In Fortune or Disaster, a Clear Head Reigns

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In our work, we’ve been told to “go with the flow.” Yet, in my life, I’ve become much more of a contrarian. The more positive the news, the more pessimistic I become. The more negative the news, the more opportunity I see. I didn’t used to be this way.

As I write this, the world is pausing from the financial meltdown in the markets from the pervasive effects of assets built on the cards of sub-prime collateral. Mortgage backed securities are showing up as assets in the most unfamiliar of places — including US mortgages in Chinese, German and other national assets, in hedge funds, in short term paper, and bonds. When there is a loss of trust in one class of asset, the trust goes in all of them.

Risk is returning to the marketplace and no longer is a person — much less a company — believed when they say they qualify for credit and deserve the dollars.

It is the breaking of the bubble and there is a ton of traditional media now out there proclaiming the disaster. Many stories now blaming everyone but themselves for the financial woes now upon them, personal or corporate. Plenty of companies now blaming circumstances for what is really poor management practices. Perhaps with a little greed thrown in.

But in the best of times — with the same money that is now considered disastrous — people and companies were thriving on easy credit. Houses, with their attached mortgages, became the shiny new coin of investment in the realm. Companies boldly claimed their riches and people proudly showed off their new houses at house warming parties everywhere.

You knew it was too good to last, didn’t you?

Yet, millions continued right along with the party. The more they played, the more conservative I became with my money. Sure, go for the stock market gains through diversification, but paid the debt to zero. Maxed out the 401(k) and added to the IRA. Didn’t get involved with wild and exotic mortgages. Didn’t buy the $50,000 car with the home equity loan nor buy the second car with a $900 a month payment for seven years.

I felt I was missing the party, but was comfortable with the financial decisions.

My uncomfortableness in the party participation is looking pretty good right now. I’m seeing everyone else’s pain — but I’m also now starting to see opportunities. I’m actually starting to feel a lot more optimistic.

Nothing like the financial markets getting a severe case of risk correction to cause a little optimism.

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