Tension. It seems to be everywhere these days. Everybody has a comment or an opinion. I almost turned off my FaceBook account because if it is not a recipe, then it seems like it is a political comment or rant.
I do not care to watch the news right now either. It’s also tense. But, is it not my duty to know what’s going on? So again, more tension. It seems like there is a protest of something or another everyday. I know that they are happening; they are right there on the screen. Yet, they’re not happening here in East Tennessee and so I don’t see them. That in itself creates tension. How big are the protests? What do they really want? Why are they protesting? Am I missing something of which I should be aware?
Then there is the fake news. More tension.
Financial markets also seem tense. The mythical level of 20,000 was broken on the Dow Jones Industrial Average on January 26th of this year. The “Trump Bump” as some call it is currently +10% or so since the November election. Is it real? Or is it something that will pass as the shine wears off for any president once he begins to govern and the realities of the tension of that job sets in? Is “Make America Great Again” something that has staying power?
We personally have tension in something as simple as driving by the gas pumps. Who doesn’t glance to see if gas has started back up in price? Who doesn’t sigh a bit when they see the price gains erased and they dip back down? For a reality check, going back to 1918 (adjusted for inflation), gas on average has been $2.64 per gallon for those 99 years. I purchased just this morning at $1.98 per gallon. I am tense because I believe that everything eventually returns to the average. The price of gas has to go back up again, someday, which will affect my family budget. On tap of that, tension appeared when hearing of Governor Haslam’s proposed gas tax increase even if he is proposing to offset it with tax cuts in other areas.
So it is everywhere, tension that is. What do we personally do about this persistent tension and the effects that it may or may not have on us? How do we handle it in a way to take care of our own households and combine our efforts with other households to make our way through this tension and on to the next?
We should rely on a few sound fundamentals:
• Build up your emergency fund. Keep it in the bank. Keep some in your safe at home if it makes you feel better, but have enough to cover your living expenses for at least 6 months.
• Lever down your debt. Carrying a car payment? A credit card balance? Pay them down. After the emergency fund, this is the first priority.
• Have some family time. Or friends. Or social time. Do something that relies on other people in a fun or relaxing atmosphere.
• Get some exercise. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Get outside. Fresh air and exertion will clear most anxiety issues away.
• Turn the news off. Shut down the time spent on the internet. Enjoy human company or watch an old movie starring Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn. Let nostalgia lighten your heart. (By the way, it was just as tense 50+ years ago, but with different tensions like The Cold War, campus protests, nuclear threats. Wait a minute that sounds familiar, like right now…?)
• Keep in mind that it is the extreme voice that gets the sound byte and also causes the tension. Extreme voices attract advertising dollars which drive for profit stations and outlets with producers who are worried about revenue. Millions upon millions of people across the country are normal people who do normal things everyday just like you.
• With that in mind, do not let the noise created by these talking heads drive you to make rash investment decisions. Make certain that you know what your financial plan calls for and look to see that it is in place. Go see your advisor. Spend a few minutes reaffirming what you have been telling them all along and what they have been telling you. Be reassured that a good plan provides the steps in advance to take when the tension, like now, ratchets.
In the end the opportunity to reduce tension in your life comes from controlling what you can control and having the patience and perhaps the wisdom to recognize what you don’t control.