The sub-prime mortgage mess which a few months ago we were assured would cause no more than a ripple in the economy because so many of the potentially bad loans had been securitized and the risk was spread and … what's the official financial term for "blah, blah, blah?"
That ripple turned into a tsunami as mortgage brokers, banks, stock markets, hedge funds and financial powerhouses were flooded with bad news, bankruptcies, and margin calls.
The sub-prime mortgage issue will probably be made worse once the Congress sticks its nose into it and decides to bail out people who took out those impossible loans - meaning you and I will be helping make all those bad mortgage payments.
Think about that the next time your landlord takes his sweet time fixing the garbage disposal unit in your one bedroom, one bath apartment which is conveniently located on the third floor of a building which has no elevator.
One of the reasons we are in this mess - and there will be more messes to follow - is because we have become a Monthly Payment Economy.
Watch a car ad. Any car ad. You are not likely to every get the total price of the car. The only number you will see is the monthly payment (for highly qualified customers).
Want that luxury car? Not to worry about the total cost, we'll just stretch out the payments to 84 months - seven years. Think I'm kidding? Head over to your car dealer and hear it for yourself.
Need anything from any store for any reason? No problem. Stick it on your credit card. Card maxed out? No problem again. You've be PRE-APPROVED for another $2,500 or $5,000 or however much at a low, low annual percentage rate of 15 - 20%.
Anyone can afford another $50 or $70 per month payment. It's when you add $70 almost every month for a couple of years when you suddenly discover your walletful of credit cards is now costing about $1,500 a month just to make the minimum payments.
For those of you sending Trent or Missy off to college in the next week or so, keep this in mind: According to an article in the Ventura County Star, "freshmen who start out with no debt are likely to owe about $1,500 to credit card companies by the end of their first year of college."
Someone tell me the difference - other than scale - of a 17-year-old college freshman being driven by peer pressure to fill out app after app for credit cards (and getting an official school logo-emblazoned plastic beer stein for the effort) and someone 25 years older being brow-beaten by a mortgage broker into a mortgage which the recipient can't even make the payments under the "teaser rate" much less after the rate is "adjusted."