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My No-Depression Recession

Ylan Mui

I had promised myself several months ago that I would not let the economic downturn get me down. Constantly writing about the collapse of the stock markets, record high loan defaults and distressed consumers was turning me into a basketcase. And the turmoil in the newspaper industry wasn't doing much to help my mental state.

But recently, economists have been touting so-called "green shoots" in this recession, small signs that things are starting to look up. A new Businessweek blog devoted to tracking the recovery just launched. Consumer confidence has rebounded to pre-financial apocalypse levels, though it still is below historical averages.

Have we reached the tipping point? Has the recession finally jumped the shark? At the very least, maybe it's worth spending some time looking on the bright side.

My retirement has a pulse. When the stock markets were tanking, people were afraid to even look at their 401(k) statements in case it sent them into anaphylactic shock. This was the strategy my girlfriend took. But after a little pep talk by yours truly, she took the plunge recently and realized it wasn't as bad as she had thought. I checked mine and found that I had recovered my losses for the year. It's still not great, but at least I'm out of the red.

I'm still saving money. It's not as much as I would like (is it ever?), but at least my husband and I have not wavered in our commitment to put a little aside each month. We've focused instead on cutting expenses -- bringing lunch from home, cooking for ourselves and borrowing DVDs from my cousin. (Thanks, Michael!) And we're not the only household saving more. The personal savings rate was 4 percent of disposable income during the first quarter of the year, according to government data, the highest it has been all decade.

I've got skills. Since the recession began, I've learned how to pan-sear salmon, make a good curry and cook bean thread noodles. I started jogging again to cut down on pricey exercise classes. I've read nine books so far this year now that I'm no longer out sipping cocktails every other evening with girlfriends. These are all things that I enjoy and am grateful that I've (re)discovered them, no matter what the circumstances!

What are the "green shoots" in your life? What do you have to be optimistic about?

By Ylan Mui  |  June 11, 2009; 7:12 AM ET
Categories:  Ylan Q. Mui  
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I think optimism itself is a "green shoot". There are a lot of happy people in the rest of the world who have nothing, materially speaking, in comparison to what we have here in the West.

If we can stay optimistic and calm in the crisis and concentrate on other things besides how much money we have, we will be richer in the long run.

J.N. Urbanski

Posted by: jnurbanski | June 11, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

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