168 - How To Survive the Economic Meltdown
|Written by Patrick Morley|
|Wednesday, December 10 2008 13:21|
Spiritual and Financial Strategies for You and Your Friends
You’re Going to Get Through This
People are getting laid off. Men can’t find jobs. Companies are being forced to do layoffs. People are taking pay reductions. Bills are going unpaid. Budgets are getting slashed. Home values have plummeted. Savings accounts are rapidly being emptied out. Investments have gone up in smoke.
And that’s just in my family.
Our nation and the world are in an economic meltdown of freakish proportions. How are you going to survive?
Maybe you’ve lost your job—or fear it. Maybe you’ve watched your investments or paycheck shrink. Perhaps your business is way off.
Or maybe you’re “okay,” but still worry how it’s all going to turn out. Inevitably, you have family and friends struggling to make ends meet.
Much will be written in the days ahead about why this happened (humanly speaking), who is to blame, how to fix it, and when it will be over. However, this book will not touch on any of those topics. The purpose of this book is to show you how to personally survive and learn from the economic meltdown.
Where I’m Coming From
First, let’s go back to 1986 when a scenario developed not unlike what we’re seeing today—at least in the broad strokes. The economy was bloated with excessive consumption funded by overly easy credit with limited oversight. Greed was rampant.
In my line of work—commercial real estate development—we had banks pulling up to our front door and rolling in wheelbarrows full of money that I could borrow on “easy terms.” Being foolish and naive, I was accepting it.
Because of the aggressive lending and—just so the blame gets shared equally—aggressive borrowing, the commercial real estate market was grossly overbuilt. Banks and Savings and Loan Associations were stretched thin. Businesses were highly leveraged.
Then Congress passed the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Liquidity immediately vanished. The dominoes began to fall. Without credit, car dealers began to close. The Savings and Loan industry fell into a black hole, and was eventually liquidated by the federal government. Many insurance companies failed.
Even before the Tax Reform Act, rental rates on property began to tumble. Developers were left with buildings they couldn’t rent, mortgages they couldn’t pay, and investors who refused to throw good money after bad.
At the beginning of 1986 I had, let’s say for the purposes of example, $200 of property and $150 of mortgages. Just six months later, the appraisers had reduced the value of our properties from $200 to $100. But we still had $150 in mortgages. That is not the kind of problem from which you can easily recover—if at all.
Virtually all of my competitors—at least those who had used leverage like me—soon declared bankruptcy. To go bankrupt hurts, but it is not an irreparable disgrace.
Nevertheless, I sensed that God was calling me to do everything I could avoid going bankrupt. I never sensed any promise from Him that I wouldn’t have to. But I believed God wanted me to demonstrate my Christian faith to our employees, vendors, investors, lenders, family, and anyone else who might be watching.
So every day for the next seven years, I woke up not knowing whether or not I would be forced into bankruptcy.
The Feeling of Weariness
One of your greatest challenges in the middle of a meltdown is feeling weary. Some days you just wonder, “Will this ever end?”
I remember coming home for lunch one day—my regular practice. No one was there. As I stood at the sink in our darkened kitchen and looked through the window into the bright and sunny backyard, I was struck by the contrast between the darkness and the light. I said out loud, “I am so weary, I just don't know how I can go on for one more day.”
Another day I had just finished a tough meeting and was walking back into my office. As I walked through the doorway, I thought, "That’s it. I quit." Then I took another two steps and laughed. I thought, "You can’t quit. You hate quitters!"
One day I was riding down a divided highway that curved in the distance. A huge bolt of lightning struck in a place that, because of the way the road curved, gave the optical illusion that it struck the middle of the road. I remember thinking, Oh, how I wish I could have been under that bolt!
When There’s No End In Sight
Most of my troubles cleared up in about three years. But I had an institutional investor that really wanted to inflict punishment on me.
I admit in hindsight that it would have been better not to build the buildings in which they had invested (hindsight is 20-15—a little better than 20-20). But they apparently wanted me to shoulder the blame for the entire market collapse! As one writer said at the time, “Nobody is bigger than the market.”
So at the five year mark, weariness finally got the best of me. I was talking to my attorney on the phone and said, “Tommy, I just can’t take it anymore. They win. I give up. Tell them they can have whatever they want.”
Tommy, a great friend as well as a great lawyer, said, “Pat, I understand completely. Say, I have an idea. Why don’t you just let me take the lead on this for awhile, and let’s see what I can do.” What a relief. What a blessing from God. What an act of kindness and grace.
We All Need Some Help
I did let Tommy take the lead, and two years later—seven years after my business initially cratered—we were finally able to settle and I was spared.
Just as Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, I had seven years of “great prosperity” that I squandered by going deeply in debt, followed by seven years of “severe famine” when all the abundance was forgotten (Genesis 41:26-31).
It’s a long story but, by God’s grace, I was able to avoid bankruptcy and not only survive, but experience extraordinary spiritual growth. I could not have done it alone. And, of course, neither can you.
In this book I want help you. I consider it my privilege to share with you the strategies for survival and growth that worked for me then, and that can work for you now.
Why You’re Going to Get Through This
Most of this book will deal with how you’re going to get through this meltdown. But before we go there, let’s talk about why you’ll get through it.
For a Christian, the Word of God is our ultimate source of truth and strength. The Scriptures are filled with relevant texts about meltdowns. Our assurance is in the trustworthiness of God as He reveals Himself in the Bible.
Here are some selected verses from the book of Isaiah in the New Living Translation. You can find the same sentiment in the other prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, and throughout the New Testament. Meditate on the character and purposes of our great God as you read, and let Him speak to your heart about the meltdown. Take your time….
You can read other pertinent verses at Isaiah 40:23-24; 40:29-31; 43:11-13; 45:23; 49:15-16; 55:11; 56:6, and 60:10.
From start to finish, the Bible describes a God who loves you very much. So much, in fact, that He will discipline you for your own good (see Hebrews 12:7-11).
From these verses come two assurances.
First, God is in charge. He has a plan. He was not surprised or somehow caught off guard by this meltdown. God is not sitting up in heaven wringing His hands about how this will all turn out. He is altogether good and trustworthy. God is sovereignly orchestrating all of the seemingly random circumstances of your life.
You’re going to get through this. Yes, you will have to go through it. There are no shortcuts. And, yes, you can’t know how it will turn out. That belongs to the realm of God’s will. And, yes, it’s going to take some time. But, you will get through this.
In the next chapter, we’ll talk about the greatest temptation you will have to face during the meltdown.
1. Are you feeling weary? Do you feel like there’s no end in sight? How bad is it?
2. You may not feel like you are going to get through this, but are you willing to believe the Scriptures and put your faith in God?
3. Review Assurance #1 and Assurance #2. Do you have faith that these are true? How about your feelings? Do your feelings matter?