Why 2008 Was A Good Year

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We are a resilient nation.  That resiliency was tested in 2008 and will be further tested for most of 2009.  I learned much about myself this year.  I have been tested and endured other cataclysmic events before.  However, survival was a given.  Most people that I know have a gift for self-preservation.  But only a few people expect to gain more from life than they put in.  Only a few people can imagine a life beyond survival.  Who could blame them?  We encounter massive institutional juggernauts from childhood.  These massive entities seem immutable and unmovable.  They govern us, tell us what to wear, tell us what our labor is worth, etc., ad nauseam.  Yet, this was the year when it all came precariously close to collapsing.  We were a razor’s edge from the mother of all epic failures.  And I woke up.

The people behind those institutional walls are no smarter than us.  These institutions, in and of themselves, are inert and meaningless.  What is important, what is fundamental to the new way of viewing the world, is realizing that these emperors have no clothes.  The “smartest guys in the room” almost destroyed our nation.  Don’t let certain individuals, talking heads, tell you any different.  Rather than scaring me, this emboldened me.  I realized that everything that I was doing, all of my hard work, was designed to enrich somebody else.  I was sold a bill of goods that told me that this life was good enough for somebody like me.  However, I should aspire to, but never hope to attain their life.

What an insidious lie!  It burrows into our consciousness from the time we are children, a few setbacks later, and we find ourselves hoping that we can make it to our thirtieth year with the company so we can cash out our 401k.  Ironically, the masters of the universe were too greedy and ineffectual to even keep the venerable companies, steeped in middle-class acceptability, solvent.  How many people who are just entering the work force really expect to retire with the company they started with?  How many people fully expect their companies to be able to pay them their full retirement benefits?  It was far past time for all of us to see through the facade.  Now the same people are trying to tell us how to rebuild the system they almost collapsed.  It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

This year fiscal accountability became more important than consumerism.  The bubble was fueled by rampant spending.  We spent ourselves further and further into debt, and never thought the bill would need to be paid.  At this moment, venerated principles of financial responsibility, which we were told to live by while others did not, are being heralded and practiced.  Economists are realizing that consumer spending is not going to get us out of this recession.  Hopefully, innovation will replace the inflexible and inherently flawed way we have been conducting business for the last thirty years.  Hopefully, the illusion of success backed by real money has been destroyed forever.

This has been an eye-opening year for us.  I finally gathered enough courage to chart my own course.  I recognize and embrace the fact that my path to financial success lies off the beaten path.  Admittedly, 2008 definitely was a hard year for all of us.  However, if we take the lessons of 2008 into 2009, we will overcome despite the odds.  2008 was a good year because it demonstrated the fragility of our system, exposed our willingness to aid and abet the very people gaming us, and provide us an opportunity to start anew.  The road to financial freedom will not be easy.  We have shown that we can survive; now it is time to prove that we can succeed.               

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