State of the Union: Reality Check

11 Mar

As politicians congratulate themselves for saving the country from another self-inflicted crisis (even as the next one looms ahead), we as investors need to take a step back and understand, for our own financial well-being, the true state of our economy.

There’s no way to sugar coat it: We’ve been through a rough time. January 2012 brought an end to the worst five years of economic growth since 1928-1932—the beginning of the Great Depression:

  • There are three million fewer Americans employed today than there were in January of 2008.
  • From 2007-2011, the average net worth of all American households fell by nearly 40%.
  • Real household income fell by more than $4,000 from $54,489 in Dec. 2007 to just $50,054 by January 2012.

While the stock market’s recent resurgence is encouraging, the numbers mentioned above keep me from being too optimistic about where we’re headed over the long term. In particular, it makes me question the wisdom of both our reliance on stocks as a long-term investment tool as well as the assumption that social security benefits will be there for us in 10, 20 or 30 years.

Many families—particularly those closer to retirement that can’t afford more losses—should look at alternatives such as annuities to ensure their economic security.

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