The Blessings of a Recession

Almost a year ago, last April, I published the post, The Blessings of A Downturn. Today, the downturn is clearly a recession far worse than we anticipated as a nation or as a family. The subject of this post is even more timely now than it was then, and I’m reposting it with an addition of a new point of learning. My husband reminded me of a story about a family long ago, in need of food, who finds themselves with a broken bow. Yesterday, I shared this  story, and today, I add what I’m learning from it as my first point.

The economic downturn we face in the United States is now officially a recession, and the financial pressure many families feel is real. Our family relies on the construction industry for our livelihood, and we began to feel that pressure on our finances in the closing months of 2007.

The prospects felt bleak when we did not have a clear vision of what the future might bring for my husband’s small business. Right away, we turned to our faith as a means to gain some perspective and seek help. We did not just pray and expect God to do the rest. We did all that we could do. While I cannot say that we have enjoyed the experience, the situation has been an opportunity for us to learn and grow in several ways:

• Recognizing The Difference Between Problem Solving and Complaining

I love to talk it out. It helps me sort through the pros and cons of solutions and identify which course of action feels like the right one. While my husband is a good listener, he is not a talker and does not solve problems this way.  In the last six months, I’ve come to realize that while talking is important to me (I’m a woman, right?), when I point out all the negatives associated with the situation, under the guise of problem-solving, I’m simply complaining.

The blessing: My desire to encourage my husband as a provider reminds me to withhold my negativity in conversations with him and in prayer with God.

• Improved Communication in Marriage

We knew we would need to consider our short term cash flow and needs, as well as our longer term plans. Like most couples, we have never discussed finances very well. “The American Bar Association has indicated that 89 percent of all divorces can be traced to quarrels and accusations over money. Others have estimated that 75 percent of all divorces result from clashes over finances.” (see One for the Money, Guide to Family Finances) I wouldn’t say that we clash over finances, but communication is tense when we need to create a new budget or when we have unexpected financial obligations. But over the past months we have created a new computerized budget, brought our banking up-to-date and learned to discuss and agree upon financial priorities as a couple.

The blessing: Confronting and resolving our most difficult communication issue has led us to communicate better in all aspects of our marriage.

• Differentiating Between Wants Versus Needs

We also have had the opportunity to counsel with our children about the financial and time commitments of our activities. Our 8-year-old daughter led us in charting each activity under one of three columns: good, better or best. We discovered that although some things we were doing were good, we needed to use our resources for those things that were better and the best. We also had to use the same mental chart with all of our discretionary expenditures like food, entertainment, clothing, and gifts to determine our most important needs and prioritize our wants.

The blessing: We spend our time and money on what we really value, and we are more conscious and appreciative of what we already have.

• Planning For the Future

While I would really love to be planning a vacation get-away when the economic picture improves, this experience has reminded us of the importance of paying off debt (including our mortgage) and saving for the future. That is probably one of the most difficult adjustments to make—changing habits to focus on the long-term financial picture rather than the short term one.

The blessing: Our perspective of the financial goals we want to attain in the years to come has become more clearly defined in our minds.

Optimism is replacing pessimism in my life and not because business has increased. Ultimately, my hope comes from something deeper than money. The most important blessing of this downturn has been to remember that “In God We Trust,” is more than a symbolic statement on paper.

This post is an answer to my daily question: Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our family today?

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5 Comments

  1. What a great post! I really like how you wrapped up each section with a very insightful blessing. The whole post puts a positive spin on a difficult topic without romanticizing it or being annoyingly cheery. 🙂

    You and I (and the rest of the country, I guess) are of one mind right now. Last night I wrote a post about making do with less, and the good that can come from the process. 🙂

  2. TJ
    Feb 9, 2009

    Kristen,
    I dislike annoyingly cheery – it feels like I’m being false. So I’m glad it didn’t come out that way. I think one of the hardest parts about facing financially difficult times is feeling alone in the crisis. I hope if I can honestly share where I’m at and how I’m coping, others will be able to face it, too.

  3. Rebecca
    Feb 10, 2009

    Oh boy, this is a much needed read right now. Thanks for posting it!

  4. Carrie
    Feb 15, 2009

    I really liked your comments on wants vs needs. I think that it is an important principle to learn and understand no matter what kind of finanlicial situation you are in, and the applications to time commitments is so important as well. Thank you.

  5. An Ordinary Mom
    Feb 16, 2009

    I love your positive outlook on life. Thanks for showing us we are not alone as we all deal with financial adjustments.

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