On the surface, it appears that the balloon that is our service-based economy has been popped, and all of the air has rushed out, leaving an empty shell and a nation sitting on the edge of panic. Before an epidemic of high blood pressure and ulcers sets in, it’s important to remember that many similar events have happened within most of our lifetimes. Remember when a certain president “Did not have sexual relations with that woman”? That particular scandal caused a buzz that triggered a stock market meltdown. Also, many of us who are getting a bit long in the tooth can remember sitting in lines at gas stations thirty years ago during a so-called energy crisis. My point is that the citizens of the United States have survived a myriad of gloomy events, but, to date, the straw has yet to break the camel’s back. With a little faith and cooperation, there will be yet another return to better times, but it is important to remember that it’s not coming next week, next month, or next year. Be patient!
A good place to practice this patience is with our retirement accounts. Millions of people have lost thousands of dollars in the stock market. Me? Yes, my 401K is about $40,000 lighter than it was a year ago, and I’m tempted to switch the little bit that’s left into a safer fund, but that doesn’t solve the problem at hand: How am I going to get that money back? Suze Ormann and others have stated that staying the course is the best option. Why? At the very worst the American worker is purchasing stocks and mutual funds at a discount rate, and there is plenty of potential for reaping the benefits in the future. It’s definitely a good idea to continue buying savings bonds and investing in CDs; having safe investments to override the possible losses of riskier ones is good insurance for the future. However, if you believe in our great nation, you also believe that it will bounce back, and bailing out of all risk-taking ventures is a short-term patch for a long-term goal.
It’a also important to remember that everybody is suffering through hard times. It’s not just you or me or the neighbor. Don’t be afraid to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. One positive offshoot of the financial crisis is the falling gas prices. so take advantage of this and go on a trip. Christmas is upon us, and there is no reason not to celebrate the holiday season as in years past. Our economy is fueled by spending. The present situation is like a train that is stalled in a tunnel, and if everybody hoards their money, none of us will ever see the light at the end. That vacation will help breathe life back into the all-important tourist trade, and Christmas gifts purchased at the local mall may help to keep a friend or neighbor in a job until the economy gets back on the right track.
In the past, people have failed to see that everything is about cooperation, and with this in mind, all facets of our economy are interrelated. IRAs and 401Ks tend to make one see that failure on any level can come back and bite us all. For example, yes, the demise of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler will have an affect on a lot of wallets, not just those of the auto workers and company CEOs. In order to resurrect our nation, a key step is to first support it and recognize the fact that if 15% of us fail, we’re all going to suffer for it. A person with an ’06 car with 20,000 miles has no reason to immediately run out and buy a new Ford, but this is all about the future. Keep in mind that by investing in America you are investing in yourself. The handwriting is all over the wall! While we’re on the topic, anyone who isn’t in the market for a car might consider investing $1000 in General Motors (et al) stock. It may sound crazy at the moment, but the risk is minimal at four bucks a share, and the potential rewards are great. Two-hundred thirty years ago, our founding fathers invested in America, and the returns have went beyond their wildest imaginings. Now it’s our turn.
Thus, here is my one-and-only piece of advice: Live, baby, live! Crawling under a self-imposed rock or living in a shell because of a faltering economy really serves no purpose. Hoarding money and looking out for number one were problematic during the depression era, and self-serving ideals would have an even greater negative impact today. It’s true that I’m #1 in my book, as you are in yours, but we’re all invested in the success of auto workers, home owners, children, and senior citizens from coast-to-coast. Consider this a plea: my future and livelihood depend on YOU, and I’m asking for your help. Likewise, it’s my civic duty to do the same. Getting out of this present mess will require a team effort, and a renewed belief in every citizen from the President on down is the only answer. With a little faith, cooperation, and patriotism, we will all come out of this a little wiser and better off than before.