In 2009, we’ve seen some extraordinary events and were dealt some harsh pills to swallow. We’ve experienced great hope and happiness as well as great pain and suffering. We’ve felt the highs of hope and the results of recession. There are many lessons to learn. In honor of 2009 beginning to come to an end, here are your 9 lessons from ’09:

Lesson 1: In-spect What You Ex-pect

Bernie Madoff made off with over $65 Billion, and Neel Kashkari (as in cash carry) carried $700 Billion in cash to Wall Street companies in need of a bailout due to risky investments and lack of oversight. The names and their association to their respective activities are funny. What happened was not funny however.

We have to ensure that whether it’s our own personal finances or the finances of a nation that there is proper oversight to ensure that what we think is happening is actually happening. Prevention is always cheaper and less painful than the post event analysis and subsequent repair work required after the damage has been done.

Lesson 2: Get Out Early

It is almost impossible to time the financial and real estate markets to their absolute highs and lows. Many people invested in the stock market or bought homes at their height, only to see the value of their investments plummet. Others hit their financial targets, and decided to stay in those markets to see how much more they could gain. Because of greed, they stayed too long and lost what they could have walked away with.

Learn how to get out early. Set your financial goals. Once you hit them, take your gain. As we saw in 2009, things can change faster than you have time to react to them. Better safe than starting from scratch. Buy low, sell high, then re-strategize.

Lesson 3: Research, Think, and Then Decide

The Healthcare Bill, getting in line for the H1N1 Vaccination, the debate on the definition of marriage, and plans for Illegal Immigration are all areas where you must learn to think independently. Too many people listen to rumors, arm chair experts or sensationalized news stories for an authority figure that can make up their minds for them. This usually leaves a person with a position they feel strongly about, but without the necessary intellectual capital to back it up.

With the invention of the internet, this one is a no brainer. Do your homework. Research the things you are passionate about. Read or watch video about all sides of an issue. Then, spend some time inside your own head. Think about it. Sleep on it. Ask yourself questions and find the answers. Then, make up your own mind. Issues are much less confusing when you take 30 minutes to learn a little something about them first.

Lesson 4: Racism is Not Gone & Not Forgotten

The election of President Barack Obama to the White House was one of the best examples of the progress that has been made in the United States. The increase in memberships in hate groups was a reality check to put everything in perspective. The appointment of the first Latina to the Supreme Court was outstanding. The rejection of an interracial couple’s marriage license by a Louisiana justice of the peace over concerns of them having interracial children was outrageous.

Suffice it to say that we’ve made great strides, and the work must continue for equality across all races, ethnicities, religions & spiritual practices, genders, and sexual preferences.

Lesson 5: Everyone Must Learn How Money Works

What gives the US Dollar its value? What is the role of the Federal Reserve? What caused the credit crunch? What is a T-Bill? Why do other countries invest in U.S. debt? Are we in a recession or a depression? Are signs of a recovery believable or an illusion?

You don’t have to be an economist to understand these things. However, it is important that you do understand them. There are many groups out there counting on you not thinking and researching for yourself. They are looking forward to preying on your ignorance. The time has come to wake up, and understand the dollar beyond its ability to purchase skinny jeans and iPhones.

Lesson 6: Simplify

When times are good or times are bad, simplify. A good indication of how simple you are living is the number of recurring bills you have coming to your household. Spend less than you earn. Live 10 – 20% below your take home pay, and then save or safely invest it. Today’s leased luxury car could be the money needed to put a child through college in 10 years.

The people that tend to do the best during various market conditions have several things in common. They saved. They didn’t generate a lot of debt. They buy things on sale and don’t care so much for name brands. They are more interested in providing their family with the necessities than they are with getting the latest fad gadget. Be honest with yourself about what you really need.

Lesson 7: A House Is Not a Home If You Can’t Afford It

Predatory lending helped many people become victims in bad predicaments. However, those victims had to agree to and sign off on those deals. Today, many of those same people had to, or are about to, foreclose on those homes. Variable (meaning changing) interest rates slid upwards and caused some mortgage payments to double and triple within months.

Regardless of the type of mortgage you get, make sure you can still afford it in the coming months and years, regardless of changing market conditions. If possible, restructure that mortgage or refinance it altogether. For those that have been renting and still have a stable income, housing prices AND interest rates are low. This is the time to consider buying, as long as it fits into your budget for the foreseeable future.

Lesson 8: Respect Should Never Be Expendable

During the town hall meetings in the United States around the Healthcare Debates, some people traded in respect, etiquette and manners for yelling, fighting, and blatant disrespect. Passion for the topic was allowed to override knowledge on how to behave appropriately in groups. One poor man even had a finger severed during an altercation.

We all have strong opinions on specific things in our lives. Rather than yelling, let’s listen. By actively listening, we can often pick up more points to use in our rebuttal when it’s our turn to speak. Instead of fighting, let’s remember that everyone has a right to their opinion, regardless of how contrary their opinion is to ours. Instead of disrespect, let’s apply common courtesy. Let’s state our opinions without name calling, outrageous accusations, and without purposely offending others. Let respect lead how you communicate your ideas and opinions.

Lesson 9: Change Happens

Not many people would have predicted the year we had in 2009. There are many mysteries awaiting us in 2010. More than anything, we have to learn how to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, see the opportunities and keep our attitudes positive and productive. We can’t control many of the changes that happen in our lives. However, we can control our response to them.

2009 proved that anything is possible. So, set your goals now for a great 2010.

Author's Bio: 

James LeGrand is the Author of "Evolve!", an Amazon.com best seller in Religion and Spirituality. He is also the publisher of http://www.SpiritualIndividual.com, a free weekly newsletter that presents solutions to life’s issues through the lens of self-help, wisdom, philosophy and spirituality. In addition, James LeGrand is a Life Strategist, an Expert Author with SelfGrowth.com & EzineArticles.com, a former Radio Personality, a Fortune 500 Vice President, and a Sifu in Shaolin Kungfu, which has been known for centuries as a pathway to spiritual enlightenment.