It's Time to Make Lemonade

Tough and uncertain times call for our best efforts.

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During the 1980s, when my children were little, inflation was out of control, the Soviet Union was still in business, and the world was a pretty scary place. How would my kids be able to have good lives and the kinds of choices I was fortunate enough to enjoy?

I muttered this to a friend one day, and he shot back with this thought: "If you're 20 years old, it's always a good time to be alive."

He was right.

As young adults today, my kids live in a world that is much scarier than it was 25 years ago. The Soviet Union is gone, but the devil we're used to is tame most days compared with the threats we face around the world. And even Russia remains a thorn, very much sowing its oats and more than happy to challenge an America that is, at least temporarily, not able to do much more than squawk at it.

Inflation is not so much a problem today, but nearly everything else in business and the economy is ailing or on life support. Companies collapse daily, and the market's attempt to find a new floor looks increasingly like a panicked swimmer looking for the shallows. We take comfort that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is an accomplished student of the Great Depression and will presumably be skilled at making sure we never have to call it the first Great Depression. Strangely, I am not comforted.

Despite these challenges, my kids are happy to be alive and focused on most of the same things that I was focused on 40 years ago. Life goes on. Our constant challenge and opportunity is to make the best of it we can. Not always an easy or clear path.

Do we face an uncertain future? You bet. Times are tough and will get tougher still. Nest eggs have been cracked, if not broken. Millions of older Americans have had to pull in their belts, add years to their working lives, and wonder if the values of their homes will recover in their lifetimes. And we may be the lucky ones!

Imagine being 30, with $150,000 in education debt and no job. Imagine your spouse is in the same boat. Your home mortgage is $100,000 more than the current value of your home. And you have two young kids. Oh, wait. I don't have to imagine it. One of those 30-year-olds is related to me!

So, pick your poison—the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, the energy crisis, global warming, or our dual-front war on terrorism. We'll get through it. And my commitment is to provide you with solid information and expert advice about how you can make the most of what you've got—how you can make The Best Life possible for you and those you love.

I'm sure you've seen the longevity statistics. Our Best Life solutions need to last for a long time, and that's without some of the genetic-based medical miracles coming down the pike. There are lots of online life-span calculators. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. has one. See how many more years you might have.

Finally, The Best Life is a two-way street. Tell me what works for you and what doesn't. Tell me the tricks you've learned along the way—to stretch your resources, find that terrific part-time job, be a smart traveler, and take great care of your bodies and minds. I will pass on those thoughts and couple them with "Best Life" solutions from leading thinkers.

Together, we can and will build a Best Life community.