Stock Market

I lost everything during the 2008 crash. I was in a slump financially and homeless. Why am I still worried?

Dear Quentin,

I am concerned about my financial future. I lost everything during the 2008 stock-market crash, and I was in a slump financially and homeless, and I had no vehicle for nearly seven years. I have spent the last decade recovering. 

I am 58 with $250,000 in a high-yield savings account, $150,000 in stocks and a Roth IRA. I also have $35,000 in an emergency fund. I have a $1,200 a month mortgage, while my home is currently valued at around $350,000.

I have $5,000 in fixed monthly income, and earn $75,000 to 150,000 a year. I owe $2,000 in credit-card debit, $25,000 on two vehicle loans. I don’t have $1 million or more as I had planned. Why am I still worried — and should I be?

Still Reeling

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Reeling,

You would not be human if you did not have trauma from your past experience. 

You have spent the last 14 years getting back on your feet, emotionally and financially. You have shown the world and yourself that you have what it takes to keep moving forward. You have come a long way in that time. I want to tell you that it’s OK to enjoy the life you have now. 

If you choose to stop worrying and no longer suffer, it does not mean that the same thing will happen again. You have built up a deep, solid foundation. You have finances that millions of Americans would wish to have, and you have created a financial life that you can be proud of. 

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It sounds like you may need a third party — a financial adviser or a financial therapist — to show you on paper that you can afford to live within your means for many years to come. You have done what needs to be done to take back control of your life, now let go of that fear.

As my colleague Leslie Albrecht has written: “Though it’s been around in various forms since the 1990s, financial therapy is now poised to become more standardized and more prevalent. Until now, the occupation has been loosely defined, and anyone could call themselves a financial therapist.” 

“The field encompasses a range of professionals — from psychotherapists to marriage counselors to social workers to certified financial planners — all looking to help clients understand the emotional underpinnings of their behaviors around money,” she wrote.

Trauma and uncertainty

The last 18 months have been traumatic, and have taken a toll on people’s mental health. Some people have lost jobs, and battled COVID-19, and lived through a lot of uncertainty. The markets — made up of people like you and me — don’t like uncertainty. But they/we got through it.

I made a decision at the beginning of the pandemic that I was not going to worry about something that was beyond my control. I can make prudent decisions about my health and circumstances, but if I am trying to control what happens I’m playing God. And I’m not God.

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Continue to save, diversify your investments, and make an effort to pay off your credit-card debt and car loans — you will feel better when you have done so. The process of having a worthy financial goal will give you something solid to focus on, instead of a blank canvas of what could happen in the future.

It may also help you to have a mantra when you wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. “Thank you, Universe, for helping me to put a roof over my head and money in the bank and restoring security to my life. I have everything that I need today.” Call it a lot of platitudes, or the ability to express gratitude.

But teaching yourself to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have, and what has happened since 2008 rather than those struggles in the immediate aftermath of the crash is no bad thing. Your letter expressing those fears — because you are not alone — is a good first step.  

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

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We’re getting married and have a baby on the way. My wife has offered to pay off my $10,000 student debt and $7,500 car loan
I have three children. I quitclaimed my house to my most responsible son. Now he has blocked my calls
My brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?


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