What the Financial Crisis Means For

Sex
Will the financial crisis spark a baby boom? It just might. According to the Telegraph, sales of sex toys, pregnancy tests, maternity clothes, and baby equipment are soaring. But that’s not the only place sex may have increased. Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan psychotherapist, has seen a threefold increase in the number of Wall Street workers who seek help for the sex addictions. Apparently, the economic crisis has sparked “maladaptive coping mechanisms” among bankers, according to Jodi Conway, a sex addiction therapist in New Jersey.

The Lipstick Index
The Lipstick Indicator is an economic theory  proposed by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estée Lauder Companies, that a direct relation exists between rising sales in tubes of lipstick and a falling financial market—the worse the economy, the more women indulge in small purchases, like $10 tubes of lipstick. Although the theory does not seem to be holding true for lipstick thus far (nude lips are in!), hosiery seems to be taking its place. Overall hosiery sales rose 2.3% this year, with Spanx seeing a 77% increase in sales compared to last year.

Beer
Anheuser Busch (now Anheuser-Busch InBev) seems to have an inverse relationship with the Dow.

Bud v. Dow Jones

Its stock price had been soaring since May of this year. It seems people turn to alcohol, namely cheap alcohol, during tough times. Though what may be great for Bud may not bode well for the smaller craft brewers who price at a premium.

College Endowments
The Ivy League isn’t immune to the financial crisis. Since many college endowments are invested in alternative asset classes, which have lost value, they’re seeing unprecedented losses. Many college and university endowments are projected to have decreased by 30% this fiscal year. For Harvard, that may mean an $11 billion drop.

That may mean decrease in financial aid. Especially because lenders can no longer sell their securitized loans in the secondary market to get new money to offer new student loans. Despite  Congress’ Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008, which authorizes the Education Department to buy federal student loans from education lenders for the 08-09 and 09-10 school years, it seems financial aid may fall short . For everywhere except Princeton, that is, who just announced it would meet the increased demand of $3-4 million in financial aid requests.

Iceland
Looking for a good holiday or spring trip. Look to Iceland! Once an economic success story, this small country is now, well, bankrupt. If you were attune to Fannie and Freddie and the big Wall Street break-up, you may have missed Iceland’s fall. Its three largest banks were oversized and highly leveraged, and seemed ready for collapse in early October. Iceland’s currency, the krona, is essentially valueless, and foreign trade has come to a halt. Luckily, the IMF and its Nordic neighbors have stepped in, lending $2.1 billion and $2.5 billion respectively to help the country recover. The one upside? Tourism! Airfare search engines report a 400% increase in Iceland flight searches. Round trip flights from New York are at a record low of about $450.

Love and Marriage
Breaking up is hard to do, especially in this economy. While it may be too early to know the impact of the crisis on divorce rates, it appears divorces may have slowed down since the financial crisis. That’s because despite most arguments being over financial issues, it may just be too expensive to pay the legal fees of a divorce and support two households. In fact, during the Great Depression, divorce rates dropped sharply, though they picked back up immediately thereafter.

Spam. A lot!
It looks like meat, it tastes like meat, but it’s a far cheaper substitute for meat. It’s spam! And it’s booming. Though Hormel's share price has fallen with the overall market, Spam sales are soaring as the economic crisis leaves consumers strapped for cash. Interestingly enough, Spam, the “crazy tasty” mix of ham, pork, sugar, salt, potato starch and a sodium nitrite, was invented during the Great Depression and became a staple for Allied troops overseas in the 40s. Now it, along with value-oriented Kraft products, and good old fashioned rice and beans, are a staple for US households.

Recycling
The plunge in commodity prices has taken a toll on recyclers. In fact, the whole movement may come to a halt as oil and metal commodity prices fall. Used newspaper, used cardboard, and scrap metal prices have also seen a drop, partially due to dwindling home construction and slower automobile production. Some recyclers are closing their doors, and in the UK entire city councils are abandoning their recycling efforts, as they are just not economically feasible anymore.

Holiday Parties
Just as you suspected, companies are cutting back on their holiday galas. ABC News announced the cancellation of its annual celebration. American Express did the same and then some – announcing the cancellation of 2009’s celebration as well.

But what about the caterers? 56% of party planners say that their corporate holiday party numbers will be off more than 10% this year compared to last.  They’re scrambling to come up with innovative more somber types of gatherings like luncheons, pot-lucks, and receptions rather than galas, caviar, and glam.

Car Sales
The economic crisis is not detrimental to all - the used car business is flourishing! Specifically, used car companies that offer buy-here/pay-here financing for lower credit individuals who have been locked out of traditional lending. But if used it’s your thing, it may still be the time to buy new. That’s because even steady growth car makers like Honda and Toyota have seen 24% and 32% declines, respectively. Car dealers are desperate to get rid of inventory and are offering invoice and below invoice prices. A word of advice - look for dealers that have a lot of inventory, because they’ll likely offer the best deals. And buy American, if you know what’s good for our economy.

Sports
The A’s are cutting ticket prices for 2009 by an average of 5 percent. The Giants are lowering the price of a couple thousand of the cheaper season tickets from $10 per game to $8. The Red Sox are freezing the 2009 ticket prices for the first time since 1995. But not all franchises are sensitive to their fan’s economic troubles. The Yankees and the Mets need to recoup the cost of their new stadiums which cost $1.3 billion and $800 million respectively. How to do so in an economic crisis? Easy – raise prices. Yankees tickets are up $75-$80, with suites between $600,000 to $850,000 which are nearly sold out. The Mets managed suites, ranging from $250,000 to $500,000, managed to sell out just before the storm hit in October.

Baseball Free Agents
Speaking of baseball, what about the athletes? You’d think that in our current state, athletes would be offered less money in their contracts, right? On the contrary. We just saw the largest offer in baseball history, $140 million, by the Yankees to CC Sabathia, the left-handed free-agent. But some general managers are hesitant to follow suit, as they fear the market for premier players will collapse. Though the MLB generated $6.5 billion in revenues last season, this year may be different, as it relies on corporate sponsors and fan’s ticket sales, both of which are likely to decline this season.

Psychics
“There is no rhyme or reason to the way the market is trading,” says a personal trader. “When conditions are this volatile, consulting a psychic can be as good a strategy as any other.”

Psychics, astrologers, palm readers, and “professional advice-givers” say business is booming as clients come to them seeking financial guidance. Clients will typically pay $75 to $1000 for an hour’s worth of insight!

NASCAR
No sport has seen as detrimental an effect of the economic crisis as NASCAR. From ticket sales, to souvenir sales, to team sponsorship from large companies – auto-racing has been hit hard. That’s because an average NASCAR team relies upon corporate sponsors for 80% of its budget. That’s four times the percentage of an NFL team’s budget. And many of those corporate sponsors, including the Big Three (GM spent $578M in sports advertising in 2007, including NASCAR) are facing problems themselves. As a result, some NASCAR teams, including Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., have merged in an attempt to attract corporate sponsors.

Personal Maintenance
As disposable income wanes, gym memberships and plastic surgery follow suit. 53% of plastic surgeons of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery say business has “slowed.” Gym memberships are also down. Since 2007, gym memberships have been on the decline for the first time in a decade, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

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