The Carr Report: Winter is coming

by Damon Carr, For New Pittsburgh Courier

In the popular television series “Game of Thrones,” “Winter is coming” is a phrase that’s often stated throughout the show. “Winter is coming” has become an often quoted expression within our culture. I’ve seen it in memes. I’ve read it in articles. I’ve heard people say it. 

In “Game of Thrones,” “Winter is coming” has a few meanings. Its first definition means exactly what it’s describing, Winter is coming—it will be long nights coupled with cold and harsh weather. Be prepared! Its second meaning refers to vigilance. The expression “Winter is coming” means you never know what dangers may come your way. Times may be good now but good things don’t last forever. Enjoy the moment but stay vigilant. Keep your head on a swivel. Stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready. Anything can happen. Eventually something will. Be prepared! The third meaning of “Winter is coming” is a reminder to everyone that nobody is safe or comfortable for too long. There will be good days (summer) and bad days (winter). Life happens to us all. Be prepared!

In order to be prepared for winter (hard times), they’d work extra hard during the summer (good times) to ensure they had ample food, water, supplies, and other necessities to get them through the winter (hard times). 

I’m reminded of a scripture in Proverbs: Go to the ant, you lazy one, Observe its ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer, or ruler, Prepares its food in the summer And gathers its provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, you lazy one? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest, Then your poverty will come in like a drifter, And your need like an armed man.”

Since the onset of COVID, from a pure monetary perspective, both the national economy and global economy has experienced some trying times. In the United States we’ve witnessed stay-at-home lockdowns, business shutdowns, business closures, supply chain issues, production of goods and services halted, stock market collapse, low-interest rates, high unemployment, student loan forbearance, stimulus checks, PPP loans, and increased unemployment benefits. All of this has led up to the highest inflation rate we’ve seen in 40 years topping out at 9.1 percent. Inflated prices have caused us to spend more money while receiving less. We see it more readily at the gas pump and at the grocery store but we feel it with every dollar spent. If you manage to stay gainfully employed in this turbulent economy, but you feel like you have less discretionary income despite not having increased your expenses, debt, or lifestyle—it’s because inflationary prices have reduced our discretionary income.

We’ve also observed the Gross Domestic Product, more commonly referred to as the GDP, drop two consecutive quarters. The GDP is used to measure the size of the U.S. economy. It calculates all the goods and services produced in the U.S. When the GDP drops two consecutive quarters, by definition we are effectively in a recession. A recession is a contraction of the economy stemming from shrinking production and consumption, high unemployment and high inflation.

Economists are always reviewing various economic indicators to get a feel for the pulse of the economy. When reviewing indicators such as the GDP, inflation, and employment to determine the state of the economy, economists are looking backwards or looking at things that have already happened. GDP, inflation, and employment indicators are known as trailing or lagging indicators. They’re output measures of past performance.

In layman terms, winter isn’t coming. Winter is here! We’ve been dealing with winter since March 2020. Winter has been camouflaged with low-interest rates, student loan forbearance, PPP loans, stimulus checks, increased unemployment checks, and other retained employee incentives to employers in an effort to keep the economy afloat. Those things that helped keep the economy afloat are a thing of the past. No more camouflaging. Student loan forbearance ends December 31, 2022. PPP loans are done. No more stimulus checks. Extended unemployment checks with an extra couple of hundred dollars in it have fallen by the wayside.

Jerome Powell is Chair of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States. They provide the nation with a safe, flexible and stable monetary and financial system. Powell recently had a tough message for investors: “Tighten your seatbelts, because recession and unemployment are coming!”

The Federal Reserve delivered its bluntest reckoning of what it will take to finally tame painfully high inflation: Slower growth, higher unemployment and potentially a recession.

“The chances of a soft landing,” Powell said, “are likely to diminish” as the Fed steadily raises borrowing costs to slow the worst streak of inflation in four decades. “No one knows whether this process will lead to a recession or, if so, how significant that recession would be.”

Powell said tighten your seatbelts because slower growth, higher unemployment and potentially a recession is coming. Sounds like “Winter is coming; Be prepared,” if you ask me! How do you prepare?

Income stability: Job stability isn’t what it used to be. These employers are only loyal to their shareholders and bottom line. Employees are categorized as an expense on the balance sheet. When profit margins get tight for employers, employees get laid off. It is important to develop skills and know how that is transferable to other employers and other industries. It’s equally important to develop multiple streams of income.

Conserve: We have zero dollars to waste. Every dollar should have a mission statement. No mindless, wasteful spending. Every extra dollar not earmarked for bills and necessities should be funneled towards savings. In order to survive any potential income interruption from a primary job, there’s only two things you can bank on: Income from side hustles and money stashed away for a rainy day.

It’s just a season: Be it winter, recession, job loss, or hard times in general, stay encouraged knowing it’s only for a season. This too shall pass.

(Are you looking to Beat Debt, Boost Your Savings, or Make Good Financial Decisions? Contact me.  Damon Carr, Money Coach can be reached at 412-216-1013 or visit his website @ www.damonmoneycoach.com.)

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