Laura Rich

financial-crisis-arm-wall-200If you want to go pointing fingers over the economic downturn, there are the usual suspects—the quants at JP Morgan, the lenders at Countrywide, AIG… Take your pick. But Bard College’s Hannah Arendt Center for Ethical and Political Thinking wants to consider it more broadly. In a (free, mostly) conference next week at its campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, the issue will be viewed as a “Burden of Our Times.”

Topics to be explored include the role that fundamental human greed, and not just the modern kind, played in leading us to the brink of a second Depression. Experts in consumer culture, risk and chance will discuss. Also on the agenda…

money-pileOnce bitten twice shy, they say, but not for many of the Americans with a net worth of $250,000 or more. According to a new report from Ipsos Mendelsohn, more among this affluent population will buy stocks and mutual funds than any other spending activity, including on vacations, their homes or cars.

For their advertiser and media clients, Mendelsohn each year produces “The Mendelsohn Affluent Survey,” which looks at the population that holds about half of all U.S. income and accounts for about 20 percent of households (24 million) with $1 trillion in discretionary income, about half of which own two or more residences. The cut-off for the definition of “affluence” is a net worth of $250,000. This year, the question at the top of the researchers’ minds was, “Will the affluent be leading us out of the recession?”…

8 Recession Road Trip Games

by Laura Rich on September 2, 2009 in Lifestyle

car-road-150Even with the emergence of the “staycation,” many families will be hitting the road this Labor Day. So after the Harry Potter series ends on the DVD player, we suggest some timely car games to keep the fun rolling along. Print this guide and take it with you.

Spot a Sign
This one’s easy. In the wake of mortgage defaults and foreclosure-o-rama, for-sale signs dot the landscape like a new mutant weed. In a twist on “punch Buggy” or “slug a bug”—in which you punch the person next to you when you spot a VW Beetle—tag (we prefer it to a punch) the person next to you to signal you spotted a for-sale sign first…

hearts-love-150Okay all you lovers out there, so what do you know about dating, living and loving in the recession? Budgets for lavish dates and gifts have shrunk; long-term plans for established relationships have been somewhat downsized; and we’re all perhaps a little more deliberate in our dating than we were in the boom times. Things have changed–not least in the way you appreciate your mate. Below, some of the new realities that have emerged in these tough times:

You don’t need to spend a lot to get a lot. In a guest post, “Funky Brown Chick” Twanna A. Hines wrote about getting laid without laying out too much for it. Try renting porn flicks, buy sex toys, and try mixing it up by getting out of town on the cheap.

There are countless options for romantic dates on a budget…

Screwed: 300 in Montenegro

by Laura Rich on August 21, 2009 in News,Work

screw 150A daily roundup of the employment fallout around the country and the world.

Today’s total: 997

First, the good news: In Scotland, Tesco Personal Finance is said to be creating 800 new jobs and car retailer Arnold Clark is creating 700 jobs (perhaps a good time to be in Scotland?). … Morgan Stanley is adding 400 positions on its trading floor. … GEICO will bring 300 new jobs to western New York. … There are reports that state and local governments added 110,000 jobs since the beginning of the year, the below notwithstanding.

And now the bad news: Montenegro’s steelworks have handed out 300 pink slips. … Alabama’s Baldwin County schools have cut 205 jobs. … Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas will begin laying off 200 employees. … 130 mental health workers in Pierce County in Washington state have been laid off. … Osceola County, Fla., may lay off 100 workers. …Wells Fargo has cut 62 positions in Durham, N.C. …

Recession Dictionary Entry 150/n. What happens when the government issues coupons on cars but doesn’t use the same printing machine as it seems to for currency.

Spotted here, and in a comment on Facebook, in discussion of the cash that ran out on the government subsidy “Cash for Clunkers” program that gave consumers a $3,500 or $4,500 voucher per car for so-called gas guzzlers that could be traded in for fuel-efficient vehicles. The program was so successful at encouraging auto sales that Congress had to approve an additional $2 billion for it, on top of the initial $1 billion. But dealerships have to wade through extensive (17 pages) paperwork and face delays in getting paid by the auto giants—and some consumers lose out on vouchers that have run out. What’s more, so much for the environmental benefit since the clunkers are creating a pileup in the junkyard. No wonder some dealerships are opting out.

Ex. Dealerships are up to their ears in paperwork for the Cash for Clunkers program, and some owners will not be able to cash in after all, resulting in a general clunkerf*ck…

many small screws 150A daily review of the employment fallout around the country and the world.

Today’s total: 2,034

Up to 1,100 employees are expected to be cut from Nordic paper company Stora Enso. … Samsung plans 550 layoffs. … New Zealand Transfield Services is considering 154 layoffs. … In Alabama, Teledyne Brown has given notice to 130 workers. … Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas will lay off 100 employees. …

question-mark-chart-150Says who: 27 million small business owners

“It’s gotten to the point where it’s such a huge expense that I don’t know if we can continue doing 60 percent,” said Dan Verbeten, owner of Gardan Inc., a contract manufacturing company in Hortonville. “It’s the fourth-largest expense item.” (via

Why it might be false: Providing health benefits has been a growing expense, even before the recession took hold. According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, health care costs for employers rose 10 percent in 2008 alone. Such costs are behind a disheartening trend: Just 59 percent of small business employers provided health benefits in 2007, down from 68 percent in 2000. But whatever health care’s crimes, it’s on its own track, separate from the forces that brought down the economy…

screw 150A daily roundup of the employment fallout around the country and the world.

Today’s total: 4,221

Blue Cross Blue Shield has been conducting layoffs: 650 in Chicago; 200 in Tulsa; 183 across Texas. … Embattled AIG has closed 145 branches and eliminated 900 jobs. … Contact lens maker CooperVision will close a plant and let 570 workers go. … In Germany, Q-Cells, a solar cell maker facing massive losses, will cut 500 workers. … BAE Systems in Minnesota is gearing up for layoffs that may include 400 workers. … Virgin Media will let go 250 customer service employees at a Great Britain site. … In Finland, Finnair laid off 200 employees, after handing out temporary layoffs to 6,000 others. … At MassMutual, 118 of 6,100 employees were dismissed. … Milacron in Cincinatti plans to cut 130 positions. … Under new ownership, Midwest Airlines will pare back 100 jobs. … Gannett’s The Journal News cut 50 jobs

Recession Dictionary Entry 150/n. A person with more than one profession, such as a banker-slash-entrepreneur, or an accountant-slash-yoga instructor.

This term (perhaps first coined by Marci Alboher in her book One Person/Multiple Careers — notice the slash) reflects a major shift in thinking about work: People no longer expect to have just one career. In the recession in particular, we see “slash career” as a product of a transition or reinvention (e.g. you plan to ditch the banker or accountant altogether); maybe you’re a professional polymath who is juggling different interests talents. Or maybe the downturn has forced you to cobble together multiple sources of income, as Tina Brown described with “gig economy.” The recession has accelerated the trend.

We use slasher to describe people like some of our Lemonade Makers, including James Young, who became a real estate broker-slash-digital-entrepreneur when his business slowed dramatically last year. And it’s quickly catching on.

Nota bene: Not to be confused with actress-slash-model.

Example: What do you do for a living? I’m a slasher in dance and medicine…