YOUR MONEY: It pays to look on the positive sideOptimism. For months, it's been in rather short supply. Like a lingering cold you can't shake off, the economy's blues just hang on. It's not just our bottom line that's been battered, but our psyches, too. And even if you haven't lost your job or aren't facing foreclosure, it's often hard to feel good. We can't change the market's ricocheting ride nor can we instantly Botox our bank accounts. But we can change how we take it all in. Here's how:
By: Claudia Buck, McClatchy Newspapers
Optimism. For months, it's been in rather short supply.
Like a lingering cold you can't shake off, the economy's blues just hang on. It's not just our bottom line that's been battered, but our psyches, too. And even if you haven't lost your job or aren't facing foreclosure, it's often hard to feel good.
We can't change the market's ricocheting ride nor can we instantly Botox our bank accounts. But we can change how we take it all in. Here's how:
If your paycheck's been pinched or your job's disappeared, it's hard to feel thankful.
But look around: The market popped up again last week, the fifth week in a row. U.S. jobless numbers were bad, but not worse than expected. California banking behemoth Wells Fargo reported - gasp - a profit. Mortgage rates have fallen to historic lows.
Maybe these aren't reasons to rejoice, but hey, they're hints that a recovery could be coming. Someday.
"Being thankful for what we have in life is a good rule personally, and for investing, too," said Cynthia Meyers, a Sacramento, Calif., certified financial planner. "Accept the steadiness of long-term returns instead of chasing after greed."
To calm herself during stressful times, Meyers said she starts each day with quiet time: meditation, prayer or reading. She also writes in a "gratitude journal," jotting down things for which she's grateful, from exceptional employees to good health and a loving spouse.
Let it go.
It's easy to get mired in mourning what we've lost, whether it's a job or retirement savings.
Maureen White, a human resources veteran who runs a support group for laid-off Sacramento professionals, knows too well the sense of loss and grieving. It hit her in December 2007, when she abruptly lost her job as a Sacramento-based vice president for a major nonprofit.
Eventually, it's time to move on. "Let go of the anger, the anxiety, the resentment, the baggage," says White. "Let go of your 2 a.m. ruminating: the coulda, shoulda, what-if scenarios that run through your head."
She recommends talking it out with family, a friend, a counselor, a support group. Use those conversations to assess what you learned and what you can take to your next endeavor.
Get out the door.
Fight the tendency to hunker down and burrow under the covers.
"Force yourself to take a break from thinking about the bad," said professor Kimberly Elsbach, an organizational behavior expert at the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management.
Other ways to improve your mood, she said, are: "Exercise, don't listen to (TV news). Treat yourself to a sandwich with a friend or take a coffee break to lift your spirits."
And if a furlough or layoff has knocked you out of work, Elsbach recommends this no-cost emotional boost: volunteering.
"It gives you a sense of purpose, self-worth, self-fulfillment. Just because you're not getting paid for work," Elsbach said, "doesn't mean you can't be doing work that's important."
And there's an added benefit to volunteering, she noted. "It's a good place to network: You never know who you'll meet."
Amid all the economic bad-news barometers, it's challenging to keep perspective, especially for those immersed in it daily.
Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto says a dose of reality helps.
"People have to realize it's never as bad as the media reports on the downside or as wonderful on the upside. You have to have your own inner compass to relate to what's out there."
And downturns have their upsides, he notes. "A lot of the biggest and most promising companies started in recessions: Apple, Google and Microsoft."
And we don't mean your shares of GE or Procter & Gamble. Instead, take note of bigger things in life than your 401(k) numbers.
"If we define our existence by money, it can be a fairly shallow existence," notes Cavuto. A week ago, as the Binghamton, N.Y., shootings were unfolding, Cavuto said he devoted his business show to the coverage.
"On a day when we normally would be focused on the number of jobs lost, we had to look at this tiny town where lives were lost ... to remind people of the deeper things that connect us: your family, your friends. It's not about how you make a living ... sometimes it's just about living."
It takes work.
Staying sunny amid financial gloom can be daunting.
"We're human. It doesn't come to us naturally," said financial planner Meyers. "We all have down periods where we don't feel good about the world."
Having worked with clients through up and down economic cycles, she notes, "The ones who are centered in optimism will weather the storm very well."
PERSONAL FINANCE WEBSITES
Two new personal finance Web sites debuted this week: The Federal Trade Commission's "Money Matters" (www.ftc.gov/MoneyMatters) and CBS' MoneyWatch.com.
Money Matters, the FTC's site, offers lots of practical consumer help on choosing credit cards, dealing with debt, handling your mortgage, coping with job loss and avoiding money scams. It's also available in Spanish.
MoneyWatch.com is a one-stop spot for CBS coverage on investing, savings, real estate and careers, with links to columnists, blogs and video.
(Buck is the assistant business editor of The Sacramento Bee. Personal Finance Notebook answers questions about money matters, tapping a roster of experts for advice on navigating the often-confusing world of personal finance. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 15779 Sacramento, CA 95852.)