Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

By Charles H. Green

Maybe you recognize the title line as similar to one of the most famous sound bites from Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural address? He defeated President Hoover without being very specific about what he would do to get America out of the Great Depression, and immediately became a cheerleading inspiration to millions of Americans.

We could sure use that today. For the past several months leading indicators point to an improving, strengthening economy. There were only 24 bank failures in 2013, down from a high of 157 in 2010. While job growth has come in Galluptrickles and spurts, the U.S. added 2 million new jobs in 2013.

Many sectors – hospitality, construction, retail, automotive, medical – reported climbing revenues in 2013 and bank profits are up across the country.

So it’s curious to read the recent Gallup poll results that found a majority of Americans were worried about money. 55 percent responded that they did not feel better about their financial situation these days, including 43 percent with annual incomes over $240,000. Naturally these numbers grew as respondent income brackets were lower.

Maybe these responses are a learned reaction to adversity. Several articles in recent years have reported on the curious rise in the fear of crime, while crime itself started falling rapidly in the early 1990s and has remained as low.

A 2011 article in offers some potentially comparative explanations: 1) perceptions have less to do with trends than personal vicinity; 2) who you are – older people have more fear than younger people, women have more fear than men; 3) personal experience is a big factor.

Now extrapolate these two parallel conditions to the fear of lending. How many BDOs, underwriters and bank presidents are still spooked by the good loans that went bad during the financial crisis. Is it time for some fear counseling?


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