Thursday, March 24, 2011



A recent article by Rebecca D'Angelo in USA TODAY found that there are some common regrets among those born between 1946 and 1964.

This is what they wished they had known earlier:

•The stock market can go down as well as up.

•Your home equity line should not be used as a personal ATM.

•Youth doesn't last forever, but moving more, and eating less can delay old age. Comments like, "Why didn't I start with the sunscreen sooner so I wouldn't be so wrinkled?” as well as consternation over bulging waistlines, weight-related illness or ailments, and decreased physical capabilities are common.

•Our parents weren't blowing smoke when they said "Live within your means" and "Save for a rainy day." Now "they're afraid they'll outlive their money" because they didn't plan and save enough and certainly didn't predict the economy's meltdown.

In general their comments might be summarized as: “A little less ice cream and a lot more saving.”

If they live another 30 or 40 years, they will find longevity brings challenges. Some folks are realizing that 35 years of work cannot easily support 35 years of retirement.

It is not as if Baby Boomers did not have great role models. The generation that fought World War 2 has often been called the “Greatest Generation.” I am sure that the Depression era that preceded World War 2 did more good than harm to the character of Americans. It seems that the further we have gotten from those awful financial times, the more spoiled and selfish we have become.

Is there anyone now who will rise up and claim that Generation X, Generation Y or whatever we have now, will be the greatest generation? I certainly can’t imagine it.

But, the folks in the mid 1920’s never thought they would see a full out stock market crash in 1929, ushering in the worse Depression in American History. It is fairly well accepted that there were five causes or aggravations of the Great Depression.

1. Stock Market Crash of 1929: One of the major causes that led to the Great Depression.

2. Runs on Bank as Banks Failed: Over 9,000 banks failed and deposits were uninsured, so the money was just gone. You can recall a run on the banks in the classic Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

3. Spending and Jobs Dried Up: Lack of money and fear kept many from purchasing items, which led to a reduction in the workforce. Foreclosures and repossessions followed. The unemployment rate rose above 25%, and that was likely not even accurate due to the conditions of that day. In many places it was much higher. My Granddaddy used to say, “There just wasn’t no money back then.”

4. American Economic Policy: Desperate for anything that would help, the government tried the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930 to help protect American companies by charging high tariffs on imports. Trade stagnated further.

5. Dustbowl: The Mississippi Valley’s epic drought in 1930 caused many to have sell their farms. This was the topic of John Steinbeck's “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Today, we may be looking at similar conditions. Rising unemployment, stifled spending, a lack of production, foreclosures, less credit availability, rising food and gas prices and a staggering and growing national debt. If a natural disaster, a terrorism cyber attack or other unforeseen tragedy occurs, that may be all it takes to begin building a couple of truly great generations.

Mr. Peel may be available to address your civic club or church, please contact his office at