Think back to the olden days of May and June 2008 when all anyone could talk about were those blasted economic stimulus rebates. The general consensus at the time was, yes please give us money, but don’t expect it to help the economy one bit. That’s because everyone feared that the U.S. population would suddenly grow a collective brain cell and decide to save and invest their money rather than go out and spend it on giant TVs and Nintendo Wii systems.
Fortunately, us U.S. Americans proved to be just as stupid as ever with sudden influxes of cash, and the economic stimulus package seems to have worked exactly as it was planned: the economy grew by 3.3% in the second quarter of the year, pretty much putting a nail in the coffin of recession fears. It seems people really did blow their stimulus checks on skydiving lessons and Hannah Montana concert tickets, once again fueling my fears that any wacky crap I write here seems to come horribly true.
So what’s next for the economy? Is this the “all clear” signal we’ve been waiting for? Can banks go back to giving out $800,000 mortgages to Wal-Mart cashiers? Should you start direct depositing your paycheck at your local shopping mall again? The answer to these questions is a resounding… prossably, a word I just invented meaning both probably and possibly. That 3.3% figure may very well be a fluke, the eye of the hurricane that may soon leave the U.S. economy under 12 feet of water and I.O.U.’s to other countries. Or it might truly be an indication that the worst is behind us.
Either way, there’s little hope at this point that people have learned from their financial mistakes of the last decade or so, so I fully expect this economic crisis will continue to repeat itself every 10 or 15 years. Of course, if you really want to be one of those people who learns from their mistakes, then please make sure you’re walking away from this chapter of American history with the following notes on your cheat sheet:
- Don’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need. If you’re ever tempted to max out your credit cards with a shopping spree at your favorite clothier, please consider wearing the clothes you already own instead. Or just go naked, but only if you’re an attractive woman.
- You can’t afford that house. You know that huge house you want over there? Yes, that one I’m pointing at right now. You can’t afford the mortgage payments on it. Don’t ask me how I know; I just know. You can afford that house over there. Yes, the one next door to the crap factory.
- You need to save some money. Remember a few months ago when everyone was losing their jobs and lining up for unemployment and soup kitchens and living under freeway on-ramps? If you don’t, consider yourself lucky. The next time a financial crisis rears its ugly head, if you don’t have a cash cushion tucked away somewhere, you might be one missed paycheck away from being out on the streets.
- You can’t rely on the government to bail you out every time. There are likely a lot of people for whom those stimulus checks were the only thing keeping them from utter financial turmoil… at least for now. Don’t expect Congress or the President or the Tooth Fairy to save your broke ass every time your bank account is getting empty. Instead, learn to secure your own financial future, and assume for all practical purposes that the government isn’t even there at all—well, except when it wants its tax money.
- You need to stop listening to what everyone else is saying about the economy and start looking at your own economy. Employment could be as high as 20%, but if you’re in a high-demand job making good money, investing wisely and spending cautiously, you’ll likely be able to weather even the worst of nationwide financial disasters.
Stay tuned to see what the third quarter of 2008 brings for the economy. And since my prognostications of late seem to come eerily true, I’d like to forecast that July through September will see ridiculous financial growth brought on by me winning every major lottery jackpot in the nation and then spending all of the winnings on constructing the world’s tallest and longest sandwich extending across the entire length of the Mojave Desert (a.k.a. the country’s largest sandwich toaster).