Honey Smith's article about achieving your long-term financial goals got me thinking. It's one thing to tackle big, long-term goals if you are healthy and employed. But hopefully you have to imagine how difficult it is to stay on track to reach them if you aren't. What if the bottom has dropped out in your world? What if you lost your job — and even lost your second job? What if you are sick?
Gratefully, I have never experienced the kind of health issues that prevent me from gainful employment, so anything I could say on the subject would be woefully off base. I can't even imagine how difficult that would be. But when the Great Recession affected my livelihood as a court reporter and business owner, I felt the extreme economic hardships many Americans did as their job prospects evaporated. Staying on track to reach long-term financial goals in these types of circumstances is the stuff of dreams.
Instead of making progress toward retirement, you are deciding which assets to liquidate. And how deeply you have to cut depends on how long your personal recession is. I say “personal recession” because recovery from recession doesn't happen across the board all at once. In my experience, it happens in fits and spurts. Certain segments of the economy pick up first, followed by others in a rather unpredictable fashion it seems to me. Since I am not an economist, all I can say is that the unpredictable nature of economic recovery appears to leave whole swaths of the economy affected by job loss to one degree or another long after other areas are in full swing.
Still, until good fortune smiles on you with a job, you have to find a way to make it. I think Honey Smith's list definitely applies when hard times befall you too — establish priorities, focus on achievable mini-goals, and find someone who encourages you. But facing difficult circumstances adds a different dimension to staying motivated — the need to keep hope alive.
Of course, keeping to a routine can be very helpful. But I found that two decisions were pivotal in helping me weather the Great Recession:
- The decision to be happy
- The decision to believe it would get better
To be honest, neither of them came easily at first. I think I actually made it harder than it had to be because I was focused on the fact of it all. Every personal economic indicator was pointing down, not up — and there was no way to escape that fact or what that meant for my financial security.
Making the decision to be happy in the face of bad news that doesn't show any signs of improving seemed like making a decision to be an idiot that is not in touch with reality.
Allowing myself to be unhappy, on the other hand, seemed equally idiotic. It's hard to escape the logic that wallowing in self-pity or whatever is not conducive to landing a job!
The decision to believe things will get better almost feels like you're trying to convince yourself of a lie. Despite all evidence to the contrary, you want me to believe it's going to get better. Right! But again, paradoxically, that is exactly what is best to do. Why? Because if you believe things are not going to improve, what reason is there to continue the struggle to make it better? The interesting thing is that if you will attempt to convince yourself that things can get better, you put in motion the means for it to get better.
As I said, I have no idea whether this applies to anyone who battles health issues, but it certainly helped me get past feeling like giving up in the face of difficult economic circumstances. Having watched plenty of other people struggle through that period in their finances, I was struck by how differently people approached the problem of how to stay motivated.
What about you? Have you experienced difficult financial circumstances? How did you keep hope alive and stay motivated to improve your situation?