4 Recession Lessons We Shouldn’t Forget
The world is emerging slowly from the recession with a tentative, collective sigh of relief. Unemployment is improving and the economy is inching back to more normal levels. Of course, ‘normal’ has a different meaning now. We’re not going immediately back to the booming economy we had. But a slow and steady improvement is quite satisfying to most of us at this point.
In any disaster, though, there are lessons to be learned, about ourselves as people and about the way we choose to live our lives. Here are some trends from the recession that we shouldn’t leave behind as our fortunes improve.
During the recession, the whole world became more conscious of how much money we were spending and what we were spending it on. And as our prosperity returns, it is going to be very tempting to also return to looser spending habits. The problem is, that’s the sort of behavior that landed people in financial trouble in the first place.
So when we get jobs or raises we’ve been waiting for, our discipline must remain. Put money away in savings, since experts say you should have at least six months’ worth of living expenses socked away; or maybe you put your dollars in a solid retirement account. Whatever you do, don’t waste your extra dollars when they start coming in!
During the depths of the recession, plenty of people complained about not getting a job that related to their field, not getting a job at all, or not getting a long-awaited raise or bonus. But most of the time, we then modified our complaint: “But at least I still have my home.” Or “But at least I still have a job.” And many of us translated that sentiment into action by being good neighbors.
We donated money, time and skill to friends and family who were worse off financially than we were. We opened our homes to one another, taking in those who suddenly could not pay their bills. That kind of love and compassion is something the world could always use more of.
Seeing our family, friends and neighbors around the world falling into bad situations made many of us refocus on what we have, and simply be thankful for it. When things start to go back to ‘normal,’ it is far too easy to go back to the pursuit of material things and worldly honors. Ambition isn’t bad; but save some room in your day-to-day life for a simple acknowledgement of what you already have. You’ll be happier for it.
Suddenly strapped for cash due to layoffs, pay cuts, lost investments, and the like, we all learned tricks to stretch our money further than we thought it could go. We paid more attention to our receipts and bills, making sure discounts and coupons had been included. We shopped with care, finding sales and clipping or printing coupons. We learned to make do or to refurbish what we had.
Some of us even began gardening, canning, sewing or knitting to save money. We found ways to make money with hobbies and interests. Now that these frugal habits are a part of your life, don’t let them go! They are much harder to relearn than they are to keep.
There can be no doubt that the recession has changed the world. The question that remains is this: will it be for better or for worse? Will we let fear, distrust and anger take over, leading us on a dark financial path? Or will we learn our lessons well and come out of the danger with greater strength and greater wisdom? Only time will tell, but I, for one, am very optimistic.
Image by Ashlee Martin