Friday, July 31, 2009

A Good Time to Save for the Future

A friend just lost a job, and the spouse’s work hours also got cut to almost nothing. They worked at the same company. This is not exactly the best plan, to double up in such a manner, but initially, the one spouse used the job connections to bring the other spouse on board. So you can understand why they both worked at the same place.

Now what happens to them? I don’t know. They’re really hurting from the psychological blow, and they had just spent big money on a home improvement, thinking that their jobs were fine. They’ll have a couple of months of severance as a cushion, but then what? Can they find new jobs in this economy? Will they get rehired if their former employer’s situation improves? I hope they have family who can help. I think they do.

What about you? And me? I’m doing as much work as I can find. So far, my spouse has a job and we have no financial issues. But just in case, we’re selling some items to build up savings for our next vacation. (I know, it sounds obscene to talk of a vacation in the same breath as a double job loss. But our situations are different--today, at least.) Still, we are being cautious. Instead of charging the trip and planning to pay it off with future income, we’ll put the money in the bank in advance. And if between now and then we do lose our main source of income, well, at least our savings will be that much greater for having built them up.

Are we that perfect on all fronts? Of course not. We just bought a new mattress set and a car warranty insurance policy. Those put us thousands in the hole, even though both purchases are for the express purpose of being able to sleep better at night. They could take a year or more to pay off. Thus it would be nice to continue to have income so we can do exactly that. But if we don’t, will we be okay? Yes. Will we still have our current income a year from now? There’s no way of knowing.

Life’s like that. For a while now I have been aware that our current personal situation of financial peace is likely to be temporary. There will be a family crisis. Or we will have a crisis. Or both. Is there any way to avoid these possibilities? Nope.

So meanwhile, we save a large chunk of money regularly, and then we spend the rest. We are cautious about it, of course. We learned how not to fritter money away in a very hard school. Someone else is spending our national average for eating out or buying fast food meals. Someone else is buying our share of the national average for clothing, and shoes, and cars, just as for decades, someone else has been spending our share of the national average of liquor, cigarettes, and drugs. Are we alone in being savers and careful spenders? No. Plenty of Americans are saving these days. It’s fascinating that the U.S. has gone from a 0% savings rate to 7% in a mere matter of months. People are saving like crazy. They aren’t spending. That makes the economy bad, but it keeps them sleeping at night. Until a job loss, that is.

I like sleeping at night. Which is why I push myself to keep working hard every day, trying to create future income and bring in current revenue, too. I’m not going to let the future take care of itself. My spouse is the same way. That’s why, when we take our vacation, we will feel entitled to it; we’ll have earned it.

What are the rest of you doing? Every day I ask myself if I can or should do more. Are you asking yourself the same question? If there is anything you can do, from turning clutter into cash, to reducing waste and improving the comfort of your home, why not think about taking action? Not all contributions to your happy life need be in cash, after all. And if you create more peace, pleasure, and health through careful management of your current resources, you won’t necessarily need so much cash as you might imagine. Today is a good time to save for the future. Whatever the future turns out to be.

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