Over the last month we've seen some relative growth in the U.S. market, but there is danger in getting too comfortable. While it may not be fun to think about or easy to accept, it's wise to realize that as far as the economy is concerned, it's wintertime. It's a tough, cold and long season -- but it will be a lot easier if you know what to expect and can be prepared.
This is the advice Tony Robbins, who has worked as a personal adviser to some of the world's top financial leaders, offers in a video message he recorded last week encouraging viewers to be smart about the financial decisions they make in the coming months and years.
"People get so seduced into wanting to make money when things are going well, that they think they're going to go well forever ... so we make stupid mistakes." says Robbins. "It's important to realize this is a season change. This is winter."
The key? Anticipation. You have to know the road ahead. Robbins likens it to playing a video game against a young kid. As any parent knows, the kid will win every time! Why?
"They win for one reason. Not because they're faster; not because they're stronger; not because they're quicker. It's because they've played this game before. They have the power to anticipate instead of react."
Statistics and logic suggest the economy will get worse before it gets better, warns Robbins, citing several reasons:
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- Psychology. The economy is driven by consumer spending, and a big factor is the psychological mood the nation. For example, on top of the fact that we just went through two of the biggest bubble bursts in history, right now the baby boom generation is entering the life stage when people start saving. This is contributing to a huge halt in spending and borrowing money.
- Unemployment. The lower the economic bracket, the higher the unemployment rate gets -- up to 33 percent in low-income families. Across the board unemployment is at record levels, and people are hanging on to their money.
- Consumer Confidence. According to a University of Michigan report, consumer sentiment is as low as it's been since October 2008; the last time it was any lower was right after 9/11. While the recent boost in spending may have helped temporarily, it's not a long-term fix.
- Demand for Credit. Despite government stimulus the demand for credit is shrinking. Counter-intuitively, even with unemployment up people aren't applying for loans. As a society we're paying back more than we're borrowing.
- Real Estate. Interest rates right now are the lowest they've been in a century, yet no one's buying houses. Banks are selling more homes than home builders.
- Banks. If they can't make money through loans, banks will find themselves in a tough spot. Currently businesses are borrowing less, too, choosing instead to focus on boosting efficiency and productivity.
- The Fed. The Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates by buying trillions of dollars' worth of mortgage-backed securities. But despite historically low rates, people are borrowing less.
"This is a season called winter and it doesn't last forever. Winter's followed by spring. There will be another great set of opportunities," says Robbins. "It'll probably take longer than we want, but if you're smart and don't let things stop you, you can see where these opportunities are."
So what can you do?
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- Anticipate. Instead of blind optimism, accept the season we're in. Understand the overall trend so you know how to react: If you try to plant seeds in winter, nothing will grow. Decide to find a way to take advantage of the reality of the situation.
- Educate yourself. Educate yourself about personal finance. There are many tools available to help you make smart decisions, to protect your assets and your family.
- Look to Role Models. Learn from people who have been through similar situations before and achieved success in tough markets. One such person is Sir John Templeton, an investment pioneer whose foresight made him billions.
- Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude -- Not Fear. Find a way to add more value than anyone else is adding. If you can give more than you expect to receive, it'll put your own life into perspective and make it more meaningful. Wealth is not just about money -- it's psychological, spiritual, emotional and physical.
"This opportunity for us in winter to get closer to our family and friends. It's a chance to change the quality of our lives for the better," Robbins says. "And if you're smart, it's a chance to do well financially as well."