When I first started this blog, I wrote an entry about defining and achieving financial security. As I talk to more and more people about their experiences over the last 18 months during what the popular culture has called the “Great Recession,” I am witnessing some common themes of concern:
1. The stock market is up considerably since its low in March of 2009, but how do we know it won’t “crash” again tomorrow? We don’t know! It used to be common knowledge and belief that you knew you would have some ups and downs in your investments, but in the long run you would achieve profits by investing in market. From the conversations I have had with many people, it seems like there is this general sense they are waiting for the “next shoe to drop.” It reminds me of the weeks and months after 9-11 where I was glued to the cable news networks waiting to hear about the next terrorist attack. I sense an underlying fear in most individuals and business owners. They are waiting to see how everything works itself out. The danger of this view is that you become a market timer and try to “guess” what your latest stock holdings and the economy as a whole will do. The danger is you get so consumed with things you can’t do anything about and fail to make a difference in your life and the lives of those you care about the most.
2. What will higher taxes do to my future plans? I have been hearing this one especially since the passing of the health reform bill. There is a general confusion of what is and what is not in the legislation and I think people are skeptical of what may happen to their individual tax situation in the future. For the clients I work with, I tell them there is one thing for sure: their taxes will go up! How much their taxes will go up we do not know yet. I tell them it is important we continue to plan and make the best tax and financial planning decisions we can at the time with the information available to us.
3. How do I know I have reached financial security? I hear this quite often. An individual may also say, “how do I know I will not run out of money?” These are important questions to address no matter what the economy and the stock market are doing. Where many people fail in their quest to achieve financial security is they fail to define what financial security is for themselves and instead they allow the “talking-heads” on TV or the magazine covers to define it for them. Until you define what is most important to you and lay out a plan to achieve it, you will never reach financial security.
So these are some of the concerns people have right now is these difficult times, however, with all the chaos it is important to remember you are in control of your situation more then you believe. You need to control the things you can, such as how much you save, how much you spend and what you invest in and let everything else take care of itself.