A choice for 2009

January 01, 2009

A choice for '09: Suffer or seek an opportunity

It's understandable if many readers have but two words for the conclusion of 2008: Good riddance. For many, the holidays have been an all-too-grim reminder of an ever-tightening economic noose that has suffocated the extravagances of years past.

And although it offers some faint promise of a fresh start, 2009 - if one trusts those who read the tea leaves - likely will offer more of the same.

If so, two choices present themselves. We can live in discouragement over what we have lost and in fear for what we might yet lose. Or we can summon up the resolve for which Americans are famous, and view these times as an opportunity.

Over the past decade, financial managers became as ubiquitous as pizza delivery boys, and those managers were all the time urging us to "rebalance our portfolios." In retrospect, we were probably so busy rebalancing our portfolios that we forgot to rebalance our priorities.


We became overweight in the importance of stocks, mansions and high-end electronics and underweight in the importance of friends, family and community.

Perspective is always useful in hard times, and when we step back and view the world, many of our complaints turn to vapor. If our homes are warm, if there is food on the table, if there are loved ones in our company, we have much to be grateful for.

Last year, the New York Yankees learned the lesson that so many have learned before them - money cannot always purchase gratification. In 2009, we may learn that a 40 percent drop in our retirement savings does not preclude our abilities to love and laugh, which are commodities of far more worth than municipal bonds and oil futures.

Again the choice: We can dwell on the unpleasant and the costly, or we can brush all of that aside and concentrate on the daily joys that come with living life.

Worry pays no bills and fear buys no security.

No, the truth may be that the less we have, the more we may value what we do. If we learn not to treat credit cards as free money and decide to buy less, not more, than we can afford, we might even find that we're doing all right and that we even have a little something to give to the less fortunate.

Luke wrote that to whom much is given, much is expected, and when we put our priorities in place we may discover that many of us already possess much - even without the latest iPhone upgrade.

The coming year is a great opportunity to feel better about ourselves by showing concern for those who have lost their homes or their jobs, those who don't have heat in their homes or food on the table. It's an opportunity that extends beyond money. It's a chance to listen to others, to care about and respect what they think and to show them they are remembered and appreciated. It's an opportunity to smile at strangers on the street and offer encouragement to those who are down on their luck.

It might not add anything to the 401(k), but it has the potential to make our souls floweth over.

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