What this recession will do

This current recession is a doozie and there is talk of it either
progressing into what is either called a "double-dip", a full blown depression,
or a long slow slog to recovery. It's bad either way you look at it. Those coming of age in anemic economies have lower salaries as adults compared to those who grew up in good economic times. This has to do with risk aversion. They are conditioned to play it safe.

I have been greatly impacted by this recession.  Speaking gigs are few and far between and my current position as an interim pastor will conclude very soon. There is the looming threat of unemployment for the first time in my life. It scares me. After all, I have a wife and three children to provide for.  But I am not alone. A report in March from the Population Reference Bureau showed that more
than 70 percent of Americans age 40 and over felt they had been affected
by the economic crisis. Government data indicate that the net worth of
the average American household has shrunk by about 20 percent — the
greatest such decline since the end of World War II. Long-term
unemployment — joblessness lasting six months or more — is also at its
highest level since the mid-1940s. According to recent data from the
Rockefeller Institute, 20 percent of Americans have seen their available
household income decline by 25 percent or more. 

It's crunch time…

What might the impact of this historic moment have on our lives in the future? Here are some of my predictions (I'll try to explore more as I have time to ponder):

  • Frugality and Thriftiness will become much more a way of life. These are good things as they put our lives in a perspective of stewardship. In my generational presentations I mention that the oldest generation known as the "Matures" (born prior to 1946) are identified by frugality and thriftiness. I remember how engrained this was in the very fabric of my grandparents lives. It never really went away. This derives from the formative experience of the Great Depression. It's interesting that the oldest generation alive today might just be the most relevant.
  • Yet, the market doesn't like that stance toward life. It needs us to spend and waste. So, look for the market to go into overdrive to get us to consume (as if it isn't bad enough!). Advertising will become more ingenious and insidious in order to turn us around.
  • Community will have much more meaning in our lives. The era of the rugged individualist needs to be over and done with. I think this recession is more than capable of doing that. I've found that people are more sympathetic toward one another because they are all sharing in the same struggle. Studies have shown how much the Battle of Britain in World War II galvanized people to overcome the tragedy together. In fact, when the war was over, people fondly reminisced about the heightened camaraderie they experienced then.  My hope is that attached garages and fenced in yards will no longer be excuses to avoid knowing and relying upon neighbors.
  • Spirituality will become very rampant as people turn to a power greater than themselves. After all, it was ourselves that got us into this mess! Ministries of every stripe have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to care for those in need (and there will be plenty). What a potent way to demonstrate love at the grittiest of street levels. It especially will happen among families and neighbors.
  • Escapist entertainment will continue to draw us into worlds and lives that take us away for brief moments from the realities of our situation. I predict that humorists will increasingly be the mouthpiece of our times (think Colbert Report) and comedies will be the most popular entertainment choice. After all, in the words of that great American philosopher Jimmy Buffett, "if we all couldn't laugh, we would all go insane."

Just a few insights as I gaze into my murky crystal ball.

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Posted in adaptation, Change, recession
2 comments on “What this recession will do
  1. Kim says:

    Well written, and timely, as usual. Thank you Jeff.

  2. James van Hemert says:

    The change toward a more responsible and community focused life style will be painful and very rewarding. Faith communiites will play a critical role in helping people adjust to a new normal.
    Jeff, perhaps you can recraft your work toward more humour. You have talent there.

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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