What do we call the financial mess we’re in?

Last month, I came across an intriguing article in The New York Times entitled, No question we’re in a financial pickle. What do we call it?  At first, worrying about what to call this financial mess seemed trivial. It’s not. They may be the tip of the iceberg, but names are how we remember things. They matter.

So, recession? True, but too clinical. Retrenchment? Yes, but not deep or, frankly, personal enough. How about Revolution? Already been used.

Welcome, instead, to the Great Reckoning. That is where we are. Government bailouts notwithstanding, taking stock of what we’ve done to ourselves, and what we will do from here, is the path back to integrity, and to a state of economic health that might actually last. So, why the Great Reckoning? Simple: We’re nobody’s victim; we have a choice and we’re all accountable for change. It took a lot to get here and it will take a lot to move on. Moreover, our current problem isn’t just a matter of economics; it is equally about the need for reflection and systemic change. The “Great Reckoning” captures this fact nicely.

The question is what can we – each company, each person – do to make a difference that will help pull us out of the mess we’re in? A sterling example of someone who’s making a difference is Warren Buffett who is investing in America: in Goldman Sachs and GE, as well as other undervalued economic assets. As for me, I’m not charging anything I can’t pay for when the bill arrives. I’m putting some cash into our house, because I believe that real estate remains a solid, long term investment. And I’m hoping like crazy that the Great Reckoning leads regulators and legislators to show some serious spine the next time Wall Street and industry lobbyists cajole, threaten or otherwise intimidate them into turning a blind eye to what’s right for the economy.

So, what will you do to help turn the Great Reckoning into the Great Recovery?

  • Tim Thayne

    Hi Larry,

    It’s great to read your newsletter and think about you and your family. I hope all are happy and healthy!

    As for your suggestion that we call this economic melt down “The Great Reckoning”,I agree 100%. I think it’s a reckoning that is running deep and happing at multiple levels, including a reckoning within most of the households here in the US, at least at some level. It should prove to be a very interesting time.

    For us this economic downturn has caused us to look for ways we could tighten our belts and become prepared for even more difficult times. Fortunately for our family, my wife Roxanne has had an interest in preparedness ideas and has already done some things to help us weather a slow economy better by storing food and other necessities. Just for experiment sake we are going on a “spending fast” this month by only buying produce at the store and gas for work. No eating out or movies, no dry cleaning, no cold cereal (because this is not a food item we have stored). So we are going to for the most part live on the food storage we have. Wish us luck! But I have to say that being prepared has brought a sense of peace in all this upheaval that would not otherwise be with us.

    Again, thanks for the article and we wish you, Janet, and Max all the best.

    January 8, 2008 at 5:55 am
  • Rich Carvill

    Right on, Larry! “The Great Reckoning” is a perfect description of the current financial mess we find ourselves in. The sooner we come to grips with the need to sacrifice and endure some pain, the sooner we can start to pull out of this tailspin and start to build some integrity back into both our personal and institutional financial systems. It’s both short sighted and selfish to think that someone else will bail us out of this mess. So while our country and the global markets sort things out, I will heed Larry’s sage advice to focus on where I can deliver value and, hopefully, a helping hand to those I am blessed to serve.

    January 6, 2009 at 5:08 am
  • claude singer

    Yeah, reckoning is a good descriptor, Larry. It has the apt implication of moral atonement—one might even say Old Testament punishment! Not what you intended, I’m sure, but I think appropriate nevertheless. Emerging from this period of economic reckage we will once again waste money on new rec rooms—unless we follow your wise prescriptions.

    All best, brandsinger

    January 7, 2009 at 3:45 am
  • Jake Jacobs


    Looks like you have a fan club for your naming capabilities. I’m not Warren Buffet so I’m limited in how much I can invest in America….

    One thing I am doing is focusing on my kids and doing some financial education work with them. My son, 16, recently actually deposited ALL of his holiday gift money save for $4.16 on used video games. That’s new behavior for him and I think is a helpful path to follow so we don’t end up repeating history….

    January 8, 2009 at 10:41 am

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