Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Say Goodbye to 2009 - But Not the Lessons Learned

Some days I have deep and amazing things to say, today is not one of them.  What I will share is a few thoughts I have on the passing of 2009. 

2009 was a hard year.  While many stories are on the news feeds about slow retail sales, a repressed housing market, crazy celebrity antics and notable disasters around the globe I think the story which truly affects us all is the insecurity we feel about our immediate future.

I read somewhere lately that the country as a whole went from a .8% to a 4.4% personal savings rate.  They noted this was a larger percentage than had been seen in 20 years.  Even as income has decreased the savings has increased.  Experts are saying this is a sign people are worried and scared. (I have to interject here.  Really? They think that? Wow! It must be hard to become an expert and notice obvious things like that... Was that a tad sarcastic?)

As obvious as that statements is, people are worried about the future.  Don't kick me, but I think that is a good thing.  For the fist time in many years we see a culture which checks price tags, defers luxuries and scales back on excess.  Call me crazy, but I think that is a good thing.

I am sure some of you know someone who did Christmas even bigger this year and has no fear of things to come, well every rule needs an exception.  Overall we are seeing a little more care go into our expenses.  As a personal example, I am noticing the sales more often at the grocery store, I am repairing instead of replacing and I am buying things larger for the kids to grow into.

Don't get me wrong, I am not destitute.  I am just more aware, and that is a good thing.

I wonder how much of what we have previously seen as a "need" is now a want.  I also wonder what items we think of as luxuries which we previously felt we "deserved."

The experts on that article also noted the economy will be much slower to recover if people keep saving instead of spending.  Spending money creates jobs they say.  What about spending money we don't have?? Does that create jobs too?  For the last few years our culture has turned to the borrow now, pay (or don't pay) later model. I am encouraged to see more people buying with cash, saving before spending and being aware of needs versus wants.

Now 2009 is almost gone.  Contrary to what the news may be telling us, January 1 will not be vastly different from December 31.  (I admit it will cause me pause when I write my first check...) The economy will not be perfect, the housing market will not be robust, the retail industry will not be back on its game.  It will happen eventually, but not January 1.

I invite you to reflect on the changes you saw in 2009.  Look at the changes in the world and the changes in yourself.  When making your resolutions think about how you want to use this time to better your habits, improve yourself and become more financially secure.  I do hope 2010 will bring change, I just hope we remember the lessons we have learned in 2009.

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