- Personal Finance
The Silver Lining In The Recession Cloud: One Man's Story
"You can't quit!" the boss cried with a plaintive sigh. "You're the only one who knows anything about the Trans-Con Tiddly-Winks contract! And what about the Inter-Amalgamated Decoder Ring deal, huh? You take off on me right now and we might get stuck with a warehouse full of cryptic pinky rings!"
"I'm sorry, but my mind is made up," I said firmly. "I've decided to spend my time discovering the important things in life."
"What are you, nuts?" he yelled. "What's more important than selling plastic novelties? Do you really think you're gonna make any money playing Mr. Guru? Who do you think you are, Gandhi, for Chrissakes? Just wait and see how enlightened you feel when they foreclose on your mortgage and repo your Audi!"
Since there was really nothing more to say, I turned and stepped out of his office. As I walked through the reception area, I heard him shouting behind me. "You walk out on me now and you'll never work in this trade again! I'll fix it so you won't be able to sell a box of deeley-boppers to your own mother!"
Somehow that didn't sound quite so bad...
As I pulled out of the parking lot in my Audi A8 I realized that he had probably been right about one thing: There was no way I could keep up the payments and the insurance on that lithe black beauty. But I could drive the old AMC Matador I'd kept in the garage collecting dust for all these years. Now that I was no longer General Sales Manager for the West Coast office of Conglomerated PlastiForm there were going to be some significant changes in my lifestyle. I would probably have to kiss Brentwood goodbye and find some more reasonable digs in (gasp) the San Fernando Valley. And I might as well cancel the three-week cruise to Tahiti I had reserved for the holidays. The new plasma TV, the seven grand worth of stereo equipment, and probably even my Kawasaki Ninja would have to be sold or returned. But for some reason the loss of all those things didn't bother me as much as I would have previously believed.
I had convinced myself that I was going to pursue the deeper aspects of existence. There was more to life than shoving Mickey Moose Key Fobs down people's throats. And I was going to find it. I had made up my mind. I was going to be a New Age entrepreneur.
I had it all figured out. I would sell off most of the things I owned, dump my 5,000 shares of Conglomerated and raise enough cash to start my own business selling healing crystals, meditation CDs and metaphysical books. After all, I had a great credit rating, a wallet full of plastic including an American Express Gold Card, and about 20 grand in the bank. That would suffice to give me the capital I need to open my store. Then I would be in direct contact with other enlightened, wonderful human beings, network with them for our mutual benefit, and for the common cause of advancing planetary wellness.
I had planned this for months, and now everything was firmly in place. The calculations of the amount I needed to survive my first year in business versus the proceeds from my home equity, stocks, etc., had all worked out. I had a spreadsheet so comprehensive it spread its sheet all over 5 MB on my MacBookPro. All I had to do was set the machinery in progress.
The first thing I did was to call up the real estate agent who had appraised my place at $925,000 and told him to list the house at once. Once I paid off my $750,000 mortgage I would have 175 grand clear.
Then I got on the phone with my stockbroker and gave him a sell order for my entire portfolio. Conglomerated stock had traded yesterday for $9.50. That would give me almost another 50 thou. A flurry of calls later found my electronic entertainment equipment listed in the Times classified, the motorcycle was advertised in the Auto Trader, everything was in craigslist just to cover all bases, the travel agent had been told to cancel the cruise, and the Audi had been placed with a car broker.
I was very proud of myself as I finally hung up the phone after a morning of non-stop activity. Everything was working out. What could possibly go wrong?
The phone rang. It was my stockbroker and he didn't sound happy. He told me that he couldn't sell my Conglomerated stock.
"What are you talking about?" asked. "Cong stock was listed at $9.50 last week!"
"It's dropped a three bucks on news that Cracker Jack will be switching suppliers for its plastic surprises," he replied. "And nobody's buying. It's dropped twenty bucks in the last quarter and I guess nobody wants to get into plastic mooses in the middle of this recession. Can't say I really blame 'em."
"What do you think I can sell it for?"
"I dunno. Let me call you back in a couple of days."
When I hung up I had a hollow feeling inside. This was the first sign that my carefully constructed tapestry might be unraveling. Over the next few days that tapestry would be showing some severely threadbare sections.