I know money is a big ego issue with me. Not denying it.

My son turns 16 in the fall. Not only can't I afford to get him a car, I can't afford to add him to our insurance so he can drive our cars. I can't afford to send my kids to camp, where many of their peers go. I won't be able to pay the tuition for my kids to go to college (as both mine and Mrs. Hold's parents paid for ours).

I am living the failure of the American Dream. I have a lower standard of living than my parents. And because they have made many poor investments in recent years, I do not receive current help or have an expectation of a substantial inheritance. Downward mobility is NOT fun. I know I have not been laid off (yet) or lost my house or had to declare bankruptcy, but living less well than your parents is not that far psychologically from living less well than you yourself were once able to do.

My parents provided me with a solid foundation for career success. And I squandered it through laziness and poor choices. I deserve whatever punishment I choose to mete out to myself for those errors. And I choose to punish myself in full measure.

When you can see it coming, duck!