x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

On the Money: The only winning move is not to resolve

My aim for 2012 is to avoid becoming a statistic of the continuing global financial crisis.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

On the last evening of every year, I make just one resolution. And that's not to make New Year resolutions. Of any kind.

Call me a killjoy, but I just don't see the point in saying something and then not following through on it. And I know the chances of me sticking to New Year resolutions are pretty slim. But I'm not the only one. There are millions of people in this world who are like me when it comes to that dreaded expectation of making New Year resolutions.

One of the things I don't like about them is that sense of guilt you feel when you realise that you are six months into the year and you've not given any of those promises a second thought, much less remembered what they were.

So it's easy for me to stick to my no-resolution rule, which means that I never disappoint myself. Or anybody else, for that matter.

That said, it takes a very determined, disciplined person to keep to their resolutions. After all, they are a year-long promise, aren't they? And a year can be a pretty long time.

Many New Year resolutions are fairly simple. Who hasn't vowed to lose weight, give up smoking, start an exercise programme, spend less and save more, ad infinitum? I used to do that, but then I realised just how pointless it was. Why add to the stress of my life when I already meet a range of expectations every day? These come not just from me, but also from the people I am responsible for, as well as my fiscal and work commitments.

But some resolutions go beyond the ridiculous. I once knew a guy who said he was only going to go to countries that started with an "S" for the next year, starting from the nearest "S" country. He mentioned a few. "Samoa, Singapore, Senegal, Saudi, Serbia, Sweden ..." And then he couldn't think of anymore, which was a bit like trying to remember the names of all seven dwarves in Snow White.

But like almost everybody I know, he failed to keep his resolution. He did make it to Sydney. But that was only because he was living there at the time. And it doesn't count, anyway, because it's a city and not a country. Which brings to mind another "S" word when I think of him. Stupid.

When I think of the millions of resolutions that will be made when the clock strikes midnight tonight, I'd like to think that many people will be vowing to spend 2012 protecting their assets, investments and savings from what is promising to be a very tough economic year.

Others, however, might be wishing for the basics: a roof over their head, food on the table, the ability to pay their bills and to still live a relatively comfortable life rather than eking out an exhausting hand-to-mouth existence, which many people have been forced to do since the world's economy nosedived in 2008.

We are still a long way from economic stability. The euro zone crisis has derailed any thought that 2012 could be the year that our fortunes will turn around, not just in terms of our personal finances, but also the economies of most countries. Add to this the mounting debt crisis the US is facing and there's not much to cling on to when it comes to being positive about the global economy.

On November 29, Clem Chambers, the chief executive of ADVFN.com, the stock information website, and author of 101 Ways to Pick Stock Market Winners, wrote that the euro zone crisis would come to a head by Easter 2012.

This got my attention because not many experts had been willing to put a time frame on it. But it was no wonder. One minute the signs were positive, then the next, Nicholas Sarkozy, the president of France, and Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, were at loggerheads.

"The big question is, 'Why will Germany not pull France to safety?' It's becoming clear Germany itself does not feel like a haven," Mr Chambers wrote at the time. "The country does not think it can rescue anyone but itself. Meanwhile, the US has no such qualms; it has already ridden to the rescue with a dollar-swapping facility to allow Europe to get dollar funding. This kind of big picture courage is what Europe expects from Germany.

"It will get no such thing.

"A cynic would say Germany is not bust, but the US is. Yet Germany will suffer drastically if its trading partners fold. It too, will end up with 7 per cent to 9 per cent interest rates to fund rolling debt. It, too, will be crippled by recession.

"The story is an old one. The current government of Germany will lose power if it bails out Europe. Few politicians will leave office on the principle of doing the right thing, when weighed against the wishes of its people.

"Between now and Easter, Europe is set to melt down amid a slow avalanche of rising interest rates. And, like a proper opera, this drama is very unlikely to have a happy ending."

Fast-forward to December 19, and Mr Chambers changes tact, saying the euro zone crisis will "slowly subside over coming months as the focus shifts to the real problem - that of sovereign debt".

The real crisis, he says, is the "mountains of state debts from London to Washington, from Athens to Bonn".

However, the truth is that nobody knows what will happen in the coming year. Although none of us can see into the future, we can be realistic.

So tonight, I will be making an exception to my no-resolution rule. And I will be vowing to spend the next year as I have done this year. Work hard, save as much as possible and put three months of my salary away for an emergency. My aim for 2012 is to avoid becoming a statistic of the continuing global financial crisis. And if you have the means, I hope that is yours, too.