Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brick by Brick

I love to read Dmitri Orlov's work.  Very clever guy.  When asked when the "collapse" he foresees will occur, he demurely said:

I always decline to give a specific answer, because, you see, as soon as you get one specific prediction wrong, there goes your entire reputation. One reasonable way of thinking about the timing is to say that collapse can occur at different times for different people. You may never quite know that collapse has happened, but you will know that it has happened to you personally, or to your family, or to your town. The big picture may not come together until much later, thanks to the efforts of historians. Individually, we may never know what hit us, and, as a group, we may never agree on any one answer. Look at the collapse of the USSR: some people are still arguing over why exactly it happened.

How true.

I spent the holidays with family back in my hometown.  Orlov's words echoed in my ears the entire time.  I ran into dozens of old friends from my school days at the various holiday parties and functions - and in listening to these folks and the impact of the financial crisis I was dumbfounded by how many white, educated, middle aged people were for all intents and purposes DESTITUTE.

The story seemed to have a common thread - divorce.  It went something like this:

During the 1995 -2005 period many people of my age prospered.  Of course, no one can remain satisfied for long... so rather than tolerate each other, couples decided to divorce (I am being politically correct here, and I should not be: In each case the wife filed for divorce).  Initially, everything was fine.  Hey, if I got the house, car, and a monthly stipend of $10,000, I'd be fine (and in that scenario, what is her incentive to remain married?), too.

Ah, but the "best laid plans of mice and men"....

I imagined, while listening to these stories, that perhaps the individual (ok, in these cases they were all men) on paying side might lose his incentive to work hard - you can't get blood from a stone - long before the economy started to go off of a cliff.  You see, these folks likely had little in the way of SAVINGS.  Big house with a big mortgage, leased cars, company stock, 401k, etc... but remember: This is Metro New York.  If Hubby worked for Lehman or Bear Stearns his life savings went kaput, and even if he did not, it is likely his fortunes are tied to Wall Street in some way.

Now we have the sad case of the 40 something divorcee with 2 kids losing her home, moving into a cramped apartment and having her monthly stipend reduced to $1,500.  Egads!  She is going to have to go back to WORK.  Him, too, and not at his former salary.  Talk about an adjustment.

Just consider for a moment that a couple with a $1mm net worth will pay nearly 20% of that in legal fees during the divorce, and now they have 2 households to pay for.  Well, the lawyers took their $200k, and the market crash took the other $800k, and the economy took their jobs...  

So what's this gotta do with Orlov's explanation of  "timing"?  The "Wall" is not going (I hope) to come crashing down - it is much more likely to come down "brick by brick".  What really matters is your brick.  Once your "Brick" comes out of the "Wall", it is not very likely to get back in (especially if you are in your late 40's or early 50's).  Life can, and given enough time will, be humbling.  Divorce is the last thing you need in a time like this.  Get along with your significant other - you need them and the rest of your family - more than you know.  Besides, if you have kids, you are stuck with them anyway.

If you are a divorce lawyer, now would be an excellent time to head back to Dental School. 

Mentatt (at) yahoo (d0t) com


Anonymous said...

I am now 60 and my saint of a wife has stuck with me through thick and thin. My Industry ( call centers) was shipped over seas during the last two Administrations. My Company basicly went bust in 2002 and out I want in early 2003. That was 6 years ago and I never did find a real job. I work part time and so does she. We have cut back to the tune of 95% of my income peak back in 2000.

Carl In Wisconsin

Anonymous said...

The combination of heavy pressure, long hours, lots of cash and company travel (this last part can lead to affairs) is a formula for divorce. The wife quietly resentful of husband's absences learns to justify her marriage as a paid job. When she figures out that she can get paid without the job she is gone. When she loses the money after the man has lost his job and livelihood the emotional impact must be devastating for both.

I'm just guessing. I had consciously decided to leave my field when we got kids and try to focus on the family. However, it doesn't work that well sometimes. I am often in front of the computer. At home but not really there. Now I just get under foot. I wonder how long she will put up with me? Hmm. I better go clean the bathrooms and vacuum the upstairs. No, really.

Chuck H.

PS of course there are some women who are predatory gold digging bitches. I am not talking about those here.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


None of these folks were "Toxic Wives".

Who knows what happened between them? Does it matter? They are one illness or severe recession away from homelessness.

I bet that their is a perfectly good, and very complicated explanation for each of them. That does not matter when the rent is due, or the college tuition is due, or when you need money when you are older.

People my age (I am 47) have a 50%+ chance of divorce. Money can (can?) be a corrupting force. In this case it has destroyed them.

As far as affairs? I have been around a long time. Everybody cheats, wants to cheat, would cheat, or lies about it. Th over 50% that got divorced? Guess what. The other 50%? Same stuff. "Men are as faithful as their options" - Chris Rock

"Lots of cash and company travel... leads to affairs". Success leads to affairs... poverty does wonders for fidelity, as does a little obesity and old age.

None of that means shit. Divorce is an invention of the Feminist movement. And it did ended up harming women almost as much as it harmed the children. Just think, what was the "free market's" response to divorce? 40% never get married, and 50% of those that do have pre-nuptual agreements.

My point was the only beneficiary of their decision was the bloody divorce lawyer.

oOOo said...

I appreciate your writings as much as always. In my parents case, it was money troubles that caused the divorce and subsequent loss of house and everything else, not the other way around. They lasted 28 years and several affairs on his side, but it was the money troubles that seemed to break it in the end.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


"Money can't buy happiness, but happiness can't buy money" my mother used to say.

Remember what CHris Rock said about Hillary when Bill got caught with his pants down? Watch his "Bigger & Blacker". I am more in this line of thinking.

"Men are as faithful as their options".

I am a family man. Marriage ain't for the faint of heart, and growing old ain't for sissies.