While Barack Obama was being sworn in, the stock market was tumbling. The Dow had its biggest Inauguration Day loss ever, of more than 300 points.
When the stock market takes dips like it did yesterday it's a buying opportunity because shares are cheap. It's like shopping at the mall during a sale: you can buy twice as many pairs of shoes at half off as you could when they were full price. The difference with stocks is that when prices come back up, you can't resell the shoes and make money; with stocks you can.
But the big questions are why did the market fall so much and is that a bad sign for the economy under Obama? Reality check: no one has the answer to either question. I've heard commentators speculate everything from another round of bad news for banks to wealthy investors being worried that Obama will repeal the cozy tax cuts they got from Bush (another reality check: Obama's already said he won't immediately raise anyone's taxes and a tax cut could well be part of his stimulus package).
Either way, here's a few words from Obama's speech that everyone should take to heart if they're really interested in seeing the economy and their own finances improve:
Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.
"Our collective failure to make hard choices". Collective, y'all. Sure there were a great many greedy folks on Wall Street and elsewhere who made bad loans and absconded with shareholders' money. But they're not the only reason the economy is where it is: If you're like me and still paying off purchases made months ago, plus interest; or if you're still spending way more than you save or invest; part of the problem rests with you, too.
Ultimately we can all wait for an Obama stimulus or the stock or housing or job markets to turn around, but if we all don't make the decision now to save more of our incomes when we get our jobs back, to only buy houses we can afford with down payments and under terms we can understand, and start saving for the retirement we know we'll have to foot (because with deficit spending, social security just won't be around), any recovery will only be shallow and temporary.
So, are you really ready for change?