OUR TAKE
The Dark Side of Money Woes

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By Dayana Yochim (TMF School)
July 25, 2002

There's no denying the emotional suffering financial turmoil can inflict. Nowhere is that more evident than in Japan, which has one of the world's highest suicide rates. According to a recent report, the number of suicides related to financial stress has reached an all-time high in the economically stagnant country.

Though Japan's overall suicide rate declined 2.9% last year, to 31,042 people from 31,957 in 2000, more of the deaths (6,845) were due to economic hard times, according to Japan's National Police Agency report. (Comparably, there were 29,199 suicides in America in 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. population is nearly double that of Japan.)

Health problems were the No. 1 reason for suicides. But job insecurity, mounting debts, and corporate bankruptcy weighed heavily on Japanese citizens, according to the report. Japan's economy has been stagnant for more than a decade, forcing major companies to eliminate jobs and sending the nation's unemployment rate to a near record high of 5.4%.

We're not certified counselors, but we do have a few suggestions for people facing hard times:

Knowledge is power: Take a financial reality check. Knowing where you really stand can prevent you from escalating your financial woes in your imagination. We advise at least a yearly financial checkup (click here for an agenda). Even better, how about a quarterly review? What better time than now?

Preparation is key: Establishing a cash cushion for out-of-the-blue, or even expected, expenses is your safety net in times of trouble. Set up an emergency fund sooner rather than later.

Seek support: Talk to your family and friends. Discussion alone can do wonders, and they may be able to help in other ways as well. Talk to one another. Nowhere is there a more understanding and helpful group than your fellow Fools. They act as counselors, cheerleaders, teachers, and welcoming shoulders upon which to lean. If you're not yet a member of the community, try it out for free for a month.

Get help: For in-depth assistance (including access to a toll-free financial helpline), check out our one-month-free TMF Money Advisor offer.

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