Banks are closing, and unemployment's up. We have record foreclosures and sky-high gas prices. Everywhere we turn, there's gloom and doom -- on the newspapers, the nightly news, radio … every media outlet is full of these stories.
Retirees are concerned. And if that gloom and doom was my only source of information, we might be concerned, too.
But frankly, that baloney is sliced way too thin, and we ain't buyin' it.
The cup half full
Sure, a recent unemployment rate of 5.5% is up sharply from last year. But it means that the U.S. employment rate is still 94.5%. That's a lot better than you see in many other countries, like Germany, France, and Canada.
In addition, how many people do you personally know who currently have their homes in foreclosure? I have done informal surveys of friends and acquaintances, and no one has direct knowledge of anyone in this predicament. Yet the media can't stop talking about all of these hard-luck stories.
No doubt some people are in over their heads and should not have qualified to purchase homes in the first place. But even as default rates increase, only a small minority of America's homeowners are having trouble making their mortgage payments.
Meanwhile, we've been through this before. The savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s wasn't pretty, but real estate recovered. Enron fell apart, and stocks eventually hit bottom but recovered strongly. Airlines have had plenty of financial trouble in the past, yet through bankruptcy and consolidation, they always seem to keep flying.
People are still spending
Yet just when we thought consumers would give up spending, we saw a news item that gave us hope: record ticket sales for The Dark Knight. Apparently, fans paid as much as $100 to see the film in its opening weekend. That doesn't sound like something that would happen if the economy were truly struggling.
So if you're retired, about to retire, or just dreaming about retirement, know that the world isn't coming to an end. If you're still nervous, take these four pieces of advice:
1. Take a break from the media's evening litany of negativity. Get a balanced perspective by choosing news from other sources. Remember, misery likes company, so use your common sense and realize that negative news sells. The bad news doesn't mean there aren't positives out there.
2. Take a look at where you are in your retirement goals. Get an accurate picture, not an emotional one. If you are on track, stay on track, no matter what someone else says the horizon looks like.
3. Do something positive in your life. Volunteering for those less fortunate can take the focus away from your own perceived lack and make you feel much better about your own situation.
4. Get out and exercise. Get the endorphins running, and the world will indeed look brighter.
We've all survived scenarios such as this before, and we'll survive this one just fine. So turn off the talking heads and enjoy your life. There's a lot more to it than gloom and doom.
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