The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

How Bad Is It?

Have you ever felt like throwing in the towel? Just calling it quits? Decided that you can't control your future and that the sanest thing to do is to pull out the credit card and just not worry about what you put on it?

Recently, a friend sent me a link for an article on MSN Money The article was called the "garage sale economy" and discussed all the hard times caused by the housing market and the "growing probability that 2008 will be a recession year."

It bugged me. In part, because writers have been predicting a recession since 2001. The facts show that the economy grew at a 4.9% rate in the third quarter of 2007. The GDP (gross domestic product) has been growing at 2% or better since 2002. Add that to the 8.3 million new jobs since August, 2003 and the fact that real income (after inflation) is up 12% over the last 7 years. These are all very good trends.

A recession is a decline in GDP for two consecutive quarters. Clearly that hasn't happened. I don't recall even one quarter of decline in the last four or five years. Looking at the statistics you'd have to ask if the real dark cloud isn't in the writer's imagination.

Please don't misunderstand me. I know that some people are hurting. And, that there are folks who are victims of circumstances that they didn't create. That's always been the case (in good times and in bad). I'd like to try to make things easier for people who struggle. That's one of the reasons that we don't charge for our email newsletters or articles on The Dollar website. We want to help people who are struggling. We believe that it's always a good idea to help those who need it.

It's true, some people will lose their homes. That's terrible. I do some volunteer work with the homeless and it breaks my heart to see what happens.

But even those who face losing their homes do have some (admittedly limited) options. Mortgage companies are realizing that foreclosure is not their best choice. Once they foreclose they own the home and are responsible for it until it's sold. And, once all the expenses are added in they could lose $100,000 on each house they foreclose. So working with the current homeowner to keep the payment affordable makes sense. Even if they have to add some late mortgage payments to the end of the mortgage.

What really concerns me is how many people read these articles on how bad the economy is and decide that there's no sense looking for a better job or getting training that would qualify them for a new, more promising career. How many people give up on themselves because of what they see on the nightly news? They've tossed in the towel before even making an attempt to change their circumstances. To me, believing that you're a victim of circumstances and have no control over your future is terribly sad.

I can't promise that 2008 won't be a challenge. But I do believe that just about all of us can do something to make our financial lives better this year. And, I promise that we'll do the best that we can to help provide the ideas and tools that you can use to do it. So are you willing to promise yourself that you won't succumb to negative perceptions (whether justified or not) and you'll give yourself every chance to succeed this year? Seems like the least that you can do for yourself.

Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar website and newsletters. With a database of over 5,000 articles, The Dollar has been helping people "live better...for less" since 1996. Visit today!

In the Arena

This seems to be my week for interesting quotes. This one comes from an email. It was included as the signature line. "Developing the capability is not the same as occupying the arena."

It reminds me a little bit of something I heard years ago about golf tips (btw, I am NOT a golfer - just don't have enough coordination or patience for the game). This avid golfer said that he didn't need more golf tips. What he needed was the ability to follow the ones that he already had heard.

Seems that's true of the quote from the email. We can continue to collect time and money-saving ideas. We can even organize and categorize them. Print them out and put them in a notebook if we want. But until we put them into practice, they won't save us any time or money.

Based on the emails I get, most of you are already in the arena and in the game. I just want to be sure that I'm alongside you this year so that we can celebrate the victory together!

Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar website and newsletters. With a database of over 5,000 articles, The Dollar has been helping people "live better...for less" since 1996. Visit today!