Economically Maladjusted.

Debt. The sub prime crisis. Interest rate hikes – another, then another, then another, and why not another. Supposed to lower inflation, but guess what? It’s still rising.

Everyone pays on credit cards because they have no cash. Some interest rates are above 20%. By the time you pay off the balance you have paid double, triple, quadruple what the goods were worth. If you can’t pay off the balance and you reach your limit the minimum amount due every month can be up to $500.00. Five hundred bucks to keep a credit card that is crippling you. Five hundred bucks for nothing.

 

Suddenly it costs you two hundred dollars a week to get to work and back because fuel is so expensive and you have a six cylinder car. You want to downsize, to get a more fuel- efficient model but you can’t because you’d need a loan to buy the car and you can’t get one because you have missed your last two mortgage payments and the bank is threatening foreclosure.

 

You work and work and work. You have no fun. You can’t remember the last time you laughed out loud. You get a bill and your heart skips a beat. Something goes wrong – you fall ill and can’t pay the medical bills -you consider driving your car into the harbour to collect the insurance.

 

You say a word you have never said before – drudgery. It is a word without hope. You become aware of the increasing gap between rich and poor. You see a homeless man in the park eating garbage from a bin and have a panic attack thinking that if things continue as they are that could be you.

 

You grow tired of watching every dollar. Of denying the kids new shoes, of buying clothes that smell like moth balls from thrift stores. You consider selling your house but house prices have dropped and rents in your area are higher than mortgages. In under two years any money you made as a result of capital gain would be gone. And you would be back where you started when you moved out of home, except you would be twenty five years older.

 

As many of you know we have a shop in the Sydney CBD. The last independent CD shop in the city. We are hanging by a thread, but our loyal customers are keeping us afloat. Some of our fellow shopkeepers are not so lucky. The Reserve Bank raised interest rates several times with the aim of lowering inflation. The rises didn’t lower inflation but they did split consumer confidence into thousands of pieces. The result is that no one is spending money. In many ways it is a good thing to cut consumption but for the retailers who earn their livelihoods from selling things it is one more kick in the teeth.

 

Our friend, Nicos, owns the newsagency around the corner. His magazine sales have dropped by 75%. His sales of greeting cards are non-existent. There has been a steady decrease in the number of people requesting newspaper deliveries. Two weeks ago, Nicos, aged 46, had a stroke. He may not recover sufficiently to return to work. He doesn’t want to return to work. He is afraid that there will be more interest rate rises which will succeed in crushing him completely.

 

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my friend Nat was admitted to hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown. She is doing better but has admitted that one of the things that pushed her over the edge was discovering her husband had taken a business loan out against their house two years ago and was now about to go bankrupt. ‘I am suffering from fiscal stress,’ she said. ‘How can I clear all that debt?’

 

Where is this all going to end? Forget terrorism or global warming, it’s our debt crisis that is going to finish us off. I was ashamed to read that in Australia in 2007 there were at least 35,000 homeless people aged under 25. That’s an entire city raised on hopelessness.

 

George Orwell said in his 1949 novel 1984 :

 

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

 

I fear that for many people that vision of the future is already here.

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23 thoughts on “Economically Maladjusted.

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

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  2. You have hit another ‘nail on the head’ Selma. Debt can be so all-consuming and can destroy a person: financially, physically, mentally and emotionally. People can say all they want about money not being important but the reality is, money does make this world go round. Money means choice. Lack of money can be so damaging. Not that I worship the stuff, I just have learned a healthy respect for having enough on hand. Sometimes it’s been plentiful, sometimes in short supply. I’d always prefer the plentiful and I make no apologies for that.

    Your posts are always so worthwhile. Glad I found my way to your blog and you to mine. 🙂

    http://www.mypoeticpath.wordpress.com

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  3. I’m just glad that I will be debt-free in about 3 to 4 months after crawling for 5 years trying to pay off $30k worth of debt that my ex has accumulated way before we even got married. Yep, I have no problem taking on that responsibility. At least, it makes me feel like I’ve been somewhat useful. Besides, like they say, it’s only money, after all. And money, sometimes, have a way of degrading your life if you allow it to be your master. But you can also find it dropping on your lap unexpectedly when you treat it otherwise. It’s that kind of miracle I’ve experienced over and over.

