There is only one thing that will save the economy, your job and your 401(k) in 2012.
You have to have confidence.
I know, I know. You think I’m batty as Julie Andrews spinning up the dirt road to the von Trapp manor with guitar in hand, singing, “I have confidence in me!”
Maybe it is a little crazy. But it’s true. Even the cold, hard facts of this complex global economy make this same emotional plea. Confidence — or a lack there-of — is paramount.
Fact: December will mark the eighth straight month of net withdrawals from U.S. mutual funds. Investors don’t have confidence, so they are taking their money and running.
Fact: The European Central Bank continues to set records as continental banks park their cash there. Why? Because euro zone banks don’t have confidence they will get paid back if they lend to anyone else but the massive central bank. Just as the phrase “crisis of confidence” characterized the U.S. credit freeze after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, it has become shorthand for in the debt crisis of Europe, too.
Fact: For the third quarter, The Conference Board’s measure of chief executive confidence declined even more to bottom out at a two-year low. That stat is about as quantifiable as uncertainty can get.
Heck, on the most basic level, it is confidence that moves the market. Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) saw a 30% decline in the stock this week because store closings made people doubt the long-term hopes of the company. When stocks go up, it’s when the reverse is true — that investors are secure in the company’s future.
In finance, confidence is key right now.
So what can we do in a world like this? After all, it’s hard to see how one American can swim against the dark tide of uncertainty that seems to be sweeping in from all corners.
It’s simple. Don’t let your fears and doubts cripple you in the year ahead. Have confidence in your own financial endeavors in 2012, even if you’re scared.
If you want to start a business, start a business. Who cares if everyone tells you that “this isn’t the environment for a start-up.” Is it ever really a good time to take out a second mortgage, forgo corporate-sponsored health insurance and work 60-hour weeks because there’s nobody else to help? True entrepreneurs are risk-takers by nature.
If you want to spend money, spend money. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that it was a “bad idea” to take a vacation even if they had the money and time this year. Seriously? Someone please shoot me if I ever decide it’s a bad idea to play on the beach with my daughters and a good idea to sit in a cubicle for eight hours.
If you want to quit your job, quit your job. Numerous studies show that employee dissatisfaction is at an all-time low — largely because people think they don’t have options. Everyone has their breaking point, so make sure you reach that breaking point with your employer before it starts affecting your personal relationships and overall happiness.
All this is easier said than done, I know. But if you don’t believe that ultimately things are going to be OK or that there are options … then frankly, what’s the point?
Sure, there is the possibility of chaos in Europe and a “hard landing” in China. There is political and economic bedlam at home and abroad. If you want to live your life based on doomsday scenarios, go build a bunker with canned goods and gold bullion instead of reading this blog post.
Yes, we have big problems — both macroeconomically and microeconomically in our personal household budgets. But unless we have the confidence and courage to face these issues and get on with our lives, we are doomed to the status quo.
So if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, buck up and sing along with me and Julie:
“… with each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They’ll have to agree I have confidence in me.”
Here’s to 2012.
Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.