THE BLOG

How To Live on $0 A Day: The 14 Stages Of Financial Meltdown

08/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

2009-07-30-TheScream.jpg

Just like every tragedy in life, there is a process that every individual/major corporation/government goes through when experiencing financial loss for the first time. Because of the trauma and emotional complexity of going broke, the recovery process is more prolonged than your run of the mill disaster like death or divorce.

Based on my personal experience and intensive study, I've outlined the stages and given examples of common corresponding emotions and reactions. Invariably, each stage must be experienced fully by all three sectors in order for all of us to move on and lead happy, fulfilling lives.

1) Denial:
You cope by telling yourself/shareholders/nation that everything will be fine because this can't be happening to an award winning copywriter and cardmember since 1993/a multinational corporation/America.

2) Shock: This period is characterized by numbness and an inability to act. A typical reaction is to watch reality TV for hours on end/go on corporate retreats/take a holiday break.

3) Denial: You help stimulate the economy by buying a $1,600 Chloe bag/an $80,000 commode for your office suite/billions of dollars in toxic assets.

4) Bargaining: Once you realize you can't meet your monthly minimum payments, a desperate search for funds commences. New credit lines are opened. Begging parents/The Federal Reserve/Nancy Pelosi for help can be expected during this stage.

5) Denial: Now that relief is in sight, old habits resume. You tell yourself that there will never be a full recovery unless you purchase a periwinkle blue cashmere sweater/Gulfstream jet/more toxic assets.

6) Fear: It finally hits you that your debt is mounting and productivity is down. Dark thoughts, such as "what if I never work again and have to live in the street?"/"What if I don't get my 46 million dollar bonus?"/"what if I don't get re-elected" may torment you.

7) Denial: You're convinced that with a little creative reshuffling you won't have to give up your previous way of life. You stock up on necessities such as ramen/lobbyists/pork.

8) Isolation: You avoid human interaction. You don't answer your phone, knowing it's from a phone bank in Asia/a bank in Asia/the Asian government, calling in your debt.

9) Denial: You site examples such as "I have a job interview next week"/"the market is stabilized"/"fewer people are googling economic recession" as proof that things are on the upswing.

10) Anger: At this point you'll become enraged at the unfairness of it all. You'll lash out and try to assign blame for your loss. In this volatile and muddled state, rage is commonly deflected into secondary but highly emotional issues like Jon and Kate/executive compensation caps/the opposition party's sex life.

11) Denial: You issue facebook updates/profit reports/press releases that imply things are getting better.

At this point, while individuals move on to the final stages, Wall Street and the government repeat stages 1-11. We can only hope they catch up to complete the following stages of the recovery process soon.

12) Sorrow: A period of mourning the loss of your financial security. You're finally able to cry over the possibility of never seeing your pension plan, doctor, and complete protein again.

13) Reconciliation: You begin to accept the fact that your credit rating and job opportunities are gone forever (or seven years, whichever comes first), and that your dreams of living like a pasha may be unattainable. You might consider a more ascetic, spiritual path. Some learn new skills like doing their own pedicures, learning Chinese and if you're an individual, theft (the other two branches have already mastered that one).

14) Recovery: You're finally ready to let go of your past way of life and move on to the next phase. Some relocate to a place where there's still hope of living the American dream (best bets are Latvia and Slovenia). Some move in with their parents or into a homeless shelter. Others find free room and board in prison.