EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 11, 2013

Column: Despite it all, there's reason for optimism

Financially Speaking
John Spoto

---- — Ballooning debt that threatens our country’s long-term prosperity, a polarized political system that seems more beholden to special interests than our national interests, and increased geopolitical tensions.

Opening the newspaper or turning on the news can cause even a steadfast optimist to lose hope. There’s no question we face big challenges in our country and our world, yet we still have good reason to be confident about America’s future. That reason is the caliber, character and promise of our young people.

My wife and I had the chance to witness these qualities first-hand when we attended our daughter’s college graduation. Despite the cold and rainy Chicago weather, it was an uplifting experience. It was, like all graduation ceremonies, a time to reflect on the past, anticipate what the future might hold, and, of course, to celebrate. It was also a time to observe and learn.

As you might expect our conversations with our daughter and her friends revolved around their most memorable college experiences and their plans for the future. What I saw and heard affirmed my belief that the future is in good hands.

They reminisced about the important personal relationships they built, their studies, and most surprising to me, their commitment to public service. Here are a few specific things I learned about them:

They expect to accomplish important things and to solve the “big” problems.

Many of these students applied their energy, interests and talents to help those in need during college and planned to continue doing so throughout their working lives. In many cases these graduates chose to defer their ambitious career plans often at personal financial sacrifice in order to join public service organizations to help solve important problems facing our world.

Their plans include teaching and mentoring youth, developing educational, vocational and health programs, building and training volunteer networks for disaster relief efforts, and renovating housing and infrastructure in under-served communities.

They’re not just focused on getting rich.

I never got the impression that they were foolishly optimistic or naïve about the current state of the economy or job market. They are well aware that these are challenging times and are willing to adapt in order to pay the bills.

They are developing their long-term career plans sensibly based on the work they enjoy, their natural abilities and the impact they can make, rather than how much they can earn.

It seems they have already recognized what many older adults have not: that the most successful career is the one you love and the one where you can make the greatest contribution. Excellent compensation usually follows.

They respect their classmates for their abilities and character regardless of their race, religion, or background.

Our colleges have been working to increase and encourage diversity on campus, offering greater opportunities for student involvement in civic and community service. The result is that our children are becoming adults with greater understanding, acceptance and respect for cultural differences, a more informed view of the world and, most importantly, fewer irrational prejudices.

They are confident, optimistic, and determined.

They believe the big problems are solvable and they are capable of solving them. Perhaps this is because they are too busy working toward their goals to be listening to the constant drumbeat of negative news.

They are enthusiastic and optimistic about the future and their ability to use their gifts to make a positive difference in solving the world’s problems. In other words, they are looking forward rather than backward, spending less time worrying about the problems and more time working on the solutions.

I was impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment I saw in these college graduates. It was a stark reminder that our world bears little resemblance to the one depicted by the news media. I, for one, am optimistic about the future.

John Spoto is the founder of Sentry Financial Planning in Andover and Danvers. For more information, call 978-475-2533 or visit www.sentryfinancialplanning.com

This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice on individual financial, tax, or legal matters. Please consult the appropriate professional concerning your specific situation before making any decisions.