Oh, no. It looks like 2020 is going to be bumpier than 2019. Allow me to reflect on what I know about 2020, and what it may mean for personal finance, frugality, and planning. As for predicting the future – Ha!; the universe laughs. I’m glad it appreciates the joke. (If you want the bright side skip to the very bottom.)
That happened in 2019. Whether anything happens in 2020 – well, something will happen anyway. There are possibilities for removal. There are possibilities for additional impeachments for one or reaching others. Regardless, the singular event last year is already creating crashing waves internally and externally. Every event will move financial markets, cause more social divisions, and affect individuals. People have already died from the repercussions. Indirect effects will be harder to track, but in addition to real warfare, trade warfare will affect businesses, jobs, personal finances, and what we buy and sell. That will be trivial for some, and critical for others.
Elections probably won’t resolve the divisions. If no politician loses their position, the other side will amplify their offense. If leading politicians lose their positions, their side will amplify an offensive defense. Lawyers on both sides are probably already getting ready for suits to file in November. Debates can be productive, but this election season will probably be a bit nutso, distracting, and wasteful. Imagine that much political money being directed to fixing problems instead of fixing elections. Of course, fixing the election system might be a good first step. Fight or flight may turn from academic to action. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see political refugees move state to state to get away from losses of liberties, or move to places that accept their lifestyles. Later 2020 may inspire a lot of movement, even while suits wander through courts.
It is nice to imagine that the international protests against various governments or in favor of certain causes will progress to action. Protests tend to fade or reach a resolution; but those who have power do not give it up easily. The social breakthroughs are hard to see amidst the mass marches. Maybe that’s because it make take a hundred marches to reach a breakthrough, which is celebrated by only one march. The pervasiveness of the protests proves we’re not trying to solve one issue but many, too many. In America, such movements rarely result in interruptions in transportation, communication, food, or other vital services; but America is made up of people, and people are what make up those other protests. If it can happen there, it can happen here. (A somewhat catchy phrase that’s more correctly stated, if it can happen in one country it can happen in any country. ‘Here’ is relative, but pardon the bias as most of my readers are in the US. We’ll see if the US remains U after all of this.)
Climate change is no longer debatable. It is actual. While it is rare that short term disasters like storms and wildfires are solely due to climate change, the effects are amplified. The more significant changes are more subtle and may not affect 2020 as much as the short term amplified disasters. If we were wise we’d prepare for them, but there will probably be enough of the short term events to divert tens of billions of dollars as we try to fix what we’ve broken. Add climate unrest and refugees to the social versions.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and basically bad weather are a constant. One bit of good news is that we’re getting better at predicting them, and can prepare and mitigate them – if we decide to do so. If not, it basically costs about seven times more to repair than prepare. (I believe that’s a FEMA estimate.) Of course, getting governments to act can be difficult, especially when they’re distracted by their own actions. It is a good reason to personally prepare for emergencies. (Minimalism Meets Emergency Preparedness)
The economy is doing great! As long as you’re wealthy and in the US, or even wealthier anywhere. A recession is probably a self-fulfilling prophecy. The US recovery is setting records, which proves to me that economics and politics are actually disconnected more than most think. Yet, politicians will use economic data to fight political battles. Some worries are increasing economic inequalities (having a hard time finding affordable housing?), negative interest rates (something common outside the US, for now), increasing governmental debt (with ‘fixes’ that exacerbate rather alleviate), and system analyses that predict the economic model is unstable and is likely to reach higher highs (which is where we are now) and lower lows (something that we know can happen quickly.)
Unknowns (the beginning of the earlier-mentioned good stuff)
Here’s where some of the good news may happen. Revelations happen. Archaic systems eventually fail and can be replaced with functional innovations. The American Revolution was a good thing. Getting rid of slavery was a good thing. Defeating fascism was a good thing. Those three things happened in relatively short time after decades of discussion. None were resolved simply. Institutions like the NRA and certain faiths are faltering, hopefully to be replaced with initiatives that treat people as people, instead of disposable ideological pawns. Renewable energy has accelerated while fossil fuels are entering a financial spiral. Energy efficiencies like LEDs, electric vehicles, and more sustainable building practices are upsetting anachronistic industries. The ‘Health Care’ industry’s name is being challenged as transparency is illuminating ridiculous prices and business practices, and finding room for innovative treatments – which are sometimes thousands of years old. These changes won’t fully resolve in one year. Human civilization has too much inertia for that, but this may be a breakthrough year.
The Best News
2021, 2022, … The world has gotten weird. This year looks to me to be weirder than last year. And yet, I think this is our crisis year, our catharsis year, our breakthrough year. People are finding their voices. The majority remain silent, happy in cocoons of entertainment. That’s nothing new. The goal of most people is to live, which frequently takes a day’s worth of effort every day with no time left for issues beyond the household’s walls. They may not stand up for a march, but if enough of them move to vote, that may be more than enough.
Fortunately, frugal people already are living lives and have acquired the skills that help navigate such chaotic times. Live simply, and it is easy to ignore the complexities that aim to detour and distract attention. Respect your resources, and know what you value rather than what a corporation or organization tells you to value. Trust yourself and your self, because those are the core of any person, though many are told to mindlessly obey others. Spend less than you make. Invest the rest, which sometimes means investing in yourself, your self, and your community. Keep it simple. Use what you have as you can. And know that the only constant is change, and change can simply take time.