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crunch crunch crunch
March 10, 2009, 2:39 am
Filed under: economy

Is credit crunch real? Well it’s a word. Officially! It’s been added to the Oxford Dictionary. It sounds like some kind of bad tasting cereal . As far as I understand it the credit crunch began when overseas banks became too nervous to lend to humans and to each other. At the heart of the problem were borrowers with mortgages built on metaphorical sand.  Just a little over two years ago I first heard the words ‘sub prime’. For a while I thought sub-prime mortgages was a sort of company  but no its a sort of risky investment.


Prime mortgages are ones which banks give to people with excellent credit ratings. Sub-prime mortgages is lending to people who do not.  This is a harsh life lesson we all learn at some stage when we lend money to a friend and then we don’t get it back.  We get a little savvier about assessing credit risk. Well apparently there is a lesson to learn at the corporate level here too and the global economy is just cottoning on.

The idea was that the value of houses would increase and so would peoples equity in the houses.  If they ran into trouble they could borrow more against their house. But the bubble burst. Hmmmm It was a pyramid scheme of sorts. Layers of banks we’d never heard of emerged in the public domain and there was a crisis of trust in the banking economy.

How did we go from credit crunch to global economic downturn?

During the hey day of investment in dodgy borrowers debt was onsold to investors. Mortgage-backed securities went into hedge funds who thought they were a sure thing. But the bubble broke, mortgage holders started to default on their loans and the peculiar 20th century culture of ‘BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT’ became BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTHLESS’’.  

The rapid freefall of the American economy is impacting on American consumers, businesses and markets.  Jobless rate are at their highest highest point in a quarter century and consumer confidence is low. The value of stock investments  shrivelled. The burgeoning retiree market is in tatters as retired people must cut back on sending. For others retirement is now much further off unless it is enforced by unwanted unemployment.

Economists see the stabilising of the credit market as what is needed to stop the slide. New Zealand economists are still debating what the effects will be here in Godzone. On the national radio recently Jim Morah and friends were saying is it really happening here? Jim and co clearly hadn’t had to sell a house last year for 100 thousand dollars less than it was worth the year before and they hadn’t looking at rising unemployment figures. However on the whole I found this quite refreshing because most of the other media commentaries are gloomier than Paris Hilton in flat heels and you find yourself wondering  if this doom mongering might not be contributing to the economic downturn.

Just about every major metropolitan newspaper has published their top ten or 12 or twenty tips to survive a depression. Most of it doesn’t seem worth the surfing energy. Ive read The observer, The Times, The Telegraph, The Listener, and to save you the bother here are my favourites:

1.       Don’t take on more debt. Well I never. So obvious but every good list mentions it.

2.       Cancel the gym membership and the cleaner and gardener. OK its clear that people who read The Times are still living in Mary Poppins land and if things get worse they will possibly fire the nanny.

3.       Don’t buy a 2000 pound exclusive Louis Vutton bag as sported by Madonna as it can be hired for as little as sixty pounds a month!!!! Yeah right. I really read this in a serious list. Perhaps the serious translation of this is now isn’t the time to buy even if you can get credit – maybe rent for a while and see what happens.

4.       Freecycle – this is actually a good tip – get out of the false economy and into the community economy. You join an online group based on your geographical area. Regular newsletters tell you what people want to get rid of, what they want and what’s been taken.  So far Ive gotten of an old aquarium, broken barbeque, a chest full of old video tapes, music stand, .. and Ive gained the dvd player Miss 7 got for Christmas, some garden furniture and organic tomatoes. The other thing I’ve gained is some interesting new community contacts.

5.       Switch broadband – overseas there is a lot of competition for new clients with attractive rates for new customers. OK I don’t know about this one here but the basic idea is query what you are paying when there is a choice and probably with competition hotting up there could be some bargains to be had.

6.       My tip: Beware the sites that say they will find you best and cheapest service! The other day I was looking for a miniskip and entered my details in a site which said it would compare all bin hireage in my area. The skip they selected and said I could book online was  $165 but when I called a company direct I got what I wanted for $135.

7.       Get a flatmate. Other sites recommended a boarder to help share your costs – in my experience this can be hard to achieve but if you aren’t eating out any more its nice to ahve someone else who cooks the odd meal and breaks out the vacuum cleaner and can split on a dvd new release instead of a movie.

8.       Get walking! The global economic crisis has outshadowed the bloat of the You Deserve It culture that was creeping into the country and had snuck at least 3kgs on my frame. Any day now me and the kids are planning to walk to work. Any day. Some day soon. One of these days. ….

9.       Get to know your neighbours. Your family and your neighbours are your backstop in a crisis. The me me culture distances us from the real treasure of our human relationships. The TV program Dallas might have brought the Berlin Wall down but greed has also seen people evicted and lost

10.   Joanne Black at The Listener last year wrote a piece on the new frugality. I think she is on to something there – there is no shame in buying second hand, making do, and waiting before you buy. Now more than ever nobody is going to think you are a loser. In fact it’s cool.


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