Wealthy in Many Ways

Posted on 03 October 2008

Maybe it’s just us, but there seems to be a palpable sense of foreboding in the air this week. Have you felt it? It’s not unlike the feeling in those uncertain days following 9/11, but this time, it has to do with economics, not terrorism.

Part of this feeling is coming from fear of the unknown. It’s all so new. How will the credit crisis and financial meltdown of Wall Street affect Sag Harbor’s Main Street? What sort of trickle down will there be and what will it look like? How will we all be doing financially speaking next month, through the winter, next year?

In the office, we’ve talked about the economy a lot this week with people who have come through our door. Some are optimistic that we will weather it all relatively unscathed. Others are convinced that our fortunes (or lack thereof) are inexorably tied to those of Wall Street and the other shoe is bound to drop. 

We’ll have to wait and see about that. But one thing that strikes us as being crystal clear is the overt sense of greed and instant gratification that brought us to this point in the first place. And nowhere was this conspicuous consumption more evident than the Main Streets of the Hamptons.

In recent years, we have all seen blatant examples out here of people who live in excess — among them the CEO execs and Wall Street tycoons well versed in the game. But there are also those who played the game beyond their ability to do so responsibly. These are the folks who continually traded up home and cars racking up second (or third) mortgages on themselves to do so. These are the folks who are most likely to be feeling the pain in coming days.

While all this conspicuous consumption was raging around us, there was another group of people on the East End who kept their heads down and quietly continued to live and work here as usual, even as real estate values and wealth which they had no part in skyrocketed into the stratosphere around them. These are the people who lived within their means, put off vacations to pay down credit cards and socked away what little savings they could.

What goes up, must come down and in the end, like the tale of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady seems to have, once again, won the race. It’s fair to say that there will be tough days ahead for people and businesses out here who rely on the ever-tightening credit markets in order to function. But for those of us who stayed focused on the big picture and avoided temptation of the fast pay off, maybe the storm won’t be as difficult to weather as we feared.

After all, we are the people who will still get up in the morning and put in an honest day’s work for a modest  paycheck that won’t impress anybody on Wall Street. But if it’s a paycheck that doesn’t belong to anybody else, that’s saying quite a bit these days — and  by definition, makes us very rich indeed.


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