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Resisting a Financial Panic

Howard Scott |

Since the end of summer, times have been getting tough. It seems like the financial establishment is collapsing from within. In Washington, our current leaders are running around plugging holes in dikes, only to see new holes appear a few feet away.
Government spending is going to keep growing exponentially, with no talk of fixing the deficit. Capital is disappearing before our eyes. Home values are sinking. If inflation heats up, we’ll be caught between a devalued dollar and diminishing credit. Never in our lifetimes have we seen an economic tsunami so scary. What should we do?
For starters, realize that worrying isn’t the answer. Worry does nothing to solve the problem; in fact, it often exacerbates the problem. It causes panic, and panic causes people to do foolish things.
Work on managing your anxiety. Get out and exercise. If you don’t exercise, take a walk. Control your eating habits. People often binge out of frustration, seeking solace in food. Ask yourself if you’re eating out of hunger, or out of anxiety or boredom.
Go outside at night and look at the moon. What does the same moon look like in another part of the world? How many years has the moon looked down on the nation? A philosophical viewpoint can help put things in perspective.
Keep in mind that your concerns are not grounded in the immediate. The cupboard is not yet bare. You have enough money for rent. The children are still in school. Your worries are based on a vague idea of the future — your desire to retire comfortably, leave an inheritance or take a vacation.
Who knows what will happen in the future, and why worry about it? President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Don’t give in; don’t let fear of the future kill your happiness today. Fear is a weak person’s excuse.
Plus, you’re still bringing in the bacon — even if the bacon isn’t as fatty as it once was. As long as you are willing and able to work, you’ll manage. If the business doesn’t survive, you can start another. Or you can go to work for another operator — there’s no disgrace, and they will be happy to have you.
Work is what we do when we’re able and healthy. But if you’re thinking about retirement, you might have to work a few more years in the current economy. That isn’t a tragedy; work will keep you tough.
Take pleasure in the little things. The nod of a nice neighbor in the supermarket. A child’s innocent comment, like the one I heard the other day: “Mr. Scott, you look like my grandfather — who’s dead.” The e-mail that delivers a joke about putting up with the in-laws. Life is full of pleasurable little moments.
Come up with a motto. One of my friends always says, “Live in the moment;” it keeps him from dwelling on the past or future. Another says, “This, too, shall pass.” With these words, he is comforted that no phenomenon is permanent. Still another reiterates a Yiddish expression, “Menchen trach und Got laugt,” or “Men plan, God laughs.” That’s her way of seeing the humor in every situation.
My mantra is, “We’re all in this together.” It cheers me to know that everyone is in the same spot. All boats rise or fall with the tide, and I’m just another boat — I’ll bob in the current and eventually step onto dry land, wipe the mud off and get on with life.
Get some perspective. Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel, The Road, is a depiction of what life might be like in the future, after an apocalyptic event has occurred. A boy and his father roam the cold landscape, searching for food and avoiding various gangs of marauding survivalists. “Are they the good guys?” the son asks repeatedly. “I don’t know,” the father answers.
Today’s world bears no resemblance to the one in the novel. We’re only experiencing a desperate economic downturn whose depth is unknown. Hopefully, this advice will help you cope with it.
 

About the author

Howard Scott

H&R Block

Industry Writer, Drycleaning Consultant, and H&R Block Tax Preparer

Howard Scott is a longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant, and an H&R Block tax preparer specializing in small businesses. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359.

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