Updated: Dec 4, 2021
I’m never the kind of guy to sit and watch the financial news networks and believe what I see. I think there are usually some subliminal sales pitches buried deep behind most of the economics. At my age, I’ve only got a few more years until retirement anyway. At this point, whatever’s in the retirement account probably won’t change much between now and then, at least not enough to matter. It’s nowhere near enough due to future cost of living increases. But who can honestly say they do have enough?
I started saving in the nineties at my first so-called “real job.” Initially, the company’s owner had a profit-sharing plan, but it was a small company, and employees never got much out of that plan. Employee turnover was high. I remember when they set up a 401K plan and presented it to us young, rowdy, and dumb guys in the breakroom. The financial representative they sent must have questioned what the hell he’d done wrong to deserve the motley young group of clients such as us. However, I did put back what I could. It wasn’t much cost.
I was still somewhat proud. My grandfather pulled me aside early in my childhood, showed me the importance of investing in my future, and stressed how it would be even more challenging to live debt-free for us younger Americans. His knowledge enlightened me, and I guess you could say I did my best as the years went by. First, I saw a Dot-Com Bubble grow. Then I saw a Dot-Com Bubble Crash. And I still can’t explain Enron to you with any convincing intelligence. Later on, raising babies made it hard to pay a mortgage, the utilities, and the hospital bills simultaneously. So I withdrew my small retirement under hardship and subsequently filed bankruptcy anyway. Time goes on, and people’s work skills get better. Next thing you know, saving for retirement becomes more manageable. Usually, it's just before the grey hair begins to happen! So, I invested heavily and went back up top. Then I turned on a TV financial news show in the summer of 2008, and some guy told me about a gigantic Housing Mortgage Crisis looming ahead and how the financial markets would be losing half their value by the year’s end. I think the reporter had a smirk, but maybe that’s my imagination. Free markets move like giant yoyos. First, the market’s up; then the market goes way down.
As a child of the seventies and eighties, I experienced tough economic times by most folks’ standards, but I didn’t notice the difference. I only knew the world as I experienced it. This period from the seventies is now what history calls the “Great Malaise.” The late seventies and the early eighties together are known as the worst period of “Stagflation” we’ve seen—a combined deal of stagnating business growth and high monetary inflation. It was more significant economically than Americans to that point had ever gone through. We lived in a rural area of the Midwest, but only about four miles from a decent town. Indianapolis was the “big city” and only about ten miles further up the highway. It's funny, but being so close to a major city, we still lived our “country people” lives. I guess primarily because of our kind of free people's traditional upbringing, but I wonder if it wasn’t due to the economic conditions of the time. In general, it appears the entire seventies culture had a “back-to-our-heritage” type of movement.
All my grandparents survived The Great Depression of the nineteen-thirties and forties. My maternal grandparents stayed hunkered down in the coal mines of West Virginia, and my father’s parents lived by working the cornfields of southern Indiana. They each lived off the land’s food supply and went just a little bit smaller, working in whatever way that would pay off the most while trading with others for what goods they couldn’t make or produce themselves. Mostly they all learned how to preserve, prepare, and protect. The natural methods for good family health and intelligent building skills cut their living costs to almost rent-free and down to the minimum. Inspiration must have come by remembering how earlier generations pioneered that same land. The natural strength to “provide” came back to them from some latent, deeply buried instinct. Not only did both sets of grandparents live through those tough times, but along with some good country food, they managed to bring up nine fairly decent kids between those two unique families that, in time, also gave birth to me. So when similar hard times came back around in the nineteen-seventies, it was only natural that the old stories and methods of living through the nineteen-thirties would focus the discussions within the new family kitchen cooking areas and over the new living room tables. "How do we survive?" was again a relevant question.
My family kept a backyard garden, so did our grandparents. And looking back now, I get a chuckle because my grandparent’s garden was way more extensive and always much better groomed than my parent’s. But, of course, my parents were also working full-time jobs. My mother was a stay-at-home mom till 1977 when things got tight. But as I remember, moms were just called moms back then, whether working or not. Gardening and canning were a big part of the family’s economic health and food supply, including bulk food freezing methods. I didn’t get my first taste of McDonald’s until 1982. It turns out, Mom’s food was better anyway. Every neighbor and family were doing the same and likewise sharing what they had extra. My father was a mechanic by trade. We never had car loans since the cars we rode in were rebuilt by Dad and exceptionally well used. So naturally, he also helped neighbors and friends in their workshops and garages. Garage sales provided most of what we kids had personally, including what we wore outside school hours for our outdoor and active young living.
So, what is the point of all this, you might ask?
I believe the tough economy is upon us once again. But, will it be a tough going time or a time of remembering what we forgot? I think the answer is “Yes” on both of these counts. But by living well as free people who are a little more debt-free, maybe we can rediscover what we never actually learned in the first place!
It will be whatever we decide it is, so let’s choose wisely! Let's resolve to make something good from this coming economic time:
Remember what the country people did. That’s how we all got here.
Get into the local village free markets. Make things, and help out.
Learn to preserve, prepare, and protect the family food supplies.
Lower monthly costs and lift higher what we pay in time well spent.
The younger generation of free people will remember this time!