The housing market around Seattle is turning around. Have a little faith and my house will sell. The unemployment numbers are looking better. Have a little faith and I’ll be gainfully (and hopefully pleasantly) employed. The fundamentals of many small companies continue to improve. Have a little faith and their stocks will eventually reflect that value. My business and my work are gaining broad appeal (and I welcome the international members of the blog audience.) Have a little faith and the money will flow in as I follow my passion. I certainly hope so. I have a little faith; and right beside it and wrapped around it is a lot more faith. I think that will be more than enough, for me and more.
Sometimes faith exists alone; and left alone, it isn’t a surprise if it remains small. We are impressed when it survives such an environment.
Sometimes faith isn’t necessary. There are few guarantees in the world, but faith isn’t required to create a sunrise every day.
Friends ask me how I am managing to navigate my current environment. Faith is involved, but it is buttressed by math and reason. I have reasons why I think I’ll succeed. Those reasons are based in the fundamentals of our society. Hard work, frugality, sincerity, perseverance, and at least a bit of wisdom should suffice, sooner or later.
Of course, as more than one friend puts it, maybe the fundamentals no longer apply. The wealth and income disparities in the nation are examples of social worth disconnected with financial worth. A CEO of a failing company makes more than a successful teacher. Athletes make more than firefighters. Would we complain if the situation was reversed? Probably not.
I admit that there are systemic dysfunctions. Talk over coffee, tea, or wine (or tequila) and hear stories about the absurdities of dealing with insurance companies, mortgage companies, or politicians. Two friends told me about trying to pay medical bills in cash, and not being able to because the insurance company got in the way. I continue to retell the story of the friend whose mortgage company said they’d arranged a meeting between him and the governor of his state to talk about his mortgage. Congress amazes when they force the military to spend money on weapons the military doesn’t want. Enough farce exists to feed material to Comedy Central for centuries.
If the systemic dysfunctions are chronic and unresolved, then we’ll probably encounter some global turmoil. How soon? It may seem like such a shaky system could fall apart with one news report, which is possible; but, at the other extreme I see North Korea with decades of dysfunction behind it, and possibly ahead of it. It’s amazing they’ve managed it this long. I recognize and am aware of both possibilities, but I don’t plan for either.
My faith in our systems has been challenged. This much frugality, diversification, and persistence should not result in foreclosure and negative net worth. Yet, my faith persists; partly because of math, partly because of people.
Odds are that odds even out. Las Vegas is the greatest proof of that. The city in the desert was built by people playing the odds and leaving enough money behind to build, well, a city in the desert. The odds are small that my investments, both personal effort and financial, would result in less than enough to sustain or succeed. Yet, for now, those odds have worked against me. The pessimist extrapolates and expects the same. The optimist looks at the severity of the drop and mirrors it with an impressive recovery. Even a return to the mean would mean no foreclosure, and a return to a life of more philanthropy and fun. (My apologies to the charities that have been cut off.) If my financial net worth returns to my semi-retirement level, and then rises again as much as it fell, then, well, that’ll be a much happier story to tell. And I’ll have a new appreciation for the need to help people who are homeless or hungry or both.
Our systemic dysfunctions are our own fault. “Society” has allowed them, but we are society. We can fix them. We may not be able to fix them in time to alleviate my situation, but I’ll be amazed if someone doesn’t find the courage to put the common good ahead of their political career. Or, a new organization, whether organized or not, like the Occupy Movement may finally succeed in shifting public action and general lifestyles. If enough people decide to live lives without mortgages, in houses that meet their needs instead of meeting advertisers’ illusions, in places where it doesn’t cost too much to have a job, and where their food and friends are near; then, the mortgage industry, the housing industry, the auto industry, the food industry, and the anti-depressant drug industry would have to respond regardless of Congress or pundits.
And here I sit, wondering if today is the day when the mortgage company will initiate foreclosure proceedings. I have great faith that I’ll have a new part-time job to announce soon, but I’ll wait until we sign the paperwork. I might even have another sliver of a part-time job. Add enough of them together with my existing clients’ work (one example: HCLE) and my worries about homeless and hungry go away. I have faith we’ll work out the details.
I have faith the house will sell prior to foreclosure, or that I won’t have to sell it because I am making enough money. I have faith that I’ll find or make that money through my business, my art, jobs, or windfalls. I even have faith in most of the depressed stocks in my portfolio. The businesses continue to progress, even though the stocks languish. The money that took the markets to new heights by buying big cap companies may look for bargains in the under-appreciated small cap companies; especially, if the small companies have big news. (Hey, MicroVision (MVIS). Now would be a great time to announce great and positive news.) Having a bit of faith, or even a lot of faith, is my best choice.
I have the greatest faith that, regardless of institutions and math, people take care of people; that, whether systems are dysfunctional or not, we’ll find a way for us to succeed. Our best choice is to have at least a little faith in each other.