I think I wasted this recession.

If you’re prepared (good credit and an abundance of cash) a recession is a good time for some bargain hunting of investments (stock, land, real estate, talent, etc.).  And maybe even some refinancing of old debts.

Otherwise a recession is just about juggling your income and obligations and waiting for better times.

Because of a misjudgment a couple of years ago, compounded by a small run of bad luck in mid-2008 – I’ve been mostly doing the latter.

I had hoped to get in a good enough position to capitalize on the opportunities brought about by the reduced prices in real estate, but that hasn’t been the case.  And I think its too late.

Disclaimer: I’m not a trained economist, so everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt.  And none of this should be construed as investment advice.

So with all of those disclaimers out of the way, here I go:

We’ve hit the bottom of this recession.

First, let me say what I am not saying.  I am not saying that things will be “better” in 6, 9 or even 12 months from now.  I am not saying that unemployment won’t continue to be high.  And I am not saying that further stimulus isn’t needed to get us going again.

What I am saying is that things are not going to get much worse than they are right now.

We may bounce around the bottom for a while, and getting out of this hole may take a while.  But we’ve hit the bottom.

To back this up, here are a few observations I’ve made in the last few weeks:

  • The past two weekends I’ve been to Annapolis Mall, it’s been packed.  The parking lots are full of cars and the mall is full of people.  And the people have been carrying around shopping bags.  Shopping bags from places like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.  People are spending money again.
  • A few Saturdays back I went to Best Buy and when I pulled up to the front of the store there were two pick-up trucks with two different sets of people loading up huge 52” flat-panel TVs.  As my brother might say, people are optimistic enough to spend money they don’t have.
  • Following my trip to Best Buy I drove by a subdivision in my little town.  This particular subdivision is really nothing more than a cul-de-sac of 5 or 6 lots.  For most of the last three years this subdivision has been nothing more than a model home and the other finished lots.  I’ve rarely seen any more than just the salesperson’s car sitting out front of the model.  On this particular Saturday (a very nice weather day) there happened to be 9 cars parked out front.

Now, let me say that the greater DC-Baltimore metropolitan region is notoriously recession-resistant.  The biggest part of our local economy is the military and federal government (and associated contractors).  So we tend to be one of the last regions in the nation to feel the effects of a recession and we tend to be one of the first regions to recover from those effects when the recession is over.

So your mileage and observations may vary.

Finally, I also want to say I know there are a lot of individuals and families that are under a lot of financial stress right now.  Even if we have seen the bottom, I think there are going to be continued foreclosures, layoffs, etc.  I think it will be months, years or even a decade or more before some people have finally put their own individual worst behind them.

But be assured: the very faint light you see ahead – is the one at the end of the tunnel.

Now all we have to do is start restocking the cupboards for the next recession so we can take advantage of the opportunities.

View points from all sides (some subscriptions required):

Baltimore Sun: Sales of previously occupied homes rise unexpectedly in February by the largest percentage increase in nearly six years

Inman: California home-sales rate outpaces 2008 (paid subscription required)

WSJ: Foreclosure Rate Outpaces Bank Sales

USA Today Poll: Outlook Improving on the Economy

Yahoo News: Economy Shows Positive Signs But It May Not Last

Inman: New Home Sales Climb From Record Low

As I write this there is breaking news:

Washington Post: Consumer Spending Up for 2nd Straight Month (registration may be required)

Only somewhat related but interesting:

Americans are moving on up to smaller homes (I like this trend)


I think I wasted this recession. — 4 Comments

  1. I’d like to agree. I do think it’s hard for any of us to gauge things based on our local region.

    Some places in California, for example, are not going to a see a slow down in foreclosures in 2009. These areas of suburban sprawl were tossed up over the last 5-10 years because anybody with a name and a signature could get a loan. People are leaving those areas in droves. I don’t see that stopping.

    But even if the DC-Baltimore area is a pocket of growth it serves well to remind us – looking at a national recession as a total loss ignores the fact that there are plenty of places where people are converging, business is booming and, overall, life and business are moving forward.

    I like to think about recessions like the one we’re in as kind of the burning of the forest. Every few years the forest must burn to make way for new life (new companies, industries, ways of working and living). The evolution of pine trees is built on this cycle. Our own evolution may rely on it as well.

    MikeTeks last blog post..7 Killer Web Development Tools

  2. I don’t know Vinny. There’s usually a seasonal uptick this time of year anyway. We *might* be at the bottom – although the stock market bottom was months ago – but if the job market doesn’t stabilize and improve a bit before Thanksgiving (I wouldn’t give odds on it) there might be an awful lot of vacant retail space in January.

    I think there’s still plenty of opportunity for those with cash, credit, and nerve – especially if it’s someone elses cash.

    It could be that people are dumb enough to buy things they can’t afford – those big screens are on sale you know.

    David LaFerneys last blog post..Honey Bees By Mail

  3. i know it sounds mercenary, but you are right. If you keep your job, then the recession won’t affect you in a negative way. bargains will come, prices of many things will fall. It is a bitter truth, but for the majority of people, recessions are good. in the uk (where i am) 2.5million are unemployed, 30 million are in work -so on balance it aint bad. but good news doesn’t sell papers.

    art brightons last blog post..Armed Forces Day

  4. I have been unemployed for 6 months now and trust me, it is getting depressing to just be a (meanwhile desperate) housewife. It is great to think that we really hit the bottom of this recession, but I do not wish to say it out loud yet (superstition). The fact that people are spending more money, a hint you used to back up your theory, proves nothing in my opinion. I learned that even unemployed people need entertainment to protect their sanity, and shopping is just their way of coping.

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