A volatile stock market, depressed home values, scarce jobs. Right now, you have many reasons to worry about money. But all is not doom and gloom; even these clouds can have a silver lining.
Lets look at five unexpected benefits of the struggling economy.
Time with family and friends
Cutting back on the go-go lifestyle that characterized the recent economic boom has allowed many families to spend less money and spend more time together.
The unexpected benefit: Socially connected people live longer, respond better to stress, have stronger immune systems and fare better when fighting many illnesses than those who are not as socially connected, according to medical researchers.
Preparing your own meals
Cutting back on going out to eat is a common strategy for saving money, whether its staying in for dinner or brown-bagging your lunch. By my calculation, you can save about $1,200 per year by bringing your lunch four times per week and eating out just once.
The unexpected benefit: Preparing your own meals can be more healthful. Many popular restaurant meals have more than 2,000 calories. So reducing the number of times you splurge will help your pocketbook and your waistline.
A simplified life
Selling nonessential possessions can be a useful and quick way to raise money when times are tight.
The unexpected benefit: Having less stuff reduces your stress levels. As Leo Babauta, creator of www.ZenHabits.net says, disorganization stresses us out. The more stuff you are responsible for, the more difficult it is to be organized and the more stress you experience.
Being part of job cuts can be one of the scariest and most stressful events in life. If you lose your job, volunteering can be an effective way to learn new skills, network and get out of the house.
The unexpected benefit: Recent layoffs and job losses have led to a significant increase in volunteerism. The Corporation for National and Community Service reported nearly 27 percent of U.S. adults volunteered in 2009.
Many people who were expecting to fully retire have had to cut back on their leisure time and go back to work to protect their retirement savings.
Others who were expecting to work full-time for a few more years have been laid off and unable to find full-time work. Many of them have sought part-time employment.
The unexpected benefit: Working part-time can provide important financial and emotional rewards.
By working part-time you may be able to use your experience to help a small company that is unable to hire a full-time employee as it gets started. And as a friend of mine recently said: Many people just dont do retirement very well.
Yes, this prolonged economic crisis has been difficult, and it may be some time before it ends. But if we can make the best of these difficult circumstances, we may find an unexpected silver lining in the clouds.
Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. www.PersonalFinanceCoaching.com