I ponder a lot of things. For example, am I am "average american consumer" as described by government reports? According to a recent speech from Federal Reserve governor Jeremy Stein, "Consumers generally seem to be showing some signs of strength." That is an interesting statement. "Seem" to be? Showing signs of "strength?" With all due respect to Mr. Stein, that "feels" like a very vague statement without a lot of definitive measureables. I'm sure (I hope) Mr. Stein read some statistical reports before drawing that conclusion, but at the moment I am not really experiencing an economic recovery.
My own situation
For the most part, I find empathy to be overrated. What I mean is that I think it is very hard for people to truly experience what others are feeling. There are moments when people connect, but I am always hesitant to say, "I know what you are going through." From a financial standpoint, I would worry about a group of people making statements about how average people feel when they are most likely well-compensated. We don't do well putting ourselves in other people's shoes. In addition, our memory can fail us, so stating that we understand because we have "been there," also does not suffice.
A shift in mood?
Sometimes it feels like the economy is very much influenced by this nebulous idea of consumer confidence. In other words, our emotions. Obviously the human experience is an emotional journey, but am I supposed to get up one day and say, "I feel like the economy is doing better this week, so I am going to confidently go out and spend." That seems like it would be a fairly poor way to look at money management decisions. The government can measure moods all they want, but what matters to the consumer is what is happening to them specifically. As in, right now.
Fighting the trend
This year, I am making less than I did last year. Last year, I made less than I did the year before. I am still working, able to pay my bills and afford a few extras along the way. However, I am not experiencing growth or a general sense of "recovery." I try to be thankful, content and patient. It isn't always easy. If the government gave me some sort of stimulus check today, I wouldn't go out and spend it at the mall. I would put it in a saving account. I know that isn't what I am "supposed" to do, but that is life. Economic recovery is not happening for me. I have to be smart about my money.
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