I'm giving advice from the trenches to those younger than myself, which is a good percentage of the population. There will be ups and downs in money matters. Bean-counter types call it business cycles.
A 66-year old college grad with 40 yrs of business experience wrote me to ask what I thought about the bailout mess. I was there 20 years ago--being 66, I mean.
Although I escaped the business world to retire with my husband eleven years earlier, 1988 was no picnic for us. Inflation was double digit and the country was in a drought. Our garden whimpered. It took extra effort to store food for winter.
When we left our jobs in Chicago, the Rust Belt loomed and natural gas rationing made cold winters challenging. We hoped in our later years to have accumulated capital from a stock market, which gave us, instead, its worst fall--except for the Big One. In the interest of high gas mileage we owned a Sentra, which we hoped would tide us over into an unforeseeable future.
After Labor Day 1988, I took a 2-week bus trip to Wyoming, staying mostly with friends and relatives. Yellowstone Park emitted smoke all the way to Kansas City. The sunflowers in Northern Kansas bowed their heads in retreat. Corn in Iowa was so frizzled that it looked like Gehu (Indian style corn). Even the oil boom in Wyoming of a few years earlier was busting. And, after 8 years of Reaganomics, the Bush/Dukakis campaign was at crunch time.
On my bus trip, I stopped in Iowa City to see what had happened in the years since I left it a few days after VJ-Day. Some of the professors I admired had become memorialized by having their names on new buildings. Staying at the Student Union, I awoke at 8:00 the next morning to the sound of the Engineering Building's whistle. Time for class. How it blew the day World War II ended!
New to me was a transportation system which cut down on time to cross from one side of the Iowa River to the other, run by the Student Association, cooperatively. My sister, her husband and I had worked our way through college, helped by decreased cost for room and board in dorms run by the Cooperative Dormitory Association. It's hard not to divert into a dissertation on the power of the cooperative movement. Another time, maybe.
Politics looked bleak. Democrats had put up an Eastern governor who lacked charisma, and George H. W. Bush walked in on the coattails of the Gipper. Four more years of the same! (Let that be a warning.) In hindsight, there was one bright spot--he knew how to stop wars once he started them. And the Fall of the Wall was a splendid interlude. The stock market limped.
It seems like we've been forever blowing bubbles. Bill Clinton engaged in what was a euphoric dot.com "anything goes" kind of economy. For once my capital began to grow. The president thought globally and that was fine with me. I wasn't so happy when Al Gore broke the tie to get NAFTA. I recalled Ross Perot's graphs. After venture capitalists picked off the best management in software development, the tech industry lost its laissez faire luster, and the bubbles burst. I understand better with hindsight after reading Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber's The World Challenge (1981) where he describes how Arabian young leaders came together to form a pact: Oil for Technology. Before, I only knew about OPEC, but this book made sense of the 70s boycott.
President Bush's son--Dubya to us who need a neutral identifier--was catapulted into global affairs after the second, more devastating, attack on the World Trade Center. Events since then are insulting to constitutional stalwarts, and stupefying to economists. I worked ever harder to make sense of the 2004 election, given that election integrity had been gravely tested. When Wes Clark used that debate-changing phrase in the primaries: "It was wrong then and it's wrong now" to describe the US invasion of Iraq, I turned to Dana Priest's The Mission. I needed to know what CENTCOM really meant. My, we do have our flag flying around the world! It helped me to understand how the Bush doctrine of pre-emption fit in with General Petraeus' taking the job General Clark once held. All it took was a Study Group, the one with former Secretary James Baker (friend of the family) and current Secretary of Defense Gates (former CIA official) to get to SOFA (just call it dividing up the oil). Now we have the foreign policy well formed, with Condi Rice to talk to the world.
In domestic affairs, there seems to have been a Perfect Storm. People were scared and withdrew their money market funds and that got Secretary Hank Paulson troubled, so he called the money managers of the administration together on Friday night and announced on Saturday morning that there was a world-shaking occurrence which Congress would have to fix right away or we might lose our pensions or jobs, or worse. Other countries would not have faith in our Almighty Dollar. It was time to be scared and buckle down and pray to Almighty God that the leaders would pull us through.
SORRY! Really sorry. Please forgive me. Cut that last paragraph. But my endocrine system must have gone awry. I'm not scared. I'm not even worried. I recognize that the taxpayers have been conned before. Maybe this time will be better. I'm an old woman and it's someone else's turn to figure out how they want to run their country. This is my last presidential campaign if I be well enough to last another six weeks. Just one little extra hint. Another book to read. Lester Thurow, professor of economics, wrote in 1995 a book about our predicament. It outlined the possible "tectonic changes" in the next 25 years. We're halfway there. The name of the book is The Future of Capitalism.