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The Sad State of Our Union

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Why so many Americans are discouraged…and why you can still thrive

This week, we elect a new president, as well as a number of new senators and representatives. Additionally, there are many important local elections happening across the country in cities large and small.

This election has been labeled as one of the most negative in our history, with many people unhappy and discouraged. Both candidates have the lowest approval ratings in recent history.

Other people are simply ready for it to all be over. It's become familiar topic of conversation to say how much you can't wait for Election Day to come and go.

In short, the American people seem to be a sad lot. Our heads are not held high, our optimism is low, and the "hope" that was promised to us over the last eight years doesn't seem to be here or helping.

Since it is an election year, it's natural that the discouragement of the US citizen would be placed on the candidates. But I think it stems more from reality than the candidates themselves.

For all our current administrations talk about how great things in our economy and country, the truth is they are not. Here are just a few key reasons why:

Life is more expensive

As Marketplace reports, "The median household income in 1996 was $35,492. With inflation, that equals $53,867 today. The median household income in 2014, the latest numbers available, was $53,657. Even with two years of growth, it's safe to assume the median income hasn't budged much in nearly 20 years" During that time, however, the costs for basic necessities like a home, food, and gasoline has gone up 30 percent. So, for 20 years, the middle class hasn't gotten a raise but their cost of living has gone up.

And things are only getting more expensive in the near future. Obamacare prices are set to increase 22 percent on average in 2017. In my home state of Arizona, they are going up 116 percent on average.

Most are drowning in debt

While things have gotten more expensive, most people have fallen farther behind on their retirement plans and are in no position to be optimistic about their personal financial futures.

John Ninfo, writing for the Penfield Post, compiled some "shocking personal finance statistics."

  • 46 percent of Americans don't have enough savings to cover $400 in emergency expenses
  • Average household consumer debt in America is $130,000. "It included averages of $15,762 in credit card debt, $168,614 in mortgage debt, $27,141 in auto loan debt, and $48,172 in student loan debt."

Given these statistics, it's not surprising that most people are not optimistic about the future.

Recession is looming

Most people intuitively feel what economists are predicting: a new recession is likely within the next four years. And we're already seeing serious ripples in the banking industry with Deutsche bank facing serious challenges . Could it be a canary in the coalmine? And all those new jobs you keep hearing about? Many of them are temporary or part-time jobs.

We don't trust our leaders or our institutions

The current approval rating of congress is 18 percent. For the most part, it's widely acknowledged that our politicians are in the pocket of the rich and powerful on Wall Street. After all, as MSN reports, "Big Banks, hedge funds, private equity shops and other securities and investment firms have made more than $273 million in donations to federal candidates during the 2015-16 election cycle, according to Americans for Financial Reform."

Politicians won't save you

Four years ago, on the eve of our last election, I wrote these words:

This week's election is an opportunity for instant feedback. As you watch the results come in, take note of how you react. What does that reaction say about you and where you place your hope? If the news isn't good about how you react, what are you going to do about it?

I've said it before, politicians cannot save you. Only you can.

Rather than blame others for where you are in life, today I encourage you to look within yourself and see where you can make changes personally, which will lead to changes financially. In fact, I'd say that would be a much better way to spend election night than watching-and fretting-as the results come in.

Those are words I still stand by today. Each cycle, people think the politicians will finally solve their problems. They never are. Meanwhile, things continue to get worse for many in our country and the world when it comes to money. Fundamentally this is a personal finance problem in the truest sense of the words. You have to personally take care of your finances. This starts with financial education and putting your new knowledge to work.

I have seen and truly believe that when people take control of their own financial future and education, they can thrive no matter if the times are good and bad. In fact the hallmark of true financial intelligence is to succeed in the hard times. No matter what the next four years bring, you can control one thing: your mindset and your money. Start today.

Original publish date: November 08, 2016

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