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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Personal lessons from 2008

This year has been one where the word "unprecedented" has been banded about more than I care to remember. Indeed, in recent history this year has been unprecedented, however, over the course of human history or even the last century I think things have been overblown. Commentators and press columnists have both a very short memory and a desire to exaggerate. Yes things are bad, but they have been bad before and we have got through them.

But lessons can and should be learnt from the turmoil of 2008. I'm not talking about lessons for the government or financial system. Clearly there are plenty of lessons to be learnt here and things will have to change. But there are also personal lessons in the way we conduct our lives and see the world.

Here are a few that I'll be taking away with me:

- Pay little notice of forecasts made for more than a year. The difference between the forecasts made at the end of 2007 and the out turn from 2008 has been so large that forecasting the economy has lost a lot of meaning. I find it more useful to concentrate upon the current state of economies and the general outlook over the future.

- Laugh in the face of anyone who tells you that something is obvious or a dead cert. So many people I have talked to over the last couple of years have banged on about the property market and how it was easy to make money. With the market likely to fall around 30% from peak to trough many are now struggling having fallen into negative equity and overextended themselves on their mortgage. Never trust anyone that says "You'll always make money", its either a scam or a sure sign that the market is overheated.

- Plan more for the future. In the recent boom years it has been easy to live for the moment. Saving nothing and forgetting the grand plan. It has been easy to move up the career ladder and simple to get pay increases. However, it should be remembered that the economy is fragile and can turn very quickly. You'll need a Plan B when this happens.

- Hard work and education pays off. The boom times were easy for many people to get by doing the minimum at work. It often seemed to some that a little bit of a loud mouth and a sociable nature would get you further than hard work. Looking at my friends who have lost their jobs and those that are still in work, I would suggest that when things get tough those people who haven't worked hard and don't have their qualifications will be the first to be identified for the chop.

- You can still change jobs in a recession. Although companies are making many people redundant there continues to be churn within the economy as people move company and people retire. Therefore you should not see recession as a time where you have to stay at your current job. You can still climb the ladder even in the bad times...its riskier but higher risks tend to come with higher rewards.

- As bad as it will get better.

It has been a long hard year but there has been plenty of lessons for everyone. These are lessons for life, that will make you a better person and employee throughout the next lot of boom and the bust.

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posted by Carl Malways at


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