It seems sometimes that we go out of our way to find things to worry about. Whenever I hear talk about how bad things have become, I understand that, yes, some people are hurting and need our help, but the vast majority of Americans wake up each day with a roof over our heads, clean water and more than enough to eat.
How to Remain Optimistic
What we need is a healthy dose of gratitude for how great things are today. How soon, as a society, do we forget the trials faced by those who went before us? There are still plenty of people alive who recall the depths of the Great Depression, the food rationing of the Second World War, and the atrocities of a world in turmoil.
The comedian Louis C.K. has this tremendously insightful bit he does called “Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy.” He describes the incredulity of Americans whose cell phones don’t download data the instant they touch the screen or who are delayed 20 minutes on a cross-country flight. They seem to have no perspective on the remarkable efforts needed to create such prosperity.
My grandfather lived through the Depression and spent most of his working years in a bus factory. Once at the dinner table, he saw me cutting the fat off a pork chop. He speared it off my plate with his fork, cut it up, and ate it. “It’s good,” he said. “We would never have thought of throwing that away back in the day. We didn’t know if we’d have enough to eat the next day.” The fat equaled calories, and calories meant energy. Nothing was wasted. Fast forward to today, and my kids will cut off the tiniest, nearly invisible sliver of fat that remains on any meat on their plates. I tell them the story about my grandfather and the pork fat, and they think I’m kidding. Fortunately, my grandfather’s lessons about the value of a dollar left an impression on me, and I try to share those lessons with my own children.
We could do with more of his resourceful attitude. It seems so many people feel a sense of entitlement these days. We need to get back on track with both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility.
What Challenges do We Face Today?
Today’s challenges are real, but they are hardly worse than what we have managed to endure. We came through our troubles then, and we thrived. We always come through strong and full of promise. Such is the cycle of humanity.
And such is the cycle of the markets. The fifth principle of Power of 5 Investing is not just that it’s never different this time. Underlying all of this is a fundamental belief that things always get better. That is the premise upon which the other principles are built. It’s the premise that makes all the planning possible.
The human spirit can be stifled by oppression and bureaucracy, but it cannot be defeated forever. Things are getting better, despite all the whining and handwringing by the media and big government. Let the dreamers and innovators thrive, and things will get better.
If you believe that America and the capitalist system is broken and that we’re never going to be able to invent and improve things that make the world a better place, then you shouldn’t be investing in stocks. This doom and gloom rhetoric not only ignores the historical record, but it cannot be a fun way to live. Rest assured: I believe we will work our way out of our problems. The world moves on, and things get better. You can count on it.
Optimism Is The Only Rational Philosophy
I am an unabashed optimist on the future of America. Human beings are creative and innovative with an ambition to reach for the bigger and the better. We have the ability to outgrow every problem. We’ll be okay. Those who likewise trust the power of our potential will understand the foundation of Power of 5 Investing. No secret financial fad here. These are fundamentals, tested by time and experience, unadorned and far more powerful than any fad you might find.
These principles are set up to keep on working through good times and through bad times, on a trajectory trending ever upward over time. If you believe that, and if you set aside enough reserves to get you through any rough patch while your nest egg grows, you will be well on your way toward retirement prosperity.
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