2008 to present has been an interesting downhill ride. 401K accounts have plummeted. Retirements savings slid. Job losses multiplied. And the markets were rocked. In a recent statement (July 22, 2009) Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake warned against too much economic optimism (as reported by Wyoming Tribune July 23, 2009).
While the events of late 2008 and early 2009 were shocking and devastating there are certainly ways many of us were financially helped. We have just been caught in the doom and gloom that we forgot to realize that there are some benefits to what happened. Today I wanted to introduce you to seven ways the economic meltdown actually helped my financial and spiritual situation.
Photo by House of Sims
Decreased Cost of Gasoline
AAA reports that the current national average for regular gasoline is $2.465 per gallon. This time last year we could expect to pay $4.042 per gallon. On average Americans are paying $1.577 less per gallon. I’m thankful that gasoline prices have decreased so dramatically. My budget appreciates the breathing room the decline has provided.
- More Groceries for Less
Reduced Cost of Travel
Fall of Foreign Currencies
Rolled over a 403(b) to a Roth IRA
Free Spiritual Check Up
Purchase Shares at Rock Bottom Prices
Associated with the decline in cost of gasoline and the slowed demand for some key food ingredients, grocers are able to provide products at a discount. Take for example this article that explains how Frito-Lay are selling their chips in bags 20% larger with the words “Hey, there’s 20% more free fun to share in here.” Emily Fredrix of the Associated Press reports
Experts say offering larger sizes – along with other methods, like coupons or buy-one-get-one-free promotions – can convince shoppers who are trying to save money to stick with name brands.
This summer has been a great time to travel with the perfect storm of low gas prices, struggling airlines, and lower than average travel volume. As a result, airlines have slashed prices. For example, travel to Australia is lower than I have seen it in five years. You can buy a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Brisbane for less than $600. That represents more than a 40% decrease from average prices. In addition, hotel brands have introduced great promotions with both Priority clubs and Starwood brand hotels offering ‘two nights (stays) and get one free’ promotions. Personally, I have enjoyed some great hotel and airline rates this summer.
In late 2008, many people found safety in the strength of the US dollar. As a result, the US dollar remained very strong against some of the world’s currencies. I took advantage by diversifying some of my funds into Canadian and Australian dollars as I am frequently using currencies from both of those countries. As of July 23, 2009, one Australian dollar cost .81 cents US. Back in on November 15, 2008, it cost .63 cents US to buy one Australian dollar. Currently, (July 23, 2009) it costs .91 US cents to buy one Canadian dollar. Back on November 15th, 2009 .82 cents US would buy one Canadian dollar.
For just over a year, my wife and I had been considering rolling her 403(b) from a former employer into a Roth IRA. We knew we would need to pay taxes on the money, but did not have the necessary funds to pay cash for the taxes. 2008 provided the perfect environment for us to roll our money into a Roth. First, the account value had decreased substantially which meant there were a lot less taxes we would need to pay. Secondly, by having some losses we were able to minimize our tax obligation.
So many of us say that money is not our master, we are not in love with money, and our hope is not in money. This economic meltdown provided a perfect context for spiritual self-reflection. I was able to ask myself, “How did those plummeting stock prices impact me?” God blessed me with a great spiritual check up. If you wonder what God was doing during the economy, I suggest you read Spiritual Implications of the Economic Condition.
All throughout the downturn I continued investing in the market. I am only 31 and the lower the market went, the better off I was. I have been able to purchase market shares at ridiculously low prices, and I can only assume I will be thankful for those purchases in the future. Since I do not invest unless I can lock away the money for at least five years, the market drop has not resulted in any actual losses (except those I took for tax purposes).
Have there been any ways you benefited from the economic downturn?