smart spending

Greed that gobbled 401(k) only napping

Jay MacDonaldHere's what worries me: Now that the economy is starting to fog a mirror again, the same greedy behaviors that gobbled my 401(k) whole will start the same sorry cycle all over again.

My recent brush with synchronicity did nothing to allay my fears.

Synchronicity? Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary defines it this way: "The coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality -- used especially in the psychology of C.G. Jung."

Now, I'm no Carl Jung (dream on), but I recognize synchronicity when it hits me in the face with a cream pie. And it was none other than this fanciful finger puppet of cosmic whimsy that cast its shadow over my Cheerios as I opened my morning paper.

First, I was snagged midbite by this headline: "Greed does have its saving graces." It topped an op-ed piece by George F. Will of The Washington Post.

The column begins with this disclaimer: "Greed, we are agreed, is bad." Followed by this disclaimer: "It also is strange."

“Hello, Harvard? You're fired! Please transfer my credits to Trump U.”

To save you the time and painful erudition, Mr. Will concludes: "When markets are allowed to operate, greed generates its own punishment." Seriously.

Oh my, I thought, here we go merrily legacy-building again.

Trumped-up avarice?

But what should my rolling eyes spot right beside Mr. Will's bullish bombast but a half-page ad for Trump University. Beneath The Donald's puckered squint was this challenge: "Don't think you can profit in this market? You can. And I'll show you how."

Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with this institution of higher learning, having no college-bound teens under my roof. But it at least has the patina of legitimacy, judging by the mascot on the logo: a Trumpish-looking lion up on its haunches, clawing after (presumably) money.

My first thought was, "I wonder if they have a football team? Or a theater department? Or an alumni fund?"

Reading further, it turns out that it's me -- your average deer-in-the-high-beams, Middle America former investor rather than my soon-to-be-penniless progeny -- that The Donald wishes to matriculate out of decrepitude.

Here's the midterm cram version: The Donald is so convinced that we're on the doorstep of "the greatest property liquidation in history" that he has assembled a team of "handpicked experts" to teach us how to "profit from the billion dollar bailouts."

Hello, Harvard? You're fired! Please transfer my credits to Trump U. (Trump U, get it? The guy kills!)

Here's the Trump U. syllabus straight from the ad.

Discover how to ...

  • Buy real estate from banks -- at up to 70% below market value!
  • Finance your deals creatively in today's tight credit market!
  • Buy the right properties at the right time -- and know when to sell!
  • Fetch a double frappuccino for my new apprentice, Joan Rivers!

OK, I made that last one up. But you get the idea.

Greed takes a (short) holiday

No ivory towers or ivy-draped halls of learning for Trump U The keys to my financial fortune are available locally, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at a fluorescent-lighted conference room at the Hyatt.

Sadly, the ad informs me in microscopic print that The Donald "will not appear at event," which I took to mean in the Criss Angel sense.

To return to this weird Will-Trump synchronicity, the jarring juxtaposition of these two "widely separated persons" with the exact same thought -- which essentially boils down to "Greed is good," Gordon Gekko's mantra from the '80s film "Wall Street" -- could not possibly be mere coincidence. Especially appearing as it did in my local newspaper, which is currently for sale, just waiting for an enterprising Trump U grad to snatch it up.

No, this portends of a jitter-inducing realization that, despite the horrors we've seen these past 10 months while peering behind the curtain of the great and powerful Oz that is our financial system, greed is not dead.

It's merely napping.

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