Tuesday, April 20, 2021

In Lebanon, no one-size-fits-all economic solutions

From the series "Hamra 73" - artwork by Tarek Chemaly

When we were at university, we (that is mostly a common friend and myself) had a friend who thought that whatever applies to him applies to everyone else. He bought Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and he badgered us for months about it. He joined the ushers club - and there you go - we all had to be advised to join the usher club. Worse: He immigrated to Canada. You guessed it, we had to cope with messages about immigrating to Canada. And then he got married - and since then we cannot escape him and his marriage advice.

If I think of him today it is because Lebanese people think there is one single solution to every household. Actually, come to think about it, even people in the same situation (ex: I am single, take care of a parent, chose to leave my work because it became cheaper to stay home,... A case which a friend has the exact circumstances of) our daily lives and therefore choices are not parallel. Which is why, when the friend in question called to commiserate, I was unable to offer any advice. Simply because - unlike my university friend - I understand that my choices and decisions do not apply to both cases.

But never mind - the joke went that when COVID broke, 4,5 million Lebanese shifted from being economic advisors to public health specialists. Everyone and their mother had to give their (unasked for) opinion about the pandemic and how to handle it and what to do about it. Actually, I took a very oblique thinking about my financial rationale. It does not make sense to anyone but me. It is too convoluted to explain it - but the gist is this: Am taking a very, very, long haul look at the situation. Something no economist (of which I am one) would consider, and yet - I decided to do so analyzing the data in hand. Data which only applies to myself.

And this is the trick. Did I invest in real estate? I did not. Did I liquidate my account which a banker's cheque? I did not. Did I say this applies to everyone and their financial outlooks? I did not. I am taking my own risks and my own expense, simply guided by an "inner gut feeling" (make of that what you want) which has served me (rather well) since forever.

Sure you ask: "Rather well" includes your money being stuck in a bank when you were offered to move it abroad in 2018? Well, my 2018 data was different, I knew a crash was coming but no one knew that all elements would compound into this "perfect storm" and that the consequences would be what they are. Still, this is my money, and my choices and thank you for not meddling in either.

I always say to anyone "good intentioned" enough to tell me what to do: The day I go to you and knock on your door and ask for money is the day you can say "I told you so" till then, I am pursuing my strategy that only mentally works for me within my parameters and circumstances.

There is really no one-size-fits-all which applies to everyone and anyone. Sadly, many people think this is the case.