Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Till the Cows Come Home

For the past week I have been reading many news stories about the housing crisis and the impending financial crisis facing the country. The news affects me as an individual who wants to protect his portfolio to insure a comfortable retirement, as a parent who wants to protect his children from a diminished lifestyle, as a business owner who wants to generate yield on his investment, as a broker who wants to see his staff do well during challenging times, as an agent who wants to give good advice to his clients, as a friend who wants to see those close to him not face financial ruin and as a brother and uncle who wants to give sound leadership and advise to his family.

Today I feel the burden of responsibility more than at any other time in my life. Not only because I am a student of history do I have a sense of concern, but also as a sixty-two year old, do I tend to look with less optimism at life than I did as a younger man when death was so far in the distance and when I knew less of the human condition. All that being said, what do I do and what do I say to those around me for whom I have a sense of responsibility and leadership?
It is easy to say that it is fun and interesting to sit on the sidelines and watch those in power do their best to right the ship in order to avoid a Depression or worse events, since there is little else to do because it is beyond the little man's control. It is easy to prognosticate what could have been done or what should be done on economic subjects that are so complex and beyond my understanding. Watching and waiting, or ignoring and hoping is what a cow might do with its life, especially when it is already at the stockyard.

Using one of my sister's favorite expressions, it is a good idea to be proactive. She may have learned this concept at a young age growing up in our family. She learned how our father smelled the dangers of Naziism and took steps to engineer the moving of our extended family out of harm's way. This was a time when many others just watched the events unfold, ever hopeful, and then were ultimately led to the slaughterhouse. Now I am not saying I think that disaster is imminent, it is just that survival in nature requires insight, cunning, and luck. Those who fail to recognize that and depend on passivity and faith, religiously perish. I do not have a list of suggestions for those who matter to me. Is it time to buy Euros, invest in foreclosures, pay off debt, stockpile vegetables, or buy a gun with plenty of bullets?

All I know is that the air smells differently, the problems seem almost insoluble. Even though there are short-term aids, the leadership seems frightened of an impending storm, and that scares me. I know there is always a crack in the fence for those who look for it. The question for me today is whether there is a safe haven. It wasn't simple for my father to choose and plan a new life in America for his family. He had the strength to plan. I wonder today whether the direction for myself and those I care about is to think about planning. There is an old expression, "Either moo or move." Lee


sis said...

As always, Lee, you are an articulate writer and I appreciate your references to me. I think part of the solution is to maintain a constant state of vigilance without becoming hypervigilant. Also, a person must decide what events or hints of events constitute probable threats to our safety and our lifestyles. I think the subject merits further discussion in order to figure out what to watch for and how to guard against it. I think that might be what dad did because once he saw "the handwriting on the wall" the rest was about courage and planning. love, Jane

Anonymous said...

Lee: You have misspelled 2 words in your blog, so I know the world is coming to an end. The Apocalypse is upon us! Two misspelled words! Hey, thanks for the Ostern lotus. RO

LJP said...

Lee-I think the people in Nazi Germany weren't that different from you. Do you really think they walked around blindly hoping? I think they were just as aware as you of impending doom and like you, they had no clue what to do and felt powerless. Luckily for us, my grandfather (your father), took action. He could have been wrong, he could have been caught, but he took a risk. What I heard in you blog was confusion, fear and a call to "thinking", but not a call to action. In these times, we can sit around wondering whether or not the sky is falling or we can take risks. Some will pay off and those around you will be amazed, others will take risks and fall flat on their face, but at least they'll have the economy to blame. I suppose the strategy that most take is to do nothing and go about their lives and hope as the Jews likely did that the sky isn't falling. Unfortunately in Germany (and other places), the sky did fall. Perhaps this time it won't. Fortunately, unlike Germany, we are for the most part only talking about financial matters and not life and death(since neither of us is in Iraq or our military).

So, the question comes back to what actions are you going to take? I feel the real question you are pondering here, is with the economy in its present state and where it may be going, "can I retire? Assuming I do retire, can I afford to live on what I have, or will the economy reduce it to the point where I will have to re-enter the work force?"

I am not meaning to sound unappreciative of your insights and dialogue, but I am hopeful that your ponderings will generate more than just discussion. Don't be afraid to take a risk and be wrong. Maybe things aren't bad enough yet that you feel real pressure to take a risk. When you need to cut back to one Starbucks coffee per day, we'll know it's time. Perhaps one should take risks in the real estate market? I am sure you can find a good agent.