Monday, March 30, 2009

Return with us now to Yesteryear

Everything comes around again. Growing up we lived by my father's credo of living below your income aka saving for a rainy day. He bought store brands on sale, in fact almost everything was bought on sale. Cars were maintained and kept longer than anyone we knew. There were many embarrassments as we became aware of our better endowed friends. His telling us he was probably worth more then they were fell on deaf teenage ears.

Everything comes around again. Sure, there were years during my early days of having a salary - first get a really cool car! Friends were for impressing. Gradually, as it does for most of us, we retreat to the familiar and as my daughter grew and became self-sufficient, no longer draining resources, I found a job to my liking and having spent many years in a shop till you drop mode, I pretty much had what I needed and found the ultimate in bargain shopping: a tax-free company matched 401(k). It was actually free money, as if I got a substantial raise.

Add in market growth which, alas, cannot now be done thanks to those who thought they ruled the financial universe and complained about their measly $40 million bonus payments.

Plenty has been written about that anger and certainly I share it but how to live well now? It turns out that the lessons of my childhood, about not buying what you can't afford and having some money put away - as a child of the 60s I call it "f*** you money" - I can now afford to take advantage of all the bargains out there. I donated my two-decade old TV that didn't get above channel 64 and splurged on a nice flat screen at a huge discount.
I read all those articles about how people are saving money in this economic crisis. Except it turns out I already do most of them. It's how I live. Thanks, Dad, you may not have thought those lessons stuck when I came home with yet another pair of shoes - you can only wear one at a time, he opinied - but it was a phase. During a mortgage meltdown I own my home, am saving for a remodel not refinancing, have a well balanced portfolio that yes, has taken a hit but is still solvent. (Most of it started and insisted upon by you.)

Living well is really about common sense. Do you need this right now? Is it within your budget? Eating well saves on health care costs. Maintaining your car rather than going plasma TV avoids car payments and higher premiums. So many things can be accomplished if you just wave at the Jones' and not try to keep up with them. Oh, they're in foreclosure?
Thanks Dad, for life's financial lessons. It has never served me so well. Now others are jumping on the bandwagon and the thing you feared most in life - being trendy - has finally caught up to you.