Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Money matters

So it looks like Wall Street isn't doing so hot. Lots of unpleasant business going on over there, I hear, and no end in sight. Remind me why this is bad?

I don't want to sound callous. I care when people lose their jobs. I don't, generally speaking, want that to happen. But who's losing jobs from this? Billionaire CEOs of financial firms who already have more than they can possibly consume before death? Are there really custodians or security guards or interns being put on the street by this crisis? I haven't seen any accounts of such folks, which could mean that the papers don't feel their fates are worth reporting. But it could also mean that it's just the giant firms of magic money manipulators that are suddenly sinking like lead balloons. Which reminds me: who the hell came up with that simile? Lead balloons aren't real, you know. Nobody inflates balls of lead. Really.

But back on topic: I'm feeling pretty good about the financial situation. My money is safely locked in Bank of America, the one name I haven't heard intimately connected with SMEF (Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure) in the last few days. As long as my money is resting, inert, it seems to be in no danger. The dollar is plummeting, of course, so I should avoid travel abroad for now, but that's okay; I don't have time to travel or enough money to afford an international flight anywhere at all. Maybe a bus to Mexico. It's only about two hours south of here, I think.

But I digress. The point is fiscal inertia. Scoffed at by the far more business-savvy than I, leaving money just a-settin' in bank vaults seems to me to be the best bet. Not solely because of the market instability currently in vogue, but for a more fundamental reason. I don't really believe in the wizardry of investment, in making money out of nothing. I believe in the five dollars of interest I got in my savings account a couple of days ago (see my last post for an explanation of how this works. Okay, not an explanation so much as a mystification), but not really more than that. Once interest reaches an actually useful amount of money, I grow suspicious. I don't trust the magic money not to vanish whence it came.

This clearly makes me a special kind of Luddite. I trust the computer and the voodoo of the intarwebs, but not the (theoretically) far more prosaic workings of the bank and the market. I just get uncomfortable with money that appears for no reason. Either I should have worked for it, or it should come from someone who has an emotional reason to want to give me things. One, or the other, or both. That's pretty much all the money I feel okay accepting.

This has been a circuitous ramble through mostly uncharted territory in my skull. The money section has shoulder-high weeds and a rusty chain-link fence warning off all passersby. Perhaps it will become more well-traveled in the near future, but I hope not. I like having just enough money in the bank not to feel worried and not to have to think about it too much. Once that becomes impossible, I will worry about the fates of the poor Lehman Brothers executives.

Oh, and just for the record: even though I don't see these collapses as terrible, I still believe that they make the need for regulation stupefyingly obvious. So Les Winan, you jerk-off brokerage analyst. Yes, there's sort of a verb in that sentence.

1 comment:

Zander said...

I have to say that while I'm on your side about not really caring so much about the individual people involved losing their jobs, I worry because this kind of thing tends to balloon outside of the financial sector. Luckily it hasn't done so yet, but I see that as the inevitable follow-up. This is one instance in which trickle down does take place because all business slows, not just business in the financial sector.

And yes, that is very much a special kind of Luddicy(?). Even that small interest comes from somewhere - i.e. the bank's investments in the market. Also, that small interest doesn't even really take care of inflation. While it's true that money earned or received from gifts is much more substantial than money gained through investments for most people, investments and financial planning help tons of people achieve longterm goals - houses, college educations for kids, retirement. It's useful in the end.

That's another reason to worry about this financial crisis - the great majority of people have their retirement savings tied up in the market. While this may not have a huge effect on many, it will definitely have an effect, which goes into the feedback loop of daily life and the general economy.