Vicki Robin

Our personal GDP and our personal new economy

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2009 at 3:17 PM

Fourteen percent of the US Labor Force is unemployed or underemployed – perhaps more if you include not only people out of work and looking for work but those who have given up and hunkering down somewhere until the storm blows over.

This tide of misfortune is rising high enough that many who thought they were secure are worried. (As I’ll say later, I was among the worried myself.)

In March, the trough of the decline in the Dow, the market had lost over 50% of value. (Thankfully I followed our advice and had little exposure. Whew!)

But are these condistions adding up to a fire-sale on Your Money or Your Life? Are creative frugality and smart shopping and reassessment of life and work and opportunities on the rise?

Yes. And No. Yes the undated Your Money or Your Life sailed up the charts in January and February but now it’s settled into its persistent, comfortable plateau in the top 2000 on Amazon.  The world is not beating a path to my door, despite the predictions and assumptions of my friends.

An old friend who is a therapist visited last week and helped me understand why. Her practice is up. People are stressed, tense and worried and for some of those their situation cracks their coping strategies enough to seek help. But none of them is treating their crisis as an opportunity.  Individuals are falling off the edge, but the story of American prosperity and prospects has not changed. We still believe the good old days will be the good new days sometime soon. We look to Obama and team to fix it. We still believe we can wring the good life out of the economy, once it’s out of bed and back to life. Myfriend’s clients are in fear and looking to fix themselves or for a quick fix.

Of course the economic climate will change. The clouds will lift. But the landscapte may be different. Creativity and curiosity will serve us better than fear and fixing.

The old mentality says… get out that crystal ball, subscribe to the right market newsletter, read the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the tea leaves. Predict where the next month gusher will be and get over there with your buckets. Of course. That’s a good element of your reassessment.

The old mentality says… ride it out and then get back out there when the dust settles and get one of those new economy jobs.

The old mentality says… look for a quick fix, that hopefully isn’t a quack fix.

The new mentality says… how can I think differently about my whole life situation so that I can have enough of everything I need from a range of strategies, one of which is employment, another of which is income from savings, another of which is barter, another of which is turning a hobby into a trade, another of which is smarter shopping so I spend 20% less for the same amount of stuff, another of which is neighborliness and tool sharing, another of which is repairing and restoring rather than acquiring, another of which is free entertainment (which is EVERYWHERE in the summer), another of which is…

My duh-uh discovery of the month as I do this reevaluation for myself (see prior posts where I talk about my personal financial audit when my personal GDP heartbeat started to go wild) is … Ladies and Gentlemen be prepared to be underwhelmed… that I’m going to start drawing on my Social Security. I’m 64. If I wait my check won’t get THAT much bigger.

Strange to say, though, I would not have thought of it had I not hit my own financial speed bump. I felt the fear rising in me as it has in so many people, the desperate search for how to manage the shortfall. Like so many I imagined jobs that I knew would diminish my sense of well being.  But then I took my own advice, followed my own program and got creative. Social Security is only a piece of my new economy. There’s more. And I’ll be telling you about that for months to come.

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