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A time for reassessment

You will find them in the leafier, tonier suburbs of London, Frankfurt, New York, San Francisco, Chicago. Well-groomed, satisfied-looking men and women sipping cappuccinos, enjoying the afternoon sun on a working day. The new investment banking unemployed are rediscovering the pleasures of family life and ample leisure.

Of pain and worry there is little sign yet. A generation is being laid off into considerable initial comfort - generous payoffs and substantial equity in expensive houses to fall back on.

Early middle age is a good time to reassess the fraught and hectic years of endless working nights and weekends. The wealth those years brought, and the escape from them, provides a feel-good factor that persists for now. Thoughts turn to new careers in teaching, charity work or setting up that little local business.

When the destruction of wealth in the equity markets finally feeds through to housing, things may look a little darker.

Governments in the developed world seem to be gripped by a similar mood: the boom years may be over but the feeling of abundance lingers and the temptation is to spend easily, in the expectation that it can't be too much longer before the next boom begins.

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