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Are You Ready For The Lost Decade?

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By all accounts we could be two or three years into what is already being called 'The Lost Decade'. Some estimates suggest that it will be a full 10 years from 2008 before we emerge from this economic malaise.

If you work in the public sector, you may be challenged on two fronts: an attack on current pensions and the possibility of disappearing jobs. Government estimates suggest that 850,000 posts could disappear.

If you are employed in the private sector, then life may be even more uncertain: the High Street will be hit by falling incomes and spreading unease, killing consumption and threatening jobs.

All in all, it's not a decade most will necessarily look forward to. And when we get to the end of it, incomes will be only as high as they were in the mid 2000s.

We could spend ages fretting about the richest 1% and their lot compared to ours. That will eat up lots of nervous energy but it's unlikely to move anyone forward. Disruption, the like of which we saw this summer, will not help the UK address the real challenge we face - how to compete with emerging nations and how to secure our future.

We may be able to consume our way out of the situation. Keynesians would say so. But since most families are already over-indebted we may have to think about how we can produce our way out. We will need to get other nations to buy what we have to sell.

But that's macro-stuff. Most families will need to think about how they will survive before they can even ponder thriving in this climate.

There are no easy solutions so maybe we all need to start thinking differently.

We could start by accepting that the past days of plenty are, at least for the moment, past. No point in lamenting their demise. No value in harking back and hoping. It's time to believe that the world is now a different place.

Next, take a look at your budget. The rainy days that you may not have been saving for are most definitely here. So clip back on all unnecessary expenditure. Question every line in the bank statement from the last three months and ask yourself whether you need to be spending as you have done.

Look at the annual effects of errant decisions. For example, a couple of family meals out a month - we have a big family - is probably around £300. Could be more, might be less. But over the course of a year, that's £3,600. No chicken feed.

Next take a look at your skills. You may be lucky and find that the demand for your services will stretch out into the future. But if you want to rely upon more than luck and the runes, appraise yourself. You could involve a friend to help give you an honest opinion of your marketability.

Look around and ahead of you. If you weren't doing what you are doing now, what could you do? You may not have the skills at this point so you might want to set about acquiring them. Talk to a careers adviser or to a local college. But don't wait until your day job evaporates before you do so.

But let's accept that it could get pretty sticky ahead. When we lose hope and when despair becomes a way of life, it can erode all sorts of things that we take for granted in normal life. Our moods can swing. Our motivation can go. Our sense of self worth can be eroded. All of which can be pretty uncomfortable.

But again, why wait until it happens? Do a spot of self-exploration. Get to know yourself. Work out what makes you tick. Take away some of the comfort blankets that get you through the week - chatting with friends over coffee, on-going strokes by your boss to keep you motivated, small rewards in the form of visits to the pub that keep your mood glowing.

Nobody knows what's ahead. Or at least, those who do are keeping it pretty quiet. But as a nation we've been through it all before. Nothing can compare, surely, to the possibility of being bombed in our beds (as our grandparents were)?

If that's as bad as it can get then we can manage anything.

At the very least, heed Mr. Darwin's advice:

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change."