Personal Finances: Pinched and the Great Recession

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How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures

Here’s a roundup of today’s financial news. It’s connected to my dream of mastering my personal finances, and as a matter of fact, to all of our dreams.

  • Net job creation for August, 2011: 0.

Let me spell that out for you: Zero. As in, not one single new job was created in the last thirty days. We need a couple hundred thousand jobs per month in order to recover here in the US. Actually, we probably need more than that, because we’ve been struggling for so long.

  • Dow Jones: Down 253 points.

I personally am not in the stock market, so when I watch the Dow I’m not looking at dollars, I’m looking at attitudes. Investors weren’t real pleased by the jobs report – you could tell that within a few minutes of the opening bell. Perhaps I state the obvious when I say the attitude is not positive.

  • Unemployment nationwide: stuck at 9.1%.

That’s bad enough on its own, but there’s another job-related number we should be looking at, and that’s the “all-in” unemployment percentage. All-in includes people who have part time jobs but want and can’t find full time jobs. That number (drum roll please): 16.2%.

I looked, and I could not find anyone who could spin even the tiniest sliver of a silver lining in these numbers.

I don’t know what’s going to turn this dire tide – unless WE turn it.

I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again: the economy is us. The government is us. Change comes from us. Waiting for someone else to do it for us is likely to leave us unchanged.


As gloomy as it all seems, I refuse to be daunted, and I invite you to refuse to be daunted too. A lack of leadership plagues us, but each of us has the opportunity to step up and lead. The call to action is ours.

If you believe, as I do, that it is our accountability as citizens to do everything we can to solve these pernicious problems, then may I suggest two books to get you started.

The first, by Don Peck, is Pinched: How the Great Recession has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It.

The second, by Daniel Burrus, is Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible.

I’m not going to lie to you. Pinched is very readable (unlike a lot of other books about economics), but very difficult to take in.  Part history and part analysis, the book  places the Great Recession in context with other periods of economic downturn, comparing and contrasting the causes and effects.

At times I was so enraged by what I read that I had to pace around the room to keep from throwing the Kindle against a wall. At other times I was fearful, and still other times tired and depressed. Painful as it was, I’m glad I read it, and I’m asking everyone within the virtual sound of my digital voice to read it too. If anything will mobilize us to demand and create change, Pinched will.

Flash Foresight

Armed with knowledge and mobilized for change, let us turn to Flash Foresight. Those of you who don’t much care for business books will need to read around the fact that the book is targeted to business. The strategies will work just as well for public policy, and indeed for the challenges of individual and community life.

In the middle of reading it,  for example, I realized it’s a road map I can use to help my children prepare for their futures. That was a huge relief and a very empowering thought.

Flash Foresight teaches us how to identify hard trends, and how to prepare for the opportunities those hard trends offer. Once you learn how to recognize hard trends,  you can see them everywhere. In fact, this is Burrus’s point. The hard trends are right in front of us, if we will only look.

  • Technology is a hard trend.
  • An aging population is a hard trend.
  • The loss of wealth is a hard trend preventing “retirement-age” people from retiring.
  • Young people entering the workforce while jobs are still held by older people is also a hard trend.

Figure out a way to build a new-era economy to serve hard trends like those, and we can create jobs. We can fuel growth. We can prosper.

Or…keep looking for ways to recover on the old trends. Government employment, the housing boom, and easy-credit consumerism aren’t coming back. Trying to create jobs tied to those old trends is not a recipe for recovery.

So, which do we choose?

It won’t be easy. We’ll have to make some big changes, and change is hard. Much of what we used to take for granted won’t look anything like it used to look.

Personally, I think it will be worth it.

How about you, World of Dreamers? What future do you dream of? Leave a comment below.

  • Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.