Naturally many people are worried about the economy right now. But the thing is, the only thing we can do about “the economy” is to worry about our own darn economy instead. It frustrates me to hear people say things like this:

  • Should I buy a house with the economy like it is? (When they have a 20% down payment and the mortgage is small enough that they could easily pay it and their other expenses with one income.)
  • Well, but with the economy and all, I’m not sure I should go on vacation. (The vacation that they’ve already paid for and planned for in advance. What’s staying home going to do?)
  • There’s no point in looking for a new job because of the economy even though I’m dissatisfied with my current job. (Really? No point in LOOKING?)

What do all those statements have in common? They’re all based on fear.

Fear that the world will go to hell in a hand basket. Fear that…I’m not sure what. Fear of looking for a new job even though they’re unhappy in their old one.

I can understand it to a certain extent. It’s natural to dislike potential rejection. It’s natural to wonder whether you should start large, expensive undertakings when it seems like the world is falling apart around you. On the other hand, if you have enough money to live on for a year even after the large, expensive undertaking, why not do it anyway? Letting your life be ruled by fear is silly.

Sure, use fear to remind you to CONSIDER all the implications — but not as the driving factor behind your decisions. I have a rule that has served me well: Never do or avoid doing anything based on fear.

What can doing things based on fear get you? It can get you into a new house at the peak of the market, because you were afraid that you’d never be able to afford one otherwise, even though you really had to stretch and finagle things to get into one. It can leave you trapped and miserable in a job you hate, causing your health to decline. It can cause problems that never would have happened otherwise, such as in the case of acting crazy during a divorce.

So, if you’re worried about the economy, regroup and focus on your own personal economy instead. Start with the basics: planning your spending, getting out of debt if you’re in it, building an emergency fund, investing, and keeping your job skills honed. Buy the things you need or want and can afford, and don’t buy the things you can’t. Give generously, help others, and change the things you can change. Focus on the things you do have control over (yourself and your choices) and avoid dwelling on negative things.