Financial Fresh Start
Your Five-Step Plan for Adapting and Prospering in the New Economy
Author: Shari Olefson
Pub Date: February 2013
Print Edition: $26.00
Print ISBN: 9780814432297
Page Count: 320
e-Book ISBN: 9780814432303
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A very simple question: If you think back to ten or twenty years
ago, how common was it for you to know or regularly hear
about folks in foreclosure, or folks deciding—strategically—not to
pay back their debts? What about cities and towns going bankrupt,
or huge financial institutions and even entire countries being bailed
What about now?
What Does It Mean?
As the mother of two teenagers, I often wonder how commonplace
these sorts of things will be ten years from now and exactly what that
will mean, not only for our personal finances, but for our kids and
the legacy and country we leave behind for them. Is America still the
greatest nation in the world, or does it just look that way because
other countries are, at least for the time being, worse off?
My own childhood includes memories of my grandfather, a
New York City fireman, sitting at his desk every Saturday morning
and writing out checks by hand to pay his bills. Maybe you have
memories like that of your own parents or grandparents. Everybody
used good old-fashioned cash, and so people were acutely aware of
how much money they did or did not have. And, of course, it goes
without saying that they would never dream of spending money they
didn’t have. Back then, alternatives beyond accepting responsibility
and consequences for your own financial decisions didn’t even occur
to folks, and they certainly would never have expected to be given
the opportunity for a full-fledged financial fresh start. In fact, I still
remember the day my grandfather made the final payment on his
home loan. He and Nana invited the neighbors over for a BBQ and
literally burned their old tattered mortgage papers. America was built
by folks, like my grandparents and perhaps yours, who believed in
their own power to make their lives better.
Fast-Forward to Today
Today we talk about how complicated banking, borrowing, investing,
and finance have become. Yet the truth is that some of the same
simple values that kept our grandparents out of trouble still apply
today and probably always will. Timeless golden rules such as “Don’t
sign anything without reading it first,” “Be careful who you trust,”
and “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is” could have
saved a whole lot of folks, banks, and even entire nations a whole
lot of hassle these last few years. While we learned important lessons
by watching our own parents or grandparents literally count their
pennies, today’s kids spend money on iTunes purchases with a single
click. And millions of American children will sit at their dining room
tables tonight, listening to their parents talk about their homes and
their banks and whether they can (or want to) pay their obligations.
These are the kind of intangible impressions we are instead making
on our own “next generation.”
In fact, if you fast-forward from my grandfather’s day to today,
for some folks it feels a little bit like financial Armageddon. As an
attorney on the front line of the real estate bubble and the bailouts
and Great Recession that followed, I can tell you that all of those
detailed clauses in all of those legal documents that folks, including
you, have signed over the years—you know, the ones that used to be
explained away with the naïve assurance, “Don’t worry about that
clause; it talks about economic circumstances that will never really
happen”—have indeed happened.
Thanks to the bubble, bailouts, and Great Recession, and the
decades of lesser-known unsustainable economic trends that
preceded those historic events, folks across all demographics are
trying to regain their financial footing in an America that now
has less opportunity for upward mobility than France, Germany,
Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and a host of other
nations. Those born into America’s middle class today are statistically
more likely to move down the economic ladder than up! The lifechanging
impact on personal wealth and sociofinancial safety nets
is undeniable. And here’s the kicker: Unlike our grandparents, who
had very little or nothing to lose, many of us were born into the
middle class and now actually have a lot to lose. The fact is, our
middle-class clock is already ticking. Where home equity was once
the cornerstone of personal wealth for two-thirds of the middle class,
2007 was the first year ever that banks owned more home equity
than homeowners did. Ninety-five percent of the jobs lost have been
middle income. And more than half of today’s middle-class students
graduating with a bachelor’s degree are jobless or underemployed.
Truck drivers, retail salespeople, and fast-food workers are among the
biggest job opportunities predicted by the year 2020. Not that there’s
anything wrong with those jobs. They’re all honorable positions. But
they’re not the first jobs that come to mind when we think about the
promise of opportunity and upward mobility for a college graduate.
