COMMENTARY | With reports of record-breaking sales on Black Friday for many companies, and a stock market that has seen gains for the past two days, it is tempting to hope that this economic news is the start of a brighter economic outlook for both American businesses and consumers. While I would like to be optimistic about an economic recovery, I don’t believe that a Santa Claus, mythical or otherwise, will be enough to lift our stagnant economy. Going forward, I think that American businesses, stock markets, and individual households will continue to see volatility in their earnings, stock prices and personal paychecks. This volatility and uncertainty will translate into the fear that has driven much of the movement in the markets, and this is the same fear that has been behind many of the decisions taking place in both American businesses and households.
There is a lot to fear in our country and world. Many of us have either lost our jobs, or know people who have lost their jobs, in the current economic downturn. We all know people, good people, responsible people, educated people, who have lost their homes and possessions during the recession. Many who are still employed have had to survive cuts in salaries, bonuses, perks, and overtime. The costs for basic things such as fuel, transportation, education and healthcare continue to rise greater than the rate of inflation. I think many of us believed that the number of countries who hated us would decline with a change in leadership, but as anyone who watches the news can see, the enemies of our country have only grown louder and more numerous. Unfortunately, these same countries seem to be the ones that control things like oil, and other basic materials, upon which our economy grows.
I hate to be an economic “Grinch” this holiday season, but a few days of good sales for retailers do not signal an end to the fear and uncertainty that American markets, businesses and households continue to face. Even if things continue to improve, I know that since losing my job and having to make drastic changes in my family’s lifestyle in order to simply survive, I will never revert to the casual attitude that I had towards money and spending. Millions of Americans who have lost their jobs are like me, and this experience will continue to affect our current and future spending levels, and our attitudes towards money, for many years. After struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads, I don’t think I will ever feel “safe” enough again to not want to save every dollar that I earn.