Thanksgiving 2017: Family, Friends and Seconds on Optimism

Updated: Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving week for the simple chance to spend time with family and friends and catch up on everyone’s lives?

I love that it is a truly national holiday. I love the doggedness of poet, author and lifetime autodidact Sarah Josepha Hale, who petitioned President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim an annual day of Thanksgiving:

… Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.”

… President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale’s request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether.

His proclamation is here.

Thanksgiving weekend and the Christmas season that it kicks off mark the unofficial start of our retrospective on the year before we turn to our hopes and dreams for 2018.

As we went around the table at this year’s meal, and shared things for which we are the most thankful, each of us began flipping through the year mentally to pluck out the moments that most inform our gratitude. Some snippets:

I’m thankful for our family reunion this year and the chance to see Uncle Jack before he passed away.

…and that my niece and her new husband were able to share their wedding day with so many loved ones as they start their new life together, soon after saying goodbye to their grandfather.

That a friend’s health has taken a turn for the better after years of laboring with a heart condition. 

They all started with or ended with thanks to and for family.

After thanking my family for their unwavering support and love, in good years and, not so good years, I realized it wasn’t just my family I was thanking.

I was giving thanks for their emotional support and generosity in spirit, in good years and tough years launching new ventures and setting off in new directions.

For anyone in that last category, continued optimism about the strength of the U.S. economy cannot be overstated.

Let’s tick off a few stats. Working backwards, Reuters tallies the the Black Friday official shopping craze kick-off by noting the steady growth of online shopping.

U.S. retailers raked in a record $7.9 billion in online sales on Black Friday and Thanksgiving, up 17.9 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers, on Saturday.

Surging online sales and a shift away from store shopping have thinned the crowds typically seen at stores on Thanksgiving evening and the day after, Black Friday, for the past two years. But a strong labor market, rising home prices and stock markets at record highs have improved shopper appetite this year.

Adobe said Cyber Monday is expected to drive $6.6 billion in internet sales, which would make it the largest U.S. online shopping day in history.

Meanwhile, the October Index of Small Business Optimism, by the National Federation of Independent Business,says more business owners expect higher sales and think that now is a good time to expand.

“Owners became much more positive about the economic environment last month, which suggests a longer-run view,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “In the nearer term, they are more optimistic about real sales growth and improved business conditions through the end of the year.”

The National Association of Manufacturers’ Third Quarter survey says “record-high optimism reported in the first two quarters has continued into the third quarter of this year, marking the highest three-quarter average, of 90.87 percent, for manufacturing optimism in the survey’s 20-year history.”

“In addition, a strong majority of both small and large manufacturers surveyed say the the promise of tax reform will spur growth and create jobs.”

Then there’s the “Trump Bump” in the stock market since President Trump’s election last year. The Dow Jones index reached 23,000 for the first time this year, up 30% since the election. The Nasdaq is up 30% and the S&P 500 is up 30%.

Multiple reports quoted Goldman Sachs’ prediction that tax cuts will lift corporate profits by 14% next year, that the “S&P 500 will hit 2,850 in 2018, a more than 10 percent gain from current levels,” CNBC says.

A lot of this is predicated on tax reform, which Republicans in Congress say they expect to pass by the end of the year. Over to you Washington. That other data point from Goldman Sachs: If Congress does not get tax reform/cuts passed, it expects the S&P 500 to fall by 5%, taking the lovely bump in our 401 (k)s with it.

Whether you are a supporter of President Donald Trump or not, the stats and data are clear on optimism that has surged since his election.

Some families may be feeling the effects of the economy more than others right now, but the trends are positive for a strong year in 2018 for job growth and wage increases. That’s a lot to be thankful for and to build on.

Now, it’s up to Congress to deliver on tax reform. (More on that in a separate post.)

My late brother-in-law had a saying: Make friends of family and family of friends. I gave thanks this week for a loving family that is behind me no matter what. And friendships that I’ve been able to tend and fortify. Some of us agree on politics, some of us don’t. We got through the holidays by keeping the important things in front of us: family, friends, giving thanks.

So whether you’re celebrating your great good fortune in 2017, or at the tail end of a rebuilding year, or looking at the good economic signs as you launch your next big venture, take heart and nothing for granted, I say.

Realize your friends and family are the most precious gems we have. Then get back to work on building your prosperity, however you define it. Take a gander at the stats on business optimism and growth in the U.S. economy as you ponder your next move.

Do it with a spirit of gratitude and lives made richer for these bonds that are fortified on Thanksgiving weekend, 2017. May it carry you through a joyous Christmas season and Holiday gatherings and a prosperous New Year.

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