The question above will prompt some disgusted snorts, and maybe a terse response: Nothing!
That’s the easy answer. It’s always fashionable to focus on negative trends. It can also be fun: Who wants to hear about things going well? Efficient businesses, smooth transactions, and kept promises are common in our world, but we don’t talk much about them. And stories of competence, success and normalcy don’t sell newspapers.
But relentless news of disaster can be debilitating. So in the interest of fostering a more positive atmosphere, here are some commonly-expressed verities—along with the flip side of each one. See how they resonate with you:
- Mortgage defaults are at an all-time high.
By the second quarter of 2011, about 13 percent of all mortgage loans were in some stage of delinquency, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). That’s bad, but it does mean 87 percent of borrowers are current. And, what about those forgotten millions who own their homes free and clear?
- Home values have fallen off a cliff.
If your memory only extends back five years, today’s home prices may seem catastrophic. Actually, they’re about equal to what they were in 2004—and those prices were considered sky-high at the time.
- Credit is disappearing.
True, it’s harder to get a loan nowadays. But requiring borrowers to have adequate incomes and substantial down payments isn’t such a bad idea. Through the first half of the twentieth century, home loans were typically amortized over three to five years, and capped at 50 percent of property value! Quit complaining.
- Homeownership is dead.
The facts: At 66.1 percent, America’s homeownership rate is still near its all-time high of 68.1 percent. And it actually increased in the third quarter of 2011, after declining for two years.
- Unemployment is stuck at 9 percent.
That means 91 percent of the workforce is—working!
- The European economy is imploding—and we could be next.
There’s still a wide ocean, a vigorous entrepreneurial spirit, and four hundred years of history separating us from them.
In the midst of market chaos, it helps to put things in perspective. Some people relish calamities such as our recent housing crisis and recession, viewing them as opportunities to cash in. That’s certainly one way to prosper. But here’s another one: Look for signs of life, growth and renewal—and nurture them. You can still succeed, and you’ll have a much more pleasant time doing it.