While my heart isn't bleeding for the banks that just had their credit ratings lowered, I am concerned about the knock-on effect it might have on the rest of us.
A lady at my bank told me recently that the majority of their customers have less than $2,000 in their accounts at any one time. This was after I inquired why I hadn't been able to use my debit card to pay $2,670 for two return tickets to visit my son and his new baby in Fiji.
Apparently, the bank won't process a payment of over $2,000 without a special request, even if there are sufficient funds in the account. Because most of their clients don't have enough to cover it, there's an automatic rejection.
Before you start hating me and commenting how lucky I am to be able to afford to go to Fiji on vacation, please know that my husband and I went through an extremely lean patch two years ago where we moved in with friends to re-group financially.
After six months, we were able to get our own place again and save up to visit my first grandchild.
While I wasn't exactly "living in a cardboard box" homeless, I still felt the shame, humiliation and subsequent low self-esteem and depression that goes with being jobless, broke, and of no fixed abode.
Not that I am living in fear of that happening again, as I have been blessed with a fundamentally happy gene and a "glass half full" take on things. But I wonder if now would be a good time for us all to have a Plan B, in case everything goes south as some pundits are predicting.
Here's ours: my husband and I would go to Fiji (where my son lives) for four months on a visitor's visa, and rent a lovely beach-side place (with WiFi) for 200 US dollars a month.
Fijians don't mind if they lose their jobs because they can live off the land. There are plenty of papayas, coconuts and vegetables growing wild. And plenty of fish in the sea.
There's a downside to living in Fiji, but I can't think of it right now.
My husband's immediate family live in New Zealand, so we could go there for another three months. Again, on a visitor's visa.
Then, if we needed more breathing room, we could stay with my parents in England. Luckily for my daughter, she lives in a one-bedroom apartment.
The secret to preserving everyone's sanity is to make it sound like you're doing your parents a favor by staying with them, and put a time limit on it. Whoever you're staying with, do the cooking and wash the dishes as a thank you, and don't bemoan your predicament with a "woe is me" attitude. Then they might even be sad to see you get back on your feet. Doubtful, but you never know.
My heart goes out to couples with young children for whom the very thought (and for many, the reality) of homelessness must be almost unbearable. Few people can step up to the plate and invite a family to share their home. And it's not so easy or even affordable to take your kids out of school and travel the world.
The fact is, most of us don't have a financial cushion in the event of job loss and aren't blessed with wealthy parents or trust funds, so some kind of Plan B might be a sensible idea.
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