What’s that? A horse? That’s not a horse, it doesn’t even look like a horse. A horse has four legs and a tail… where’s the tail???
Emotions run high on holidays; disappointments over the kids going to their “in-laws” instead of your house, for example, makes it harder to cope with the stress of others. My mother is the eldest of thirteen siblings; and Thanksgiving lunch often was interrupted with a sister-on-sister skirmish or “confrontational cousins in combat” over the last piece of pie. There was always the annual gridiron scrimmage where uncles could air out brotherly grievances with fierce-some tackles that would have easily made ESPN’s “hit of the week,” highlight reel. This ritual family bludgeoning brawl, that resembled a tackle-not-touch football game unusually ended in the end-zone over a disputed touchdown; in a family-fisticuff-free-for-all, pitting “in-law’s versus outlaw’s” with aunts and cousins taking sides in the family feuding like “crips and bloods.” In our family, football was not a contact sport, it was a collision sport.
By days end, the effects of tryptophan and the medicinal healing properties of Aunt Susan’s pecan pie, we are all family and have each other’s back. This year may be tougher than most because several in our family are out-of-work, unemployed, on the dole and sitting on the bench instead of in the game.
The stock market has been a tumultuous unprofitable ride in 2015. And the economy has not been kind to hundreds of thousands of employees and workers; especially in the oil and energy related field. The tumble in oil prices has been great for American car drivers, but energy workers have been hit hard. While the majority of people will be thankful for extremely low prices on gas and fuel, this “greater good” theme will not be appreciated by those hardest hit in this industry. Few if any oil company has been spared from dramatically cutting jobs and their work forces. The drop in price from $100 to $38 for a barrel of oil has caused these massive layoffs and a ripple effect in many other market segments. Stalwarts like Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble, eBay, American Express, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar are just a few of the many large employers slashing staff; with the last two listed loping off 10,000 and 33,000 workers each, respectively.
Local workers in the southern states are hurting along with those who followed the black gold rush into North Dakota. Dallas and Ft. Worth has not been spared from this retirement plan pivot that has cutoff cash flow for thousands in the metroplex. Our Dallas / Ft. Worth (DFW) local economy has one of the best, most diversified employment bases in the entire country. Investment into Texas in general has been incredible. So it’s particularly painful and maybe embarrassing for a baby boomer or generation x –er sitting around a tight table of friends and family, to be struggling with financial and money issues. Older boomers felt they would be planning for their retirement with promises of guaranteed lifetime monthly income. But for many, neither life nor their investments have gone as they had hoped. Regardless of whether they are a baby boomer, gen x or millennial, today is not the time to become their trusted investment advisor or best financial expert; they will not need your advice.
These folks will need your compassion, kind words and maybe even a little financial help. What is not needed is your best advice, especially about money and their financial plan. Imagine how stressful if would be to see your income account and balances in your 401k, IRA and other investment portfolios all being reduced due to market losses and the forced need to withdraw money from them for living expenses. And most expenses are skyrocketing. Health insurance premiums for example, cost twice as much with outrageously large deductibles than just a few years ago. Obama care hasn’t been as successful as projected and one must sign up during the short enrollment window to qualify. Even the best IRA and retirement planning can’t always resolve difficulties due to an unforeseen layoff.
Try to be a really good listener; and avoid giving advice. Uncle Louie’s best “money tips” and his investment secret strategy are not going to be appreciated. Put on a happy face and greet your unemployed guest with exuberance and a huge smile! If you ask, “how are you doing?” be ready for a sincere and possibly lengthy response. A hug can go a long way in putting someone under stress at ease. Make certain you let them know you understand the seriousness of their situation and do not make light of it with jokes. Also a simple word of encouragement will work wonders.
If you are the one unemployed and worried about being embarrassed or dread the questions about your life plans, remove negative thoughts from your mind and do your best to relax with the group. The ambiance you desire is created with your attitude. Don’t worry or be reluctant to open up about being unemployed. In fact let everyone know you are interested in any opportunities available with their employer. The worst thing for you and everyone else is to isolate yourself. You are worthy and deserving of all good things in life. Michael Ham and My Money Track invite to show up at our family Thanksgiving; just be sure to bring your mouthpiece guard and protective headgear!