Anyone not paying attention to the economic news today is missing out on a tremendous learning opportunity. Granted, a great deal of economic news can seem a lot like watching paint dry. But economics is the underpinning of just about many things we experience, a point recognized even in street slang and rap. “It’s all about the Benjamins,” goes one often-heard line. Nothing could be more “about the Benjamins” than today’s economy and, if you’re not paying close attention to it, your boat just left the dock without you.
Economics is not only for the elite Wall Street investment bankers so much vilified by the Obama administration. Economics is just as important for the person who flips hamburgers at McDonald’s as it is for the industry captain. Both are entrusted with the difficult task of running complex economic operations affecting other people. In the case of the fast-food chain worker, the people affected are the most vulnerable, usually the immediate family.
Economics is involved in the prices we pay for food and shelter, for transportation, for education, for sporting events, and for what most of us do the largest part of our lives: work. It is difficult to think of an area which is not impacted by the “benjamins.” Yet, the subject is often ignored in America’s high schools, or else half buried in other subjects like social studies. Social Studies teachers may touch upon economics, but usually surrender to the chorus of groans they hear from students when they broach the subject.
My own early education was adequate in other areas except that I had no sense of economics, no interest in it, and no investment. Neither of my parents graduated from high school. In fact, one of my parents did not even progress to high school. Yet, it is the blue-collar workers and the poor who are most in need of economics education, and who are most impacted by the financial decisions and maneuvering of others. Going into the world without a functional background in economics is like going to war without weapons while the enemy has weapons of mass destruction.
If you fit into the category of blissful ignorance of economic matters, take heart; it is never too late. The information you need is out there like never before:
The internet was not available to our ancestors but now it is full of economic information and it’s all free. Google, Yahoo, and other high-profile internet companies have “Finance” links which will tell you what you need to know about your credit report, the value of your dollar, the hiring or unemployment trends in your area of expertise, the cost of refinancing your house, and other credit costs. Most important, you can search the internet for the highest savings rate. You will learn that it is no longer necessary to deposit your dollars in your local community bank when you can get a higher savings rate at an online bank like ING Direct and others.
If you don’t like staring at a computer screen to further your economic education, you can go to your local library or newsstand to find copies of the periodic magazines like Forbes, Business Week, Fortune 500 or many others. The Wall Street Journal is an excellent source of daily information. As an early sufferer myself from economic dyslexia, the print versions allow me to digest information at my own slow pace of understanding.
Television business news shows may not be as enticing as the next episode of “American Idol” but when has “American Idol” saved you any money. On the new Fox Business Channel, you may find out that your credit card interest rate just went up with the news buried in the fine print. CNBC’s Squawk Box is geared less for consumer news and more for hard core economic analysts and investors, but more workers than ever now have their pension funds invested in stocks, bonds, and other financials. Getting the news early, you might discover you have more impact on your economic future than you thought.
Bloomberg News, a start-up company by billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, broadcasts its financial news on television and on radio so you can learn while you’re stuck in a traffic jam. Bloomberg was out in front with the bad news many months ago when it warned of a “housing bubble.” Many people now wish they had been listening or watching.
Truth to tell, you don’t have to dive head first into the study of economics. But economics is an area where the fundamentals can be a great benefit to your future and that of your family. You can put together a reasonable economic plan of your own and stick to it:
• Develop a disciplined savings plan and hold to it, even if you can only save ten dollars a week.
• Read the fine print in everything you do. If you don’t understand something, it’s very easy to research the topic on the internet. Make it a point to learn everything about it, no matter how “boring” it seems. You’re not a boring person, are you? It’s your own enthusiasm which will make it exciting.
• Develop a basic economic philosophy. This may seem presumptuous but the success of your plan will benefit from the clarity of your thinking. Specifically, you need to develop a resistance to debt and an outlook for the future of yourself and your family.
• Study economics bit by bit. Approach the topic through an area you have a passion for-whether that is fast cars, gambling, snowboarding, bicycling, or books. Look at the “business” beneath the surface of what seems merely entertaining.
If these few bromides are not enough to motivate you to take in interest in the national economy, then perhaps the notion that people are taking advantage of you will motivate you further. Consider that, at some point, the families of the wealthy were as poor as you are. Their eventual wealth and power was accomplished through the use of your money, your interest, your work, your expertise. This applies as much to the government as it does to private enterprise. You would be seriously remiss these days if you fail to recognize the economic maneuvering and business activity of expanding government enterprise.
Labels: America's Economic Collapse: Don't Miss a Great Opportunity