I think myself unfortunate at times to not have all the accoutrements of what has become today’s middle-class lifestyle, but for the most part I realize how fortunate I am to have the objects–and especially the people and the peace of mind–I do have in my life. I’m not a risk taker and neither is my husband. The few risks we have taken have paid off, but they were well-thought-out plans, not impetuous, off-the-wall decisions. I can say I’d rather be this type of person and maybe not have all the stuff, all the fun, and all the adventure that others have in order to live a lifestyle I can trust will be there tomorrow, and the next day and the next.
One of my dearest friends just called me up to say that she and her husband are facing foreclosure. He had taken a huge risk by stopping to pay the mortgage eighteen months ago in order to force the bank’s hand into setting up a loan modification on a house that has lost nearly half its original value. The risk did not pay off, obviously, and my friend is faced with having to uproot her family to a temporary residence before her husband (he’s the one who makes all the financial decisions without even consulting her) can acquire a loan to buy a less-expensive home. As I said, the value of the houses in their once-promising area have halved in the past six or so years since moving in. The area that was once in the works to be an inexpensive enclave of homes away from two very big cities, where families could buy 3,000-square-foot houses for $300,000 to $400,000–at the time, half of what they were in the two nearest big cities–went belly-up. Losing jobs during the current bad economy, the homeowners who moved there five or six years ago looking for that steal of a deal are now walking away from those very homes, because many of them didn’t have the money or the good credit or the dependable jobs to pay for loans in the big cities in the first place. Banks were eager to lend to these property virgins in order to make a sale.
My friend’s husband, ironically, did have the money to pay off the original loan, and yet he was willing to play with the bank in order to try to get them to reduce the mortgage to current market values. He had thought it was wise at the time. Now the decision looks extremely foolish.
So, my dear friend may very well be facing the biggest move of her life, packing up her two girls and the beautiful home they have containing all the fine things in life (a baby grand piano, flatscreen TVs, a Wii, granite countertops, nice clothes) because of a foolish decision made by her husband.
If taking risks means possibly gambling away my lifestyle, my well-being, my kids’ stability, I’ll happily stick with the devil I know than the very real, risky devil I don’t.