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5 Financial Reasons to Be Thankful

Being grateful is a healthy exercise. If you need reminding of that fact, MoneyWatch writer Robert Pagliarini enumerates the benefits of gratitude in a recent post, and Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, has reams of well-known research on the relation between gratitude and well-being. So, before overindulging at the Thanksgiving table, give the old gratitude muscle a little workout. In MoneyWatch's area of expertise, here are five reasons to be thankful:

The Great Recession never sank into a Great Depression While Bernanke, Paulson, Rattner and Geithner have since proven to have feet of clay, they got enough right at crucial moments to keep the economy from disintegrating. Yes, mortgage modification never worked and no one believes in QE2, but there was no run on money market funds, which would have been a calamity, and the banking system tottered but never collapsed. GM never liquidated, which would have thrown hundreds of thousands out of work, and the moribund U.S. auto industry is back to building competitive American cars. Yes, there are still too many unemployed and recovery is not going to be a cakewalk. But 9.6% unemployment is better than the 1930s' 25% and lackluster 2.2% growth is better than the Depression's 47% shrinkage. As for the political ramifications of global crisis, an ascendant Hu Jintao is a lot less dangerous than a rising Adolph Hitler. It could have been much worse.

Prudent investment planning actually worked As MoneyWatch writer Allan Roth points out, had you had the guts to stick to your diversified portfolio, rebalancing as you went along, it wasn't really a Lost Decade after all. Maybe you couldn't bring yourself to do all that when the market was collapsing (most didn't), but you have just had the most graphic illustration possible that doing the right thing with your money works even in a near worst-case scenario. That's reassuring.


Your 401(k) still has a match When stocks may be overpriced and bonds may be in a bubble, you still have one clear smart investment-a 401(k) with a company match. Assuming your company kicks in 50 cents for every dollar you save, as is typical, you're getting a 50% return on your money instantly, risk free. If you work for an employer that was not so craven that it suspended matching contributions, you have someplace to get a return that is neither microscopic nor crawling with risk. Yes, 401(k)s alone are not an adequate retirement plan. But a matched 401(k) or 403(b) is the best we've got right now, and if you have one, be glad.

You still have credit unions Even before they drove economy into crisis, major money-center banks had been working extremely hard to destroying their good name by snaring customers with hidden fees and sociopathic lending. The latest foreclosure mess finishes the job of dragging their name through mud. Credit unions, though, are simpler and, for lack of a better word, less greedy. You don't have to suspect that any offer is a minefield of hidden fees and perverse incentives. And it's no coincidence that the most generous savings and CD offers at are dominated by credit unions.

The free market kept its resilience. Of course, it wasn't just the actions of the Fed and Treasury that kept the economy from sinking. It was also the system's own self-correcting nature. No one was predicting in the spring of 2009 that stocks were about to begin an 80% rally, but they did, as companies found ways to make money, even in a tepid rebound. For all their problems, the economy is still creating opportunities to make a career and build an independent financial future. Yes, as a nation, we can still squander what we have, by refusing to fix our debt or by failing to educate the next generation. But decline is not pre-ordained. For all our self-inflicted wounds, we have a lot to look forward to. Don't knock it.

More on MoneyWatch:

Financial Thanksgiving
Why It Wasn't a Lost Decade for Investors
Giving Some Financial Thanks

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