The Worst Is Over…Now What?
The worst is over, the mainstream media declares! Ever since this recession started the media has tried to sway us to the other side with facts and figures from Wall Street and Washington exclaiming this fact. We hear things like consumer spending is up over last year, the economy grew almost 6% in the last quarter of 2009, the stock market is up close to 11,000 from its low of 6500 back in March of 2009.
Do you believe the worst is over?
Polls tell me you’re smarter than that. A recent poll by Harris Associates found that half of Americans don’t believe their financial situation will improve in the next six months, and 30% expect their financial situation will get worse in the next six months. Polls by Angus Reid Global Monitor, the Washington Post and Gallup.com report similar findings.
You are wise to be cautious.
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First off, don’t let fear rule. Americans have been inundated with bad news on the economy for over two years now. These constant reports have reduced confidence in purchasing. Consumer spending is virtually the same as it was a year ago. Considering that 70% of the U.S. economy is dependent on consumer spending you can see why so many people believe their financial situation will not improve soon.
To “fix” your fear and calm your anxieties remember the investment advice from our good friend Mark Patrick’s, “A good strategy is to get your money off the table as quickly as possible while still retaining the asset. For example, if a stock you bought doubles in price, sell HALF. Now you’re in the game for FREE. You have your cash back and the shares you still own may still rise, but even if they go to zero, you won’t have lost money.”
Now that’s advice that’s easy to understand and follow. What else can you do to not let fear rule your investing?
Seek advice. You’re already better off than most people because you’ve turned to Mark Patricks, myself and our new friend Marc Charles for weekly investing, savings and business advice. You’re smart enough to question what the mainstream media, Washington and Wall Street tell you as you seek out the truth.
If you seek advice from a traditional financial adviser like the ones that approach you when you go to the bank you will be asked about your financial goals. Setting a financial goal is super important to attaining financial freedom. If you don’t know how much you need to become financially free how can you achieve it?
When you set any goal what do you do? You try to achieve your goal? And how do you achieve your goal? By taking actions that put you closer and closer to achieving that goal. When you plan your path to financial freedom it’s important to set daily tasks.
To maintain your lifestyle in retirement, most financial experts recommend that you try to replace 75% to 85% of your pre-retirement income with a combination of income from Social Security, personal savings and a 401k or IRA or a pension. Though I personally believe you should treat social security as a bonus that may or may not be there.
Your personal number can vary based on how, where, and how you want to live. For most people their number will be somewhere between $1 million and $3 million. When most people see that number their first reaction is Holy Cow! Don’t be scared off thinking you can’t reach your financial goal, no matter what the number is. Focus on the first step and stop worrying about the big number.
When you break a big number like $1 million down into smaller goals the task of raising that amount of money becomes more manageable and betters the odds that you’ll stick with it.
Smaller goals include making a monthly contribution to your 401k or your IRA. You can use any financial calculator to find out how much you need to contribute each month to ensure you meet your goal.
To make it even easier on yourself take the thinking part out of the process and automate your contributions. Have your bank or employer automatically deduct your contributions each month and put it into your 401k, IRA or other savings vehicle.
You can increase your odds of achieving your goal by telling friends and family. Research shows you’ll make better progress towards your goals if you feel you’re being held accountable.
Once you’ve overcome your fears and set actions to help achieve your goal of financial freedom the next thing to do is to stick with it. But no matter how much you’ve planned ahead there is always the unexpected things that pop up. Managing your money is like trying to drive across the country. You can do your best to plot the route you’ll take, but you’re bound to run into unexpected delays and detours along the way.
That’s why it’s always important to have a plan B.
You may think you’re on the right path to financial freedom because you sock away $250 each and every month. But what happens if you lose your job? Not only do you stop contributing you might even need to take money out of that account to live off of until you find your next job.
Unexpected events like these can knock you off your path quickly and without warning. To ensure delays and detours don’t affect your financial freedom prepare for the unexpected.
Act as if you’re already behind the bullet.
Build up your emergency fund. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics it takes over 30 weeks to find gainful employment -that’s over 7 months. Most experts suggest having enough money in your emergency fund to cover three to six months worth of expenses. But by today’s employment statistics that’s not going to cut it. Work towards building up your emergency fund to cover a year’s worth of expenses, especially if you work in a troubled industry like construction or real estate.
Also, act like your job hunting before you need to. You don’t have to go on job interviews and worry that your current boss will find out but do take pre-emptive measures.
Build up your network. A survey by ExecuNet found that a whopping 6 out of 10 executive positions are found through business contacts and professional networks. And frankly, in other studies that number is even higher. But most people are terrible at networking. People are too shy and awkward or try too hard and end up putting off the other person when trying to network. They focus too narrowly on the thought, “Can this person get me a new job?” instead of being friendly, relating skills and exchanging contact information.
When you expand your network before you need it you don’t worry so much about the thought, “Can this person get me a new job?” Building relationships now, instead of after you’ve lost your job, will help get rid of the awkwardness.
Set a goal of networking at least once a week. Send an email to an old colleague and “catch up”. Be sure to tell them about any skills you’ve acquired or projects you’ve worked on since they’ve left.
Ask your boss if you can attend a skill building seminar. This will impress your boss with your commitment to your job and allow you to attend a networking event on someone else’s dime. Check out leadersinstitute.com or learningannex.com to find seminars in your desired area.
When someone tells you something contrary to popular belief your first reaction is to be naturally skeptical. You question their sources of information and the motive behind their actions.
Wall Street and Washington have been ramming the idea that the worst of the recession is over down our throats for nearly a year now. Each month they find some new report or statistic to back up their report.
They figure if they can convince you that everything is fine then everything WILL be fine. But you’re smarter than your average bear. You are correct to be cautious.
But being cautious does not mean you have to sit on the sideline and wait it out. Take three steps forward and beat out investors, the market, and Washington.
Keeping Money In Your Pocket,