Trick or treat

The day Washington Mutual was taken over by the feds and sold to JPMorgan Chase, this arrived in my mailbox: “You’ve earned this offer for a Visa Platinum credit card with no annual fee. Just complete and return the form below to request your Visa Platinum card. Credit line up to $30,000 and No Annual Fee.”

Sounds good to me. Who wants to give me the 30 grand? WaMu.

That’s a lot of money to dangle in front of a guy who hasn’t had a steady job since January.

Particularly in this economy. When I left the Sun-Times, I rolled over my 401(k) into an existing IRA. Well, thanks to the market’s determined nosedive, I might as well have rolled it up and set it on fire. It’s gone. The stocks are still there, sure, but their value has shriveled to the point that — on paper, at least — the 401(k) is gone. For those who used to wonder what the (k) stands for, now we know. Kablooey.

But gone forever? Not likely. Even though every day’s floor seems to be the next day’s ceiling, and today’s buying opportunity is tomorrow’s bye-bye opportunity, most of the stocks are in solid companies that aren’t going away. The longer I can leave the IRA alone, the more likely I am to see it recover. If I have to dip into it next year — which I was thinking of doing — I may take a bath.

And I’m one of the lucky ones: I have an IRA, I have a house, I have no credit card debt and thanks to my wife, I have health insurance. I could walk down Michigan Avenue and find plenty of people in worse shape.

Banks are in hot water these days for sitting on the bailout money — I mean rescue money — instead of lending it. Well, here’s a bank that wants to lend me money. Wouldn’t I just be doing my bit for the economy by taking the $30,000? It’s tempting. I’d be doing good and rolling in dough. And then rolling in debt.

But I’m just not that altruistic, and besides, sooner or later I’d probably have to pay it back. So I’m afraid WaMu — or JPMorgan Chase — will have to shop the 30 grand somewhere else. Sorry, guys.

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