I generally don’t like to watch many of the financial news networks. For my tastes, they tend to focus a bit too much on the exciting short play and not quite enough on prudent long term personal financial issues. But late last week I couldn’t help but overhear a commentator (who’s name I unfortunately missed – I’d like to write him a fan letter) say that the current market is being fueled by fear, not facts. Bravo!
Let’s look at a non-financial example of how this works. Think of some of the tragic injuries and deaths associated with fires. A building is burning and instead of everyone making a calm exit, they rush toward the door, trample other people, block the door, and people die needlessly. So it’s not the fire that kills people, it’s the fearful actions of people at the scene of the fire. The fire is dangerous and people shouldn’t just sit on their hands and see what happens if they don’t take action, nor should they take that particular moment to study fire safety or look for where the fire started and scold the people who caused it. But actions guided only by fear will only make the situation worse.
Is the current economic situation in this country bad? Of course it is! And it was brought about by big businesses that made decisions they could see were unwise. Along the way many consumers contributed to the problem. Some were uninformed about the risky deals they made, others were greedy. So what do we do now to keep from getting injured in the current panic?
(1) If you’ve got a good financial plan that has some “what if” safeguards built in, stay the course. That good financial plan will have diversified investments and savings you can access if you need them.
(2) If you don’t have a good financial plan, get one. Start today spending less than you make and putting some money in emergency savings.
(3) If you’re part of the problem, start making informed decisions about what you’re going to do to remedy your role in the turmoil. That may be financing your home to a traditional mortgage, selling your home if it was one you could never have afforded, getting out of your job that preys on those less informed than you, or giving a job to someone in your community that needs one.
(4) Don’t let Congress get away with pointing fingers instead of taking action. This isn’t an accusation against either party. The news out of Washington since the Treasury Secretary and SEC Chairman made their proposal is beyond disappointing – bipartisan as the disappointment is. What the mainstream news gave us was lots of our politicians saying ”I don’t know what we need, but that ain’t it!” There are many potential paths to take us forward and only one, which in fact may have many flaws, has been presented so far. At this juncture, we don’t need politicians; we need statesmen and public servants. Let your Congressional Representatives and Senators know that you expect bold and decisive leadership now, not mudslinging at those who come forward to make proposals.
And that goes for all of us. Now is the time to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. So don’t contribute to the problem by participating in a stampede. Calm down, take stock of where you are, and make some wise decisions.