If you are familiar at all with Wall Street, you know the terms Bear Market and Bull Market. Merrill Lynch has an iconic logo that is the picture of a powerful Bull. The Bull represents a healthy robust market. The Bear represents just the opposite. The difference between the two is that one of them will eat you.
We all have bears that we face in our lives, and most of them are financial. I was sharing with my wife the other day that I was considering a work project that would be almost overwhelming for a short period of time, but if it worked, the payoff would be huge. She laughed and quoted her Grandmother, “Anyone can fight a bear for a little while.”
I laughed and thought, “That is true!” However, if you don’t have a plan, if you don’t have the resources, the fight is not going to end well. Most of us that have had financial bears to fight can look back and wish we had done a few things differently. Of course, that does not change anything. The truth is we will ALL have to fight the bear from time to time. That is just part of life.
So how can we prepare for the bear?
- When things are going well, set aside funds for the lean times. The rule of thumb used to be to have 3 months emergency fund set aside. Now with the economy the way it is, it is not unreasonable to have 8 to 12 months income set aside for emergency use. There is a story in the Bible where Daniel advised the King of Egypt to set aside enough grain to last 7 years of drought. That is a lot of grain, folks. Because the King listened to Daniel, Egypt survived what would certainly have been the end of their country had they not done what Daniel said to do.
- It is pretty hard to fight a bear bare-handed. If you were fighting a real bear, would you rather have a butter knife or an elephant gun? The latter might be overkill, but it would be a pretty easy choice to make. Right? So if you have a financial bear, get the resources to survive the attack. Get help if need be from a trusted mentor that has been down that road and not just survived, but thrived. There is a famous quote from the movie The Untouchables (one of my favorite all time movies). Sean Connery was a crusty old cop that was facing a thug in the alley that had come to kill him. He said to the thug who faced him with a knife, “Just like a wop to bring a knife to a gun fight.” What he did not realize was that the thug had an accomplice who was armed with a Tommy-gun. It did not end well for Sean Connery. The bear ate him! Never underestimate the bear!
- If you find yourself fighting the same bear over and over, it is time to find a way to kill that bear or at the very least get to a place where you don’t have to face him again.
I heard a sad story this week from a guy who had been very successful and was in his 60’s now. He was a custom home builder and got himself upside down when the economy tanked and he is bankrupt, over 60, and does not know what to do to survive. He is trying to figure out what he can do to make it through the days ahead, but finding a “job” for someone over 50 is difficult to say the least. I think that is how so many people over 50 end up working as entrepreneurs because nobody will hire them. That is a sad reality of this country. Having age and experience goes against you as you get older. You are looked at as a liability. The companies would rather hire 2 or 3 30 year olds than have one 50 or 60 year old person doing the job. Other countries revere the elderly and seek to gain from the wisdom they impart. Not so much here in the good old USA.
If you are over 50, you better prepare for the bear, because your day is coming. There will be a day when you are surprised by the bear that is attacking you. Prepare for the bear. You CAN survive if you have the right resources and support in advance. You CAN thrive if you are prepared (just like Daniel in the Bible did with the Egyptians).
By the way, there are two reasons why they don’t run with the bears in Spain. First, there are probably not enough bears. Secondly, the bears would be thinking they were at a buffet. Don’t let the bear catch you unaware. Shalom!