With this being 2012, an election year, we American's find a Democrat clinging to Presidential incumbency, and the Republicans churning up the familiar campaign rallying cry of, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" The best answer I can give to that question is, "It depends."
ConsumerReports.org states the December 2008 average price for regular gasoline was $1.57 per gallon in the Midwest, which is where I live. I filled up two days ago and paid $3.99 per gallon.
The chart below depicts the value of my house over the last five years, graphed against average home values of the two closest communities provided by Zillow.com. As you can see, I have definitely lost equity over the last 4 years, as have my friends and neighbors.
The average price for milk in September of 2008 listed by frugal.families.com was $2.31 per gallon and today is $3.59 per gallon.
Unemployment, global warming, the Euro crisis, cell phone plans; on and on we can go with statistics ad-nauseum regarding the tried and true fact that a dollar ain't worth what it used to be and no matter what anyone says, the crystal balls are all broken and I'm not even sure the fortune cookies are really teaching me how to speak Chinese. Seriously, the back of the little piece of paper cuddled inside of that rock hard cookie might be telling me how to say "fuck-off" to a visitor from China instead of "cute puppy" like the translation says.
So what is the point of what I am saying? Am I trying to influence you to vote for the challenger because times are bad? Am I suggesting you stick with the incumbent because it can't get much worse? Actually, neither is correct.
Today is a special day for me, the anniversary of the day that my wife and I decided to go steady. We had dated since July of 2008 and being the cautious, divorced, singe father, guy who had his heart and finances ripped out by his previous wife, I was, for lack of a better word, cautious. On the other hand my bride to be was absolutely sure I was the one and kept wondering why I was asking if she was still seeing other guys. "Going steady" we became on September 7, 2012. A little over a year later, we were engaged in a beautiful proposal delivered by me at Chicago's Art Institute where everyone applauded when I got down on one knee and she said yes. And we wed seven months after that.
Four years can make a big difference. Four years ago I was not as happy as I am now, nor as fulfilled, challenged, or blessed. With confidence I can say I am better off now than I was four years ago but it was not because I placed my trust in any particular party or politician. It was not observance of what I now pay for toilet paper (32% increase in four years) or whose stimulus robbed value from my home. I am better off today because I let go of the reins, followed God's plan for me, opened myself to being vulnerable, and allowed myself to fall in love.
So when you head to the polls in November, choose wisely, then get the hell out of there and spend some time with the people you love. Trust me, you will be better off.