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Get Back in the Game

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, the game isn't over until it's over. You may have temporarily lost money, maybe even a lot of it. But as long as you're an investor committed to your future, you still have the opportunity to participate constructively as the market recovers. You have options.

You can improve how you're handling your investments. One of the ways you surmount a crisis is to remember that you can be a strong force in your financial recovery if you can step away for a minute to examine your game. What investments should you be in now? Are you in them? Addressing your investment strategy is one way to correct the mistakes of the past and position yourself better for the future.

You can cut your expenses. When you go through a financial crisis, suddenly you become an expert on what you must have versus what you can live without. Can you do some of the things you used to pay others to do and do those things just as well? Can you cut expenses without significantly reducing your quality of life?

You can add to your income. You may go back to work or earn some extra money by doing something for which you have unique expertise. You can sell things of value, like furniture or jewelry. You may love to have nice things, but can you live without them? Do you have any valuable objects you thought meant something to you and now you realize their intrinsic value has decreased? Perhaps now you can trade for cash and buy some time while you get stabilized.

You can prioritize your life. Maybe you lost some money in the financial markets, but did you lose in every game you were playing? Maybe you are focusing on one game that you lost, but maybe you won a lot of others. How satisfying is your family life? How rewarding are your friendships? How's your health? To move past the anger of losing, it helps to step back and view the broad canvas of your life. Money isn't the entire puzzle; it's only one piece! Look again at what you thought you wanted. Ask yourself, "Is that still how I feel, or have my priorities changed?" Maybe what you thought you wanted isn't really what you wanted, or maybe you can achieve those same things in another way.

Here is Dan's story:

  • Dan: I retired with what I thought was a lot of money, and I had big plans to dabble in real estate and enjoy my avocations, which are very expensive pastimes. In this most recent crisis, my liquid assets and real estate plummeted, and my expenses went up! I was so stressed out about paying my bills that my hobbies no longer provided me with satisfaction. In fact, because of their expense, they were compounding my anxiety. I had to go back to square one and evaluate my life. I realized that my heart just wasn't in these high-powered activities any more, and I was actually relieved when I successfully abandoned them in favor of more volunteer work and time spent with my family. This change helped me get my finances under control and simplify my life. Even though this was a difficult experience, I consider it a win.

The score is about more than what happens when you're standing at home plate. When you're at the plate, all you can think about is getting a hit, maybe even a home run. But there's a bigger picture: what your fans are thinking about you, how valuable you are to your team, what kind of example you are to the sport, what kind of a student you are of the game, and how much you are enjoying winning. The end game is about so much more than that one big hit.

If you follow the right rules, you'll ultimately be a winner. You may win in a way that is far more important than the way you used to keep score. In adverse circumstances, when it feels that you're losing, losing, losing, you can start to feel like a loser. It's only when you lose the little stuff that you realize you may have been winning in a big way all along. You may also discover the potential to "win" in a way you had not previously considered. Develop rules that make sense for you and follow them. Give them time to work and reevaluate them when necessary. In the long run, following the right rules will bring you closer to winning.

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