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Friday, February 27, 2009

Do-it-yourself Personal Stimulus Package

Because the last administration squandered trillions of our money, Obama's anti-recession toolkit is virtually empty; his Stimulus Package will be too little too late. But take heart! You can execute your own do-it-yourself Stimulus Package. But first, a quick discussion about one glaring economic myth.
One of the many weaknesses of economic forecasting is that it attempts to capture and project human behavior in gross numerical terms. What's worse, the measurements we use tell us little about what we really need to know about ourselves as a community.
For example, few people know that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) includes money we spend on waging war, building & running prisons, cleaning up superfund pollution sites, treating drug babies, fighting meth addiction . . . you get the picture. These are failures. But they all increase GDP, our primary measure of economic success. Yay, our GDP increased!
But closer to home, visualize your own Household Domestic Product, that is, your total household spending. Just having it increase wouldn't alway make you feel better would it? What if your spending doubled because you got cancer? Or went through a messy divorce? Or were in a car crash. No, to feel successful it matters what you got for your money.
Having said that, my suggested DIY Personal Stimulus Package isn't about spending money, per se. It is about taking action, which I've classified under three C's, Conserve, Connect, Create. The three C's are interrelated, not separate and distinct steps. And what's best is they don't take any money, necessarily:

CONSERVE: If you've lost your shirt in the stock market, what do you have left that you value most? Your health? Your family? Your job? The balance of your IRA? Sit down and take time to list what really matters to you and how to prevent losses in those areas. If you're depressed about losing half your retirement and you start drinking too much cheap booze then you're squandering your primary remaining asset: your health. You should be doing the opposite! Conserve your health. Take up yoga. Eat right. Get enough sleep. Meditate. Go to church, I don't know. Whatever works for you to conserve your remaining, top priority assets.

CONNECT: I keep hearing from all the business gurus that those who advertise and promote themselves during a recession will do best in the recovery. All that means is connect, whether you are a successful business or an unemployed dishwasher. Connect.
The worst thing you can do is withdraw into your cave, eating & drinking too much in front of the TV. That will trigger a downward spiral from which it will be difficult to extricate yourself. Get out and get known. If nothing else, have a party! Who can you go see, email, write to, call, have lunch with, invite to an event? Where can you look for work, for business, volunteer, or get help? Connect.

CREATE: This is similar to connect. How can you create value out of thin air? Anything you can do to increase your value in society will benefit all of us, thereby stimulating the economy as well as rewarding you.
What if you pledged to visit once per week an elderly shut-in down the street. You may perk her up enough to sufficiently improve her health- or provide early intervention -saving Medicare money, for example. What if you followed your dream of creating art, took some classes, interned at a school or business, and parlayed that into a new career? What if you started a blog that got noticed and made you famous (every blogger's fatuous dream)? Create.

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