Can One Choose Not To Participate In A Recession?

Dave Ramsey thinks so. Let me preface this post by saying I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan.  I’ve read nearly all his books, attended a Live Event, and listen to his show at least a couple times a week.  Every now and then he says something that tweaks me just a bit.

Over the last few months I’ve heard him (and others) toss around the idea that one can choose whether or not they participate in this recession. I know what he’s getting at, and depending on how your personal economy is going you might even find it inspirational.  However, if you just got laid off, and suffered some setbacks in the weeks and months leading up to it which melted your emergency fund, you may think differently.

A few months ago I wrote a post titled the Serenity Prayer For Finances.  Basically, it broke down the words of the serenity prayer and applied a financial spin.  Ramsey’s comments caused me to reflect on those words again, and wonder what things I have control over, and what I don’t.  Here’s what I thought a few months ago:

Stop and think for a moment about all the things that are currently causing stress in your financial life.  I bet there are quite a few you have control over, like overspending or expensive car payments.  But if you are like me there may be other things that are outside of your control, yet they continue to cause stress.

I still believe that’s true, and I’ve lived it for the last eight months.  My mom suffered an aneurysm and stroke at 53 years young last September.  She did things the right way – had a good job, good insurance, a little (very little) socked away for emergencies.  But nothing could fully prepare someone for 162 days in the hospital out of the last eight months, being reduced to disability pay, and watching her retirement savings be decimated in a bear market.  It was a perfect storm in her financial life, and it will probably affect her for the rest of her life.

The silver lining (and believe me, our family has had to long and hard to find one), is that watching her go through this has had a profound effect on us.  For the younger ones, it is a sobering reminder how quickly the carpet can be pulled out from under you – just when you thought you were hitting your stride.  It was a reminder that no matter how well you prepare, there is always that unknown lurking out there that can knock you off your feet – quite literally.

So I take exception to what Ramsey says.  Not everyone can choose not to participate in this recession.  The single mom working a part time job because her ex got laid off and no longer sends child support certainly is participating in the recession.  The husband and father of two delivering pizzas at night because the plant he works at reduced his hours is participating in the recession.  The kids feeling depressed and anxious because they overheard their parents fighting about money are participating in the recession.

I chose not to participate, too, until the recession found me and participated in my life.  Sometimes, that’s just the way it works.  Whether it is fate, or just bad luck, we’ll never know.  But to suggest our family, or any other family, chose this fate is naive.  Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  It doesn’t make them bad people.

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