The economy is coming back for 2011 and so should you. You’ve survived these past two years of a devastating economy. Here are seven lessons we should have learned:
Life isn’t easy
Until recently, the U.S. economy soared to new heights and was faced only with short recessions. Something always “bailed out” our problems. The good bailouts were the technology revolution that created tremendous growth and productivity. The bad bailouts were the continued growth of credit that propelled the stock market and the housing market. Then reality set in when the credit bubble finally burst. Life wasn’t easy for the pioneers, or the immigrants, or the farmers in the Dust Bowl, or the factory workers of the industrial age. Life isn’t easy for any generation, but even our worst days are better than those of our forebears.
Lessons that cost the most
That’s a lesson that every generation has to learn for itself. Sadly, each generation hasn’t the patience to listen to their grandparents or parents tell their tales of woe. Now you will have your own stories to tell your grandchildren one day. And they won’t listen either. But once you’ve learned your lesson about the dangers of borrowing — as the Depression-era families did — you’ll be very careful and conservative about debt in the future.
Obvious answers usually wrong
Many people are taking away the wrong answers from the lessons they learned. For example, many younger investors have sworn off investing for the future, as they watched their workplace retirement accounts melt away. They missed the less obvious lesson that the shares were still there, but the money was lost. If they had held on to the shares — and continued to buy more — they would have recouped most of their losses and been poised to profit in the future. The “obvious lesson” of avoiding the market is the wrong one.
America has always come back
If you had lived through the Civil War or the Great Depression or World War II — or many challenges in our history — you might have been tempted to give up on the future of this country. Some did. And the few who left denied their children the benefits of a society that has created a better standard of living for more people than any other on earth.
That should be an inspiration to all of us to plan for the future. An education will be required — but not if it leaves you buried in debt that you cannot repay. Entrepreneurs will be rewarded with wealth because they were creative and took risks and because their success improves life for all of us. They create the jobs and the incomes. If you aren’t cut out to be an entrepreneur, join someone who is. Groupon has created more than 3,000 jobs in just the last year.
Less dependent on government
Plan for independence, because there is no way our country can take care of all of us as we age. Of course, America has always taken care of the neediest among us, and will always try to do so. But will we have the resources and the growth to provide for everyone? Or will we resort to debt and money printing? And how long will that work? These past few years should have taught us that government, under both political parties, can’t solve all our problems or fix all our economic suffering. It can only provide the framework for growth that comes from people at every level of our society.
It pays to be an optimist
As you look forward to your financial future, be optimistic no matter how tough times are at the moment. Optimism is positive and contagious, and it leads the way forward. Every day think of one thing that you are thankful for and one possibility that you could make happen in the future. It’s one step at a time for everyone, even though in hindsight it appears that some leapfrog over reality by getting lucky or winning a lottery.