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  4. Hi Selma, thousands of Sydney-siders, including me, can relate all to well to the situation you describe. It can and does get one down. But I would like to remind you of some your blessings and gifts. I have been reading your blog for a while now. You are blessed with the ability to enjoy the simple things in life: watching cockatoos, listening to rain, enjoying the company of your family and friends. You have a supportive family and friends. You are writer, so you can write about your troubles, think about them through your writings and make plans to deal with them. Keeping a journal has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. You are intelligent, personable, and not a snob. So (knock on wood) even if you lost everything, you’d eventually gain it all back again.

    DavidM

    “I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time or complained of the
    turns of fortune except on the occasion when I was barefooted and
    unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of
    Kufah with a sore heart and beheld a man without feet I offered thanks
    to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and
    recited:

    ‘A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man
    Less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the table
    And to him who has no means nor power
    A burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.’”

    — Sadi
    The Gulistan, Story 19
    Sheikh Muslih-uddin Sa’di Shirazi, The Gulistan of Sa’di (1258), Translated by Sir Edwin Arnold (1899)

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  5. now this is a problem.. a definite problem,, and i have been speaking openly about it on my blog,, pretty much since i started… i have no answers,,, i am just happy that i have nothing own e nothing and want nothing… i have no idea how the world is going to make it out of this…..

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  6. I am struggling to survive. I am supporting myself and my partner who can’t take on regular work because of cancer. It’s tough at times. Like today, I had a few tears wondering how we are going to crawl to payday (pay is monthly!). But I know we always do make it.

    Once, I thought a teacher’s wage was OK to live on. Now, I know it falls way short of supporting 2 people.

    But, in the sadness, I look at my partner and know we are extremely lucky. We love each other and find joy in each other. We make a trip to the supermarket a fun adventure. He loves roaming there and I hate it. So we banter on about our differences and often entertain others along the way. That is our fun. That is our strength. It is worth everything.

    We always remind each other that others don’t even have that much.

    Gemma

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  7. It sounds so smug to say it, although I don’t mean to. But, every day, I give thanks that I had a very strict upbringing. ‘Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves’ and ‘Pay as you go. If you can’t pay, don’t go’ have always been wathchwords.

    A lot of the problem is people buy intangible stuff like holidays on credit cards; soething they can’t sell if they find they can’t pay. (I’m always amused by the debt-management ads they have on cable television … if I ever got into financial trouble, the cable service would be the first thing to go!)

    Know what you mean about the newsagent … my brother in law says he can’t remember the last time he bought a newspaper; he gets all his news from the Internet and TV. Although he does buy magazines …. but usually gets those at the supermarket when they go shopping.

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  8. I think it’s a common problem all over. The Man and I (luckily) were in a position to finally consolidate everything. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. (And it’s going to take 10 years to pay off.) I guess we have to try and find comfort in the little things. Sigh.

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  9. GERALDINE – you are so right. Money causes so many problems. I would also prefer the more plentiful side of things. I am also glad I found your blog. It is a joy to read!

    CHRIS – you are one in a million. I don’t know one man who would do that. Now I admire you even more!

    DAVID – I can say, without question, that that is the nicest thing anyone has said to me ever. You are wonderful. I am overwhelmed!

    PAISLEY – I know you write about it often. Much of your writing has made me realise how serious the problem is in other parts of the world. It is enormous. I wish I could offer a workable solution but like you, I cannot. It bothers me a lot.

    GEMMA – I had no idea your partner was suffering from cancer. I am so sorry. I hope you are coping with the stress of managing his health and of managing your finances. It is so hard to get by these days. You are such an inspirational person with your lovely poetry. I can tell you would never consider giving up. I am sending prayers and hugs your way. Take care.

