Money Part 2: Investment Deficit Disorder

I saw an interesting post on a PBS blog tonight. Paul Solomon tackled some key points. I have to take issue with the first one off the bat. I think most Americans, and I mean not the Wall Street titans, don’t know much about money or how to handle it. Because we’ve been pushed into a consumer-driven society, we don’t think about investing first. It’s like the crappy public school lunches served in the South Bronx. It’s full of sugar and junk and gets the kids hooked on the spikes that come with eating that. Until they have really bad health problems.

Because I’ve opted to pay off all my debt, I’m kind of in the same boat as a new born. I had hoped there would be some more sense of accomplishment with it but there isn’t. If a taxi were to fall out of the sky on my head, there wouldn’t be any major things left behind for people to manage about me. Just turn off my cell and let the unions know I’m done paying dues. I have tiny retirement portfolio with one organization I got for a couple semester of teaching drama through CUNY. It’s lost a quarter of its value since the end of 2007. I have one stock that has plummeted from a high value of over $90 to being worth $18.92.

Does anyone know if they’re selling war bonds? Maybe a Facebook group for that could help rally the economy. I splurged a little today by buying a bomber hat. But it’s cold here in NYC and this hat makes it much nicer. I think I will get 3 or 4. Really, it’s my new favorite thing in the world. I believe my fear and dread about winter have been eradicated by this simple purchase.

But I was muddling through about money. No one’s written me yet about this. That’s ok. I guess it’s better to talk about it when we’re alone and 100% out of earshot. I’m going to carry on without worry until someone writes me and tells me I’m completely off base.

One of my conditioned blocks has been knowing my true value. Then demanding it. This comes as an extension of a fear of success. A silly and worthless thing. Being in the spotlight means you can be assassinated. This is going a bit far but the irrational part of the brain. The little, tiny conditioned part believes this. What does this have to do with money?

The first feeling I had putting that last check in the mail the other day was guilt. There’s part of me that’s embarrassed to talk about any of this because I’m admitting failure in a way. Broadcasting it really, which is a form of bragging. But then there’s part of me that feels this heaviness for people who have lost their homes and jobs and don’t know what they will be doing. The people who didn’t wish this on themselves. The ones who work hard and follow the rules.

Then I also felt a little like I gave up a part of my identity with that. The suffering part. I know it’s ridiculous because I was poor while many were rich. Now they’re poor and don’t know what to do about it.

There’s a point here about the starving artist myth vs. the cream rising to the top. I guess also mixed into this is how the economy is put on the backs of the working class to do the shit work and still get it in the ass at the end of the day. One of the lies we buy into is that if one is talented, one will become rich and famous and not have to worry about money because it will rain down from the sky. And if you are less than that, God forbid, you will be that terrible leper, “the undiscovered” starving artist. The one who works at other things to get by. It’s that mentality of cutting someone down who does pursue something in the face of the fickleness and obstacles of zeitgeist and marketplace. In the world of acting, either you can make a killing or you can crawl on your knees. There’s very little in between. And it’s a life without benefits.

I hear Juilliard is beginning to teach a little about money. It’s about time. There’s been this notion of the noble artist who doesn’t soil himself or herself with thoughts of money. But if schools would like to increase the chances of survival and to keep artists in the professional in which they trained, this must be incorporated. A working actor, if lucky, could get paid 3 times a year. Let’s say that’s the scenario. Let’s say it’s in July, August and November. The amounts are $20,000, $10,000 and $5000. On the cheap side living in NYC let’s say it’s $3000 a month to live. If you really get creative and can collapse spending on food, clothes, entertainment, and forget about health care or loans or debt. And even with that, it’s only $25000 to live here (god bless you), that actor has really only made $23,333-ish. I’m not talking about refinancing a home or holding off a year to buy a car. While that’s a great year, other money must come in or the holidays are going to be slight.

Ah, screw ’em. Right? If they were worth a damn they’d make it or they’d grow up and get a real job. But since 13 or shows closed on Broadway and are being replaced with more economical fare, you can’t tell those folks to just jump into something else; since NBC is cutting 5 hours of primetime so Jay Leno’s jaw can invade homes for less than it costs put on 5 hour-long dramas and since SAG is going haywire and the studios are playing a jacked-up shell game, the competition is becoming tougher.

The old standard statistic said people left NYC after 5 years. I don’t know what it will be now. It’s still a game for trust-fund kids first and foremost. Then it shifts from there. Maybe it’s always been like this and I’m just now waking up from my nap of naiveté. Maybe I’m only beginning to seek information I should have reached for years ago at the same time the economy is going bonkers. Do you feel like that? I don’t think I’m alone in this. There’s a sense of powerlessness. A sense that those goals are juuuuuuuust out of reach.

I wonder what will happen if there is no Wall Street. I think about McCain saying he’d clean up greed and how impossible that would have been.

I wonder why a dollar isn’t worth a dollar. If there’s all this manipulation of interest rates by the Fed. If debt is simply forgiven. If debt is given steroids and called leverage and unleashed to go unchecked until it implodes, WHY CAN’T A DOLLAR BE WORTH A DOLLAR?

Like 1952 dollars. Or some other year when they were actually work 100 pennies. Why can’t my entire grocery bill be less than $20? Why can’t a buy a 2-bedroom condo for under 1.5 million?

And please don’t tell me about fluctuations or how things shift due to changes in supply and demand. Make the value of a dollar a dollar or stop printing it until it is worth a dollar. If paper money is off the gold standard and then not worth the paper it’s printed on, then something has to change.

I know this reads like it was written by a crazy person but I guess it kind of was. By the way, it doesn’t look like there’s the old war bonds but there are Treasury Bonds.

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