Finding happiness amid the, ahem, misery

Published 10:58 am Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Two maxed-out credit cards and a checking account with only $632. That was all.

There was nothing Sabrina could do but plop onto her designer couch and cry.

Christmas was a week away and Sabrina didn’t have enough money to buy a gift for her husband Beckett. How their fortunes had reversed!

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Unable to keep up with their house payments after their no-money-down, interest-only, balloon mortgage reset, the two were on track to lose their 5,500-square-foot dream home.

What’s worse, as the housing bubble burst and a massive correction began rippling through the world’s economies, Sabrina, a mortgage broker, was suddenly out of work.

With the young couple’s credit rating in the tank, it would be impossible for Sabrina to borrow more to buy the gift she wanted to get for Beckett: hair implants! How she detested his male-pattern baldness!

Beckett, meanwhile, was desperate to scrape $20,000 together to buy Sabrina a Christmas gift: saline implants. It annoyed him that his wife was so skinny. He dreamed of sending her to the same surgeon who had worked on Pamela Anderson.

Sure, Beckett still had his job as an investment manager at a large New York bank. Despite several risky investments he’d made that lost his bank millions, he was still employed for the moment. But with his giant annual bonus in jeopardy, how would he pay for Sabrina’s gift?

For the first time in their young married life, Sabrina and Beckett were unable to spend freely.

“It’s not fair!” said Sabrina, sobbing.

And it wasn’t fair. How could the government bail out dozens of financial firms when so many young American couples — who had overextended t hemselves through no fault of their own — were left to suffer?

But then Sabrina got an idea. Maybe there was something she could do herself to resolve her problem. Maybe if she traded in her Bentley for a Lexus she could reduce her high lease payments. With the monthly savings she could pay for Beckett’s hair job on the installment plan!

While Beckett was out of town for the week — his bank sent him to a luxury spa to discuss its financial crisis — Sabrina visited the Lexus dealer. Giving up her Bentley was one of the hardest decisions she ever made, but she did it!

Beckett was unusually happy when he returned on Christmas Eve. Much to his surprise, Sabrina was in the living room decorating the tree (her personal assistant used to do such things!). She hugged Beckett. She told him how she sacrificed to buy him his gift.

Beckett began laughing uncontrollably.

“What is so funny?” said Sabrina.

“You didn’t need to get rid of the Bentley,” he said. “The government bailed out my bank last week. We were bleeding so badly, the government had no choice but to inject billions to keep us from further damaging the economy. My bonus was half as big this year, but I got one after all!”

“Oh, Beckett!” said Sabrina.

“Better yet,” continued Beckett, “if some in Congress have their way, the government might get most generous in bailing out distressed homeowners like us. If we play our cards right, our mortgage lender might be forced to give us much more favorable terms — he might even be forced to eat thousands in equity we never really did have!”

“It’s not our fault the housing bubble burst!” said Sabrina.

Suddenly, Sabrina noticed something different about her husband’s male-pattern baldness: It was gone!

“What happened to your hair?” she said.

“After I enjoyed myself at the luxury spa, I flew to Beverly Hills to have my hair implants done,” he said. “I even have enough left over to get you the saline implants that will make you look like Pamela Anderson!”

Sabrina and Beckett embraced. They laughed at all the unnecessary trouble Sabrina had gone through the previous week.

It was a Merry Christmas after all.