    DESPERATE WRITER – oh yeah. It’s the question of the moment.

    TRAVELRAT – I am a ‘pay as you go’ person too but sadly, my husband is not. His business debt is what’s killing us. Years of economic rationalism have left our economy floundering and the small business owner is the one in the trenches. It’s tough, but we’ll come out the other side – we always do. My fear is for those who are not as tenacious as us.

    NAT – the little things do help, for sure. And so does consolidation. What an excellent move. I’m trying to do that at the moment.

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  10. Right now we’re very fortunate to have our house completely paid off. Unfortunately, the taxes are ghastly, and we can’t claim them during the tax season. If we had a huge mortgage, we’d be able to claim the taxes and interest and get some relief there.

    Yes, we’re lucky, but we’re also holding our breath; that lovely new job LOTM got just before the poop hit the fan is in the home loan division of a major financial institution. Right now, every payday is a blessing, for we’ve no idea how many more we’ll have.

    I do my best to shop locally, in the small independantly owned stores, because I’ve seen too many people having to give up their dreams just to keep food on the table.

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  11. Without economic security you are a slave. The fractional bankers and monetary elites have imposed a modern day feudal slave-pen. We are all chained to our petrol, jobs, and rising interest rates. Not only is it a way to bleed you dry, but it also serves to keep you focused on the mundane nature keeping your head above water.

    If we are busy treading in the hamster wheel we cannot see the bigger picture. How evil men have colluded, lied, and devastated the World for profit and power. We do not have the time to explore our minds, the universe, and human consciousness. Do everything you can to pay down your debt and elude their clutches. It is the only road to economic freedom.

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  12. The U.S. is one of the biggest consumers in the world. We buy, buy, buy without thought of how we are going to pay for it tomorrow. And all of that frivolousness has led us to borrowing unimaginable sums of money from other countries just to stay afloat. The war, our spending habits….all of that is impacting our current situation. I think it is high time that we take our heads out of the ground and start seeing the situation for what it really is….as disturbing and scary as it might be.

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  13. LISA – the show must go on – this show that is life. I’ll be fine. Thanks for the kind wishes!

    KAREN – I am praying LOTM’s job is safe. It’s so uncertain for many people out there though, isn’t it? Congrats on paying off your house, that is no mean feat in this day and age.

    JOHNNY – at the moment I feel like a slave but never fear, I’m about to stage a little rebellion.

    REBECCA – Australia is not far behind re. consumption and we have a fraction of the population you have. It’s shameful. I watched a show recently about the money spent by various Westernised nations on defence at the expense of healthcare and education programs and it was depressing. I think we’ve got our economic policy back to front. You are right, we need to face facts.

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  14. BDO – thanks for stopping by. You are right, of course, but I suppose it is easier said than done. I’m going to stop by your blog to see if you have any tips for me.

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  15. THere is a certain callousness that many wear lately to keep them in denial about what’s happening around us. But posts/observations like these force us to be real, to live in the present and to cherish what we do have, while trying to think of ways to help those who don’t. This post inspires me to assist, contribute…to do something…selfless.

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  16. I feel for all those struggling with finances and I’m sending my good wishes out to you all.

    Things are tight for us too, but our only debt at this stage is our mortgage. My parents made bad financial decisions and I copied them at first – but I’m extremely grateful for the lessons that a very bad period of debt taught me early on (age 19-21) – I have never made those mistakes again and never will.

    I recommend Anita Bell’s books on finances and managing your mortgage (even if you rent) – she and her husband paid off their mortgage in 3 years and the saving tips she offers range from excellent to extreme. But it’s well worth looking at it for new ideas and inspiration. She’s based in Brisbane.

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  17. BRENDA – you are so right – there is a certain callousness being worn around town these days. I think that talking about these problems and writing about them does help. XXOO.

    DAOINE – we’ll be fine. It’s other people that worry me. My parents have also not been the best of examples re. money. I will check out those books – every little bit helps. Thank you. BTW, good to see you again. I was thinking about you the other day and hoping all was well.

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