Most of us know the principles of responsible money management: Habitual saving and controlled spending. Never borrow money without a plan to pay it back. Don’t live beyond your means. We read about it in Black Enterprise, heard about it on Nightly Business Report, accumulated best sellers ranging from Rich Dad, Poor Dad to The Millionaire Next Door. Yes, we know what to do—we just didn’t do it.
Now, the inevitable winter of the economic cycle has arrived, and we’re all paying the price for not putting aside resources for tough times. I find it encouraging to remember an American generation that didn’t just talk about fiscal responsibility, but lived it: the survivors of the oft referenced Great Depression of 1929. They learned the hard way to save diligently, borrow sparingly and appreciate everything, taking nothing for granted.
I remain hopeful that we will not experience a depression on the scale of the one from 80 years ago. However, the silver lining in the cloud swamping our economy could be a resetting of our values, turning us away from our addiction to credit, disdain for saving and immature obsession with satisfying our every whim now, even if we can’t afford it. There is a conversation that many parents, including me, have been forced to have with our children this Christmas: The presents under the tree will be neither as large, nor as plentiful this year. But it’s not about the stuff we can buy; it’s about valuing life and the people in it. I’m hoping that this reality check will be the gift that keeps on giving long after the economy recovers.
Alfred Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com