Christmas 2009 may just go down in history as being one of the bleakest holiday seasons suffered by the lower and middle class citizens of the United States, due to the deep financial woes that continue to plague the majority of us. With regard to the upper class, those households that are reporting more than $250,000 in income, the outlook appears a bit brighter. According to a survey reported in the middle of October, 2009, spending on luxury items in the third quarter has actually increased by 29%. To those who are close to losing their homes and many who have lost their jobs and who are finding it hard to feed their families, this seems almost unbelievable.
Although the current administration has earmarked bailout money to assist homeowners struggling to keep their homes by helping them refinance their current mortgages or enabling them to walk away from their homes without owing a default sum, the red tape is making it difficult to help all those who are in dire straits. What this means is that many families are finding themselves close to having to leave the homes they have spent many happy past Christmases in. This can lead to demoralization and a dread for the holidays, instead of the cheerful anticipation that the holidays usually bring.
Many banks are failing. Although the FDIC has increased its level of insurance on all deposits through the year 2013 to $250,000, bank closures have a much broader impact on banking practices in general. Financial institutions, afraid of making the same lending mistakes as before, have pulled back on the credit allowances that were so freely given in the past. No longer can you get a loan with an average credit score. Getting a credit card with a decent credit limit and interest rate is almost unheard of now. Many shoppers in years past depended on credit cards to make Christmas purchases, secure in the knowledge that come the first of the year, they could begin to pay back the amount charged at a decent interest rate. Those days are over.
According to September, 2009 figures, average unemployment rates in the United States are hovering around the 10% mark, the highest they’ve been in decades. Mass layoffs are a daily occurrence. Soldiers returning from the war in the Middle East and Afghanistan are facing the same dire unemployment situation as everyone else, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. No jobs means an overtaxed unemployment benefits system. Even with an extension of unemployment benefits, workers are still getting less than they would if working at a steady job. With a decrease in household money coming in, something has to give, and unfortunately, it is the extras like holiday decorations, food, and gift giving.
High Costs of Goods.
The consumer price index, the average price of consumer goods and products, continues to rise, meaning it is going to cost us more to purchase Christmas items this year than in Christmases past. Higher prices mean fewer goodies on the table and under the tree. Although it is important for us to remember that the season isn’t just about getting and giving gifts, that is an integral part of Christmas, and not being able to feel the same satisfaction of giving due to the fact that money is tight, does put an extra burden on parents especially.
Anxiety and Depression.
Whenever any major change occurs in a person’s life, it can affect their mental state. Losing a home through foreclosure, a car through repossession, or a job because of downsizing, can throw a person into an emotional tailspin. Unfortunately, when this occurs at the holidays, it causes the perfect storm for a complete and sometimes major meltdown. If just one member of the family has the blues for Christmas, it can bring the whole family down.
This year is going to be tough for a majority of Americans faced with more disappointment than they’ve ever had to plough through before. A word of encouragement is in order. Nothing lasts forever. Although this Christmas may be one of the poorest you experience thus far, it is only one Christmas. Things always turn around and by this time next year, with divine blessing, everyone will have a little more to cheer about. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for all of us. Sometimes we have to experience the bad moments in life to allow us to appreciate the better moments that much more.