Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Depression a Financial State or a Mental State?

We're hearing the word "depression" bandied about a lot these days. Wall Street and the President are trying hard to convince us that a financial calamity worse than the Great Depression is on our doorstep - just minutes away.

Investors are bouncing from panic to opportunistic buying sprees, keeping the stock market so volatile that many of us simply choose not to watch our own investments leap and then plummet. It's too easy to buy into the panic mentality and feel the fear that, perhaps, our political leaders are hoping we feel.

It may, in fact, be real. We may be facing a financial breakdown like we've never seen before.

But my money is on us. I believe that we can weather this storm, and that, while we may feel some pain, we'll find ways collectively and individually to assure that our parents continue to receive good quality care in the retirement or care communities where they live, and that, as we eek our way toward our own retirement, we have plans and support networks to get where we need to go.

In a recent article from Newsday.com, seniors shared their memories of living through the Depression. They recalled living very frugally, and simply accepting that everyone couldn't have everything. "If you didn't have the money, you did without," commented one person interviewed for the story.

That's so dramatically different from today's "no payment for 12 months" approach to purchasing. There's no reason why anyone needs to go without anything, including new furniture, new cars, new TVs and more. Don't have the money today? No problem - get it anyway.

Maybe it's a good thing to take a look at how we live. Maybe, like those who lived through the Depression, it's time to only purchase what we can afford. To save up for the future. To pay off our homes. To learn to value life because of the friendships we have, not the possessions we lug around.

If times get tough, I'm betting on the fact that we have a resilience and a creativity that will get us through. We'll look to each other, and find ways to contribute toward a greater common good. Maybe my role will be to train people to provide care for your parent, while you supply the food from your garden to feed both our loved ones.

It may become a time of financial depression, but it will not, in my view, demand a mental depression in response. We have too much strength; too many talents; too much promise.

We've got what everyone in the world envies: the American spirit.

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