Goodbye Washington Mutual

My grandparents told me many stories about what their lives were like during The Depression and how lucky my siblings and I were not to have to worry about living through such a time. I always enjoyed listening to their stories about their childhood and can remember being really impressed at how they overcame hardship.

Sometimes I wondered what it was like to live like that. It piqued my curiosity, but it would be an exaggeration to say that I really wanted to find out. It is like so many other questions people ask themselves, “what would I do if I witnessed a bank robbery. Would I try and be the hero or would I freeze?”

Most of the time the honest answer is that you do not want to know. On the anniversary of 9-11 a friend looked at me and said that he was confident that we would have fought the hijackers. I think that I would have. If my family was threatened I haven’t any doubt that I would hesitate to maim, disable and or kill the person(s) who were doing it. But I never want to find out. I am ok not knowing the answer.

So it was with much anger that I read about Washington Mutual.

“NEW YORK ( — JPMorgan Chase acquired the banking assets of Washington Mutual late Thursday after the troubled thrift was seized by federal regulators, marking the biggest bank failure in the nation’s history and the latest stunning twist in the ongoing credit crisis.

Under the deal, JPMorgan Chase will acquire all the banking operations of WaMu, including $307 billion in assets and $188 billion in deposits.

In exchange, JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) will pay approximately $1.9 billion to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Separately, JPMorgan announced plans to raise $8 billion in additional capital through the sale of stock as part of the deal.”

Until this afternoon Wamu was my bank, not to mention that I had their stock in my retirement savings. It wasn’t a huge investment, but that is not the point. Part of the reason that I held their shares was that because I believed that it was a safe investment that would help me maintain a diversified portfolio.

Look, I am 39 years-old and have young children, I am not planning on retiring anytime soon. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel like some really stupid people robbed me of my hard earned cash.

As I watch these institutions crumble around me, as I listen to commentators discuss how the government is going to bail us all out, and try to save the country from economic ruin I just shake my head.

I understand risk. By nature I am a gambler. I have always been willing to take risks on various enterprises. Sometimes I roll snake eyes and have to make do, but other times I win. Still, I don’t gamble on everything. There are somethings that I am very conservative about. There are areas in which I don’t screw around. That is why I didn’t pull all my eggs in one basket.

But what ticks me off more than anything else about all of this is knowing how there are executives who failed miserably but are receiving incredibly large sums of money for their failure. There are compensation packages that pay far too much to people who screwed others.

Life isn’t fair and it never will be. But that doesn’t make it any less bitter to lose the money. It doesn’t ease the sting of knowing how all of my hard work was for nothing.

I am bitter and angry. I’ll recover. I’ll find a way to get back on my feet. I always do. I’ll find a way to make it all work because I do. But I won’t forget this.

Like I said, I have been curious what life was like during The Depression, but I never wanted to know. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect to be living on the street. I am not concerned about being able to feed my children, but it is going to be rough around the Shack for a while.

It is one thing to accept that because I did something. It is one thing to accept because of the choices I made, it is quite another to be forced to because some jackasses couldn’t pull their heads out of their collective asses long enough to see that they were driving the bus off the cliff.

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