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Column: Too busy living to worry about interest rates
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Column: Too busy living to worry about interest rates

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When the Long Island Ferry pulled up to the dock in Bridgeport, Connecticut that June morning in 1981, I had no idea that unemployment was at a historically high level.

I had no way of knowing that the country was about to descend into the worst recession since the 1930s Depression.

I was there to meet a girl.

I had a ring in my pocket and the future looked pretty good to me.

She said “yes” and we set a wedding date for the next fall, when the unemployment rate neared 11 percent, inflation spiraled out of control and the prime interest rate topped out at 21.5 percent.

You wouldn’t know that by looking at the wedding photos today.

And apparently, it got worse.

After a wave of bank deregulation by the new president — Ronald Reagan — more than 40 banks failed.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve’s contradictory monetary policy — raising and lowering interest rates to combat inflation and spur hiring — wasn’t working, and Reagan’s approval rating fell to 35 percent.

I never noticed.

I had a good job and I had a girl on my arm.

Over the next couple months after our honeymoon, the recession peaked.

I told my wife this week that we had timed the beginning of our days together to one of the worst economic periods in the history of the country.

“Do you remember things being that bad?” I asked.

“I remember you kept us on a tight budget,” she said.

I do remember my wife being unable to get a job, and me a credit card.

I remember my best friend, who was married a couple of years before me, bought a house, despite paying an interest rate of 18 percent.

I didn’t know what that meant either, but I soon would.

It turned out the banking industry continued to struggle for a few years after the recession ended in 1982.

The nation’s seventh largest bank failed, but Congress rushed to its aid with a $4.5 billion rescue package. I guess some things never change.

I do remember our first meeting with a banker ending with my wife in tears and me wondering how I would ever save enough money for a down payment, as I learned about escrow payments, closing costs and taxes.

We put down a down payment — thanks to my parents — in the summer of 1985, and signed off on a mortgage rate of 12.5 percent.

We had no way of knowing loan sharks traditionally don’t charge that much.

Maybe we all just worry too much about money.

When I was getting ready to make the offer on what would be my last house, the one I live in now in Queensbury, I remember telling my father it was a little more than I thought I could afford.

My dad told me not to worry, that things have a way of working out.

It worked out.

Years later, another recession came along that was much worse, and that’s what we all fear again.

After working a lifetime, you now have something to lose.

That wasn’t the case in 1982.

Maybe we were happier not knowing.

Or maybe what really made us happy had nothing to do with the economy.

Ken Tingley is editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingley@poststar.com.

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Ken Tingley first introduced Post-Star readers to young Greta Thunberg last December as a young activist for climate change. Thunberg continues to walk the walk with her own carbon footprint. Instead of flying to a conference in NY, she is crossing the Atlantic by boat.

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