Success and tenacity go hand in hand.
Dave Cunningham / October 15, 2008
About three months ago, I called my investments guy to suggest that I convert my stocks to cash for a time to ride out the volatility in the market. After some discussion, I was convinced that it was not the best idea. So I decided to stay the course and the status quo. Well, hindsight is always 20-20 and I know now that my intuition was correct. This doesn’t do much to restore my losses. But it points to an important conclusion. The so-called experts, with all their knowledge and experience are no better at making the correct choices than I. In this case, they were worse. With all the latest statistics and trends at their fingertips, they missed the obvious.
We know now that, like the family budget, when you spend more than you make or if you gamble your family income, you have a better chance of losing than winning. You can’t spend what you don’t have. In some instances, if you do (like writing bad checks), you risk going to jail for fraud.
I continue to be concerned about the decisions being made by our government with the passive endorsement of our elected Congress and Senate. It would be unrealistic to expect that the latter would all be experts in economics. After all, any one can be elected to Congress, regardless of their expertise or intelligence. But, come on guys! If you aren’t a quick study and can’t get your arms around the issues, how about some common sense? Ask yourselves how much money we have. If you don’t know, find out! Then, if someone suggests that we spend more money than we have, take a stand. Say no! How hard is that?
Okay, so you didn’t cause the problems. Okay, they were coming at us for a long time, maybe even before you got to Washington. But isn’t this why you ran for office? To solve problems on behalf of your constituents? It’s great to govern during the good times. You can return to your state(s) to take credit. It’s hard to govern during tough times, like these. I know, I know, being re-elected is a powerful drug. If you make a mistake, you risk losing your seat. But so what! Come on! This is your country we’re talking about. This is your children’s country and your grandchildren’s country. If you can’t do it for your constituents, how about for your own families?
There is much talk in the media, these days, about greed and irresponsibility. We decry the CEO’s who run our businesses and industries into the ground and float away in their golden parachutes. The presidential race has given voice to curtailing this irresponsible, no-accountability greed by denying these failed executives a reward for their incompetence, or, at best, negligence. But I don’t hear much about the politicians who, with similar CYA motivation, choose the safety of inaction to the risk of action.
What’s a citizen to do? We gave our money to the bankers who squandered our savings. We gave our votes to politicians who prefer safety to responsibility / re-election to doing their homework and taking a stand! What’s left for the thousands of us who have worked hard and played by the rules that were laid down for us? For myself, I know that I began saving for the future thirty years ago. It was tough going at times, raising three children, getting them through college, working in a career that was, at times, a little less satisfying than I liked. But I did it with the confidence that we were all on the same team. I have no problem with those who make millions of dollars. That is the beauty of our economic system. If we want to go for the gold and are willing to work hard, we have a shot at it. But it used to be that those at the top felt some responsibility for those at the bottom and, yes, even for those in the middle. But that is gone. Anyone delusional enough to still believe in it after the past three weeks is asleep.
What to do? Be responsible for ourselves. How? There are two things we can do. First, be accountable for your own finances. Spend or save what you have. If you want to invest, pay attention. It’s okay to rely on the “experts” for guidance. But do not give up your autonomy for the sake of their opinion(s). Trust your judgment. Live and spend within your means. In other words, if you don’t have it, don’t spend it.
The second thing to do is to vote. In just a few weeks we will have an election that, make no mistake about it, will impact each of us for the next four years. The decisions that are made could determine the potential for college education for our children, our ability to own a home, our chances for retirement. So investigate your candidates for the White House, the Congress, and the Senate. Learn about those running for office in your states, cities and counties. Know what they plan to do.
When the political TV ads start piling on top of each other in the weeks to come, ignore them. They are ads, not necessarily truth. Would you expect General Motors to run ads recommending that you buy a Ford? Of course not! So don’t expect anything more from political ads. Call the candidate’s campaign offices. Ask them your questions. Tell them what you want. Write to them. It’s easy to send an e-mail message which, in many cases, is read. Believe me, if they hear from enough of us, they will listen.
Finally, vote. If we are true to form in November, half of us will not vote. Think about it. If there was a burglar at the door, would you sit inside watching TV hoping that you and your family are safe? Or would you take some action to protect yourself? The answer is obvious. You’d take action.
Take action for yourself, your family and your country. Be informed. Exercise your privilege and right to vote. Stop listening to the experts who have failed us. Become the expert. Take control of your life.
In1963, Michigan’s Governor George Romney faced, without flinching, his state’s tax mess. At the same time, he laid his political future on the line when he said, “If Not Now, When? If Not Us, Who?” It’s time we all stood up and echoed Romney’s words with action of our own.