It’s Thanksgiving night, and my daughter and I are home from our family celebration. We’re sitting by the fire, talking about life (and watching Glee if you must know). Moments like these are precious, the stuff of life. I have so much to be thankful for, but none means more to me than time with my family- my parents, our kids, grandkids, and our blended and quite extended family. This year I am extra thankful for my husband, who right now is at work, like he is every Thanksgiving night. He works in IT for a major clothing retailer, and when stores open so must the help desk, even on Thanksgiving. Working overnight, dealing with store computer issues after a long, busy day with family is very hard on him, but he does it without complaint, the same way he faces other trials in life. I am grateful for his positive outlook and that he is such a hard worker. I’m grateful he has a job to go to, with a company that was willing to be flexible and supportive as he went through cancer treatment. I’m grateful that he feels well enough to work. And I’m grateful for him, and that Lord willing he’ll be with us for many years to come. I hope that when the freshness of this cancer experience wanes, I’ll still remember to live a life of Thanks Living. God is so good to us even during, perhaps especially during, the blackest times of our lives. I am most thankful for Him and how He carries us through each day, using every experience for good and not wasting anything. The hope and peace that brings is immeasurable.
I wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving and holiday season to come.
Here are some financial things to be thankful for, from my latest Pocono Record column.
I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you if I told you that something like 94% of all news stories are negative. Bad news sells, so we get stories that stir up all sorts of unpleasant emotions like anger, horror, helplessness, and fear. It’s not just the media either; we on an individual level tend to share more negative stories or our own bad experiences than the good. It’s human nature.
During the past five years in particular there have been plenty of heartbreaking stories to share, and in many ways we are suffering collectively from a mood of helplessness, hopelessness, and anger. While those feelings are understandable, I think they tend to feed on themselves, and sometimes we even forget that stories can (and oftentimes do) have a happy ending.
We can’t stop bad things from happening in the world, but we can fight to keep hopelessness from swallowing us up by limiting our consumption of negative news and also cultivating a thankful heart. I don’t do it all the time, that’s for sure, but I know I’m a happier person when I do.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, below are some things to be thankful for. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. For every one of these positives, you can add a “yeah, but.” Here’s my yeah but- just for today, ignore the “buts” and focus on the positives.
We started 2013 with dire predictions about the fiscal cliff- that perfect storm of tax increases, across the board, forced spending cuts via sequestration, and a bunch of leaders who were more interested in winning re-election than leading the country. Our leaders haven’t changed much, but they did manage to pull off a last minute deal that tempered the blow of the tax increases and cuts. While the positive or negative effects of the deal are still being debated, we can at least say that the economy did not collapse.
In fact, it’s been a great year for the US equities market. Even during the latest government shutdown and debt ceiling talks, the markets experienced some volatility but then largely ignored the political drama. No one can predict how long this positive run will continue, but I’m thankful for a good year so far.
The populace woke up and we are fed up. Our representatives in Washington can only ignore us for so long before we send them packing (term limits would help too). I’m heartened by this- that just a few short years ago, concern about our national deficit and debt issues grew at a grassroots level, while Congress turned a blind eye. Today, it’s on their radar and while far from solved, at least is getting attention and consideration. I have hopes that our growing unrest will translate into better leadership down the road.
On a more local level, we’ve seen a recovery begin in the housing market. Homes selling more quickly means more mobility and freedom of choice, and less of a feeling of being trapped by the circumstances of a slow real estate market. Mortgage rates remain low, keeping more homes in the affordable range for buyers. At a 4% fixed interest rate for 30 years, a mortgage of $168,000 would be about $800 a month for principal and interest; raise that rate to 6% and now to keep your payment at $800 you can borrow just $134,000; at 8% you’re talking only $110,000. We were at 6% as recently as 2008 and 8% in 2000- not that long ago.
Then there’s the other side of the mortgage equation, property taxes. Hard to find a bright spot here, but I am glad that although our school taxes in East Stroudsburg School District are very high, they have remained flat for three years. I don’t recall that ever happening in the 24 years I’ve lived here. School spending is a touchy subject, but let’s not hate the teachers for making a living. While there are good and bad in every profession, I’ve never known a teacher up close and personal who was there just for the money; they’re there for our kids, and often in difficult circumstances. If they’re at the top of the salary scale in the area, that to me says more about the lack of decent job opportunities than anything else. These are our neighbors and friends, and they’re concerned about paying their bills if they get laid off just as we would be. Job losses may be inevitable, but let’s show compassion rather than delighting in their misfortune. I’m grateful for the terrific teachers that have taught and cared about my kids over the years. They’ve made a lifelong impact.
I’m thankful to see the new businesses springing up in our neighborhood of Middle Smithfield Township, like Wawa, those in the new Price Chopper center, and the Bargain Book Warehouse. I especially enjoyed the gas price war that ensued when Wawa opened. I’m thankful for our neighborhood family-run stores- like Saw Mill Furniture, where we buy our furniture from the terrific Krinsky family, and Richards Tree Farm, who helped beautify our outside and keeps our driveway snow-free all winter long. Our Middle Smithfield supervisors Annette Atkinson, Mike Dwyer, and Mitchell Marcus, and the Economic Development Committee have done a fabulous job bringing energy and vitality to our township, which can only benefit our existing businesses and residents. They deserve not only a round of applause but a standing ovation.
Our wonderfully generous community is something else we can be grateful for. We are a community full of needs, but also full of people ready to meet those needs, from businesses to individuals to non-profit organizations. Time and time again, when a family falls on hard times or is facing an illness, you can be sure someone will hold a fundraiser and people will come out in droves to support them. I’m proud to live among people who care so much for their neighbors.
Times are still tough, no doubt. People are suffering, and perhaps you are too. I don’t mean to minimize that at all. But we can go through our trials filled with resentment and anger, or we can look for the good around us for encouragement and hope. It’s not easy to do, and it may not change the outcome, but it sure will make the journey a bit better. Happy Thanksgiving.