In 2009 Reason magazine featured a cover story titled, in bold yellow letters, THE NEXT CATASTROPHE. The subhead read: “Think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were a politicized financial disaster? Just wait until pension funds implode.”
Truth be told, every Boomer has heard for decades that by the time we’re finally eligible for retirement, the cupboards will be bare. The question is, what are we doing about it?
It is believed that the net assets of Americans declined over five trillion dollars as a result of the collapse of the housing market in 2008. Unless my math is off, that is a very large number.
For years I have heard other people say that due to the global economy there will be a leveling out in our future. The earth would not be sustainable by raising all peoples to the living standard of (wasteful, debt driven, consumer) Americans. Yet many of us laughed this off. We prefer to listen to protectionist legislators who would help us keep our heads held high, even if they were simultaneously buried in the sand, in denial regarding realities ahead.
At the end of the day, what does this all really mean regarding how you face tomorrow? I would suggest the following.
1. Simplify your lifestyle.
Duane Elgin said, “Live in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.” I don’t think this means we have to become like Gandhi and sit at a spinning wheel making cloth all day. I do think it means we slow down a bit, decide what is important and separate the wheat (things that nourish us) from the chaff (things that do not.)
2. Make a commitment to avoid, reduce or eliminate debt.
The average American family is drowning in debt, which incidentally (as if we need to be reminded) creates stress. Debt is a chain that restricts one’s freedom to come and go as one pleases. Learning to live more frugally now will help you later. Acquisition, the habit of collecting more and more material goods, can be as much of an addiction as meth or gambling, and not so easy to break as we imagine.
3. Increase your value as a person.
I would suggest this on two levels. In your career, commit to being a lifelong learner. Be someone willing to develop new skills and your value will increase steadily. Keep adding new tools to your toolkit and you will be an asset wherever you go. On a second level, become the kind of person others enjoy having around. If worst comes to worst, it’s better to have a network of family and friends who are there to take you in rather than to be the kind of person no one likes having around because you’re a cantankerous, self-centered beast.
4. Decide what is important to you and shuck the rest.
Probably a lifelong commitment as well.
5. Learn to notice and appreciate the good things happening in your life.
For some of us it’s a little too easy to have our buttons pushed. For others, we’re just moody puddleglums. In either case, we can often become oblivious to the wonder that ever surrounds us. The way the light reflects off a leaf. Or the shimmer of a butterfly wing. The turn of a phrase and multi-layered images in a sprig of keen writing. Or the wonder of music, its rhythms, melodies and harmonies massaging our souls and lifting our spirits to the seventh heaven.
A book I’m reading about choices points out that having an attitude of gratitude reduces stress, that studies have actually proven this. The author suggested keeping a pad next to your bed in which you write in each day, five things for which you are grateful.
One of the good things happening in my life are the various friends, acquaintances and special persons who have crossed my path over the years. I’m especially grateful for the encouragement I occasionally receive that renews my batteries so I can keep on keeping on.
To sum up, let’s return to the beginning: Simplify. Focus. Get rid of the clutter. Life is for living.
Originally published at pioneerproductions.blogspot.com
Painting at top of page by the author.