Monday, October 6, 2008

The Day the Market Died

1923: Money burned as fuelYou never know.

And that's why I'm writing this. I've lived through the inflationary 1970s, with the long gas lines (back when gas was a scandalously high 60 cents per gallon); the malaise of the Jimmy Carter years; Reagan's double-digit unemployment; the savings and loan debacle of 1983; "Black Monday"- October 19, 1987, when the Dow dropped 22% in a single day; Y2k; the dot-com bubble; Enron's shame; 9/11; and what we thought was the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

None of those things were pleasant, but they all had a "rebound" effect. Now, I'm not so sure. This new thing- this Global Credit Crisis- feels much bigger, yet much more insidious. We're on the Titanic. Sure, there's icebergs out there, the water is treacherous, we know that. But we've got experienced, crusty sea captains navigating us safely through...

What was that awful crunching sound?

Oh, that's not an iceberg! It's just my 401k losing 20% 50% of it's value since last year. Whew.

I'm not an economic expert, but like many folks, I've been schooling up these past two weeks. There are great articles in The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and many more. But the very best, clearest explanation of the current economic catastrophe has come from these two MP3 podcasts* of This American Life:
Don't be fooled by the pithy titles; this is world-class reporting. And entertaining, too, for what that's worth. Listen to them in order, and keep in mind the dates they were posted.
*Note: you don't need an iPod to listen to them; you can listen to them on your computer, or download them and burn to CD, or transfer to any MP3 player you like.
After the news from Iceland today, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. I'm probably overreacting, but just in case, I thought I would document this period in our family's life, in case it brings any wisdom and perspective for my daughter Danielle, years from now. I'll explain what I understand about the crisis, but the podcasts do a probably do a better job of that.

A good friend of mine who is way smarter, and way, way more informed about this matter is hunkering down, financially. He's predicting the worst, as in hyper-inflationary Weimar Republic worst, or Chilean marshal law worst. I really hope he's wrong.

But you never know, y'know?

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