It Isn't "Chic" to Cut Back -- It's Crucial

A super rich and very economically astute friend forwarded me Holly Peterson's Newsweek article on what's potentially happening in the dark underbellies of the bank accounts of those who frequent Swifty's, my favorite place for cheese soufflés and lemon meringue pie (yikes -- what a combination but oh so comforting these days and all for a decent price by NYC standards).

I was thrilled to read Holly's article because it validates my feelings that even though you live in Manhattan and have had a comfortable life, you are just as likely to be seriously affected by these economic times as those living in Detroit!

How do you know what's in anyone's bank account?

I'm not talking about those who lease G-5's or give bar mitzvah's importing basketball stars to dribble with the 13 year olds or weddings where the gardenias alone could make me weep from an allergic reaction to the budget -- I'm talking about decent people who've chosen to live in an exciting city which is more costly than living in St. Louis or Orlando.

From what I'm hearing, grandparents are kicking in private school tuitions to help out and there's plenty of recycling of school uniforms and text books. I see a lot of the stuffing being kicked out of people these days but they've still got little kids that need to go to school and they're hanging on by threads.

It isn't "chic" to pretend to cutback; for most of us, it's crucial. I started a consulting business because I had real clients but they can't afford to pay anymore. Because I've been cautious, I'm not in a panic... yet. However, just when you think you're a bit set, the realities of living in New York set in too.

Would I dream of a $350 haircut at Garren? Of course not. But do I have to look good -- yes! If you're looking for a job or just walking on Madison Avenue, you don't put on your down-on-my-luck face or it shows, and no one wants to hang around a loser.

New York is a tough city if you're not on top of your game. You're either married to someone important and rich or you've inherited a name and fortune or you've made it on your own -- but the minute that goes, it shows. You become like a virus that's contagious.

I know the super rich and some have worked really hard -- I can think of one billionaire who came from nothing and if his lavishness has been a bit gross, I know his bank account got a good kick recently. On the other hand, he's learning to give large sums away to organizations that could not survive these tough times.

But I'm not talking about that group -- I'm talking about people just like me, the formerly upper middle class. As a boomer, this wasn't what I expected but I continue to reinvent myself and work hard -- in fact, my whole family works hard and has tremendous pride in their ability to do so. I don't see one free luncher among the entire group.

If I use a sense of humor to deflect an uncomfortable situation, that's my way of dealing with tough times. Did I end up buying my vintage Dior bag in South Beach? Absolutely not. And did I pay my hardworking cleaning lady $100 to clean up after I left?

No. I did the cleaning and she lost out on the money.

That $100 is important to me too.