Who Can You Really Trust?

Lesson number: 

I think most will agree that life can be quite difficult just facing your daily responsibilities, in an attempt to lead an honest and safe lifestyle. However the difficulties and stress we all face seems to be notching up to record levels as the world seems to become more uncertain by the day and even the hour. In this week's lesson, we will discuss how the trust factor plays into our thoughts and emotions and perhaps how to cope with these issues.

I personally have had a lot of trust issues with so many individuals, entities and events in the last six months that I'm looking for my own strategies to cope with them and not lose faith in the words honesty and integrity. During this process, I begin to wonder how distrustful individuals sleep at night and deal with their own consciences. However, I don't have to wonder very long when I read about the tens of billions of dollars sold annually in sleep disorder and depression medications. There's a lot of baggage and guilt looming in people's minds.

In the past six months I've been lied to, cheated, deceived or intentionally misled by professionals across a spectrum from computer programmers; doctors; realtor's; lawyers; financial brokers; and bankers. These are all individuals who profess to uphold fiduciary responsibilities for their clients. However the list doesn't stop at the professional level. I've also been deeply misled and disappointed by individuals employed by nationally known retail stores or large companies in the cable and telephone business. The final list is topped off by workers or leaders in local, county, state and of course the federal government. You can't help but begin to wonder "who can you really trust?"

The recent meltdown in the housing and then credit markets which is leading to a meltdown in the stock market is just icing on the cake stemming from the lack of trust at the highest levels of business and government. Every communication I've had with mature adults this past week contained words of pain and angst about the effects the meltdown has had on their personal lives and their outlook for the future. And all we hear from the financial and government leaders who created this mess is rhetoric and finger pointing in every direction but their own. No one is taking any personal responsibility. It's just so much easier to blame someone else.

Institutions like Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs have perennially moved markets with their predictions, upgrades, downgrades and forecasts. Today their predictions have blended in with all the other rhetoric and carry little weight in my own opinions regarding the future. Just consider the following two news headlines:

March 7, 2008 Headline: New 'super-spike' might mean $200 a barrel oil Goldman's projections foretell persistent turbulence in energy prices.

October 12, 2008 Headline: Investment bank Goldman Sachs said the financial crisis had already done more damage than it expected to commodity demand and warned that a slide to $50 a barrel for oil could be possible.

Judging from these headlines, it might be better to flip a coin than follow the analysts. The same headlines can be found where the president of the United States tells the world that the economy is doing just fine, only to reverse his opinion a year or so later saying if we don't get an emergency 700 billion rescue plan passed immediately, this sucker could go down. So who can you really trust?

I've come to the conclusion that the one and only person you absolutely know you can really trust is yourself. It's up to YOU to do your homework and invest YOUR time wisely on every issue that really matters to you and your family. YOU must formulate the most educated opinion as possible – after doing YOUR OWN due diligence before making major decisions. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for performing your own independent research, in order to make sound fundamental decisions on your finances; insurance; investments; health issues; etc. It is irresponsible at best, to decide on important issues without being as knowledgeable as possible about the ramifications of your decisions.

It's also important to find and stick with knowledgeable advisers like accountants and attorneys that have served you well over the years and practice their fiduciary responsibilities. Comb through the haystack to find vendors who practice honesty and integrity at their craft as well as in their homes. Don't settle for cheap mediocrity.

There's no substitute for YOUR skills, YOUR knowledge and YOUR discipline in trying times like these.