What the meltdown means to me, a 37-year-old East Coast renter


When it comes to dealing with the personal impact of economic forces, I'm a little out of touch. For most of the last ten years, I lived in the comforting, semi-socialistic embrace of academia, which means that I was able to pretend that ups and downs in the market didn't really matter to me. As an instructor at a state-funded university, I enjoyed a great health care plan, free schooling, discounted books, free public transportation, and a pretty decent retirement fund. Of course, I wasn't paid all that much, but the birth of my daughter cost us less than $500, including all prenatal and postnatal care, so I couldn't really complain.

A little over a year ago, I moved to New York and, in January of this year, I began working as a freelance writer. While this has gone fairly well so far, I'm still in the "building my brand" stage of growth, which is a nice way of saying that I'm probably making only a little bit more than the average McDonald's employee. Luckily, my wife has found great jobs in the New York office employee milieu, and has more than picked up the slack from my decreased income. She is currently working for an engineering firm that designs environmentally-sustainable building systems. Her company is in great shape, and has a full slate of ambitious, lucrative projects on the table. If the New York real estate market continues to do even moderately well, then their next few years should witness record earnings and growth.

Unfortunately, the American building industry greatly relies on credit. While New York floor space is at a premium, new buildings are built on credit, renovations are made on credit, materials are purchased on credit, and contractors are paid on credit. If credit dries up, so will the building jobs and so will the salaries, including my wife's.

Last night, I put her on a plane to Dubai, where she is going to a building conference as a representative of her company. A year ago, many New York architectural and engineering firms were turning down Dubai contracts; today, they're courting them. I don't know if my wife's firm is going to open an office in Dubai, but I do know that she is a hell of a saleswoman and there are a lot of people in the UAE with money to spend on new buildings. At the moment, there's a pretty good chance that I'll be celebrating my next birthday on the shores of the Persian Gulf!

Read how the financial crisis is affecting other WalletPop bloggers.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He tans up really nicely and will probably look totally hot in a keffiyah.

Originally published