Do You Care about the Stock Market?

The stock market crash of 2008 occurred on September 29, 2008. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777.68 points in intra-day trading. Until 2018, it was the largest point drop in history.

For the average American, like myself, the reason for the crash wasn’t nearly as important as the “what to do?” and “how will this effect me,” that came after.

Ten years ago, at the start of 2008, when the housing market, and everything else felt like they were trying to keep their balance on a large patch of quicksand, the one thing almost every Financial Counselor and radio and television station’s “Talking Head,” continued to say to anyone with investments, was “don’t panic,” “stay in the the game.” Numerous so-called experts advised people to keep their money in their 401Ks. “If you take it out, you won’t be able to earn it all back,” I remember someone saying.

The Fall of 2008 came, and thousands of people like myself saw the huge financial impact of the “crash of 2008,” on our 401Ks. And by the end of the year, thousands of people, like myself, were no longer employed at the same companies who were contributing to their 401K. What did that mean? It meant there was no “earning it all back.” My $40,000 loss was a permanent one.

As small businesses fought to keep their employees, and many big business continued to let go of theirs; people scrambled to find other jobs in the middle of what turned into not just a stock market crash, but a job crisis for America.

Suddenly, two-income households were down to one; one income earners struggled to keep the lights on and mortgages paid, even as they watched the value of their homes decline, and foreclosures and short-sales were on the rise. People walked away from the homes they had invested five, 10 even 15 years into, taking the hit on their credit report rather than continue to pay on mortgages that were underwater.

Finger pointing oftentimes claimed people were living above their means, as if everyone had purchased homes twice the price their monthly income could afford. But hardly anyone talked about those living well within the means they had created prior to the mudslide of a housing, jobs, and stock market rollercoaster ride!

Now, 10 years later, as some applaud the recent decline in the unemployment rate, few have continued the conversation about those who are still underemployed; those who never recovered financially from where they were prior to 2008, 2009, 2010 — to where they are now.

According to a survey by PayScale, “as many as 22 million U.S. workers can be considered “underemployed” — that is, they have a job that doesn’t put their education, experience or training to work, or they are working part-time when they’d rather have a full-time job.”

As I watched the stock market take a familiar ride this week (February 5-9), I shuttered at the thought of returning to life 10 years ago, even as I heard those same familiar warnings: “don’t panic,” “leave your money in your 401K,”  “you’ll earn it back.”

There was a new twist this time. Everyone keeps saying that the market is “correcting itself.” Thursday’s CNN Money‘s headline exclaims: Dow plunges 1,033 points and sinks into correction.  The article went on to say:

Fears about the bond market, inflation and interest rates seized investors again Thursday and drove the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all into the red for the year.

The Dow finished with a decline of 1,033 points, the second-worst point drop in history, eclipsed only by Monday’s 1,175-point nosedive.

I’m no financial expert; not even close! I have never individually played the market, or even bought stocks or bonds for myself; trusting financial people who went to school to understand all of the ups and downs of investing and the markets.

What I can speak to is being a survivor of the Recession of 2008-2009, having not only gone through it, but walking right alongside so many friends and peers who walked through it as well. There was a long-lasting effect on us, not just on our finances, but on life as a whole.

Caution.

That’s my word of the day, the month, the year! Proceed with caution.

Get your financial house in order. Stop spending on things you don’t need, and practice more discipline to save and plan for those things you want. If you’re living off of three credit cards, reduce it down to just one. If you’re thinking about buying another car, when there’s nothing wrong with the one you have, don’t. Instead, put the money you would be spending on your monthly payment, away. Make sure your savings account has enough money in it to cover all of your bills for two or three months should something unfortunate happen and you lose your job, have unexpected medical expenses that your insurance won’t cover, or need to help a family member out of an emergency.

Trust is hard to rebuild. So when things seem to be building up to look the same as they did before, it’s kinda hard to believe that they’ll turn out much different. The experts say so. But my survival instincts tell me to be prepared for the “just in case” either way.

The way I see it, if they could see 2008 coming, they would have put measures in place in 2006 and 2007 to avoid it. The future isn’t ours to see; but it can be ours to prepare for.

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