The root and most visible component of the problem, over-inflated and now deflated home values, continues to be the dog that wags the tail. The fact is north Georgia and the U.S. are still burdened by excess inventory, and projections show that will continue through 2012 and perhaps beyond.
This reality hit home with me last week when my best friend from childhood, a guy I’ve known for 44 years, called to check in. After a long, rambling conversation, he told me, “We had to let our house go.” Understand, Ed and I were raised in the same small town, with the same values, and one of those values included the protection of your family — and your family’s home — at all costs.
Ed and his wife bought their dream home in the heady days of the housing bubble. My wife and I were incredibly impressed and happy for them. They were a two-income family, one in banking and the other in real estate. In 2001, the world was their oyster. Who would imagine 10 years later, the real estate business would all but dissolve and the banking industry’s mortgage arm would wither as well?
These are incredibly hard-working people. They have two kids in college and a third in middle school. They’ve now let their home go back to the bank. Complete loss of equity, loss of ability to make a future down payment on another home, shot credit score. Welcome to the reality of the Great Recession.
Everywhere I go I meet people coping with the new reality. The generation that enjoyed company benefits, two weeks’ vacation and nine holidays is gone. Count yourself incredibly fortunate if you’re still in that paradigm. I have the privilege of working with journalism colleagues who are learning to survive — some even thrive — after they’ve accepted that things will never go back to the way they were.
If you find yourself caught in the whirlpool, I suggest you read the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It’s an amazing (and brief) way to look at your situation from a distance. In fact, you view your situation as a mouse that has suddenly found that his cheese stash is no longer where he came to expect it to be.
I have lots of friends who are no longer lamenting the loss of their cheese “stash,” but creating a path to a new stash. Joan Simpson (not her real name) spent 25 years as a television producer. She worked with one of Atlanta’s most recognized personalities for 15 years. The new economy chewed her up and spit her out in 2009. What did she do? Joan started her own production company. She’s on a (Form) 1099 basis with her new employers, and her skills are in great demand.
How do I know? I fight with others to hire her weekly. She has nowhere near the level of job security she once had, but her creativity is at an all-time zenith, because her future employability depends on it. And that’s the moral of the story.
The sooner Ed accepts the new reality, the faster he’ll be able to focus on the skills that will make Ed special to an employer. (And the faster all the Eds and Edwinas will help us pull out of these economic doldrums). I’m betting Ed will not only survive, but find a way to thrive.
For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, go to www.TrustDale.com. Watch Dale Cardwell on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5; and don’t miss his new consumer problem-solving radio show on Saturday afternoons on WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and NOW 95.5 FM.