Everybody’s financial circumstances are unique, but the common
denominator is that no matter how fat or thin your own wallet, you
can always make your personal financial position even better (and
you certainly never want to make it worse!). As you dodge your
own financial bullets (or, if you’re fortunate enough to be financially
comfortable as you watch other folks’ retirement plans, investments,
and dreams blow up), big corporations and the very rich are paying
professionals to keep them abreast of all the new rules and reforms
coming out of Washington in the wake of the bubble, bailouts, and
Great Recession. But for mere mortals like you, being uninformed
translates to disadvantage, missed opportunity, and the enhanced
potential of moving down that socioeconomic ladder.
The Good News!
The truth is, where there’s adversity there is always opportunity. (Feel
free to visualize a Broadway production complete with raging war.
Suddenly, the metaphoric heroine begins emerging from the rubble,
angelic, with soft stage lighting, triumphant music rising in unison
from the orchestra below … now back to our own reality.) When
average Americans stopped paying their mortgages they brought
Wall Street to its knees. Talk about the power of the people! The
challenge is harnessing that same power for your own and America’s
betterment. The silver lining today, as you will very quickly see in
Chapter 1, is that the Great Recession brought those decades of
unsustainable economic trends to light. And best of all, it has given
everybody a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a fresh start. It is
precisely this financial mess that is driving, first, an unprecedented
second chance to correct any missteps you may have made and get
your own finances back on track and, second, opportunities to get
even further ahead, the likes of which you may never see again.
If you want to pull yourself out of the line of financial fire, take
advantage of these opportunities, and get yourself on the best financial
path moving forward—voilà, here’s Financial Fresh Start! They’re doing
it on Wall Street and in banks, financial institutions, and corporate
boardrooms. They’re doing it in Washington and governments across
the country. They’re doing it in Europe and around the world. And
in five simple steps you can do it, too!
What … Exactly … Is New?
So what exactly is new? For starters, we now have more than 2,000
pages and 400 brand-spanking-new rules and reforms being written
under the Dodd-Frank Act and, more recently, billions of dollars in
settlements, including the “robo-signer” case (in which banks and
servicers, among other things, allegedly falsified signatures, titles, and
documents). In between, we have hundreds of new laws, regulations,
pending legislation, programs, initiatives, lawsuits, investigations, and
even new authorities such as the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau, most of which impact your money and all of which are
explicitly crafted to give government, private enterprise, and folks
like you a fresh start. Your banking and borrowing; your credit and
debt; your savings, investments, and retirement; your homeownership;
your spending and earning; even your education, training, and
employment—the new economy, rules, and reforms touch it all. To
protect yourself and prosper, no matter who you are and your exact
situation, you need to know the new rules of the game. You need not
only accurate but actionable information. But you’re already busy, so
you need it fast and easy!
Enter the Five Simple Steps!
Financial Fresh Start simplifies intimidating subjects—financial, legal,
real estate, cultural, historical, political, and economical challenges
and changes—showing you exactly how to get your “mojo” back in
five simple, strategic steps, and with a style that engages, empowers,
and inspires … and with none of the hidden “agenda” you may
find from professionals (whose real motive is to get your business),
politicians (who, of course, want your vote), or the media (who, at the
end of the day, are all about ratings). In a single holistic resource, you
get exactly what you need to know (nothing more and nothing less)
to adapt to new rules, reforms, and historical changes and prosper in
America’s new economy. You’ll learn what these new rules, reforms,
and changes mean, why they matter, what to expect, and how to keep
your head above water today and get yourself and your family ahead
during the coming years.
Your fresh start begins with a brief 50,000-foot aerial view of
the big picture, what happened in America and what it’s doing to
your money, followed by a quick summary of the new changes, rules,
and reforms and what they mean to your wallet. Then it’s off and
running, applying this knowledge to your five simple steps.
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