Summary: We have all been through downturns before but this one is different. It has multiple, complex causes. It is global in nature and no one knows how long it will last or if the bailouts will work. What can we learn in a downturn? Based on a Bill Hybels ser
Lessons from Facing a Broken Economy
Bill Hybels tells the story of finishing a meeting at his church and bumping into a woman who asked about their PADS Ministry which hosts people one night a week who need a place to sleep. They have between 30 and 50 people who show up. They feed them a wonderful meal and show grace to them and then serve them a breakfast the following morning. Bill assumed she was a new volunteer in the ministry but then realized she needed a bed. He walked her to her late model car and had her follow him to the building. When they arrived, he had a moment to talk to her and discovered that she was a suburban middle class woman. This downturn was different from every other downturn she had gone through. She’s not alone. People today are discovering that they no longer have jobs. Have you looked at your 401K lately? Anybody concerned about being downsized out of a job? We have all been through downturns before but this one is different. It has multiple, complex causes. It is global in nature and no one knows how long it will last or if the bailouts will work. What can we learn in a downturn?
First, downturns are an inevitable part of our collective economic reality. I read a story of someone who sailed around the world in a sailboat and they said, “No one sails around the world without running into storms.” No one in this church is going to make it from here to your grave without encountering not just this storm but others. We live in a broken world filled with fragile systems that are run by human beings and every so often those forces merge in a kind of perfect storm and here we are. It’s not an if question but a when question.
Second, downturns ruthlessly expose any weaknesses in our economic strategies on a personal basis. Does your AC ever break down when its 55 degrees outside? No, it only breaks down when its 95 degrees and 90% humidity and company is coming over. Any weakness is going to get exposed when you put in under a load. The same is true of economic downturns. The load exposes our weakness. Did you see the story of Edmund Andrews the NY Times Financial reporter who is on the brink of losing his house because he took advantage of the zero down adjustable mortgage rate which sounded good when the seas were calm and the sun was shining but now it’s a disaster.” Or how about a 28 year old with 10K in debt on their credit card, school loans, a car payment and no emergency funds, they feel great in the good times. Or the 55 year old sole provider for his family loads up his 401K with risky stocks believing he is going to beat the odds, retire comfortably when he is 60 or 65 and all it takes is a stock market reversal and his retirement is in jeopardy. When an economic downturn happens, now that whole house of cards is in peril. In a downturn, any shortcuts, any risks get exposed and usually the consequences are very painful.
Is the current downturn showing any weakness in your current personal financial strategy and have you owned up to that? Have you talked to God about that? Have you talked to your family about that? This is not meant to be you up over past decisions but rather just asking the question, “What can we learn in an economic downturn?”