP at an investment bank living in a big house in the burbs. I sheepishly explained my situation, one much closer to what the writer describes here. His simple response, delivered with a hangdog face? “Money doesn’t buy happiness.”

That really had an effect on me. I hope he’s doing OK now. But me? I don’t have debt besides an old college loan that will expire in less than a year. I’ve never lived above my means and still have the same stereo and TV I had twelve years ago. I couldn’t care less about jewelry or fancy clothes, I drive a four year old Toyota and I basically don’t feel the urge to spend on anything other than necessities. "---SPUD

"Now that you all have congratulated yourselves for your enlightened lives consider this. Maybe, just maybe, some people chose this profession not for the compensation but for the challenge. I take issue with the concept that you must be in teaching, music, etc to be considered creative. The financial disciplines allow for creativity that knows no bounds. The convergence of probability, data, computing power and imagination makes me giddy as I write this from my (only) home in NJ."— DAVID

"I’m an old lady, and one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that envy is a mistake. My first lesson was envy of a gorgeous young woman I knew. It lasted until I found out she had cancer. No, I wouldn’t trade my good health to be gorgeous. The second was envy of a wealthy young woman I knew. It lasted until I met her abusive boyfriend. No, I wouldn’t trade my good relationship to be wealthy.

After that, I decided I didn’t know enough about anyone to envy their whole life, and envying parts of people’s lives seemed unrealistic. So I just dismissed the whole thing. It’s hard not to envy when things seem so unfair, and the “winners” rub your nose in it. But the coming downturn is likely to be a case of “just desserts” for a lot of people. Their angst will be in proportion to how much they overvalued material success in the first place. In all probability, you don’t want to be them. Not even now, and certainly not over the next few years.

Never use the word “loser” for yourself or anyone else. Or “winner” either. You sound like a great person, who will make it just fine if you tune out hogwash like this."--- ANNE

"A somewhat different take on the same angle is that, in a capitalist society, by and large the sales role becomes the most important in every business organization, and becomes the highest-paid role. It’s not the inventor who got the patent — once it’s been patented, someone’s got to sell it. It’s not the organized business manager — sales are the driving force behind every efficiency measure.

...As for people getting or not getting what they deserve — life has always been unfair. We must remember that a life well lived rarely has a direct correlation to the amount of material resources available to the person who has a truly fulfilling life. There are sad and crazy hedge fundistas, and mature, sensitive, and well-loved bus drivers in this world.

I wouldn’t think too hard about the other people on the train, Ms. Warner. You do a lot more than most of them to share insight and a sense of rightness in the world, and you give something others cannot. Let that be enough."---MITCHELL

"I guess the NYT won’t let me put up my original comment. I am one of those young guys you are all harping about. Economics degree, worked in finance the past 5 years, thinking about an MBA and returning to finance. 

I have always wanted to be wealthy. I want to be able to travel, live well, pay for private school if and when I have children among other things.

I will not apologize for this.
I did not put a gun to anyone’s head and force them to be an artist or to buy a house, furniture or appliances they could not afford. I grew up in the 3rd world and I know what real poverty looks like. I do not glorify it and I want no part of it. Nor do I want anyone limiting my earnings potential. 

All of you commenters see nothing wrong with Models, Celebrities and Athletes making money - yet you have an issue people in finance. So let the schadenfreude reign, it is what it is. The street will come back - it always does."---BABA

"My husband and I have always had to defend our choice to be teachers, and our two children, when in high school, once claimed that they would never be teachers because all we ever talked about was money. Both children now are teachers. All of us may struggle, but we are idealists.

Much to mull over in all these comments: wealth, class, values, self-esteem, but a sustaining imperative might be, `Think big thoughts; relish small pleasures.'”----ANNE

"Another brilliant, insightful column that remided me again about why I read you week after week. You really do cut to the core of the issue here for the part of college-educated America that, as you put it, chose the “helping professions.” We’ve all been watching in horror for years as Tom Wolfe’s “bonfire” raged around us and nobody was noticing.

Living in America’s second banking town (Charlotte, NC), I have spent the last half-decade patiently trying to explain to my teenagers that there is no shame in the fact that we don’t live in a mansion, that driving a minivan as opposed to a Mercedes does nat mean that we are social outcasts, and that people who have closets full of $300/pair jeans are ridiculous — and each time was greated with a look that said that I was simply delusional.

Now the banks are failing and people are desperate, but there is no joy in being right and being like the self-righteous ant as the winter comes for the grasshopper."---JAMES

"Why would anyone leading an ethical life feel like a loser? Since when does a reasonable person measure success by how much money they have, assuming they aren’t living in a cardboard box?

...No, we are not all in this, only the people who did this and the people who absorbed their values for measuring their own lives. The rest of us, ethical, prudent, ants if you will, are just hoping the government doesn’t give away too much of our tax money to fix what is not our problem."---TRUDY

"I’ve come to value highly your thoughtful insights, which also served to inform me of how the world looks to a person a generation younger than I and on the other side of the gender divide. This column might be the best of all your work I’ve read. It made me feel less alone in my 32-years-ago choice to forego the career of a Wall Street lawyer.

I wanted to help real, live people as clients, knowing that they often don’t have the money to pay lawyers, so I left NYC, moved to a small town, and hung out my shingle. I made a living and I have managed to do some good, but I always felt guilty that I could not give my family trips to Europe or BMWs. Foolishly and without much reflection, I thought that I was one of few who had this choice but still felt conflicted about it. Thanks. You made my day"---DERI

"They’ll be back. They always come back."— The Outspoken New Yorker

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