At the World Economic Forum, Jim Wallis suggested that wondering when the global economic crisis would be over is the wrong question to ask — even though it is the one foremost on our minds.
He posited that the real query should be, “How will this crisis change us?” After all, if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. Drawing parallels between the years preceding the Great Depression and the past few, he offered that we have indeed repeated history. Here then is how I suggest we must change:
- Learn to be happy with less. Virtually everyone in the US is better off then half of the world’s population.
- Don’t spend what we don’t have. Satisfying today’s urges with tomorrow’s income is courting disaster.
- Plan for the future. That includes having an emergency fund and a retirement plan.
- Whenever possible, avoid debt. When that is not possible, pay off debt as quickly as possible.
- Charge cards are intended to be a convenience when making purchases, not a means to buy when we have no money. The first month that the balance can’t be paid in full is an indication of living beyond one’s means — cancel the card and don’t apply for any more.
- Shun greed.
In essence, greed got us here in the first place. I hear a chorus of readers concurring, “Yes, corporate greed caused this mess to happen.” Wait a minute; let’s not blame corporations. Although corporations are legal entities, they cannot think and act on their own accord. It is people who control corporations; many of them are greedy. The stockholders who own stock in the corporations seek higher returns on their investments; they are sometimes greedy. The people with 401ks, IRAs, money market accounts, CDs, and any interest bearing investment want to make as much as they can; they are partly to blame as well. On and on it goes. Virtually everyone, in one way or another, is culpable for the mess we are in — we have an insatiable desire for more.
As my first bullet point suggests, let’s instead seek to be more happy with a bit less. And we’ll all be better off.