Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's Steely Dan song "When Black Friday Comes" is now relevant. ©1974 MCA Music Publishing.
When Black Friday comes
I'll stand down by the door
And catch the gray men
When they dive from the fourteenth floor
When Black Friday comes
I'll collect everything I'm owed
And before my friends find out
I'll be on the road
When Black Friday falls you know it's got to be
Don't let it fall on me
Yup, we are facing economic hard times, only around here we've always been in them in one form or another. So now what, you ask? Just keep on keeping on. The sun is going to rise tomorrow, the stars will continue to twinkle, the leaves will fall off the trees in October, and come spring, the snow will melt. As long as I have an income I'll continue contributing to my retirement plan, too.
Our nation's financial indiscretions will affect a lot of people in the coming months, but in Vermont we generally don't have the big economic highs and lows that most of the rest of the nation experiences. We have a long history of self-reliance. It is also good to know that local financial institutions like Credit Unions and Community Banks were never players in the big money games. If anyone moves their money, it ought to be to the local institutions because they are the ones that are financially sound, and they benefit people who live here, in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Vermonters have never been known to be high rolling gamblers as a whole, and our financially careful nature is a reflection of our surroundings. We have rich soil covering hard granite here. Our hills and mountains can be daunting and act as barriers to free travel (and cell signals) but they define us by cradling and protecting us with their mass.
In this part of the country, many of us are never far from having the wolf at our door. Living from paycheck to paycheck is a way of life, and we adapt in many ways. Instead of hiring someone to clean our homes, we do it ourselves. Instead of taking the car to a garage, we go to the parts store and fix it in the backyard in any kind of weather. Some of us have been known to hand dig our own septic systems, build our homes with our own two hands, and go up and repair the roof when it leaks.
In other parts of the country people may soon discover bartering for things that they need. We've been doing it here forever. I've bartered for all kinds of things, from firewood to house repair. We soon learn that if we have skills that someone else needs, they most likely have skills that we need and don't possess. It all works out.
When times get tough, we can either choose to "pull in our horns," or we can reach out to others. We already have a pretty good sense of interdependence in these parts, and if we continue to help our neighbor we will never lack for the important things in life.
No one relishes the thought of a deep recession, but in our boom and bust economy, it is inevitable. I once knew a former IRS agent who retired and bought a bar on Cape Cod. He called it "Murph's Recession." He told me that we were either in one, coming out of one, or heading back into one, so you might as well have a drink and relax. It made me chuckle, and now, 30 years later, Old Murph has been proven to be essentially correct. If life isn't handing you challenges every now and then, you aren't really living, and if we don't have some problems, well, by golly we'll create some for you.
On a slightly more serious note, it is a fact that our financial literacy in this nation is not on a par with many of the other first world countries. Credit is too easy to get, temptations for spending are everywhere, and we are a materialistic nation. While being materialistic isn't all bad, it's how we finance it that can get us into trouble, and our lack of impulse control can land us in hot water fast. It's too bad that it takes an economic situation to jolt many folks back to reality.
We may have just witnessed a Black Friday event, but let's hope that we become more aware of financial matters, and that something gets done to curb the greed and short term thinking that got us here in the first place.