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Psychi-nomics 101: Prophets Predict our Financial Future

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A recent article in USA Today spoke of a sharp rise in business among clairvoyants. It's no wonder - people are desperate to know when they will find work again and no one on this earth can tell them. Those with a strong faith may trust that it's all in the hands of a Higher Power. But that's never really done it for me. I've always found faith seriously lacking in actual information. So, while I wouldn't bet my house on it, I've never been averse to a little psychic information gathering, a bit of extra hope, false or not. The faithful among you could just look at it as knowing God's will in advance.

I'm not here to argue the merits of this type of research but I do think psychics can give you helpful cues on career directions you might not otherwise come up with. The trick is to not think something predicted will just come to you without you putting in the footwork. Personal responsibility is still key. And no, psychics are not always right, but quite often they are. (Note to the wary: Those with a psychic gift, almost always passed down in families, are not evil or mean-spirited, with the possible exception of a store-front prophet who once told me there was a spell on me that only six further visits could remove. If nothing else, I appreciated this novel marketing technique).

In any case, as Timothy Geithner et al seem unable to offer us convincing or definitive information on outcomes or time frames, we might as well put a little money on psychics. So I thought I'd dip into my own personal address book to do a little temperature taking on the future of the economy - if not the entire universe.

I made a few calls. Business is indeed good but concerns seem to vary from coast to coast and industry to industry. Stylish, savvy Mary T. Browne, well-known New York psychic, author and a perennial favorite among the Wall St. set, says she foresaw the housing crisis and as far back as three years ago intuited that clients should start investing in gold. If not exactly knowing why - yet - this was coming up, her warnings to a few clients to not make a job jump to Lehman or Bear Stearns were also prescient. Now her clients are seeking more prosaic information, like when they will work again. She tried to let a 25-year career banker down easily; within the next 5 years, she saw absolutely no opportunity in banking for this man.

Much of her work now is as much about counseling as predicting. She advises the unemployed to "use their free time to put their thinking elsewhere" rather than hammering away to get back into finance. Where will there be opportunity? "Farming and agriculture. Energy, science. And you're going to see a difference in kids coming out of college. They're not going to all major in finance anymore. Science will be big." She also sees a great deal of creative force in the arts despite cutbacks. The eventual re-emergence of smaller, family-run businesses will see more personal relationships between consumer and merchant. "Think return of the country banker."

Ok. Good information, though hopefully she did not mean subsistence farming. Is that what Michelle Obama is really up to in the back yard?

Mary's bankers could continue their journey of self discovery with a call to Fleur Phillips, an intuitive guide who counsels people on aligning with their higher purpose in life, and really, what better moment to address this, what with all hell broken loose and lots of free time. Recently back in New York from California, her business on the West Coast comprises primarily actors, writers and other creative types. Unlike the Wall St. psychic, her business hasn't fluctuated much in recent months - after all, this group is used to being in and out of work and can roll with the punches a little better.

Like Mary, she counsels that "now is the time to expand the idea of who you are. Move beyond the concept that you are what you do". Fleur warns that this can be soul-wrenching work and not for the faint of heart. As so many base their entire identify on their job title, letting go of that "person" can leave one floundering while waiting to re-discover parts of themselves abandoned long ago or simply never developed.

What to do? Fleur says to start with "thinking how you can serve - the world. What work can you do that is not focused solely on personal enrichment?" This focus has practical application in the short term as well - in volunteerism. Not only does it give one a sense of purpose (and help with the boredom that can come with unemployment), it's also a great networking tool. Not bad for romance, either.

But what we all want to know, of course, is when will this crisis end? Mary says "you'd better take Dramamine", because it will still be a real roller coaster. She doesn't think we'll hit bottom till the end of the year, and won't be able to breathe a real sigh of relief until Q4 of 2010.

In the interim? Personally, I see a lot of really bad first novels being flogged at publishers by out of work executives who "had one book in them". Though actually, I think this is a great time for us all to let our inner artist out. And who knows, maybe it will produce the next War and Peace.

And my own future? I didn't ask for details. Right now, I really don't want to know.