AIG – Symbol of a lost age

We were all flying high there for awhile.  Many of us took the easy money and ran, fearing deep down in the back of our mind, even while not fully understanding why,  that it couldn’t last.   Big banks and financial firms took the money and ran too, but they should have, and probably did, understood what was going on as they did it.  It was too good to pass up, though.  Then, by the time we began to run into problems keeping it all working, it was too late.  We were heading down the mountain with no brakes or horn.   We should have known.   It has happened before.

My parents were born in 1918.  When the Stock Market crashed, and the depression settled in, they were adolescents whose families were basically farmers and not involved in the financial world at all.  But they were effected by the times just  as everyone was that lived through the depression.  Both of their families were forced to leave their settled life and both moved west in search of a better living.  It is good for me that they did because they met and married in Oregon where the two families eventually ended up.   When all was said and done, however, they were very changed people.

Growing up in my family, I got to see what an event like the depression can do to the world view of someone who lives through it.  My parents were not just frugal they were spartan in their approach to money.  My father hated debt, he only owned one house in his life and got rid of it as soon as he could.  He paid cash and he bought only the best that he could afford.  When he bought something he intended to keep it.  Everything was cared for and maintained for the long haul.  Even when he had achieved a high level of success in his career, and was making good money, he spent carefully and avoided extravagance.   He died quite young but my mother was thrifty and penny-wise for all of the many years that she survived him.

It took a generation or two for that depression era frugality to dissipate but it did finally do just that.  We are seeing the results today.  The high finance people at AIG don’t even understand that they have already moved past a lost age.  Nothing is the same as it was.  I have watched the bubbles form in the last couple of decades with the wide eyes of someone who has the echo of another time in mind.  An echo left to me by my parents.  All of this wealth never looked real and it didn’t ever seem like it could go on for long.  It didn’t.  The echos in my mind rang true and we may all come away with a very different world view as a result.

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