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Not Feeling Optimistic? Just Smile, Dammit.

Economy StatisticsOn a scale of 1 to 10, just how optimistic are you feeling this week? How excited are you about your summer activities? Are you pumped about your personal and career development? How’s business?

According to the Conference Board, The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® increased in May, for a third consecutive monthly gain to 63.3 (1985=100). Keep in mind, though, that a reading above 90 reflects stable economic activity; any number above 100 indicates strong growth.

This is supposed to be good news, suggesting that as a nation we are more optimistic and confident in our economy. From my perspective, 63 is a poor reading on a 100-point scale. Basically? We are still feeling mighty unstable.

Shoppers remain cautious in May, reflecting the delicate nature of economic recovery. According to CNBC‘s Christina Cheddar Berk, “Although more retailers topped analysts’ estimates than did not, the overall gain in same-store sales fell short of what analysts were expecting.”

Berk confirms, “The results were especially disappointing given that estimates had been trending lower ahead of the sales reports as analysts adjusted for comments made by retailers in earnings conference calls and reports on store traffic trends.”

To add to the confusion of higher consumer confidence but disappointing retail spending habits, we’re changing how we spend. According to’s “Smartphone Shopping Behavior” survey as reported on, one-third of US Web-enabled mobile phone owners said they had participated in some form of mobile shopping in the past year, such as browsing or researching but not necessarily purchasing products. That was up from 17% who said the same in 2009.

Enough with behavior: what about our citizens’ state of mind? According to the, about 85 percent of all Boomer parents with at least one child in their 20s “expect their kids to be at least as financially successful as they are. Yet, 41 percent of all Boomer parents subsidize their adult children in some fashion, and 35 percent don’t expect their children to achieve financial autonomy before the age of 30.”

Unlike today’s Millennials, 5 in 6 Boomer parents claim they were entirely independent by the age of 25. And nearly 40 percent admit their adult children are more dependent on them than they were on their own parents.

How is our newest generation – the one that will manage the country as boomers fade into retirement – doing in terms of confidence and optimism? Their collective confidence is well-reported by Martin Predd in a guest post on

“Ten years ago I was a college freshman, full of irrational optimism about the world and my place in it. I have to wonder how much longer my generation, a generation known for its optimism and belief that individuals truly can make a difference, will remain resilient in the face of the near perfect storm of bad news that has dominated our nation’s collective psyche in the last two, five – even ten – years.

It’s worth noting some of the major events that have occurred since that time:

  • Bush v Gore, one of the more divisive elections in recent memory (2000)
  • 9/11 (2001)
  • Anthrax Attacks (2001)
  • Enron (2001)
  • United Airlines bankruptcy (2002)
  • Shuttle explosion (2003)
  • War in Iraq (2003, on-going)
  • War in Afghanistan (2003, on-going)
  • Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath (2005)
  • Economic meltdown/housing bubble/Great Recession (2009)
  • GM bankruptcy (2009)

It’s hard to recall a decade filled with more reasons not to be hopeful and optimistic about our future… For Gen Y or any generation, I suspect it’s these moments of disillusionment that turn optimism to apathy and resilience to resignation.”

So, how to remain optimistic during difficult times? Perhaps you will find this difficult to believe, but it will get better. Yes, it always changes – for better or maybe for worse before it then it improves. Good grief, even has a section entitled, “How to Remain Optimistic in Times of Adversity.” Well, at least now you have instructions on how to survive.

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