Last week I wrote about reframing the economic crisis. The point of that piece was to bring a little positivity into what is becoming a pretty gloomy economic time. I hoped to challenge you to think of the positive things that may come from disaster. So, in the interest of continuing that bit of positivity, I’m going to offer up another “positivity challenge.” This week, I challenge you to stop worrying about the economy and do something to make things better, whether for yourself or someone else.
As I pointed out last week, attitude has a big part in determining how well we deal with crises. When bad things are happening, we tend to feel out of control, at the mercy of events we cannot change, scared, stressed, and confused. Those negative feelings lead to a desire to hide away in our rooms, to worry, and even to illness and bad decisions made out of fear. The key to dealing with a crisis is to bring a sense of control back to the situation. Taking action is better for your mental state than idly worrying about what is or may be. Mindless worry without action will do nothing but make you sick. You may not be able to solve every problem or fix every mess, but you can take steps to bring some things under your control. You can’t control what the government or big companies choose to do (or not do), but you can do things to make your situation better or help others. Need some ideas? Here’s a list of action steps you can take to bring some control back to your world during the economic crisis.
1. Polish your resume and build your network of job prospects. You never know when a layoff might happen, so be prepared to look for work.
2. Open a savings account. Put as much as you can into it, even if it’s only a few bucks a week, to act as a buffer between you and disaster.
3. Start contributing to a 401K or IRA. Every little bit you can stash away for retirement builds a more secure future for yourself.
4. Make a budget. Having a plan for your money gives you more control than flying blind.
5. Slash spending. If you’re worried that you don’t have enough cash stashed away, slash spending on all unnecessary items and start putting the extra away.
6. Educate yourself. Learn about finance and financial concepts so you can better understand the crisis and plan the actions you need to take in response.
7. Plant a garden to reduce food costs.
8. Pay down debt so that if you do lose a job you have fewer bills to worry about.
9. Figure out what you’ll need for retirement and when and adjust your savings plans accordingly.
10. Make a list of things that you will cut and in what order if things get bad for you.
11. Take a part time job or open a freelance business on the side to give you an extra source of income.
12. Check your credit reports and clean up any errors so that if you need a loan to get by you’ll stand a better chance of getting one.
13. Learn to do more things for yourself so that you can both save money and be more independent.
14. Volunteer your time or donate some money to those less fortunate. No matter how bad you think you have it, someone has it worse. Show some compassion and help others. It’ll help you feel more positive.
15. Generate some extra cash and then sock it away for the bad times.
16. Get all your other financial matters under control. Make a will, set up a trust, and review your insurance policies to make certain you’re covered in the event something really terrible happens.
17. Get organized. Spend some time creating a good organizational system so that you know where all of your bills, important papers, and legal documents are kept. In times of crisis, you don’t want to be fumbling around looking for documents.
18. Talk. Talk to people you trust like friends or family. Talking about your troubles or worries often makes them seem smaller and less bothersome. Also, if you think the situation is spiraling out of control or might if you lose a job, take some time and talk to a financial professional. Whether it’s your hometown banker or an independent professional, pick their brains for help. The time to talk and get advice is before you are desperate.
19. Clean and fix up your house so that if you have to sell it you’re ready to do so.
20. Brush up on or learn new skills related to your work. You’re more employable if you’re up to date on the latest developments in your field.
Any action you can take to get more control over your situation will make you feel better and better able to deal with the poor economy. You may not be able to prevent a layoff, the collapse of your investments, or other bad things from happening, but you can prepare for the bad times and improve your current situation. If you get lucky and nothing bad happens, at worst you’ve saved some extra money or made some better plans. If something bad does happen to you (or has already happened) taking concrete action is better for you than simply sitting in a corner and worrying.
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