Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hard Times in the Cul-de-Sac

I checked in with my next-door neighbors, Mindy and Conspiracy Guy, yesterday for the first time in a while, and the tenor of the two conversations was very similar--that their budgets are stretched, and they're finding it hard to make ends meet. Both of them brought this up in response to my "Hey, how's it going" query. It was interesting to me, because their circumstances are very different. They live right next door to each other in roughly the same kind of house. I thought how you can't really assume anything about people's financial situation based on where they live. A neighborhood that looks pretty homogenous can house a lot of different economic stories.

Mindy was bummed out because Ron, her new husband, has come out of retirement to go back to work. They're in their upper fifties, and neither of them had been working. Mindy was living on the annuities and such left behind by her late husband, and I think Ron had just made enough money to retire at a relatively young age. He is a civil engineer, so for him, work means traveling out of town to various building projects. He is gone a lot now, and Mindy is not happy on her own. (We were thrilled when those two started shacking up last year, because Mindy goes a little kooky when left to herself.) Anyway, both their investment portfolios have tanked, so off to work he goes.

And I understand why, because those two spend money like sailors on leave. I say that with no judgment at all--I just mean that their kids are grown and gone, and they are living their version of the good life. They have a lot of toys--they were a two Humvee household, his and hers, until Mindy traded her Hummer in for a Jaguar convertible. (I say no judgment, but the two Humvees seemed crazy to me.) Ron had a fancy motorcycle that he wrecked and replaced over the summer, and they have boats and a couple of other houses, Ron's house from before their marriage and Mindy's cabin in the mountains. And, they run with a fairly hard-partying crowd of people their age who go out every night, dressed to the nines. Matt and I went to a little party they had at their house to announce their engagement. I dressed in a manner that I thought was appropriate for a casual get-together in the summer--like capri pants and a cute top. All the other ladies were in cocktail dresses with Swarovski crystals on their boobs. So Mindy and Ron, not surprisingly, are finding it hard to keep up with all that.
Conspiracy Guy and Mrs. Conspiracy Guy are having it rough. Yesterday I saw CG outside while the kids were playing together, and I said, "Hey, what have y'all been up to?" He said, "Trying to survive. Just trying to figure out how to survive." He is a stay-at-home dad to their 4 and 3 year-olds. Mrs. CG works, but I gather it's not a super high-powered career. What they want, he says, is to downsize to a smaller house with a bigger yard. They don't want to sell in this market, though, so they settled for refinancing their mortgage from an adjustable-rate to a 30 year fixed. (Before that, they'd had their house on the market for months with no nibbles. I think they were asking too much, but what do I know?)

They have a way different "lifestyle" from Mindy and Ron's. No toys, no extras, living pretty light, from what I can tell. I heard through the grapevine that right after we moved in in 2006, Mr. and Mrs. CG tried to start a business where you make millions in real-estate with no money down. I remember CG telling me that they'd gone to a seminar that taught them how. I remember having a sinking feeling as he told me this. So the grapevine part was that they lost all the money they put into it, and some of their family's money as well. That was when they put their house up for sale. So I feel sympathy for them--they seem kind of stuck. I feel bad even if CG is a quasi-Libertarian, paranoid, tax-evading fruit loop, as you will see if you take a moment to peruse that link. Tax evasion may be a strong word, but he explained to me how his plan between now and the end of the year is to take their belongings to Goodwill, one bag at a time, and get the receipt they give you where you fill in the value yourself. He says the max per donation is $599, so every garbage bag of old toys and clothes they donate is worth a $599 tax deduction, in his calculation.

Then I think Conspiracy Guy asked me out on a date. Or, he told me how his wife is gone from today through the weekend and he'll have the girls on his own, and then he said, "You could come over one night and watch a movie." So I'm going to assume that what he meant was, "You could bring the kids over to watch a movie with my kids." But I don't know, ew. Where was I again? Oh yes, hard times. That is my neighborhood report for today. Have a good one!

10 comments:

Casey said...

Wow, you got hit on by CG! I get what you mean, everyone I know is somehow affected by this economy. My brother is struggling to buy formula for his baby, my parents aren't going to be able to retire anytime soon, my husband MIGHT be out of a job. Ugh. I guess sit doesn't matter which tax bracket you're in, things suck all around. I think that sequined bra might make me feel better..

Amy said...

I agree--a sequined bra would LIFT my spirits. Har har har. I am hilarious.

That is sad about CG, his weirdness aside. I could hear his desperation in your post. You're right about how you never can tell where people are really at. (But I don't think you should watch a movie with him either way.)

Keely said...

Uh, why does his wife need to be out of town for the kids to watch a movie together? ew.

Becky said...

No worries, ladies. I would have to be caught in a bear trap to watch a movie with that guy!

Kelly Hamilton said...

Isn't that the crystal bra that Matt got you for your birthday...?

HAHAHA!! Happy Wednesday! Hope you're staying dry in this crazy weather!

Michele said...

I'd watch the Mindy gal. She sounds a little strange. I'm just saying....

Too bad about CG & his wife. Not about the date night thing. That's just weird.

The economy is messing with everyone.

I'm going to start the weekly thrifty post next week. I'd love to come over to shop, cook & serve but the commute would kill me. I can't stand the 12 mile commute I have now.

Hootie said...

Now, now. Let's take it easy on CG. Did he mention which movie? Could be worth it.

The Stiletto Mom said...

We have the same issues in our neighborhood...nice homes, nice cars and everyone FREAKING OUT now about how large they were living before this little crash. Guess we all learned a lesson, huh?

I'm sorta creeped out by the movie thing though. I'm actually making a face right now. :)

Better Than Machines said...

Well, it is cheaper to watch one movie together than to watch two movies separately. Maybe that's what CG was getting at!

Right? Right?

Elizabeth said...

Apparently I have no problem judging...but two Hummers? Really? Isn't one destructive enough?

My favorite is seeing people drive hummers through the tiny streets of DC, especially when I have to swerve my smaller and better SUV :) to get out of their way. I secretly want to key their cars.

The best, of course, is when they're obnoxious bright yellow and have license plates that say "Balla" or "Princez" or other such fantastic things. Maybe that's a DC thing...